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Why Does the Legacy of the King James Bible Still Endure?

Apr 21, 2019 |

In 1604, King James I commissioned a new version of the Bible, translated from the original Hebrew and Greek texts by the leading scholars of the day, for the English-speaking world. The impact of that decision—and of the monumental work that it produced—is incalculable.


A wide array of famous people have testified to the legacy of the King James Bible. Victor Hugo, the French author of Les Miserables was referring to the King James Version when he said, “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.” H. L. Mencken described the King James Version as “a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry, at once the most stirring and most touching ever heard of.” Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, and Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I Have a Dream” speech, both tried to approximate the cadences, rhythm, and language of the King James Bible.

Part of its legacy can be found in its contributions to the English language. The King James Version is quoted every day—often by people who don’t realize they’re quoting it. Many common phrases in western culture can be found in the book King James commissioned over four hundred years ago. Estimates vary, but many scholars put the number of phrases it spawned at around 250.

Here’s a brief sampling of well-known phrases that come from the King James Bible:


Though some of these phrases appeared in earlier Bible translations, it was the King James Version that made them popular.

How do we properly summarize its impact and legacy? To say that it shaped cultures, influenced history, and changed the world doesn’t quite do it justice. The King James Bible changed lives. Who can begin to estimate how many people have been impacted by its words over the past four centuries?

The King James Bible continues to change lives. Four hundred years after its publication, hundreds of millions of people still turn to it every day as their preferred version of Scripture. In its words, they find strength. They find purpose. They find inspiration and encouragement. They find hard truths and soothing assurances.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa. 55:10–11)

The final word on the Bible’s legacy belongs to Jesus. In Matthew 24:35, He says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” For four hundred years, the King James Bible has ensured that the Word of God would not pass away.


This article includes material from the King James Study Bible, Full-Color Edition from Thomas Nelson.  To learn more about this Bible, watch the video!

3 comments on “Why Does the Legacy of the King James Bible Still Endure?

  1. Angela Folk says:

    In regards to other versions of the Bible, not KJV I am simply saddened by how damaging the NIV (for example) is with the omitted verses, changed words and comments made by the translators and supposed scholars. Some people Ive met are confused by so many different religions. My Jesus Is not a
    religion, but a way of life. There is only one Bible, not versions?!

  2. LING HAU KONG says:

    I found one verse, 1 Samuel 16:23, which shows slight difference between KJV and NKJV. I am baffled because I humbly consider the omission of the word “distressing” in the first sentence from NKJV is crucial. And I hope if anyone could help explaining why this difference because I assumed NKJV was conceived by merely transforming the English texts and grammar to be more easily understandable comparing to KJV, text omission such as this should not have happened.

    1 Samuel 16:23 (NKJV) “And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. ”

    1 Samuel 16:23 (KJV) ” And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. “

  3. Linda Peterson says:

    I once attended a church specifically because the pastor was going to teach on biblical courtship. He mentioned that the verse regarding the impropriety of a man touching a woman outside of or prior to marriage was wrong. I accidentally threw away my note about this, so I don’t recall the book or verse, but this made me very angry. If people can change the Bible a little at a time, what other heresies will it promote in future versions?

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