November 5, 2007 by David Cloud

The following is excerpted from FAITH VS. THE MODERN BIBLE VERSIONS (2005). To our knowledge, this 775-page volume is the most comprehensive book on this topic in print. It contains information that has not appeared in any other book defending the King James Bible and breaks new ground in several areas -- such as the importance of the ancient separatist versions in the defense of 1 John 5:7, an exposition of the doctrine of Bible preservation from 43 passages of Scripture, documentation of the corruption of evangelical scholarship over the past 50 years and of the apostasy that enveloped the 19th century as modern textual criticism was devised and that further enveloped the 20th century as modern textual criticism became entrenched, and documentation of the role played by Unitarians in the development of modern textual criticism, to name a few. If you are new to the Bible Version issue and want to understand it, we believe this is the book for you; and if you have already been studying this subject for some time, you will find a wealth of new things here. The course features 783 sectional review questions to reinforce the teaching. A separate teacher's test book is available containing sectional and final tests with answer sheets if the course is used in Bible College or Seminary. Dr. David Sorenson, author of Touch Not the Unclean Thing and Understanding the Bible Commentary, said: "I have read about 95%+ of your Faith vs. Modern Versions book. What a masterpiece!! I am so impressed with it. It is probably the finest book I have read on the issue. I have also just finished reading your new book on the Bible Version Hall of Shame--EXCELLENT!! What a wealth of history and information." 775 pages, 7X8, perfect bound, $29.95

The King James Bible is a masterpiece of Bible translation. It conforms beautifully to the Hebrew and Greek and its English language is peerless. This is the testimony of many learned men. I have about 100 books in my library that extol the excellence of the King James Bible, and the following statements could be greatly multiplied.

In his book The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation (Wheaton: Crossway Book, 2002), Dr. Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College, continually applauds the KJV, praising its beauty, dignity, and power. He uses it as an example of what good Bible translation is all about. He calls for modern translation work to be done after "the King James tradition" (p. 282, 284). The book contains many quotations exalting the KJV.

"peerless literary masterpiece" (p. 270)
"unquestionably the most beautiful book in the world" (p. 267)
"the noblest monument of English prose" (p. 258)
"incomparably the best English translation in its rhythm" (p. 259)
"when it comes to stylistic range and flexibility, the King James Bible is peerless" (p. 227)
"the touchstone of affective power" (p. 206)
"matchless in its literary qualities among all English translations" (p. 188)
"the supremely literary English translation" (p. 163)
"immeasurably superior" (p. 163)
"the touchstone of literary excellence" (p. 62)
"stylistically the greatest English Bible translation ever produced" (p. 51)

Even Roman Catholics have given grudging praise to the King James Bible, recognizing that it has been the bulwark of Protestantism in the English-speaking world. Frederick William Faber, who went over to the Catholic Church from the Church of England during the Oxford Movement, used these words: "Who will say that the uncommon beauty and marvellous English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the great strongholds of heresy in this country? It lives on the ear like a music that can never be forgotten, like the sound of church bells, which the convert scarcely knows how he can forego. Its felicities seem often to be almost things rather than words. ... It is his sacred thing, which doubt never dimmed and controversy never soiled; and in the length and breadth of the land there is not a Protestant with one spark of religiousness about him whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible" (Faber, quoted from John Eadie, The English Bible, II, p. 158).

These words were not only true; they were prophetic. Since the pulling down of the King James Bible and its replacement among Protestant churches in general with the multiplicity of conflicting modern versions, the Rome-oriented ecumenical movement has made amazing progress.

Matthew Poole, 1669: "In the English version published in 1611, occur many specimens of an edition truly gigantic, of uncommon skill in the original tongues, or extraordinary critical acuteness and discrimination, which have been of great use to me very frequently in the most difficult texts" (Poole, Synopsis Criticorum; cited from James Lister, The Excellence of the Authorized Version of the Sacred Scriptures Defended against the Socinians, 1820, p. 17).

Edward Pocock, commentary on Micah, 1685: "That translation from our own which we follow is such and so speakable to the original, as that we might well choose among others to follow it, were it not our own, and established by authority among us."

Jonathan Swift, 1712: "The translators of our Bible were masters of an English style much fitter for that work than any which we see in our present writings, which I take to be owing to the simplicity that runs through the whole" (Jonathan Swift, A Proposal for Correcting, Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue, London, 1712).

Adam Clarke, 1810: "Those who have compared most of the European translations with the original, have not scrupled to say, that the English translation of the Bible made under the direction of king James I, is the most accurate and faithful of the whole. Nor is this its only praise; THE TRANSLATORS HAVE SEIZED THE VERY SPIRIT AND SOUL OF THE ORIGINAL AND EXPRESSED THIS ALMOST EVERYWHERE WITH PATHOS AND ENERGY. The original, from which it was taken, is alone superior to the Bible which was translated by the authority of king James. ... Besides, our translators have not only made a standard translation, but they have made their translation the standard of our language. ... This is an opinion in which my heart, my judgment, and my conscience coincide" (Adam Clarke, General Introduction to his Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1810-26).

William Orme, 1824: "Like every thing human, it is no doubt imperfect; but as a translation of the Bible, it has few rivals, and AS A WHOLE, NO SUPERIOR. It is in general faithful, simple, and perspicuous. IT HAS SEIZED THE SPIRIT AND COPIED THE MANNER OF THE DIVINE ORIGINALS. It seldom descends to meanness or vulgarity; but often rises to elegance and sublimity. It is level to the understanding of the cottager, and fit to meet the eye of the critic, the poet, and the philosopher. It has been the companion of our princes and our nobility, and prized by many of them as their most invaluable treasure. It is the birthright of our numerous population, and has proved the means of knowledge, holiness and joy to millions; and WE TRUST IT IS DESTINED FOR AGES YET TO COME, to be the glory of the rich, and the inheritance of the poor; the guide to the way-worn pilgrim, and the messenger of peace to many a dying sinner" (William Orme, Bibliotheca Biblica: a Select List of Books on Sacred Literature, with Notices Biographical, Critical, and Bibliographical, 1824).

Thomas Fanshaw Middleton, 1841: "The style of our present version is incomparably superior to any thing which might be expected from the finical and perverted taste of our own age. It is simple, it is harmonious, it is energetic; and, which is of no small importance, use has made it familiar, and time has rendered it sacred" (Middleton, first Anglican bishop of Calcutta, The Doctrine of the Greek Article Applied to the Criticism and Illustration of the New Testament, 1841).

John Dowling, Baptist leader in America and author of History of Romanism, 1850: "The fact is that the common version which it is proposed to amend, is, taken as a whole, a wonderful translation, and although it may be conceded that it is not perfect--for what human performance is so?--yet it is exceedingly doubtful, whether a translation has ever been made from any ancient book, Greek, Latin, or Oriental--which in point of faithfulness to its original can be compared with this, or which has fewer errors in proportion to the entire amount of its contents. ... TO ATTEMPT TO SUPPLANT IT BY A 'NEW VERSION,' OR TO INTRODUCE ANY MATERIAL ALTERATIONS, WOULD BE LIKE 'GILDING REFINED GOLD'..." (The Old-Fashioned Bible, or Ten Reasons against the Proposed Baptist Version of the New Testament, 1850, pp. 11, 12, 13).

Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Episcopalian bishop in western New York, 1857: "The Holy Scriptures, as translated in the reign of king James the First, are THE NOBLEST HERITAGE OF THE ANGLO-SAXON RACE. ... It was the work, in some degree, of all, who, in the successive stages of England's growth and development, had contributed to that great principle of the Anglican Reformation ... It was the Bible of Adhelm and Bede and Aelfric and of Alfred; of Stephen Langton and Rolle of Hampole; of Wiclif and Tindal and Coverdale and Cranmer and Parker, and of all the noble army of Marian Martyrs. Finally, it was the Bible which had been winnowed from whatever was unsubstantial in the fruits of all their labours, and which combined the merits of all; IT WAS THE FINEST OF THE WHEAT. ... The English language was in its prime and purity; its wells were undefiled. ... BY THE ACCLAMATION OF THE UNIVERSE, IT IS THE MOST FAULTLESS VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES THAT EVER EXISTED IN ANY TONGUE. To complain of its trifling blemishes, is to complain of the sun for its spots. ... " (Coxe, An Apology for the Common English Bible, 1857, pp. 5, 6, 8).

Joseph Philpot, 1861: "They [the KJV translators] were deeply penetrated with a reverence for the word of God, and, therefore, they felt themselves bound by a holy constraint to discharge their trust in the most faithful way. UNDER THIS DIVINE CONSTRAINT THEY WERE LED TO GIVE US A TRANSLATION UNEQUALLED FOR FAITHFULNESS TO THE ORIGINAL, AND YET AT THE SAME TIME CLOTHED IN THE PUREST AND SIMPLEST ENGLISH. ... No one can read, with an enlightened eye, the discourses of our Lord without seeing what a divine simplicity ran through all His words; and our translators were favoured with heavenly wisdom to translate these words of the Lord into language as simple as that in which they first fell from His lips. What can exceed the simplicity and yet beauty and blessedness of such declarations as these?--'I am the bread of life;' 'I am the door;' 'I am the way, the truth, and the life:' 'I lay down My life for the sheep;' 'I am the vine;' 'God is love;' 'By grace ye are saved.' Even where the words are not strictly monosyllabic they are of the simplest kind, and as such are adapted to the capacity of every child of God, in whatever rank of life he may be. The blessedness of having not only such a Bible, but possessing such a translation of it can never be sufficiently valued. ... it is because the language of our Bible is such pure, simple, unaffected, idiomatic, intelligible English that it has become so thoroughly English a book, and has interwoven itself with our very laws and language" (Joseph Philpot, Gospel Standard, February 1861). [COMMENT: As we have seen, the purity and simplicity of the language of the KJV regularly goes back to William Tyndale, and some times even to Wycliffe.]

Frederick Scrivener, 1884: "Nor can the attentive student of the Authorized version fail to marvel at the perfect and easy command over the English language exhibited by its authors on every page. The fulness and variety of their diction, the raciness of their idiomatic resources, seem almost to defy imitation, while they claim our just and cheerful admiration" (The Authorized Edition of the English Bible, p. 141).

William Muir, Our Grand Old Bible, 1911:"The influence of the Authorised Version, alike on our religion and our literature, can never be exaggerated. ... The Authorized Version has often been called A WELL OF ENGLISH UNDEFILED, and much of its purity is due to the fact that its water was drawn from the ancient springs. It has the universal note which gives it a place among the immortals. IT HAS THE DIVINE TOUCH, EVEN IN ITS DICTION, WHICH LIFTS IT ABOVE THE LIMITATIONS OF LOCALITY AND TIME, AND MAKES IT VALID AND LIVING FOR ALL THE AGES. Like A RARE JEWEL FITLY SET, the sacred truths of Scripture have found such suitable expression in it, that we can hardly doubt that they filled those who made it with reverence and awe, so that they walked softly in the Holy Presence. ... THE ENGLISH BIBLE IS STILL FRESH AND MIGHTY, EVEN IF IT HAS ARCHAIC OR OBSOLETE WORDS. IT HAS WAXED OLD, BUT IT HAS NOT DECAYED. ITS YOUTH ABIDES, AND THE SUN NEVER SETS ON ITS SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. Many volumes have perished since it first saw the light; but its message is as modern as ever. It has not only kept up-to-date, it has anticipated every need of men, and still responds to every new demand" (Muir, Our Grand Old Bible, 1911, pp. 131, 192, 238).

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, critic, scholar, and educational reformer, 1913: "I grant you, to be sure, that the path to the Authorised Version was made straight by previous translators, notably by William Tyndale. I grant you that Tyndale was a man of genius, and Wyclif before him a man of genius. I grant you that the forty-seven men who produced the Authorised Version worked in the main upon Tyndale's version, taking that for their basis. Nay, if you choose to say that Tyndale was a miracle in himself, I cheerfully grant you that as well. ... and when Tyndale has been granted you have yet to face the miracle that forty-seven men--not one of them known, outside of this performance, for any superlative talent--sat in committee and almost consistently, over a vast extent of work--improved upon what Genius had done. I give you the word of an old committee-man that this is not the way of committees--that only by miracle is it the way of any committee. ... Individual genius such as Tyndale's or even Shakespeare's, though we cannot explain it, we may admit as occurring somehow, and not incredibly, in the course of nature. But THAT A LARGE COMMITTEE OF FORTY-SEVEN SHOULD HAVE GONE STEADILY THROUGH THE GREAT MASS OF HOLY WRIT, SELDOM INTERFERING WITH GENIUS, YET, WHEN INTERFERING, SELDOM MISSING TO IMPROVE: THAT A COMMITTEE OF FORTY-SEVEN SHOULD HAVE CAPTURED (OR EVEN, LET US SAY, SHOULD HAVE RETAINED AND IMPROVED) A RHYTHM SO PERSONAL, SO CONSTANT, THAT OUR BIBLE HAS THE VOICE OF ONE AUTHOR SPEAKING THROUGH ITS MANY MOUTHS: THAT, GENTLEMEN, IS A WONDER BEFORE WHICH I CAN ONLY STAND HUMBLE AND AGHAST. Does it or does it not strike you as queer that the people who set you 'courses of study' in English Literature never include the Authorised Version, which not only intrinsically but historically is out and away the greatest book of English Prose. ... the Authorised Version astounds me, as I believe it will astound you when you compare it with earlier translations. Aristotle (it has been said) invented Chance to cover the astonishing fact that there were certain phenomena for which he found himself wholly unable to account. Just so, if one may compare very small things with very great, I spoke of the Authorised Version as a 'miracle.' It was, it remains, marvellous to me. ... were this University to limit me to three texts on which to preach English Literature to you, I should choose the Bible in our Authorised Version, Shakespeare, and Homer (though it were but in a prose translation)" (On the Art of Writing, Lectures delivered before the University of Cambridge, 1913-14).

John Livingston Lowes (1867-1945), American scholar of English literature, 1936, called the King James Bible "THE NOBLEST MONUMENT OF ENGLISH PROSE." This was the title of the chapter that he contributed to Essays in Appreciation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936).

Arthur Clutton-Brock, essayist, critic, and journalist, 1938, said: "The Authorized Version of the Bible is a piece of literature without any parallel in modern times. Other countries of course, have their translations of the Bible, but they are not great works of art" (Vernon Storr, editor, The English Bible: Essays by Various Writers,Clutton-Brock, "The English Bible," 1938).

H. Wheeler Robinson, Ancient and English Versions of the Bible, 1940: "The Authorized Version is a miracle and a landmark. Its felicities are manifold, its music has entered into the very blood and marrow of English thought and speech, it has given countless proverbs and proverbial phrases even to the unlearned and the irreligious. There is no corner of English life, no conversation ribald or reverent it has not adorned. Embedded in its tercentenary wording is the language of a century earlier. IT HAS BOTH BROADENED AND RETARDED THE STREAM OF ENGLISH SPEECH" (Robinson, Ancient and English Versions of the Bible, p. 205).

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), "the most prominent newspaperman, book reviewer, and political commentator of his day," said this about the King James Bible: "It is the most beautiful of all the translations of the Bible; indeed, IT IS PROBABLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF WRITING IN ALL THE LITERATURE OF THE WORLD. ... Its English is extraordinarily simple, pure, eloquent, lovely. It is a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry, at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of" (Gustavas Paine, Preface, The Learned Men).

Winston Churchill, 1956: "The scholars who produced this masterpiece are mostly unknown and unremembered. But they forged an enduring link, literary and religious, between the English-speaking people of the world" (History of the English-Speaking People, "The New World").

Gustavus Paine, author of The Men Behind the KJV, 1977, wrote: "... not only was theirs the best of the English Bibles; there is, in no modern language, a Bible worthy to be compared with it as literature. ... indeed the 1611 rhythms have been potent to affect writing, speaking, and thinking ever since the learned men produced them. ... They knew how to make the Bible scare the wits out of you and then calm you, all in English as superb as the Hebrew and the Greek" (pp. 169, 171, 172).

When Harvard University Press published The Literary Guide to the Bible in 1987, they selected the KJV for the literary analysis of each of the Bible books. "... our reasons for doing so must be obvious: it is the version most English readers associate with the literary qualities of the Bible, and IT IS STILL ARGUABLY THE VERSION THAT BEST PRESERVES THE LITERARY EFFECTS OF THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGES" (The Literary Guide to the Bible, p. 7).

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post: "The King James Bible is THE GREATEST WORK EVER WRITTEN IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, PERIOD" (quoted in Adam Nicholson, God's Secretaries, in the section "Praise for God's Secretaries" which follows the table of contents).

David Daniell, 2003: "On a historical scale, the sheer longevity of this version is a phenomenon, without parallel. ... IN THE STORY OF THE EARTH WE LIVE ON, ITS INFLUENCE CANNOT BE CALCULATED. ITS WORDS HAVE BEEN FOUND TO HAVE A UNIQUE QUALITY, of being able both to lift up a dedicated soul higher than had been thought, and to reach even below the lowest depths of human experience" (David Daniell, The Bible in English, p. 427).

Adam Nicholson, 2003: "The marvels of this passage [Psalm 8:3-5] consist above all in one quality, or at least in one combination of qualities: AN ABSOLUTE SIMPLICITY OF VOCABULARY SET IN A RHYTHM OF THE UTMOST STATELINESS AND MAJESTY. The words are necessarily slowed to a muffled drumbeat of a pace. There is no hurrying this, no running away with it, as a Shakespeare speech can sometimes hurry, a rushed cataract of words tripping over itself even as it emerges. The characteristic sound of the King James Bible is not like that but, like the ideal of majesty itself, is indescribably vast and yet perfectly accessible, reaching up to the sublime and down to the immediate and the concrete, without any apparent effort. The rhetoric of this translation has, in fact, precisely the qualities which this psalm attributes to God: a majesty that is mindful of man" (Adam Nicholson, God's Secretaries, pp. 230, 231).


The style of the King James Bible is not that of the 17th century but is an English style molded by the Hebrew and Greek.

Consider the following testimonies:

"... the English of the King James Version is not the English of the early 17th century. To be exact, it is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. IT IS BIBLICAL ENGLISH, which was not used on ordinary occasions even by the translators who produced the King James Version. As H. Wheeler Robinson (1940) pointed out, one need only compare the preface written by the translators with the text of their translation to feel the difference in style. And the observations of W.A. Irwin (1952) are to the same purport. The King James Version, he reminds us, owes its merit, not to 17th-century English--which was very different--but to its faithful translation of the original. ITS STYLE IS THAT OF THE HEBREW AND OF THE NEW TESTAMENT GREEK. Even in their use of thee and thou the translators were not following 17th-century English usage but biblical usage, for at the time these translators were doing their work these singular forms had already been replaced by the plural you in polite conversation" (Edward Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 218).

"Hallam ... [declares] that the English of the Jacobean version [the King James Bible] 'is not the English of Daniel, or Raleigh, or Bacon'--in fact, that 'it is not the language of the reign of James I.' ... this is strictly true, and for the reason that he assigns, namely, 'in consequence of the principle of adherence to the original versions which had been kept up since the time of Henry VIII'" (Albert Cook, The Authorized Version of the Bible and Its Influence, 1910).

"This English is there to serve the original not to replace it. It speaks in its master's voice, and is not the English you would have heard on the street, then or ever. It took up its life in a new and distinct dimension of linguistic space, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ENGLISH AND GREEK (OR, FOR THE OLD TESTAMENT, BETWEEN ENGLISH AND HEBREW). These scholars were not pulling the language of the scriptures into the English they knew and used at home. The words of the King James Bible are just as much English pushed towards the condition of a foreign language as a foreign language translated into English. It was, in other words, more important to make English godly than to make the words of God into the sort of prose that any Englishmen would have written, and that secretarial relationship to the original languages of the scriptures shaped the translation" (Adam Nicholson, God's Secretaries, pp. 210, 211).

Professor Gerald Hammond of the University of Manchester, England, said the KJV translators "have taken care to reproduce the syntactic details of the originals," and, "At its best, which means often, the Authorized Version has the kind of transparency which makes it possible for the reader to see the original clearly. It lacks the narrow interpretative bias of modern versions, and is the stronger for it" (Gerald Hammond, "English Translations of the Bible," The Literary Guide to the Bible, eds. Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, Harvard University Press, 1987, pp. 664, 656).

The reason for this was the translators' conviction that the Hebrew and Greek words of the Scripture are the eternal words of God. In "The Translators to the Reader," Miles Smith spoke for them all when he said of the Bible: "It is ... a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life. And what marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the enditer [composer], the holy spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the Pen-men such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principal portion of God's spirit..."

The King James Bible has a proper "biblical" style that is understandable but exalted and reverent, having the proper "rhythm" and "tone."

We have already seen that "majesty" was one of the objectives of the KJV translators.

"The Bible is not a modern, human book. It is not as new as the morning newspaper, and no translation should suggest this. If the Bible were this new, it would not be the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is an ancient, divine Book, which nevertheless is always new because in it God reveals Himself. Hence THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE SHOULD BE VENERABLE AS WELL AS INTELLIGIBLE, and the King James Version fulfills these two requirements better than any other Bible in English" (Edward F. Hills, p. 219).

"I believe that it is correct for an English translation to preserve AN APPROPRIATE ARCHAIC FLAVOR as a way of preserving the distance between us and the biblical world. Joseph Wood Krutch used an evocative formula in connection with the King James Bible when he spoke of 'an appropriate flavor of a past time'" (Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 182).

"GOOD RHYTHM FOR A BIBLE IS LIKE A QUALIFYING EXAM: If a translation cannot measure up on this matter, it is not in the running to be a superior Bible for public use and oral reading in more private situations. ... The best test of rhythm is simply to read passages aloud. ... If in oral reading a passage ebbs and flows smoothly, avoids abrupt stops between words and phrases where possible, and provides a sense of continuity, it is rhythmically excellent. If a translation clutters the flow of language and is consistently staccato in effect, it is rhythmically inferior. ... All of these considerations make rhythm an essential translation issue, not a peripheral one. For a book that is read aloud as often as the Bible is, and for a book whose utterances are so frequently charged with strong feeling and sublime ideas, excellent rhythm should be regarded as a given" (Ryken, pp. 257, 259).

"Tone is the literary term that refers to such things as the writer's attitude toward his or her subject matter, the suitability of style for the content, and the correctness of effect on a reader. ... From time to time I encounter the sentiment from dynamic equivalency advocates that the Bible 'should not sound like the Bible.' Billy Graham endorsed The Living Letters by saying that 'it is thrilling to read the Word ... [in] a style that reads much like today's newspaper.' I disagree with these verdicts. A SACRED BOOK SHOULD SOUND LIKE A SACRED BOOK, NOT LIKE THE DAILY NEWSPAPER. It should command attention and respect, and to do so it cannot be expressed in the idiom of the truck stop. The failure of modern colloquial translations is frequently a failure of tone." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 278, 279, 280)

"To make the Bible readable in the modern sense means to flatten out, tone down and convert into tepid expository prose what in K.J.V. is wild, full of awe, poetic, and passionate. It means stepping down the voltage of K.J.V. so it won't blow any fuses" (Dwight Macdonald, "The Bible in Modern Undress," in Literary Style of the Old Bible and the New, ed. D.G. Kehl, 1970, p. 40).

"We are in real danger of losing, in an age of flat prose, an essential and invaluable capacity of the language, fully realized once in the English Bible ... the capacity to express by tone and overtone, by rhythm, and by beauty and force of vocabulary, the religious, the spiritual, the ethical cravings of man" (Henry Canby, "A Sermon on Style," in Literary Style of the Old Bible and the New, ed. D.G. Kehl, 1970, p. 427).