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John 5 : 39

Geddes MacGregor -- The Bible in the Making published 1959

King James (Stuart)

p 144
English historians have generally complained that King James never understood the English, [who are not easy to understand.] .... [but had he really] understood the English, he would have been a god rather than a man. He certainly was not a god. Perhaps he was not even very much of a man. Even his bookishness was as effeminate as his other vices. There was much significance in the aphorism of the day that King Elizabeth had been succeeded by Queen James.

his vanity was of an exceptionally irritating kind -- a woman's vanity without a woman's enchantment.

The English felt their new king was a Scotch professor with the mentality of a French courtesan.

Olga S. Opfell -- The King James Bible Translators published 1982

The most influential version of the Bible in the English-speaking world bears the name of one of England's most eccentric kings -- James I, the awkward, slovenly, somewhat effeminate son of the beautiful Mary Queen of Scots. In no sense did he ever appear regal. He was goggle-eyed, contemporary accounts tell us, his legs were wobbly, and his tongue was too large for his mouth. But ....

justifiably attributed refinements [include] his reputation as a paragon of learning, crammed with Greek and Latin and other tongues. In spite of his physical disabilities, his mind was first rate. Already at the age of seven he "was able, extempore ... to read a chapter of the Bible out of Latin into French and next out of French into English as well as few men could have added anything to his translation." In due time he became known as the most educated sovereign in Europe. Almost to the end of his life, book learning remained one of his chief passions. He was also tireless in theological discussions, where he was usually well informed.


Winston Churchill calls the Authorised Version a veritable masterpiece. It was certainly a work of art. The translators frequently borrowed whole passages from earlier English Bibles, particularly Tyndales and Geneva. But take a look at the book of Romans, which echoes with the cadences of the Vulgate-derived Rheims version of 1582.

Olga Opfel notes the enormous influence of the King James Bible. She quotes Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch that the KJV "set a seal on ... national style, thinking, and speaking. Appealing to scholars as well as to humble men, it permeated the thinking of all classes. To this day its common expressions -- labour of love, lick the dust, clear as crystal, a thorn in the flesh, a soft answer, the root of all evil, the fat of the land, the sweat of thy brow, the shadow of death, the skin of the teeth -- are heard in everyday speech.

The influence can be traced throughout English civilization, on the home island and overseas, for the royal Bible served as the foundation stone that migrating Englishmen carried to the ends of the earth, and thus it forged a bond among various branches of the English race. American history -- political, religious, social, educational -- has been rooted in it. As Bliss Perry has said, "That the colonizing Englishmen of the seventeenth century were Hebrew in spiritual culture, the heirs of Greece and Rome without ceasing to be Anglo-Saxon in blood, is one of the basal facts in the intellectual life of the United States.

Because the 1611 Bible is great literature, a true English classic, its influence on the world of letters has been profound. Lawrence Housman writes, "Not Shakespeare nor Bacon nor any great figure in English literature has had so wide and deep an influence on the form of all the literary and political world." One writer, in fact, once imagined what might happen if the King James Version were to suddenly disappear. "People would not know what the great writers were talking about."

Beyond doubt, the generally matchless style of the King James Version has ennobled English speech and writing. The literary influence, to be sure, cannot always be distinguished from that of earlier versions. As John Livingston Lowes notes, through a long process, "the gradual exercise of something which approaches natural selection," there came about "in both diction and phraseology a true survival of the fittest." Certainly the felicitous style also owes something to the fine quality of the original, particularly the Hebrew Old Testament.

The diction and phraseology, Lowes tells us, are a marvelous fusion of the Anglo-Saxon and Latin elements of the English language. The Anglo-Saxon matches the Hebrew original in simplicity and directness; the Latin element brings sonority and stateliness. In certain sections one element predominates over the other; elsewhere the two are blended.

Aside from the diction and phraseology, the rhythms of the King James Version, deeply rooted in emotion and stronger than in earlier English Bibles, have greatly influenced English style. The rhythms, the words, and the imagery crowd the works of British and American writers as varied as Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, John Milton, John Bunyan, Jonathan Swift, Edmund Burke, Patrick Henry, Charles Lamb, Thomas de Quincy, William Blake, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Charles Dickens, John Greenleaf Whittier, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Thomas Carlyle, Herman Melville, John Henry Newman, John Ruskin, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot, and Winston Churchill. Mary Ellen Chase claims that without the King James Version "there would be no Paradise Lost, no Samson Agonistes, no Pilgrim's Progress ... no Negro Spirituals, no Gettysburg Address."

Try and imagine the sonorous resonance of the great orations of Martin Luther King, Jr. without the moving eloquence of the King James phraseology. A rhetorical impossibility.

England's Saint George
I vow to thee my country
knight-martyr, servant of our Lord Jesus Christ
Protector of Women, and Patron saint of chivalry

Ken Connolly (Scotsman, now American) -- The Indestructible Book

Three reasons for the superiority of the King James Version over every other English version to that date:
  1. it was not the labor of one man (like Tyndale's or Coverdale's) or of a few men (like Rheims-Douai), but was a joint effort much like the Septuagint of the Jews.
  2. knowledge of Greek and Hebrew had greatly increased in the immediate years leading up to 1611. [Masoretic Hebrew, Complutensium Polyglot, Beza, Erasmus]
  3. "this was the age of Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe. The flowering of poetry and drama that took place during the Elizabethan age resulted in a Bible that was a masterpiece of English literature." [p 166]

The New Martyrs

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