During 2011, there are dozens of celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in the English speaking world. Some are making the point that it was the first Bible printed in the US and is the most published book ever with over a billion copies printed.
Others are recognizing that, for over 300 years, it was not only the standard for God's word in English, but it also standardized the English language. The KJV appeared just as the English language was emerging from the various streams of Anglo-Saxon, Scotch, Irish, European and Roman influences. "English was in a particularly fluid state. Both the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible appeared around this formative time and stamped their imprint on the newer forms of the language," says Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education at King's College, London.
At the same time, several growing schools of Christian thought were competing for attention. King James wisely brought together a wide selection of men representing the various theological perspectives as well as world-class language competence.
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they produced a book that was so literal a translation of the faithful manuscripts that no one extreme interpretation dominated.
No other English Bible has benefited from the thoroughness of the translation process given the KJV. Fifty four men were selected from the foremost biblical scholars of the day.
Besides Hebrew and Greek, some were also fluent in a dozen other languages. They were then grouped in six committees in three locations at Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster Universities. Each group was assigned specific sections of the Bible to work on. When each group finished, their work was passed to the other groups to verify. Not until all groups had approved a section, was it considered final.
The work was started as early as 1604, but the process took until 1611 before a final text was ready to print. Even then, it was another 50 years before it was generally accepted as the people compared it to other bibles such as the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible that were in common use at that time.
As it came to dominate the culture, figures of speech, quotations and concepts began to show up in the works of famous writers, artists and composers. Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver's Travels," writing in 1712, believed the King James Bible, "being perpetually read in churches, proved a kind of standard for language, especially to the common people ...I am persuaded that the translators of the Bible were masters of an English style much fitter for that work, than any we see in our present writings." The lyrics of Handel's "Messiah" are all quotes from the KJV.
One scholar has identified 257 phrases in modern use lifted directly from the KJV. Familiar ones include "east of Eden," "beat their swords into plowshares," "get thee behind me," "the skin of my teeth," "the root of the matter," and "turned the world upside down."
Even the U.S. Congress approved a resolution recognizing the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV, noting that it is the most widely printed and distributed work in history.
David W. Daniels, author of Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible? and Look What's Missing, says, "God, through the KJV translators, gave us His "pure words" in English. For 400 years, it has empowered revivals, inspired millions to "faith and good works" and formed the spiritual basis of the most free and prosperous nations the world has ever known.
No wonder Satan has been so desperate to flood the market with dozens of counterfeit bibles to blunt the effect of the KJV."