On a recent trip to Utah, I went to Deseret Book, since there are none where I live. Deseret Book is an LDS bookstore that publishes books primarily for an LDS audience (well, yeah) in a variety of genres. I went in looking for some church history.
Once I laid my eyes on this book, I knew what I wanted.
2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible. In commemoration, the Religious Studies Center at BYU held a symposium with lectures on a variety of topics concerning the KJV, particularly in how it relates to Latter Day Saints. Several of the contributors also wrote in essay form for publication in this book.
The essays, according to my own grouping, cover roughly three main topics:
- The importance of the Bible to Latter Day Saints
- The history of the Bible, and the King James version in particular, and its influence
- Why the church uses the King James version, and how we came to get the Latter Day Saint edition
I will go over each of these main topics:
- Latter Day Saints do sometimes tend to de-emphasize the Bible in favor of our other books of scripture. This is a mistake. The scriptures were all meant to work as one, as indicated in
- Ezekiel 37:19: “Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph [the Book of Mormon], which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be in mine hand.”
- 2 Nephi 3:12: “Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of fall doctrines and laying down contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to a knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the acknowledging of my covenants, saith the Lord.”
- Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press truly was miraculous. He must have been inspired to make the leaps that he did. It just so happens that a big push to translate the Bible into vernacular languages happened at around the same time…Translating the Bible into English ended up being particularly problematic, as the Catholic clergy wanted to maintain control over holy writ and, consequently, their followers. William Tyndale was martyred for his efforts to translate the Bible into English. Eventually, there were several competing Bibles in English, the Geneva Bible being the favored translation of the Protestants. The Geneva Bible also had extensive commentary that was very anti-authority, which was problematic for the church and the crown of England. At the instigation of the Puritans, King James I (VI of Scotland) commissioned a re-translation with no commentary allowed. Although not initially popular, the King James version became the Bible in America, to the point that it was referred to as the “common Bible.” Much of the language that we see as so beautiful largely came from Tyndale’s translation.
- There are problems with the King James version. It was translated from the Hebrew and Greek, but the Greek version used was not especially old compared to other New Testament manuscripts, particularly ones found later than 1611. We do not have the original texts, only copies of copies of copies. These texts do not agree in many places, and there really is no way of knowing (without inspiration from God) which is correct. In spite of many translations of the Bible made from older manuscripts than that of the KJV, the Latter Day Saint church continues to use the KJV in preference to others, with our own edition published in 1979, which includes a Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, and the Joseph Smith Translation (inspired changes and editions made to the Bible by Joseph Smith). Scholarly analysis of ancient manuscripts can only take us so far. Which is why we needed the Restoration, begun with Joseph Smith in 1820. Latter Day Saints are not lacking anything from imperfect transmission of the Bible because we have modern day revelation.
This book is marvelous. It has so much information and so many wonderful insights, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the King James Bible. It might be a bit dense for someone without much background in the topic, but still a worthwhile read.