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 2011]

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