The English of the King James Bible


Donald L. Brake has written an interesting article on the English of the King James Bible. His article deals with the principles adopted by the translators of the King James in order to guide them in producing a version of the Bible that was accurate and that reflected the original intent of the biblical writers. Below is an excerpt from the article:

The King James Bible was intended to be a literal, word-for-word translation. They insisted on an English word for every Hebrew and Greek term. Any additional words for the sake of English grammar necessity were to be printed in italics. Ecclesiastical terms were to be retained from the Bishops’ Bible when possible. However, they frequently abandoned these principles. No language can be translated directly into another without additional works to clarify or explain a nuance of meaning or metaphoric language.

Over the year I have written dozens of posts dealing with translation problems. Although I have disagreed with the translators of the King James several times, their attempt at producing an accurate translation of the Bible must be commended.

Brake’s article is very good and worth reading. Visit the Washington Times online and read this article on the English of the King James Bible.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Bible, Translating, Translation Problems and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The English of the King James Bible

  1. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III says:

    Dear Dr. Mariottini,
    One factor hinted at, but not mentioned in the article of Blake, was that the translation should be readable aurally.

    Blake stated,
    “Without a philosophy of translation, translators focused on impacting the readers with the emotion and meaning of the original.”

    The translators were very well aware of the impact, the power of the spoken word. Thus, they wanted to make sure that the text had oral and aural qualities when spoken. Therefore, the spoken word gives to the hearer, the emotion and motive to do. This is indicated in Revelation 1:3 where the emphasis on “reading (out loud), hearing and keeping”… is pronounced to be a blessing.

    Frequently, this is not the case with the modern translations.


    • Claude Mariottini says:


      I agree with you. The words of Scripture were meant to be read aloud. And this, I think, is the weakness of many modern translations. Some translations do not make an impact on those who hear the spoken words.

      Thank you for this important observation.

      Claude Mariottini


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