Friday, December 14, 2007

The real King James Version of 1611

Are you aware that the actual text of what we call the KJV of the Holy Scriptures is not that of 1611, when first published, but of 1769?
What happened was that from 1611, when the first editions came out, through to 1769, scholars employed by the University Presses made minor changes of various kinds, correcting typographical errors, adjusting marginal notes and making changing words where the original had changed in meaning from 1611. Then this process stopped. And all official printings in Britain since 1769 have been of the 1769 text, and thus it has been a most stable text for two hundred and fifty years or so.
Now the differences between the first edition and that of 1769 are by ordinary standards minimal; they do not change the general character or the style of the KJV, the most important and influential of books in the English language. However, these days, when there is a tremendous interest in things as they originally were, to know as exactly as possible what was the text that was actually produced by the translators—before the minor correcting and editing began by printer and scholar—is not only an interesting but an important quest.
Happily, Cambridge University Press and Dr David Norton of Victoria College, Wellington, New Zealand have come to our aid in a magnificent way to guide us in this quest.
First of all, Dr Norton has most carefully investigated the transmission of the text of the KJV from 1611 onwards and his painstaking work may be seen by reading his A Textual History of the King James Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Secondly, Cambridge University Press has published the original 1611 text of Bible and Apocrypha, as re-created from manuscript and printed evidence, by Dr Norton. And in this edition the text is provided in paragraphs rather than separated into verses. The full title of the Bible is The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha. King James Version (2005). It is produced to the high standards we expect of this Press and it is available in leather or as hardback on high quality paper at discounted prices from places like
To cite the Introduction:

Thousands of specks of dust have been blown away from the received text in “The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible,” leaving the King James Bible presented with a fidelity to the translators own work never before achieved, and allowing the most read, heard and loved book in the English language to speak with new vigour to modern readers.

All serious users and lovers of the KJV need to have this unique edition of the KJV in order to become the better acquainted with this classic of literature as well as of Christian religion!
In 1662 the two greatest Books of Christianity in English came together. Inside this new edition, under Charles II, of The Book of Common Prayer, originally published in 1549, revised in 1552, and then authorized by each Monarch from Elizabeth I onwards, the text of the Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days was printed for the first time from the King James Version, and this has remained the case till the present.
However, so much loved was the Psalter (originally from the pen of Coverdale in the sixteenth century) in The BCP that it was not removed but retained; and it remains there to this day. It is a translation that lends itself to being prayed!
It is amazing that as versions of the Bible come and go—and in recent times with great rapidity—the KJV remains in print and in use; it is also amazing that Cambridge University Press would make such a massive investment in this edition of the KJV.
Many of us know from hearing that it retains its own unique quality when read aloud in the context of public worship and classical Common Prayer.
Oh that more of our younger people would discover the charm, power and accuracy of the KJV and take to reading it day by day! It is not too late for any of us to start this reading.

Peter Toon November 30 2007

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