Fundamentalism And The King James Version: How A Venerable English Translation Became A Litmus Test For Orthodoxy -- By: Jeffrey P. Straub

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 16:1 (NA 2011)
Article: Fundamentalism And The King James Version: How A Venerable English Translation Became A Litmus Test For Orthodoxy
Author: Jeffrey P. Straub


Fundamentalism And The King James Version:
How A Venerable English Translation
Became A Litmus Test For Orthodoxy

Jeffrey P. Straub1

Introduction

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of one of the most important pieces of English literature ever released. Arguably, no other book has had the widespread influence and lasting significance of the King James Version (kjv or av—Authorized Version) of the English Bible. Its American title is derived from King James (Stuart) the First of England (James VI of Scotland), whose initial idea it was for a new common version, though there is no evidence that he ever authorized it for use in English churches during a time of Puritan agitation.2 It eventually became the dominant English version and held that position for most of the next three centuries. But with its celebrity status came some interesting history.3 In the late 19th century John William Burgon and some of his associates argued for the kjv against the Revised Version not so much because the kjv was a superior English translation but because the underlying Greek text was a better Greek text than the rv used—basically, the Westcott and Hort text.4 It is beyond the purview of this essay to discuss these issues per se, though some of the arguments used in this early round of conflict enter into

the later history that this paper treats.5

Since the 1960s, evangelicals or, more specifically, fundamentalists have been debating the continued usefulness of the av and the underlying Greek text for regular use in the life of the church. Few issues have had the kind of polarizing effect that the battle over Bible versions in general, and the battle for the kjv in particular, have had within some segments of American Protestantism. American Christian fundamentalism6 of the twenty-first century has come, in the minds of many, to be closely associated with the “kjv 1611” in such as way that many non-fundamentalists think the movement is cultish, and some lay people within fundamentalism itself think that God is the one who personally “authorized” the kjv as the Bible for the Engl...

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