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The translators “were told to follow the ‘Great Bible,’” Mr. Stone said in a telephone interview, “and they would compare the translation of the ‘Great Bible’ with the Greek and the Hebrew. If they wanted to change [the wording], it would change for several reasons; either the ‘Great Bible’ translation was not accurate, or they could say the words better.”

And because the ‘Great Bible’ drew on Tyndale’s translations, the 16th-century “thee” and “thou” entered into the King James Version, even though they were long departed from common usage.

Would James I, the only English monarch to ascend the throne as a published author, be happy his eponymous Bible has survived this long?

“I actually think he would be somewhat pleased, because of its longevity,” said David Teems, author of “Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible,” a 2010 biography of the monarch and his most famous book.

A strong believer in the “divine right of kings,” Mr. Teems explained, James was determined “his Bible would reflect his reign, unite realms of Scotland and England. His desire was to unify, and to unify all of Christendom.”

While that didn’t happen, the impact of the KJV is without question: It quickly displaced the Geneva Bible as the Protestant standard in the English-speaking world, and was often the primary “reader” for generations.

Evangelists from Charles Finney to Billy Graham preached from it; Paul Simon derived the phrase “workman’s wages” in his song “The Boxer,” from reading I Timothy, he once told Rolling Stone magazine.

Author Joe Kovacs, whose 2009 “Shocked by the Bible” explored the lesser-known stories and facts of the Bible text, said he chose the King James to quote in his book because “it’s the most well-known and frequently quoted translation.”

Beginning in November, Thomas Nelson Publishers, which sold 329,000 printed copies of the King James Bible between July 2009 and July 2010, has mounted a major campaign to promote the text, with a website,, and national marketing campaigns.

The firm also is working with the History Channel to promote the anniversary.

“To me, the 400th anniversary, is not just about KJV, but about the Bible. The fact that it is a historic milestone gives us the opportunity to go beyond and look at the impact of Scripture. It’s not a translation story; it really is a Bible story,” said Carla Ballerini, Nelson’s bible group marketing vice president.

Despite the language changes and continued research of the past four centuries, the King James Version retains a great deal of authority, said Alister McGrath, head of the Center for Theology, Mission and Culture at King’s College in London.

“The KJV is a surprisingly reliable translation, even though some minor translation changes are necessary on account of advances in our understanding of the manuscript tradition over the last 400 years,” said Mr. McGrath, whose 2001 “In the Beginning” was a history of the KJV’s development.

However, “the day of a single dominant biblical translation is past,” he added. “In many ways, the KJV held a monopoly in English from about 1700 to 1950, as no other translation was seen as being significant over that period. Nowadays, there are multiple [English language] translations.”

That may be the case, but there may be life in the older text yet: Compare its “Give us this day our daily bread,” found in Matthew 6:11, to the rendering in “The Message,” a popular modern version: “Keep us alive with three square meals.”