2011 marks the 400th anniversary of The King James Bible. As English speaking people around the world celebrate this remarkable and sacred book, a new documentary called Fires of Faith sheds light on the history and influence of the King James Bible, which continues to be one of the most popular translations of the Bible 400 years after its inception.
Author and HuffPost blogger Jon Sweeney literally wrote the book on King James Bible called "Verily, Verily: The KJV - 400 Years of Influence and Beauty". In an article about the King James Bible in The Huffington Post, Sweeny cleared up some misconceptions about the most famous English translation of the Bible. Sweeney writes:
There are, however, several popular, mistaken notions about this book. First of all, it was not the first English translation of the Bible. Several came before it, including a famous one by a guy named Wycliffe and another by a man who was burnt at the stake for translating the Bible into the vernacular, Tyndale.
Second, King James did none of the work. He appointed someone who then assembled a series of translation committees made up of scholars and poets who did the work.
Third, there is no record of King James ever actually authorizing the KJV for use in the churches of England once it was completed, making it all the more odd that the KJV is also often referred to as the "Authorized Version." That's what my grandfathers called it.
As the remembrances of the King James Bible continue with Fires of Faith below are 10 facts that readers may find interesting about the history the King James Version Bible has played in the history of the United States:
- In 1620, an early edition of the King James Bible was brought to America on the Mayflower by John Alden, a member of the ship’s crew who stayed in the new world as a colonist
- Over the next few decades, the King James Bible overtook the Geneva Bible to become the preeminent Bible in the American colonies
- In 1789, George Washington was sworn in using a 1767 edition of the King James Bible printed in London, and set the stage for the longstanding tradition of swearing in Presidents at their presidential inaugurations
- Thomas Jefferson took scriptures from the King James Bible when creating The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, an account of Jesus’ teachings that excluded supernatural elements in English, Greek, Latin and French.
- In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in during his first inauguration using an 1853 Oxford University Press edition of the King James Bible
- Known as the Lincoln Bible, the same bible was recently used to swear in Barak Obama during his 2009 inauguration, where commentary focused on the historic link between Obama, the first African American president, and Lincoln, traditionally known as the Great Emancipator
- During the Civil War, over 3 million King James Bibles were distributed to both Union and Confederate troops; in his second inaugural address, President Lincoln said of the troops that, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God.”
- An 1889 Oxford edition of the King James Bible was presented to former slave Frederick Douglass when he departed to Haiti as the United States resident minister and consul-general
- In 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech was influenced by the following King James Bible passages: Psalms 30:5, Isaiah 40:4 and Amos 5: 24.
- In 1995, President Bill Clinton quoted Proverbs after the bombing in Oklahoma City: “Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind.”
The King James Bible greatly influenced the English language including these phrases:
• Let there be light • Land of the living • Wolf in sheep's clothing • Am I my brother’s keeper? • Letter of the law • The writing on the wall • Know them by their fruits • Cast the first stone • Good Samaritan • How are the mighty fallen • Twinkling of an eye • Skin of his teeth • Stumbling stone • Leopard change his spots? • Judge not lest you be judged • Heart’s desire • Rod of discipline • Thorn in my side • Fly in the ointment • Blind leading the blind • Fall from grace • Tree of life •Peace offering • Seek and you shall find • Two-edged sword • Sour grapes • Salt of the earth • Cup of wrath • Broken heart
WATCH: A clip from the upcoming documentary: Fires of Faith