George Bernard Shaw & the KJV

A Living Legacy

For nearly four hundred years, and throughout several revisions of its English form, the King James Bible has been deeply revered among the English-speaking people of the world. The precision of the translation for which it is historically renowned, and its majesty of style, have enabled the monumental version of the word of God to become the mainspring of the religion, language, and legal foundation of our civilization.

Although the Elizabethan period and our own era share in zeal for technical advance, the former period was more aggressively devoted to classical learning. Along with this awakened concern for the classics came a flourishing companion in interest in the Scriptures, an interest that was enlivened by the conviction that the manuscripts were providentially handed down and were a trustworthy record of the inspired Word of God.

The King James translators were committed to producing an English Bible that would be a precise translation, and by no means a paraphrase or a broadly approximate rending. On the one hand, the scholars were almost as familiar with the original languages of the Bible as with their native English. On the other hand, their reverence for the divine author and His word assured a translation of the Scriptures in which only a principle of the utmost accuracy could be accepted.

In 1786 Catholic scholar Alexander Geddes said of the King James Bible, “If accuracy and strictest attention to the letter of the text be supposed to constitute an excellent version, this is of all versions the most excellent.”

George Bernard Shaw became a literary legend in our century because of his severe and often humorous criticism of our most cherished values. Surprisingly, however, Shaw pays the following tribute to the scholars commissioned by King James: “The translation was extraordinarily well done because to the translators what they were translating was not merely a curious collection of ancient books written by different authors in different stages of culture, but the word of god divinely revealed through His chosen and expressly inspired scribes. In this conviction they carried out their work with boundless reverence and care and achievement a beautiful artistic result.”

History agrees with these estimates. therefore, while seeking to unveil the excellent form of the traditional English Bible, special care has also been taken in the present edition to preserve the work of precision which is the legacy of the 1611 translators.

Preface to the New King James Version PERSONAL STUDY EDITION, Publisher Thomas Nelson (Nashville – Atlanta – London – Vancouver) – 1990, 1995.

 

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