The King James Bible And The Importance Of Textual Criticism -- By: Tania Fenwick

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:4 (Fall 2011)
Article: The King James Bible And The Importance Of Textual Criticism
Author: Tania Fenwick


The King James Bible And The Importance Of Textual Criticism

Tania Fenwick

The year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible (KJV). There have been many organized events around the world to celebrate this anniversary and highlight the lasting influence this Bible has had on society. The KJV has been read by millions of the faithful and is distinctive and appreciated as a superb translation. The King James Bible Trust (KJBT) has produced an interesting website to commemorate the 400th anniversary. From a purely academic perspective, the KJBT has highlighted the fact that the KJV has influenced the world in art, music, literature and the English language, “more than Shakespeare or any other author.”1 Containing theological and doctrinal purity, millions of Christians have found within its pages, just as the translators intended, the words “to make God’s holy truth more and more known unto the people.” (Bancroft: ii).

Of course, like any translation, the KJV has some imperfections. Since the 19th century, textual scholars have found some deficiencies with the text when compared to the multitude of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts discovered since the KJV was published. However, these textual difficulties are relatively minor, never adversely affect doctrine, and comparisons and corrections have sometimes been necessary for ensuring a more accurate English translation. This article will illuminate and examine the history of the KJV in order to understand how this remarkable translation came to be published. Additionally, we will briefly survey the processes involved in textual criticism and Bible translation.

Reasons For The Translation

The translators were given instructions from Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London, and King James I of England, to complete a Bible which lined up with Protestant doctrine. There were political and religious reasons behind the royal consent to produce this Bible. The Geneva Bible of 1560 had been instrumental in encouraging the growth of the Reformation in England and was particularly popular with the Puritans, who hoped King James would authorize their beloved version. King James, however, disliked the Geneva Bible as it contained marginal notes which suggested that in some circumstances it was lawful to disobey kings (Wegner: 1999, 306). He was afraid that these kinds of ideas might encourage the populace to rally together, and push for England to become a Republic, like the Protestants did in Geneva in 1536.

Influenced by Bancroft, King James placed his support behind the Church of England. Although the Church rejected Roman Catholic...

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