To an old friend...

Monday June 6, 2011

    It was first published 400 years ago on May 5, 1611.

    It was called the Authorized Version (or Authorised, for our British friends), the King James Bible, and the King James Version.

    I’m celebrating its 400th birthday just a bit late, but with a package full of thanks and love.

    I got my first one at birth, a tiny little pink KJV New Testament, a gift from our church.

    At seven years old, on Christmas, my parents gave me a deep red leather one – the King James Version of the Bible.

    I carried it until my college days. Oh, there was a brief flirtation with the Good News for Modern Man and the Living Bible…but I came back to that red leather KJV, until I found the NIV. (I did a little research and was pleased to find that the man who provided the vision for the NIV was a lifelong devotee of the King James who found that it just didn’t connect with his friends.)

    But I celebrate the King James Version today for what it gave me in those formative years.

    I know it’s somewhat difficult and formal. But it’s beautiful.
    I spent a lot of time in church as a child, and I’m convinced my love for words comes directly from that beautiful text.

    I heard it read, I read it, I underlined it, I memorized it – complete with ye instead of you and –eth at the ends of verbs.

    • What else have you read that makes a statement and then says, ‘Yea, doubtless”?

    • “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3, NIV) is really nice, but “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” is simply lovely.

    • And how beautiful is this? “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
    Oh, I know – we all have our preferences. You may have had trouble with that version or bad memories associated with it, it may have “turned someone off” that you know, or you just may have prefer another. (I spend most of my time in the NIV these days, but for pure poetry you can’t beat KJV. Many of the verses I memorized years ago are still in that version in my head.) My sons love the ESV these days, but so far I’m hanging on to my NIV, with the red leather KJV just in the distance.

    This isn’t a persuasive post, though – it’s a celebratory one.

    When I pulled out the old red leather, I could just see myself in that little Indiana church, sitting with my family sometimes, with my friends other times. For awhile I circled the numbers of verses so I’d know that I’d read them – with a goal to read the whole Bible, I suppose. (This was before the Read the Bible in a Year programs.) I underlined what really spoke to me and wrote dates beside. The front and back pieces are filled with quotes and sayings that tell a lot about my teen years. It’s a real trip down Memory Lane.

    But the significant thing is, by those teen years, I adored words and the Word. I’m convinced that the poetic turn of the KJV evoked the love that plays such an important part in my life today. And I’m thankful for that.

    Happy Birthday, KJV – I still love you.

    Linking up today with Michelle at Graceful for Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.


    Victoria said...

    I credit a great deal of my early reading skills to having to work my way through the awkward wordings of the KJV. I cut my literary teeth on it and when the private school I was in switched to NIV I just couldn't do it. I still learned my verses in KJV and continued reading in it. Today, it's still my preference. A lot of the reason is familiarity but like you I just enjoy the poetry of it.
    Even Psalm 23, a passage nearly everyone knows, lacks the same charm in any other version.

    Jean Wise said...

    I love it that you call your Bible and old friend. how cool

    Amy Sullivan said...


    Often I hear people get down on the KJV. . .too hard to understand, too dated, too formal, but like you, there is something about the poetry of it that draws me in.

    I liked the way you wrote this post, and I'm clicking away a little smarter. 400 years? Really?


    I love this post so much, Laura. Right now I read mostly ESV, but I memorized tons of Scripture as a kid in King James. And it often comes back to me. What a sweet gift your parents gave you . . . truth and eternity all wrapped up in red leather.


    Julie Gillies said...

    Hi Laura,

    I love that your red Bible, and God's word in particular, have such a special meaning to you. I have a Bible that is literally falling apart at the seams but I refuse to get rid of it, as it's marked and highlighted and is filled with memories.

    Blessings to you, my friend!

    Unknown said...

    It just goes to show, even if something isn't your favorite, there can be immense amounts of beauty within it. I loved the verses you pulled out and compared between translations!

    Hyacynth said...

    I'm an ESV gal myself, but I do love the poetic nature of KJV. And the Word in general! So thankful for translation.

    Michelle DeRusha said...

    I think it's just the greatest thing that you've been connected with the Bible since birth -- I am more than just a little envious of that. I can only hope and pray that my kids will eventually have the same connection with the Word that you do -- truly an inspiration!

    BTW, I too love the KJV -- all that to this English major's ears! (but I own the New Living Translation and the NIV -- those suit me better in the day to day).

    Anonymous said...

    My first Bible was a KJV & I stole it! The language added to the whole mystery of this funny little book that I later grew to love.

    Unknown said...

    I too had a KJV given to me on Christmas when I was 12 or 13. I always struggled with reading it. I still have it but have since moved on to the Spirit Filled Life Bible a New King James version, maintains the spirit of the old KJV but in modern vernacular. So much easier to read.

    Unknown said...

    What a wonderful perspective! As you mentioned in your post, a lot of my feelings about the KJV have more to do with the environment in which I was exposed to it. I've never realized that correlation before--thank you!

    You're right, the poetry of the KJV, especially in the Psalms, is beautiful!

    Jennifer said...

    What a beautiful post! The verses you share are simply beautiful, and more important than their beauty is the impact they had on your life. Thank you for sharing!

    Unknown said...

    I love reading verses in different translations. It give so much more depth to it. WHether that is more meaning, more understand, or just more beauty.

    no spring chicken said...

    Today my girls and I were reading in Genesis. God is looking on the wickedness in the days of Noah and He says in His Word, "for it repenteth me that I hath made them." I had only thought in terms of OUR repentance and had a hard time with the Lord repenting. We talked about the word repent meaning to 'turn around'. In this context we could see the sense of the statement. God turned around at the sight of such wickedness.

    So, beyond the amazing beauty of the King James version there is also the thought that is provoked in regards to vocabulary...

    Blessings, Debbie

    Deidra said...

    I remember being drawn to the stick figures in the Good News For Modern Man version. And then I kept wondering why it wasn't for the Modern Woman, too. These days I usually read The Message. I know. It's a paraphrase, and not an actual translation. But it works for me. And I'm with you - most of the verses I have memorized come from the KJV, and they are beautiful, too.

    Brandee Shafer said...

    Mmm hmm. I'm KJV 'til the end!!!

    Shonya said...

    I love this post! I grew up with KJV too, and find it has helped my appreciation of literature. As I was reading Jane Austen today I found myself thinking in KJV-ese when "Of a truth I perceive" popped into my head in response to dear Henry. giggle

    My Bible I most often use for reading and carrying to Bible studies has KJV on one side and NIV on the other. It's hard to find this combination, but it truly is my favorite pairing.

    Thanks for a delightful post!

    Anonymous said...

    I enjoyed this post. I read the KJV many years and did most of my memory work in it. I've been reading the NASB the last time through the Bible and want to read the ESV next and I appreciate that they're clearer, especially for those who haven't grown up with the KJV. But the KJV will always hold a special place in my heart, and many verses just don't "sound right" in other versions.

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