The importance of the AV
May is a significant month for the AV. If you’re reaching to stifle a yawn please read on, as I’m side stepping the referendum on the electoral process on 5th May. Instead I want to draw attention to the 400th Anniversary of the Authorised (King James) Version of the Holy Bible on Monday 2nd May 2011. The importance of this Bible translation is that it redefined the English language. Some modern day expressions owe their existence to this Bible translation. Think of such phrases as ‘a drop in the bucket’, ‘a lamb to the slaughter’ and ‘a fly in the ointment.’ These phrases owe their existence to the Authorised Version.
The background is fascinating. The bishops had banned the English Bible in 1408. The genius of the translation was due to its deliberately memorable phrases which were designed for public reading. It was also a significant marker in the development of the English language. The AV was one in a succession of English versions of the Bible published as a result of a new emphasis on a return to sources. There had been an upturn of interest in researching the original manuscripts (mainly in Hebrew and Greek), to produce an accurate English translation rather than one from the inaccurate Latin Vulgate. When William Tyndale saw at first hand the ignorance of the clergy he declared: “If God spare my life, ere many years pass I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!” His lifelong aim was to enable ordinary people to read and understand the Holy Bible. The invention of the printing press made it possible for large numbers to be made.
Modern versions have built upon this Bible version, updating its language and knowledge to bring an understanding of the Word of God to an everyday audience. Drawbacks to the AV concern its accuracy and its obsolete language. In the last 400 years much earlier manuscripts have been found which are closer in time to the original texts. Historians work by the principle that the earlier the text, the nearer it is to the original. In terms of language the meaning of words changes e.g ‘charity’ is nowadays associated with shops raising money to provide humanitarian aid.
In the AV the word charity concerns the all-encompassing, compassionate love that God has for us, and that we should have for one another even when it is at personal cost. So, a reliable Holy Bible such as the New International Version (as we use in our churches) has just been republished to improve its accuracy, or the English Standard Version (deliberately closer word for word to the original manuscripts) enable us to read in the language of the day.
Why worry about the translation? The risen Jesus said that the entire Bible spoke about Him (see Luke 24v27). So we will naturally want the very best translation to learn as much about Him as possible. The Holy Bible is the main way that God’s grace comes to us as: ‘All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (II Tim 3v16-17).
I hope that this is a book you turn to frequently and that it will inspire you to pray and strengthen you to serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ.