Monday, January 3, 2011

How the KJV has influenced English

This will almost certainly be the only mention I make of the KJV's 400th birthday this year so make the most of it.

Even when the KJV was written it read a bit funny and faux archaic.  But by and by some of the snappier phrases got picked up, a couple of my favourite that many people have no idea come from the Bible are "apple of my eye" and "skin of my teeth."  The KJV is worth reading, at least once, as literature, but as scripture it was suspect from the start and for most of us now is of definate limited use due to the way the English language has changed over the 4 centuries since.  But anyway some chap is blogging through all the phrases that have made their merry way into English usage and you may want to check him out, after I tip my hat to Richard Walker.

Giles Fraser's excellent Guardian post is also worth a read.  A snippet:

Except, of course, that is precisely what the KJB was: an attempt by the Church of England to control the religious and cultural agenda. A team of academics was established in 1604 to translate the Bible in such a way that it bolstered the authority of the established church. James I gave the specific instruction that the translation must toe the official line on the importance of bishops. The Greek word ekklesia was to be translated as "church", rather than "congregation" or "assembly" – the translators thus giving the impression that the Bible proposes a top-down form of ecclesiastical authority.

Unfortunately even modern translations still often continue the tradition of translations that support the status quo, those in power and the peculiar pruderies of dusty old scholars. 


  1. It's interesting how the first (or most accepted at first) product seems to shape the idea of that product forever. I think of the way cell-phones all look similar. Computers (in form) are basically the same as the ones in the 80s. The ipad will drive the way tablet computers look and feel, rather than microsoft's windows xp tablet edition...

    The KJV put ideas into people's minds (and the cultural mindset of the west) which will probably never be erased. I like the way that "baptism" was given as a transliteration instead of a translation, more accurately describing the mode in which it is done.

  2. exactly, if baptism had been translated properly, as immersion, then it would be much harder to pass of the rubbing of an baby's forehead with water as "baptism", but infant baptism is the easiest way to turn Christianity into a form of social control!