Overwhelmingly, the King James Version has been the “Bible of America”–and although there are plenty of other versions to choose from now, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. In other words, American language, religious thought, and literature, where it has derived from an English Bible, has derived almost exclusively from the KJV.
[On the KJV in African American Churches, see here.]
No one has chronicled this better than David Daniell, in his 900-page doorstop of a book (and I mean that in a good way), The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). The following are some glimpses into the goldmine of research Daniell has given us in that book, into how the KJV rose, proliferated, and dominated in America.
“The Bible the settlers brought with them, even some years after the King James Bible was first issued in 1611, was far more likely to have been a version of the 1599 annotated Geneva Bible than, to coin a phrase, the marginally challenged Bishops’ [Bible].” (409)
But although the Pilgrims and Puritans of the mid-1600s brought with them their beloved Geneva Bibles, this was not to be the translation of the future in the New World, any more than it was in the Old World. No, the future belonged to the King James Version–and this became clear with the printing of the very first Bible on American soil: Continue reading