A book that brought God closer
As The King James translation of the Bible marks its 400th anniversary, its deep influence and prominence are slipping.
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At solemn occasions, many people unfamiliar with the KJV – or any Bible – want to hear from it. Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...") is a favorite at memorial services. "Modern language is very easy to read but in some people's minds takes away the power of those Elizabethan words that made it come alive," says Gary Davidson, senior vice president and Bible group publisher at Thomas Nelson Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., the leading publisher of the KJV. The 23rd Psalm, in the KJV, "just does something to your spirit when you hear it," he says. A more modern translation "leaves you a little flat, if you ask me."Skip to next paragraph
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Though sales of other Bible translations dipped last year, Mr. Davidson says, the KJV saw an 11 percent increase. "There's still a huge following," he says. "It's really near and dear to the heart of many people."
"It's the Bible that I use every day," he says. "It becomes part of you. Somehow its words and its phrases become part of your vocabulary of thought. It's the Bible that, if I read another translation, I always refer back to. [I want to know] 'how does the King James Bible say this?' "
No matter what translation readers use, Bible readers should feel assured that they will find the inspiration they seek, Davidson says. "The Holy Spirit will help you understand. That's what inspires you, the Holy Spirit. The words come off the page and you apply them to your life."
THE WORD IN TRANSLATION
Different translations of a Bible passage can lead to quite different reading experiences. Compare these three translations of Psalms 1:1-3, for example:
The King James Version (1611):
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the
rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Contemporary English Version (1995)
God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won’t follow sinners or join in sneering at God.
Instead, the Law of the Lord makes them happy, and they think about it day and night.
They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do.
“The Message” (1993)
How well God must like you – you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.