Church History (3 Myths about the King James Version) Finale
Hello guys! How’s it hanging at your end‽ Still on Church History (3 Myths about the King James Version). Let’s continue where we left off.
Note: If you haven’t read the prequels, please do. There is a link to them at the bottom of this page.
Let’s get right to it.
Church History (3 Myths about the King James Version)
Third – The KJV was Untouched for 300 Years
Lastly, the third myth we are going to be discussing is the idea that the King James Version was relatively untouched or altered until the rise of modern translations in the 1880s, with the publication, especially of the RV or Revised Version. Now, this is a bit of a hot water subject. The KJV-only folks and those who counter the KJV-only folks love to get into the squabble about if the KJV ever changed. You’ll meet all types of folks that are 1611-only, KJV-only folks, and there are others who argue that, in fact, there is no material change whatsoever over the course of the KJV life; that it was, sort of, unblemished for 300 years. We can find all kinds of things online, frankly, about what constitutes a serious change in the text or not.
To begin, we can say that there were some changes made, there were alterations, slight improvements, little things like this. We are not going to focus on the fact that sometimes, printers published errant texts, so they had errors themselves in the print run. That’s common for the day. Point of fact, that’s the story of the famous Wicked Bible published actually by the Barker family, and famously, they forgot to put the words “not” in thou shalt not commit adultery, these types of things. So, the Wicked Bible was printed saying, “thou shalt commit adultery”. Now, it was actually a tragic story. Of course, they were punished adequately for doing such.
So we are not talking about those types of changes. There were going to be typographical improvements, fixes, or tweaks, things of that nature. Those are not serious changes. There were, however, some changes that were more “DEEP“, you might say. Some of the languages were fixed here and there. How much? You might ask. Well, that’s more in the eyes of the beholder. I don’t find these changes ultra-radical though. They are not flipping the text or modernizing it per se.
So, in many ways, the 1611 edition does more or less carry on. What seems to be the problem in the debate amongst those who are KJV only in these things is that they only look at additions that are marked or labelled as the King James Bible. You see, when someone took the King James Bible in the new world, in America, and updated it, revised it, and changed its language, in almost no case is it printed with the name King James Bible.
So, for example, John Wesley, the famous founder of the Methodist movement, actually released a new testament in which he revised the King James Bible to be in a refreshed English style. He also tweaked some of its theological nuances and things of this nature. By and large, he said, look, the KJV is fine but I need it to be in the language of the people. Wesley, of course, is on these evangelism circuits leading lots of folks of low or no education to the faith and realizes that the King James Bible is just simply, too highbrow, you might say.
But you see, that Bible is a revision of the King James Bible. It is foundationally the same, though it is only modernized. And there are numbers of such, in fact, quite a few. So, wouldn’t you say that the King James Bible was unchanged? Well, if you only look at King James’ Bibles, so-called, that’s certainly going to be the case! However, there was a movement already by the 1700s. Particularly after the founding of America in 1776. After that, the King James Bible lost its copyright infringement policy. This was because America was no longer answering to the crown.
That copyright that the crown had given to one family, and, of course, at this point, it had gone from the Barkers to a different family. That copyright law no longer applied to the new nation. And so, when folks wanted to update, revise, or modernize the spelling or the wording of some places, they were free to do so. These Bibles would be printed under, often a different name but they were nevertheless an implicit, you might say, charitable response to the King James legacy, not by trying to tarnish it, call it unworthy, or any of these types of things. But rather to say we need to modernize it, we need English in the way that it is spoken now.