King James Version: Recommended Resources

• Alter, Robert. (2010). Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible. Princeton: Princeton University Press. This is a detailed analysis of the KJV’s influence on the style of such American writers as Abraham Lincoln (the Gettysburg Address), Herman Melville (Moby Dick), William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom), and Marilynne Robinson (Gilead).

• Bobrick, Benson. (2001). Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution it Inspired. New York: Simon Shuster.

• Brake, Donald L., and Shelly Beach. (2011). A Visual History of the King James Bible: The Dramatic Story of the World’s Best-Known Translation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books. This survey follows up on a previous volume by the same authors on the history of the English Bible.

• Burke, David G., ed. (2009). Translation That Openeth the Window: Reflections on the History and Legacy of the King James Bible. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. This edited volume contains fascinating essays on the King James Bible and its influence.

• Campbell, Gordon. (2010). Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

• Crystal, David. (2010). Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Crystal’s insightful books chronicle facts and foibles of the English language; this one will appeal to “word nerds” with a Bible interest.

• Hamlin, Hannibal, and Norman W. Jones. (2010). The King James Bible after Four Hundred Years: Literary, Linguistic, and Cultural Influences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

• Long, Lynne. (2001). Translating the Bible: From the Seventh to the Seventeenth Century. London Ashgate Publishing. This book presents scholarly but readable essays not only on the KJV but also on many other versions.

• McGrath, Alister. (2001). In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and Culture. New York: Random House. This book is especially good on the theological ins and outs of the translation and the translation’s influence on the English language. McGrath is always a top-notch “translator” of scholarly knowledge into dramatic and readable form.

• Nicolson, Adam. (2003). God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. New York: Harper Collins. Hands down the most “novelistic” of the accounts we’ve read, but nothing here is fictionalized. Nicolson explains the KJV’s compelling combination of clarity and richness by showing us the England of King James I in all of its intricacy. His character sketches are wonderful: we see the brilliance of the translators and the power-plays of the church politicians (often the same people!) with equal clarity. The darker side is here as well. A compelling read.

• Norton, David. (2005). A Textual History of the King James Bible. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Detailed, scholarly, from the dean of KJV studies.

• Rhodes, Errol F. and Liana Lupas, eds. (1997). The Translators to the Reader: The Original Preface of the King James Version of 1611 Revisited. New York: American Bible Society. The long preface of the 1611 KJV, often reprinted in later editions, is worth studying. This wonderful little volume provides the preface in three versions: first, in its original typography; second, in a modern type with modernized punctuation; and third, in modernized English—because let’s face it, 17th-century English isn’t always the easiest for modern readers to understand!

• Ryken, Leland. (2011). The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the World’s Most Influential English Translation. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books. This Wheaton College professor has written fascinating books on the Bible and literary topics—and here is another, which deals with the literary impact of the KJV.

• Teems, David. (2010). Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

• Wilson, Derek. (2010). The People’s Bible: The Remarkable History of the King James Version. Oxford: Lion Hudson.

By The Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #100 in 2011]

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