Today in Literary History – May 2, 1611 – the King James Bible is published

The magisterial translation of the Bible that came to be known as The King James Version was first published on May 2, 1611. It is arguably the most important and influential book in the English language; its theological importance aside, it has given the English language countless phrases and allusions in its over 400 year prominence as the “word of God” in both churches and households and among the secular readers who have absorbed its language.

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The King James Version is now considered to be lacking in scholarship but its poetic language is so beautiful and so ingrained in most readers that more modern Bible translations struggle with straying too far from its idioms.

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Oddly enough, when the translation from Hebrew, Latin and Greek was first undertaken in 1604 by a group of scholars, linguists and theologians under the patronage of King James, the committee decided on using a style of English that was already old fashioned sounding even in the seventeenth century. The idea was that the Bible in English should sound timeless and traditional.

The impact of the King James Version of the Bible on centuries of diction by believers and non-believers to this day is huge. Its influence on countless allusions, quotations and paraphrases in literature is aso immense.

 

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