In his cover story on the esteemed King James Version Bible translation, Mark Noll reminds us that the predominance of the KJV was never a given, and it became for a time the universal English translation in large part because of power politics. He shows that much of what we take as good and holy—or professional and polished—is a product of forces that are no more than happy surprises. Take the cover story itself.
It began with a question from an advertising exec: "Are you going to have an article on the KJV anytime soon?" We pride ourselves on not taking editorial direction from advertising. The wall between advertising and editorial should remain high, for obvious reasons. But frankly, I am no respecter of ideas. I will take a good one wherever it comes from. I'll admit, the KJV hadn't been on my radar.
My problem was that I had no idea what Christianity Today's take on the translation's 400th anniversary would be. When I presented the idea at a staff meeting, someone suggested asking a highly regarded historian like Noll to write on what the world would be like without the KJV. I liked the idea but said the approach would be too speculative for such a serious fellow as the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.
I was wrong, and am glad I was. The article ended up being not so much speculative as highly informative. What else would one expect from Mark Noll?
Another serendipitous event is the release of the 100th issue of Christian History, which, as Providence would have it, is also about the KJV. We no longer publish the magazine; it is now in the capable hands of the Christian History Institute and managing editor Chris Armstrong of Bethel Seminary, who edited the magazine for two years when it was with CT. (Visit ChristianHistoryMagazine.org for more information.) On a more poignant note, the lead story is by Ken Curtis, founder of the institute and the magazine, who died during the production of the centennial issue.
New columnist. Leslie Leyland Fields has contributed three memorable cover stories to CT: "The Case for Kids," on big families; "The Myth of the Perfect Parent," on childrearing techniques; and the Genesis Award-winning "A Feast Fit for a King," on food ethics. Now she brings her elegant writing and spiritual wisdom to you every other month in her new column, Stones to Bread, beginning in this issue.
Next month: Journalist Richard Ostling unpacks the issues surrounding the historical Adam debate, Andy Crouch talks to Eugene Peterson and Peter Harris about the environment, and Tony Carnes looks at the emergence of "Christian" gardening.
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Previous Christianity Today articles on the King James Version include:
A Translation Fit For A King | In the beginning, the King James Version was an attempt to thwart liberty. In the end, it promoted liberty (October 22, 2001)
The Most Democratic Book in the World | Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were champions of both the Bible and progressive reform. (Christian History magazine)
1611 Publication of the King James Bible | A team of scholars produced an English Bible translation unsurpassed in linguistic beauty and longevity. (Christian History magazine, October 1, 1990)
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