Authorized Version

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This is a bibliography page, concerning a work to which reference is made elsewhere in this guide.

The Authorized Version, or A.V., is usually called the King James version (KJV) in the USA. It is the first official translation of the Christian Bible into English, and was first published in 1611. Before the Reformation, it was forbidden to read the 'Holy Scriptures' in any language other than Latin. When King James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England in 1603 (from Elizabeth I), he became ex officio Head of the Church in England. One of his earlier decisions, made in 1604 as a result of a Conference held at Hampton Court, was to prepare a version of the scriptures that would be an accurate translation "out of the original tongues". There is a solid account of the Authorised Version at [[1]].

Although the Authorized Version is primarily a religious text, and is a fundamental text in the history of Theology, and is of great importance still in Theology and History, its interest to users of AWE is probably as one of the formative texts of Modern English. It was written during Shakespeare's lifetime; and it and Shakespeare together, along with Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer, are the three most influential pieces of writing in the formation of what we think of as English style. The Authorized Version, "appointed to be read in churches", was heard at least twice a week (in church), often once or twice a day (in family Bible reading), by all conventional people (effectively the whole population), and its rhythms form part of our entire habit of serious speech. The archaic items in our vocabulary can often be traced back to its influence, for example the use of archaic personal pronouns 'thou', 'thee' and 'ye', and church services in the established churches still model their language on it. The text is available by courtesy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on line at [[2]].

Since the Authorized Version, there have been several attempts to reduce the archaic language, which is felt by many Christians to put a barrier between believers and God.

  • In the nineteenth century, there was an updating of what was now nearly 300 years old in the form of the Revised Version (RV). This was produced in Britain. The NT was published in 1881, the OT in 1885 and the Apocrypha in 1894.
  • In 1901, the American Standard Version (ASV or SV) was published, based on the RV but making some scholarly changes in the readings of the original sources and conforming rather better to American English conventions. It retained largely the feeling of the English language as it was in 1611.
  • The Revised Standard Version (1946-1957) was largely based on the ASV. It too has been revised (New Revised Standard Version or NRSV), largely to remove archaic personal pronouns and the generic use of 'he' to include women as well as men from its language.
  • The New English Bible (NEB) (1961-70) was prepared in Britain as a completely new translation rather than an adaptation of the AV tradition.
See also Bible.