21st Century King James Version (KJ21) of the Holy Bible, Preface

Thank you for your interest in the 21st Century King James Version of the Holy Bible, which, for brevity and convenience, we refer to as the KJ21 . The KJ21 is a careful updating of the original King James Version (also known as the Authorized Version), which was first published in A.D. 1611.

The KJ21 is unique among modern Bibles in that it is closer in language to the original King James Version than any other Bible copyrighted in the twentieth century. Unlike all other modern Bibles, it alone retains the power, beauty, and poetic language of the glorious King James Version, while at the same time it is presented in a state-of-the-art format. Readers of recently published versions of the Holy Bible tend to be unaware of the unsurpassed, indeed unequaled, power, beauty, and majesty of King James Bible language. Read what literary critics and authorities have said about the King James Version: Prof. Charles A. Dinsmore, for many years professor of literature at Yale Divinity School, in his great work The English Bible as Literature, spoke of "the unique and sovereign greatness of our Standard English Version," saying:

"It is unlike any other book in our language, and in charm and power is above them all."

Prof. William Lyon Phelps, educator, essayist, and longtime professor of English literature, said in reference to the King James Version:

"Priests, atheists, skeptics, devotees, agnostics, and evangelists, are generally agreed that the Authorized Version of the English Bible is the best example of English literature that the world has ever seen."

Social and literary critic H.L. Mencken, rarely extravagant in his praise, said:

"It is the most beautiful of all translations of the Bible; indeed it is probably the most beautiful piece of writing in all the literature of the world."

The translators of the Revised Version of 1881 had this to say about the King James Version:

"We have had to study this great version carefully and minutely, line by line; and the longer we have been engaged upon it, the more we have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression,its general accuracy, and we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences and the felicities of its rhythm."

Dr. Walter Russell Bowie, a member of the 1946 Revision Committee of the Revised Standard Version, wrote:

"The venerable English version, The King James Bible, which is now more than 300 years old, has still continued to hold its place upon the lecterns of the majority of the churches. What is the determining reason for that? . . . The cause for that can be put into a single sentence. They have loved it because it has seemed to them incomparably beautiful. It is right that men and women should desire and instinctively expect that the form in which the Bible is presented to them should be beautiful. They have come to church to hear the word of Him who made the morning stars to sing together, and therefore no version can be acceptable unless it has a form and cadence which make it speak home to their souls. The glory of the King James Version has always been that it falls rightly on the ear. In it the meaning of the words seems set to music."

These testimonials by authorities, writing from widely differing perspectives, are illustrative of the countless accolades over the years that have established the King James Version as inarguably pre-eminent both as the most trusted spiritual guide and authority, and as a priceless literary masterpiece. And thus it is always: the power to move souls to God and the beauty of Biblical language go mightily together.

This unique and nonpareil status of the King James Version, both as the authentic Word of God and as the summit of literary excellence, has prompted the publishers of the 21st Century King James Version to undertake the task of updating this magnificent and inspired work for your use and inspiration in the 21st century, now shortly upon us. We appreciate that this is a huge, nay, an awesome task, and one to be undertaken in all humility; and you, our readers, will want to know how we have accomplished it.

Firstly, we want to assure you that in our updating efforts no passages in the King James Version have been omitted, as is the case in some contemporary versions, and that all wording changes have been made for compelling reasons only.

For your ease of reading, we have replaced obsolete and archaic words by the most exact modern synonyms, painstakingly chosen so as to ensure no change in meaning. For example, the word gins has been replaced by traps; bewray by betray; stablish by establish; straitly by strictly; minish by diminish; wist by knew; listed by pleased; Holy Ghost by Holy Spirit*. These are only a few examples among many.

Also, where the meaning of words has changed since 1611, the original words have been replaced by the most exact current equivalents. For example, the word carriage in the King James Version means baggage today. Likewise, meddle means mingle; quit means acquit; convince means convict; prevent means precede; and conversation means manner of living.

Note, however, that certain words which are not used in general conversation today, such as thee, thy, thou, hath, art, cometh, etc., have been retained in the KJ21, because they are readily understood and have remained an eloquent and beautiful part of our traditional language of worship and prayer. In addition, by retaining these words, we have preserved distinctions in meaning found in the King James Version, but abandoned in contemporary versions: Witness that in modern English the pronoun you may be either singular or plural; whereas in both the King James Version and the KJ21, thou and thee are used in reference to an individual, and ye and you are used in reference to more than one person.

Also, and importantly, we have retained words as they appear in the King James Version in numerous instances where many modern translators have used words which change the sense, or color of meaning, of the original. Instances of this are very numerous, and are discussed in greater detail in a comparative word study prepared by these updaters and available to readers. A few examples will suffice here: We retain the King James word doctrine where modern translators use teachings; we retain the King James word judgment where modern translators use justice; we retain the King James word virtue where moderns use power; we retain the word malefactors where moderns use criminals; we retain the word whole where moderns use well; we retain the word covetousness where moderns use greed; we retain the word envy where moderns use jealousy; we retain the word behold where moderns use take note; we retain the word blessed where moderns use happy.

To assist you in both oral and silent reading, we have used updated punctuation; and the rules of modern secular capitalization have been modified to promote understanding and to give reverence to the Godhead, the Kingdom of God, the Word of God, and sacred objects, places, and occasions. Also, we have strictly followed the KJV in the use of the "Hebrew unutterable name for the Supreme Being," namely YHWH: the words LORD, GOD, and JEHOVAH in its various forms and combinations, have been retained exactly as they appear in the King James Version.

Because the King James Version of the Holy Bible has been a chief source for acquiring skills in the use of the English language for almost four hundred years, we have made no attempt to adopt simplified English. We do not subscribe to the prevailing notion entertained by many Bible translators that Bible-reading Christians are a cultural underclass. Hence, when you and your loved ones study the KJ21, you will be enjoying the same level of literary excellence which has been a part of the rich heritage of your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents before you. The general deterioration in language skills today can be attributed partly to the attempt by modern translators to express the grand and inspiring ideas of the Bible in simplified and prosaic English. Readers of the KJ21, by contrast, will find that they are becoming increasingly familiar with the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Lincoln, Spurgeon, and Churchill.

The message of the Word of God contained in the King James Version has been altered in many modern Bibles to accommodate to the ever-changing findings of historians, translators, and social scientists. We have steadfastly resisted any attempt to subject the Word of God to the vagaries of any current state of knowledge, culture, or political whim. In this connection, no attempt has been made to revise King James language to conform to recent secular trends -- gender-neutral language, for example -- and other ephemeral forms of social correctness. In such matters, the KJ21 updating staff has found the model of abiding correctness and appropriateness in the perdurable pages of the King James Version.

We have reviewed above a few of the updating principles used in producing The 21st Century King James Version. The list, of course, is not exhaustive, and additional format features are described in the "Special Features" and "Key to the Text". These also may be viewed as a part of the overall updating effort.

We would like you to remember overall that you may purchase and use the KJ21 with the assurance that you are reading the inspired message and glorious language of the original King James Version, without changes in doctrine, theology, or shades of meaning. You may also be assured, because the KJ21 adheres so closely to the language of the King James Version, that you are reading a Bible which, for the moving power of its language, its reverent tone, and its flowing cadence, surpasses all contemporary versions, and may well be the most beautifully worded Bible since the King James Version became the priceless possession of the Western cultural tradition.

In 1833 Noah Webster, the great lexicographer and father of the Webster Dictionary, referring to the King James Version wrote:

"The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good, and the best corrector of all that is evil, in human society; the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men, and the only book that can serve as an infallible guide to future felicity."

Webster's estimate of its value rings as true today as it did when written. Never before in modern history has the need been greater for a ringing reaffirmation of "all that is good, and the best corrector of all that is evil"! How we need today a reaffirmation of "an infallible guide to future felicity"! How we need to protect the Word of God as contained in the King James Version from the ravages of modern secularity! It is with these pivotal and pressing needs in mind that we have been impelled to undertake the task of updating the King James Version for use in the 21st century.

But above all, we earnestly ask you to remember that the revelation of the Word of God to mankind is itself a miracle of God. The preservation of the Word of God to this present day, unsullied by the politics and sociology of changing times, is a miracle of God. Indeed, acquiring a knowledge and understanding of its meaning is also a miracle of God, and cannot be attained through study or scholarship alone, however arduous and diligent. Thus, Bible reading should always be preceded by earnest prayer for insight into the glorious Life-giving truths to be found therein.

It is our fervent hope that those who use The 21st Century King James Version will read it reverently and prayerfully, and that what has been accomplished here will in some measure redound to the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom.

* PLEASE NOTE: In later electronic versions, the Updating staff made the decision to revert back to the King James term of "Holy Ghost". The printed editions remain with "Holy Spirit".

To the To the Reader from the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), Volume One.


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