Review of the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21) by Seth Williamson

KJV updated for 21st Century
reviewed by
Seth Williamson

This article appeared in The Trinitarian.

The 21st Century King James Version of the Bible
Gary, SD : 21st Century King James Bible Publishers

There's only one question to be asked about the new KJ21 Bible: Why did it take somebody so long to think of it?

It's not a new translation, as the editors remind readers; it's an "updating." Only those words and usages which would genuinely mystify even the average literate late-20th-century reader have been replaced with modern equivalents. Otherwise, it's the same magnificent Authorized Version that Anglicans have revered for nearly four centuries.

The great English political philosopher Edmund Burke said that those contemplating political change should come to the task with the same fearful piety with which one would approach an aging parent. This was evidently the philosophy that guided the "updaters," as they refer to themselves, in producing the most conservative revision of this splendid translation in our lifetime. The 21st Century King James Version makes the New King James Version or even the RSV, for example, look like radical facelifts by comparison.

An example of words replaced by the updaters: "gins" becomes "traps"; "bewray" becomes "betray"; "reins" becomes "inmost being." The second-person familiar is untouched (thee, thy, thou) and other forms which are obsolete but readily understandable are similarly left alone (hath, art, cometh, etc.). There is absolutely no politically correct tampering with the gender of pronouns.

Modern punctuation and capitalization are used. The words of Christ are indented and placed in larger italic type, and poetic passages are arranged with appropriate line breaks. Especially familiar passages are rendered in heavy type. The publisher chose an easy-to-read single-column format. The hardback version I have has thin paper but a securely sewn binding. I have found it easy to read and easy to handle.

Drawbacks? The deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books are missing, as they are from most modern Bibles, which means that this Bible will have to be supplemented at some points in the year by Anglicans who use it for their daily office.

Say the updaters, "We do not subscribe to the prevailing notion entertained by many Bible translators that Bible-reading Christians are a cultural underclass.....The general deterioration of 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."

It is not theoretically impossible for a new translation of the Bible to appear in beautiful but thoroughly modern and accurate English. But many Christians of this generation are beginning to wonder if it will happen in their lifetime. In the meantime, this rescue mission preserves the glorious cadences that informed the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Lincoln and Churchill. The 21st Century King James Version is worth investigating by Anglican Catholics.

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