“[W]hat has influenced the whole history of England and America more than the King James Bible?” —Leland Ryken
The King James, or Authorized, translation of the Bible is one of the most popular and influential books ever published. In his history of the King James translation, God’s Secretaries, Adam Nicolson reckons that more than five billion copies have been sold since the KJV’s completion in 1611. Its influence goes beyond its intended use “to be read aloud in churches” into the realm of poetry, literature, music, and politics. In his book In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture, Alister McGrath argues:
Without the King James Bible, there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. These, and innumerable other works, were inspired by the language of this Bible. Without this Bible, the culture of the English-speaking world would have been immeasurably impoverished.
The Oxford English Dictionary counts 257 English idioms that the King James translation coined or popularized. Phrases such as “out of the mouths of babes” and “fly in the ointment” are still part of the popular lexicon. [Read more…]