King's College London
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'To make a good one better': translating the Bible

Introduction

Despite initial criticisms from some quarters, the King James Bible soon replaced the Bishops’ Bible as the version read in churches and in time became the acknowledged Bible of the English-speaking world, a position it was to hold unchallenged for over 300 years. Advancements in Biblical scholarship led to the production of a revised version in the 1880s, the aim of which was to correct and improve the King James version, while retaining its linguistic style and vocabulary.

This revised version was prepared by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury (the Convocation of the Province of York having declined to take part) and assistance was also sought from a committee of American scholars. The American committee’s suggestions were not all adopted by the Convocation, with the result that a separate American revised version appeared in 1901.

Neither of these revisions, however, succeeded in supplanting the King James Bible from its position of supremacy. It was not until the mid-20th century that a serious push towards fundamental revision occurred and a number of new translations of the Bible into English were made. In this section we show four important 20th century versions, all opened at the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel (the account of the Nativity), so that their different approaches can be compared.

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