. In search of the King James Version

In search of the King James Version

Thoroughness is one of the hallmarks of electronic books produced for Logos Bible Software. When we produce an electronic edition of a printed book we try to include all of the content and every bit of relevant formatting. We also include detailed bibliographic information so that users can cite our electronic editions with confidence.

For this reason it always bothered me that our King James Version of the Bible – the textual patriarch of English-language Bible study – offered so little in the way of formatting, notes, and bibliographic detail. The KJV was our first electronic text, and while we have dozens of print copies, we produced our KJV from electronic sources.

In 1991, when we started working on Logos Bible Software, we purchased a disk set with the KJV text from Public Brand Software. It consisted of the text of the verses and nothing else, but it was adequate for our initial development and testing. Larry Pierce, who wrote The Online Bible, used this same text as the basis for his electronic KJV, but he hand corrected the files to match the 1769 Blayney Edition, published by Cambridge University Press, and added Strong’s numbers.

Larry’s text of the KJV was clearly the best available. Subsequent analysis has shown it to be error-free in its transcription of the Blayney Edition, and the addition of Strong’s numbers made it even more useful. With permission, we used it as the first electronic book released for Logos Bible Software.

Still, we got calls, letters, and emails from users who claimed it did not match their printed KJV. We discovered that, contrary to widely-held views, there is not one single text of the KJV. Almost no one is using (or even could use) the original 1611 text, and in the years since then there have been many intentional and unintentional typographic, editorial, and spelling changes propagated in hundreds of different editions.

Moreover, we did not even have a paper copy of the Blayney Edition we were distributing. Our electronic text was simply the Bible text, and we were missing front matter, notes, bibliographic information and more. While this isn’t a problem for Bible study, it is a problem for people comparing editions and preparing academic papers.

We went on a hunt for a definitive King James Version in print that we could reproduce completely, with all the bibliographic and supplementary material. We wanted a text with a clear pedigree and the smallest chance of errors introduced in multiple settings and printings.

After talking with publishers, Bible societies, and scholars, we concluded that the 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible, edited by F. H. A. Scrivener, was the best edition to use. More than a century after the Blayney Edition, Scrivener had done an incredibly comprehensive and careful revision of the KJV text. The text was paragraphed. Poetry was formatted in poetic form. Italics and cross references were thoroughly checked. Most importantly, Scrivener thoroughly documented his work. He noted errors in earlier editions and provided a “List of Passages in which this Edition follows others in departing from the Text of 1611.”

Scrivener’s edition of the text has been reprinted in later editions, but we wanted the whole thing, with all of the appendices and notes, straight from the original. So we began a year-long search for a printed copy that we could borrow long enough to photograph at high resolution using our robotic book scanner.

During our search, Cambridge University Press released A Textual History of the King James Bible, by David Norton. Norton’s book is a companion to the recently released New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, the latest and possibly most definitive KJV edition to date.

Norton’s book is an awe-inspiringly detailed look at the history of the text itself, and its preservation and corruption over the years. (I use the word corruption as a technical, not theological, term.) It reinforced for us the conclusion that identifying a definitive “real KJV” is nearly impossible. It also made it clear that nobody spent more time on the problem than Scrivener. (In explaining why no work was done on the cross references in his New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, Norton confesses to lacking Scrivener’s energy. If you read this book, you will confess to lacking the energy of either of them.)

We are trying to get permission to produce an electronic edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, but we believe that there is still value in having access to Scrivener’s monumental edition, complete with formatting, italics, cross references, introductions, apocrypha, and incredibly detailed appendices. So, when we finally found an 1873 original that we could borrow, we photographed it at high resolution and had it typed at 99.995% accuracy.

(We normally have books typed at 99.95% accuracy, which requires double-keying and comparing the files. We had the Cambridge Paragraph Bible checked to 99.995% accuracy, the highest level our vendor would guarantee.)

Our edition for the Libronix DLS is the most comprehensive and best documented KJV available electronically. The integration of the marginal notes and cross references into popup footnotes makes it easy to read. The Compare Parallel Bible Versions tool lets you compare the two KJV editions, and the ability to search appendices by Bible reference makes it easy to find Scrivener’s explanations for the different readings or spellings.

The 1769 Blayney and 1873 Cambridge editions side by side. The Cambridge features poetry formatting and notes. The comparison report below shows the single word difference in Proverbs 4

The Libronix DLS-compatible Cambridge Paragraph Bible will be available with the release of Logos Bible Software 3. We will even have the page photographs available in the future.

The page image for Proverbs 4 in the 1873 Cambridge edition.

Written by
Bob Pritchett

Bob Pritchett co-founded Faithlife (makers of Logos Bible Software) in 1992 and serves as President/CEO. Bob speaks regularly at industry conferences and to academic groups on entrepreneurship, electronic publishing and digital libraries. He is a 2005 winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was included in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Bob lives with his wife Audra in Bellingham, Washington; they have two children.

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  • Pleae, keep me informed when the electronic edition of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is available. I am using the Libronix 3beta.

  • “It reinforced for us the conclusion that identifying a definitive “real KJV” is nearly impossible.”
    You must be joking! Originals are READILY available. Did anyone even look?
    “1769 Baskerville / Birmingham King James Update” – $7,500
    “First Bible Printed at Cambridge: 1629” – $18,000
    These two shouldn’t be too expensive for any company that can afford a high resolution robotic book scanner! However, if they are outside budget the same site offers perfect fascimile reproductions for $200-$2000.

  • Raven, you may be interested to know that the statement was not about ‘acquiring’ a definitive edition, but ‘identifying.’ There are numerous editions of the KJV text. Which is the best?
    The blog entry clearly says that Logos identified Scrivener’s 1873 exhaustive review of the 1611 text as being the one which they sought. This is also known as the “Cambridge Paragraph Bible” and Scrivener spent something like seven years working on it.
    I fully agree that this is the best KJV available, and am glad to see Zondervan using this 1873 text in their $7.00 gift Bible.
    By the way, it is true that the modern KJV uses the same text as the original 1611, but things such as spellings, italicisation, and paragraphing are different.

  • i am confused by all this, but just for people’s info there appears to be atleast 1 word change i have found in different Bible’s that say they are the King James, it occurs in or around Luke 17:9. if im correct then the word trow has been changed to think.

  • Actually, trow is correct for this edition of the KJV. (I checked the page scans, too.) From Merriam Webster:
    trow \?tr?\ vb
    [ME, fr. OE tr?owan; akin to OE tr?owe faithful, true — more at true] bef. 12c
    1 obs : believe
    2 archaic : think

  • Sorry if i said that confusingly, i wasnt stating what was in your version, as i didnt know, i was just stating that there is atleast that one word change i have seen in different Bibles that say they are King James, i wasnt commenting on your version.
    I dont really know, but it seems to me that trow would be the original word used.
    I find that Webster’s dictionary for i think 1828 (which i found out about & use through e-sword) to usually be very useful and have the proper definitions for words. I havnt checked many other dictionaries though so i dont know how it compares.
    I am confused by this post about the KJV though, I believe that God has perfectly preserved His Word for us, and that it can be found in the King James Bible, however i dont know how to tell which version is the originally intended version.
    Is this article saying that we dont know which of the different versions was the one originally intended by the translators or ?

  • I would suggest “Wide as the Waters”, “God’s Secretaries”, and Norton’s book as good background on early editions of the KJV. These books are all fascinating reading and will help you understand the KJV in its historical context.

  • Larry Peirce’s electronic text of the King James Bible does contain actual typographical errors, such as, having failed to italicise the word “as” in Numbers 18:7 and likewise the word “hath” in Nahum 1:3. Peirce’s text seems to follow the Cambridge Concord text, which David Norton recently edited.
    Scrivener’s text cannot and should not be considered the definitive edition of the King James Bible. First, because it is completely incorrect in identifying which is the first printed 1611 Edition, and therefore Scrivener’s edits are questionable. Second, because it does not fully recognise the stream of legitimate editorial work of the text to 1769 and beyond. Third, because it contains various modernisms, novelties another peculiarities that make it stand out differently from ordinary King James Bibles as printed by Cambridge around the same time.
    As for David Norton’s work, his few reviewers are prepared to echo his judgments, but they are of a nature similar to Scrivener’s, except that Norton has outdone Scrivener in putting great emphasis on a few incomplete and partial drafts of some of the translators. The very first page of Norton’s textual history is enough to show that he is of a very different ilk to the traditional Biblical nationalist view of the King James Bible (e.g. the translators, Joseph Mede, Benjamin Blayney, Henry Redpath, etc.). If the King James Bible is always in a state of flux, there can never be a final definitive standard.
    Scrivener, for example, did not have a perfectionist view of the King James Bible. By accepting such a view of the history, presence and future of the King James Bible, any electronic text project is doomed before it begins.
    The website http://www.bibleprotector.com purports to have information on and presents a 100% correct electronic text of the definitive edition of the King James Bible. With a perfectionist view of the King James Bible, a perfect edition is a necessity, and possible, and even… found!

  • I agree with Matthew Verschuur,100%.I have been following his work and agree that the Cambridge editions of Circa 1900 are indeed the pure text.
    Having said that,there are a couple of variations in the Circa 1900 edition, but those variations have been corrected,or better stated, finalized in the computer edition at Bibleprotector.com.
    I found errors [including legitimate variations] with Scrivener on my own,without anyone’s help.
    There have been a few of late that have decided to use Scrivener as the final authority,to put to rest the nagging question of “Which KJB is the very KJB?”
    But as Matthew has forwarded,Scrivener made a boo-boo from the get go.Great work, that he did is yet not final,however.
    So then comes Nic Kizziah and finds that the Cambridge edition is starting to make some printing errors.Some started to gravitate to his findings yet it was incomplete in itself.
    I asked him for more information but he did not have enough to forward.This got me thinking that he was the best source for the pure KJB yet wanting in extra complete studies.
    Also Norton did not seem to know what text was what at times,and others found him the culprit for some of these uncalled for changes.Matthew then explained what Norton had done, and Nic Kizziah as well,and even Scrivener.
    Matthew started a few years ago to tackle this question of which KJB is the final authority and document it with all the variations and the history with it to make sense.
    No question now,as to the pure edition of the King James Bible.It was around all along in the Circa 1900 Cambridge edition.Howbeit with the odd variation,simply because of the lack of computer abilities and what not.Now with the computer, vast work can be done very correctly and quickly and not take generations of personal studies to pin point a certain variation that could or should and also in the past,has been and is better, and rendered as such and such.
    I also was a Scrivener appreciator for a season,simply because of the vast work he had done.It took time to find out though,that others found his work not right up to snuff,so I kept my ears and eyes open on this subject.
    I, myself was in the search for the final authority.Matthew has provided the natural link.We would bode well to take a look at his work, and analyze it for possible computer achievement as to render the Pure Cambridge edition without variation.Pure,including no typographical errors of any kind.

  • Scrivener compared all the different editions and tried to sort-out the tens of thousands of differences in order to bring the KJV into better alignment with the originals: and further the original 1611s were not only error-ridden but they did not even follow the translators’ intents completely: especially in regards to punctuation. Whereas the translators held their work in High Regard, the Type-setters often disregarded “little” things for “more” important things like justifying a line…by adding huge amounts of punctuation, or this or that…
    Further, the 1769 itself was error-ridden: Scrivener at least worked to standardize the use of the “ye” and “you”, AGAINST the modernizing tendencies of the previous editors. The original KJV had about 200 incorrect uses of these…but in translation it isn’t correct to switch the two when the originals require one or the other.
    And further, Scrivener comparatively used the former translations between Tyndale and the KJV 1611 and often restored better readings, and he gave all such edits notice in an appendix: he wasn’t about to change the Bible the Church loved so much just for a whim.
    Scrivener was about the best qualified ever to do any work like this. Stop maligning his work: God doesn’t need English to keep His Word: that’s what the Hebrew and Greek are for. The Jews with the Hebrew (that commission was given to the Levites) and Christ with His Word…and you’d probably do better to get Hebrew these days from the scrolls themselves since often critics take a high and/or redactionist review of the Hebrew and try to “correct” it with mere interpretative rederings of versions such as the LXX (which reflect varying rabbinic thought at the times of translation), which you can learn about from the article “The LXX, its Use in Textual Criticism” by Harry M. Orlinski (who mentions efforts to catalogue Rabbinic thought and historical interpretations to show how they’ll bear upon translations which are often mistakenly used to “correct” the texts…not that copies won’t ever contains mistakes, however the Jewish practices of transcription were so exacting that we hardly ever really do find discrepencies…and often “mistakes” are nothing more than very obsolete words or idioms we no longer know).
    Some of the KJV-Only stuff seems to stem from mistaken notions of claims made by text-critics…not that people don’t try to meddle, but there’s a different between a critic of the Word, and one who criticizes (examines closely) it.
    Oh yeah…I do read the KJV, so if you’re worried about someone attacking your precious version: I won’t…I do find it precious (and I find correctiosn where there are mistakes to be precious as well).

  • I have to correct myself in the last post…often the editors of the KJV had actually removed “you” and “ye” mix-ups and Scrivener’s edition, being a critical edition, restored these.

  • I have to correct myself in the last post…often the editors of the KJV had actually removed “you” and “ye” mix-ups and Scrivener’s edition, being a critical edition, restored these.

  • “the statement was not about ‘acquiring’ a definitive edition, but ‘identifying.’ There are numerous editions of the KJV text. Which is the best?”
    There is only one 1611 bible, with two variants, “she” for “he” in Ruth 3:15. That is the _true_ text of the AV. The site is selling 400-year-old _originals_ of both variants. Those _are_ the best KJV available. The facsimile editions are exact copies (i.e., facsimiles) of the “he” variant.
    Hopefully Logos shall someday decide to add it to the library for comparison with the 1873, and then we can all judge for ourselves.

  • By the way, I think I remember finding the site which logos now publishes scans to (unless I’m just completely mistaken and misinformed), and I was thinking of signing-up for that service, but I don’t remember the url, where is that?

  • Scrivener was on the corrupted Revised Version committee 1881 with the Spiritualists Westcott and Hort.
    Many folk have found errors in Scrivener’s work, as good as it is.
    I have as well.
    The definitive King James Bible is the PCE CIRCA 1900.
    It has no errors of any kind and is presentationly pure.
    It is the King James Bible that is the final Textus Receptus.
    In fact, thousands of languages have their bible come from the King James Bible.
    I did not malign Scrivener’s work at all, just told the truth of his errors is all.
    You may read the King James Bible, but by your response, it may be that you do not believe it to be the pure word of God, without any admixture of error.
    Most likely, you have NO pure Bible that you claim would be 100% God’s pure word, without error.

Written by Bob Pritchett