English Today

Original Article

‘Never perfectly printed’: the Authorized Version of the Bible

a1 Reader in English at the Victoria University of Wellington.

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The text is the editor's introduction to The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible to be published in 2004.

THOUGH it is the most important book in the religious life and the culture of the English-speaking world, the King James Bible or Authorised Version of 1611 has never been perfectly printed. This is not to say either that it is badly printed or that absolute perfection can be achieved, but that the text and its presentation can be improved. First, what we now read as the King James Bible contains numerous deliberate and some accidental changes to the text, and these can be revised to make it more faithful to the King James translators' own decisions as to how it should read. Second, the presentation of the text – spelling, punctuation and formatting – interferes with the clarity with which it speaks to the minds and souls of present-day readers. Unnecessary background noise gets in the way. To use another image, there is dust and dirt on the old master, the paint is darkened and cracked: we can still see that the picture is a great one, but not how great it is. This article continues to explore the criteria used behind the publication of this new work.