2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. In memory of that anniversary, and in memory of the men and women who have used that translation throughout history, I am writing the following:
It was my first Bible. I remember it well. It was leather-bound with my name in the lower right hand corner of the cover. No other wording graced its cover. It was a King James Version and it was Scofield no less! By the time it fell apart on me, I had several favorite verses written in the notes pages and several autographs from missionaries and evangelists who visited my church. That Bible is long gone now, replaced by another KJV (this time a Thompson Chain Reference) and that one was replaced as well once it was worn out. My current Bible is actually from Holman Publishers, but I’ll use ESV, NIV, or almost anything else (ok, except the Message, but don’t shoot me).
I remember the first time I came across a fundamentalist Christian who believed the KJV was the only authorized Bible. I was overseas on the USS Mobile Bay, preaching a service to both my ship and the USS Vincennes, which was berthed next to us in Korea. I can’t remember what I preached on, but I used the NIV Bible. After the service, a man more senior to myself came and shook my hand. He said, “That was a good sermon, Petty Officer Smith, but you really should have used the King James.” I laughed it off because I didn’t know better.
I suppose this fellow would have liked it if I would have yelled a bit more during the sermon and if I would have slapped the cover of my Bible more or maybe the lectern. I don’t know. The fact is that I did grow up with that in my home church, though we weren’t technically a fundamentalist church.
Yet this fellow insulted me and had he known my history, how much I loved King James and how much of a part of my life it had been, he would have…well, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. He would have still been disappointed in me for using anything other than King James. Yet he had me all wrong. I have always valued the King James Version, and anyone who has any love of things nostalgic, or anyone who has a respect for our collective spiritual history, will understand why I still care about KJV and why I still use it on a regular basis.
I will always be a fan of the King James Version. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done to worship it instead of the creator (as in the case of the Independent Baptist Churches) or to discredit it (as some liberal groups have done by worshiping the modern translations). Despite it all, I will always cherish what the King James provided us. It was the best the world could produce and I am proud of them. Still, that fact won’t keep me from using NIV, ESV, or whatever else I want/need to use to get my point across as a minister. God has granted all of them for our good. May we bless him in return by properly meditating on his word to us.
Because it is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version Bible, I plan to spend this year remembering it in various ways, such as using it more as a reference for scripture passages, writing various articles highlighting its use, both in a general history sense, and in my personal life, and in other ways. I'll never forget that first Bible and what it meant to me, and I'll never forget the impact the King James Version had on my life.