The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

The KJV beautifully rendered the Scriptures into the language of turn-of-the-seventeenth-century England. Even today the King James is the most widely read Bible in the United States. The rich cadence of its Elizabethan English is recognized even by non-Christians. But English has changed a great deal over the last 400 years—and in subtle ways that very few modern readers will recognize. In Authorized Mark Ward builds a case for the KJV translators’ view that English Bible translations should be readable by what they called “the very vulgar”—and what we would call “the man on the street.”

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“This lightly written and frequently amusing book gently hides the competent scholarship that underlies it. For those who are convinced of the superiority of the KJV, whether for stylistic, cultural, pedagogical, theological, or traditional reasons, this is the book to read. Mercifully, Dr. Ward does not pummel his readers or sneer at those who take another position. Patiently, chapter by chapter, example by example, he makes his case—all of his work geared toward fostering more and better Bible reading. Highly recommended.”

D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Mark Ward’s Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible is a cogent, concise, clear, and helpful book on the subject of Bible translations. It is full of information about how language changes and doesn’t change, and full of wisdom about how Christians should respond to these processes. The book is useful both for beginning Bible students and for linguists.”

John Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary


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The English language has changed a great deal over the last 600 years. Some words have died off but others are still in common use but have changed meaning in ways a modern reader might not recognize. Do you think you can figure out how English has changed since the King James Version was first published?

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Mark Ward

Mark Ward

Mark is a husband, a father, a church leader, and a reader.

Mark Ward has always worked to make the Bible accessible to all kinds of people.

Mark ministered for years in a depressed urban area of the Deep South, to adults who in God’s providence were never taught to read well. He grew to love the enriching challenge of making the Bible accessible to these precious bearers of God’s image. Some of his parishioners during his years as an outreach pastor would come to him puzzled over this or that phrase in the King James Version. He began to see that they were not alone in their misunderstandings: they were just humble enough to ask questions.

Mark finished a PhD in New Testament Interpretation at Bob Jones Seminary in 2012 and worked for nine years as a Bible textbook author. There, too, he worked to make the story of the Old Testament understandable for eighth graders, and the whole concept of biblical worldview accessible to high school seniors. Mark is what he calls “an unabashed popularizer.”

Authorized was born one day when Mark realized that he had misunderstood a particular word in a famous KJV passage for 25 years—a word he never could have known to look up: halt (1 Kings 18:21). He talked to other Christians, some of whom knew only the King James Bible, and realized they were in the same boat, and not just in this one passage. He came to see that it is nobody’s fault that modern readers misunderstand certain KJV statements: the translators couldn’t have known where English would go over the centuries, and only a tiny number of specialists can be expected to remember where it used to be. He saw that the price of vernacular Bible translation is eternal vigilance.