400 Years of the KJV -- By: Rodney J. Decker

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 16:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: 400 Years of the KJV
Author: Rodney J. Decker

400 Years of the KJV

Rodney J. Decker

Professor of Greek and New Testament
Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania


There is very little neutrality regarding the King James Bible.2 Is the King James Version of the Bible the “noblest monument of English prose,” the “‘very greatest’ literary achievement in the English language”?3

Or is “the AV 1611 King James Bible … God’s final authority for mankind today…. the crowning work of the Holy Spirit insofar as Bible preservation goes”? Is it “a perfect Book that, though written with paper and ink, was inspired by the breath of God, preserved in perfection by the power of God”?4

Or was “the forcible replacement from 1611 of the remarkable, accurate, informative, forward-looking, very popular Geneva Bibles at the time of their greatest dissemination and power, with the backward-gazing, conservative KJV … one of the tragedies of western culture”?5

Personally, I would not endorse any of those opinions. Since, however, 2011 was the 400th anniversary of a widely used translation, it is worth assessing where the KJV fits in the history of God’s work in our world.6

Historical Background

The King James occupies a unique place in history: the history of the English language, the political history of England and Scotland, and the history of the church in England.7 Too often translations in general and the KJV in particular are not considered in light of their historical, cultural context. Factors to which we may be inclined to give great significance may have arisen for very different reasons than we suspect from our

viewpoint four centuries removed. Few today know much about the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Development Of English As A Language

The origins of English as a language may be traced to the mid-fifth C. AD, though our earliest written sources date only to the late seventh C.8 The history of our language is generally cataloged as consisting of Old English (prior t...

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