Off the Shelf: The Legacy of the King James Bible

Books that have caught my eye.

The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation

By Leland Ryken

Originally published in 1611, the King James Bible (KJB) remains the most recognizable piece of literature in the English-speaking world today. For over three centuries, it served as the standard English Bible and has, as such, exerted unparalleled influence on English and American culture in nearly every sphere—including education, law, literature, government, art, science, and religion.

The Legacy of the King James Bible honors the 400th anniversary of the KJB’s publication by telling its story—a drama that starts with the pioneering work of William Tyndale and progresses through half a dozen other popular translations. Leland Ryken, an expert on the Bible as literature, explores the excellence of the King James Bible by examining its status as the climax of a century of English Bible translations, its impression on the subsequent history of Bible translation, its inherent literary excellence, and its overall impact on English and American literature and culture. The Legacy of the King James Bible will shed new light on the depth of the translation’s merit and influence and offer insight as to what its role may be in the next 400 years.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the KJV, I made a snap decision this morning. I decided to use my first Bible, a burgundy, bonded leather King James edition published by Eyre and Spottiswoode Limited and Zondervan, as my main personal Bible this year. So I pulled it from the shelf, dusted it off, and read the first 14 chapters of Genesis. I enjoyed hearing some of the old, familiar cadences, such as “Behold, the man is become as one of us,” even as I puzzled over some other archaic constructions. My goal is to read through the entire KJV this year, and I will keep you posted.

As a devoted user of the wonderful ESV, I’m nervous about this return to the KJV, but also excited. I’m wondering how much my perceptions of God’s Word will change as I read it through the magisterial lens of the Authorized Version. I believe there will be many benefits.

In the dedication to James, the “most dread Sovereign,” the KJV translators declare, “But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.”

Amen. Will anyone join me?

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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