Oxford professor, Alister McGrath, has written In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. In it he writes: “The two greatest influences on the shaping of the English language are the works of William Shakespeare and the English translation of the Bible that appeared in 1611. The King James Bible . . . is both a religious and literary classic. Literary scholars have heaped praise upon it. . . critics acclaimed it as the ‘noblest monument of English prose.’ In a series of lectures at Cambridge University . . . Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch declared that the King James Bible was ‘the very greatest’ literary achievement in the English language. The only possible challenger for this title came from the complete works of Shakespeare. . . It can be argued that, until the end of the First World War, the King James Bible was seen, not simply as the most important English translation of the Bible, but as one of the finest literary works in the English language. It did not follow literary trends; it established them.”
Yet C. S. Lewis observed, “No translation can preserve the qualities of its original unchanged. . . the literary effect of any good translation must be more indebted to the original than to anything else. . . . There is therefore no possibility of considering the literary impact of the Authorized Version apart from that of the Bible in general. . . [it] owes to the original its matter, its images, and its figures. Our aesthetic experience in reading any of the great Old Testament stories or, say, the liberation of St. Peter and the shipwreck of St. Paul, depends only to a small extent on the translator.”
Admittedly, some translations are better than others, but none can improve upon the original. The King James Version is great partly because the Bible itself is great.
Lanny Tanton is the Pastor at The Bible Church of the Lakes in Horseshoe Bay, Texas – just outside of Marble Falls. Pastor Tanton welcomes you to our website and hopes that you’ll enjoy reading these insightful blog posts. Please contact us if you have further questions!!