Today, May 2, 2011 is the 400th birthday of the King James Version of the Bible. It was in 1604 or so, when King James in England decided he wanted the Bible translated from Greek and Hebrew into “The King’s English” so that the common man could read Scripture. It took seven years for the Biblical translators to complete their task. And what a glorious task it was! For the first time, the English people could possess and read God’s Holy Word in the language they knew.
What a change took place for the Christian and the church. No longer were they dependent on learning God’s Word through the few church leaders who knew how to read Greek and Hebrew. No longer might someone lead them astray, saying “He said!” Now they could study God’s Word.
Since 1611, many others have translated the Bible into the English of their day. But the King James Version has remained strong, familiar, and favorite – for 400 years! I grew up with the King James Version of the Bible. My grandparents gave me my first Bible when I was in 3rd grade. It was a pretty big deal. Black leather-bound, parchment pages edged in gold. My name and the year 1963 were engraved on the front cover. My Bible was my prized possession. I used it throughout parochial (Lutheran) elementary school, high school, and college. In high school and college we studied God’s Word in-depth. I underlined passages, highlighted others, color coded the missions of St. Paul, and wrote notes in the margins. My little KJV Bible was well-loved, and well used.
In 1984 our Lutheran Synod began using the New International Version. It was time to update the Bible into language we used and understood in this modern-day and age. It took people a long time to accept the change. Some how it seemed unholy to say ‘you’ instead of thee and thou. But the need for people to understand God’s Word in their spoken language is the driving force for new translations. Amazingly though, the King James Version is still in use 400 years later. There are passages that just can’t be recited in any other way!
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a degree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…” Luke 2: 1-20
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; …” Ps. 23
” In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
Therefore, in honor of the 400th birthday of the King James Bible, I would like to share with you one of my favorite childhood readings from the KJV Bible.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved;
He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper;
The LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth,
And even for evermore.” Psalm 121