The King James Version -- By: Homer A. Kent, Jr.

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 22:3 (Fall 1979)
Article: The King James Version
Author: Homer A. Kent, Jr.

The King James Version

Homer A. Kent, Jr., Th.D.

Grace Theological Seminary and Grace College
Winona Lake, Indiana

The King James Version, translated in A.D. 1611 and “Authorized” by the king of England to be read in the churches of his realm, has blessed the hearts of millions of English readers. The present century, however, has witnessed the production of scores of new versions, and the end is not in sight. Some of these are rather casual, one-man efforts, more paraphrase than translation, but others are major undertakings performed by groups of outstanding scholars (many of them thoroughly evangelical) with the benefit of extended consultation and generous financing.

Partly because of this bewildering array of new translations, there have recently appeared tracts, pamphlets, and even a few books vigorously defending the King James Version and practically anathematizing all others as liberal plots to undermine the Word of God. Some Christians are led to imagine that the King James Version possesses a sanctity that makes it unique among the others. A brief review of the situation would seem to be in order.

What Do We Mean By Inspiration?

Evangelical Christians use the word “inspiration” in a special sense in relation to the Bible. The term is drawn from 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

Most scholars recognize that this translation is inadequate, but the word is so firmly entrenched in our theological language that the only course open is to explain its special meaning. A very literal rendering would be, “All scripture is God-breathed.” Alva J. McClain expressed it this way: “To say that all Scripture is inspired of God is to say that all Scripture is the direct product of the creative breath of God.”

When speaking of “inspiration” regarding the Bible, we use the term in two ways. The first of these is indicated in 2 Timothy 3:16, which describes the Scriptures themselves as “given by inspiration of God.” What was “God-breathed” was actually written by the Biblical writers. Technically speaking, this quality of inspiration applies only to the original documents (that is, the autographs), not to any copies made from them nor to any translations made of them. All subsequent copies or translations are “inspired” only to the extent that they accurately represent the autographs.

The second usage describes the activity of God with regard to the human authors, as stated in 2 Peter 1:21. Though t...

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