R-Rated Version

ALTHOUGH THE KJV succeeded hugely in America, becoming the overwhelming favorite of Americans through nearly three centuries (mid 1600s–mid 1900s), not every American was pleased. Benjamin Franklin (1706 –1790) was so dissatisfied with the KJV’s rendering of Job (he called the language “obsolete” and “disagreeable”) that he retranslated a section of it himself. Prominent Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush (1746–1813) once warned parents away from the KJV by calling it, in effect, R-rated: “There are, I grant, several chapters, and many verses in the Old Testament, which in their present unfortunate translation, should be passed over by children.” And America’s second president, John Adams (1735–1826), denounced “the translation by King James the first” as being carried out by someone who was “more than half a Catholick”—not a compliment in his America!

By Mark Noll

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #100 in 2010]

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The Bible Riots

How Bible reading in schools led to full-scale riots

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Resources for further reading

If this issue has piqued your interest in the KJV, here are some further windows into the history, language, and legacy of this translation

The Editors

Editor’s note

American christianity is, at the very least, odd

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Catholics in America

The test of “freedom of religion”

Catherine A. Brekus
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