The gift of KJV language

As mentioned in the previous post, I celebrate the KJV because of what the text extended to me in terms of faith, but any notice given it in this its 400th anniversary will have much to say about the gift of its language. I celebrate that as well.

Here’s just one example of the KJV achievement, as per Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries.

Tyndale, he notes, rendered Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the water.

The Geneva Bible added “the” before heaven and earth, as in “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Adding the “the” emphasizes the words, gives them greater specificity, and improves the rhythm.

And the committee that did the KJV translation?  They built on Tyndale and the Genevans, and wrote it like this:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Not that different… but, as Nicolson says, these are “slight and marvelous changes.” Inserting a comma after “form” slows the pace by adding a pause, making the earth seem even more extensive in its formlessness. “The face” for the Hebrew word “surface,” which Tyndale apparently avoided, is not only accurate but richly alive in its implications, and the “s” on water too, more accurate, and giving the end of the sentence a fuller, softer sound.

Aspiring writers could not fail to benefit by immersing themselves in the rhythms and vocabulary of the KJV.

(If you’re interested, here’s Martin E. Marty’s take on the upcoming celebration of the KJV, in a “Sightings” column of last November.)

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