Thursday, September 29, 2011

Books and Articles About the KJV (1)

If you’ve not read the KJV before (all the way through), and these posts have piqued your interest, this post is intended to give you some further direction.

The KJV Itself

If you don’t have a copy of the KJV, I would highly recommend that you purchase the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (sorry, Dr. Carrick, the Oxford editions just don’t measure up). It is available in paperback as part of the Penguin Classics series, or in really nice (and really expensive) leather versions. Why this edition? The editor, David Norton, has completely and carefully gone over the entire text (see his comments under “Text” in the Introduction), producing a text as close as possible to what the original translators intended. All spelling has been modernized. The font is quite readable, and it is set out in a nice single-column format. Those of you who are real history geeks might also want to consult Norton’s companion volume to this Bible, A Textual History of the King James Bible. The two volumes were originally published together in 2005.

Books and Articles About the KJV

Since this year is the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the KJV, many books on its history and influence have been published this year. Of these histories, I recommend the following three (although almost any of the others would certainly be worth reading). First, I would mention Leland Ryken’s The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation.  The first part is devoted to a brief history of the origins of the KJV. The last three parts deal with the various kinds of influence that the KJV has had over the last four centuries. Ryken is a professor of English at Wheaton College, and has written extensively on the Bible and translations. Second, I would recommend David Norton’s The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today. Most of the book is devoted to the story of the actual production of the KJV, with the last section being a summary of the history of the influence of the KJV. The third history would be Gordon Campbell’s Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011. This is a more even treatment of the history from 1611 to the present than Norton’s and is part of Oxford University Press’s contribution (Norton’s, of course, is from the Cambridge University Press.)


In addition to these works focusing on the KJV, I would recommend Tyndale’s New Testament, edited by David Daniell. Tyndale’s work was a key precursor to the work of the KJV translators. The introduction by Daniell is full of interesting information, including pointing out that many memorable lines from the New Testament that we associate with the KJV originated with Tyndale. In addition, while many of you may have read the KJV, probably very few have read Tyndale. Since Daniell has had it set in modern type and with modernized spelling, it is quite amazing how readable it still is after almost five hundred years.

One more tidbit to throw out for this post. In 1950, C. S. Lewis gave the Ethel M. Wood Lecture at the University of London. The title of that lecture was “The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version.” For those interested, whether Lewis fans, or KJV fans, or literary types, the text of the lecture is available online at


K. Hugh Acton said...

Also of note, later this year Cambridge will publish two new formats of the KJV: a personal size of the New Paragraph Bible with and without the Apocrypha AND a single column, paragraph edition of their reference Bible (with the references in the column)--this edition will maintain the italics etc of earlier editions, but it has a nice typeface. The new paragraph personal size should also be available in hardback.

Benjamin Shaw said...

Thanks for the update, Mr. Acton. I may have to look into getting one.