The King James Version: 400th Anniversary

Warren F. Kenney

It has been hailed by its lovers as “The Book that changed the world.” This year, precisely May 2, this grand volume will celebrate its 400th anniversary. It is doubtful that the world at large will give this important anniversary more than a passing nod. If scoffers notice, it will be only to mock it. If liberals notice, it will be to discredit it. I am afraid that the majority will be oblivious or indifferent. Only its friends will mark the anniversary with love, respect, admiration, and appreciation. I am referring to the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Gordon Campbell in his book, The Bible: The Story of the King James Version, wrote, “Though it would have surprised the original translators, the King James Bible is one of the most influential literary documents, and arguably the most important religious document in the English speaking world.” []

The version did not immediately enjoy greater acceptance than those that preceded it. However, it was so much better than these it eventually took the field. To this day, after undergoing several revisions, it enjoys a greater popularity than most modern versions. Only the NIV sells more than the KJV in our day.

Were I scholastically qualified, I could set before you some of the arguments that swirl around the modern versions of the Bible. I am compelled to leave that discussion in the hands of those more capable to discuss those matters. Instead, I want to give you some personal reasons why I love the King James Version.

1) It was the Bible of choice to those among whom I grew up in the 1940s into the 1960s. I will grant you that none of these were scholars of the ancient languages. Most were not scholars at all. Most were poor dirt farmers, mail carriers, storekeepers, or factory workers. They had a profound respect for the Bible. I do not think I was even aware of versions other than the KJV until I was grown. The people to whom I refer read the KJV, taught from the KJV, and lived their lives by the teaching found upon its pages.

2) Many whom I admired most staked their eternal salvation upon the KJV. Behind the church building where I grew up lie the sleeping bodies of saints I dearly love. There are more saints per capita in that little graveyard than any other with which I am familiar. The body of my first Bible class teacher reposes there, as does my hero preacher, my father and mother, godly elders and other saints. I have often said that it would be a wonderful place to be in the resurrection. To a person they had a profound respect for the KJV. They instilled that respect in me. That is not a scholarly reason, but my respect for them makes it a good reason not to be lightly dismissed.

3) I love the majestic language of the KJV. Some view this language as more of a problem than a blessing. They discard it in favor of a modern version because they are convinced they cannot understand it. While I realize the challenges of its text, the fact remains that the KJV is written on about the 6th to 10th grade level. I have known many who had lesser education who could understand it. One of my favorite preachers was instrumental in the salvation of hundreds and the edification of hundreds more through his preaching from the KJV. He had very little formal education, and he understood it well enough to powerfully proclaim its message.

In the preface of the 1611 KJV, you find these insightful words. “They can make us wise unto salvation. 2 Tim. 3:15. If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us, if cold, inflame us.” I encourage you to lay aside all the excuses of the past and devote the rest of your life to a study of God’s word. Remember, eternity hangs in the balance. -90 Waverly Court, Martinsburg, WV 25403-1212.

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