Transforming the Word: The Impact of the King James Bible
The text of the King James Bible informed the voices of generations of English speakers. Along with the works of William Shakespeare, the King James Bible is cited as one of the greatest influences on the development of modern English. Publicly and privately, the King James Bible was read, heard, and studied by countless individuals in English-speaking countries and territories, and its language and style shaped their own thoughts and writings. Critics note the influence of the King James Bible—not just the stories, but the syntax and style—in works by many great orators and authors of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in the United States.
The influence of the language of the King James Version is perhaps reduced today. The Bible is less central in modern culture, and there are many translations available to modern readers. Yet artists continue to be inspired by the language of the King James Bible, transforming it into a variety of works across many genres.
"Not Shakespeare nor Bacon, nor any great figure in English literature that one could name, has had so wide and deep an influence on the form and substance of all the literary and poetic work which followed during the next two centuries, as has the English Authorized Version of the Old and New Testaments."
—Laurence Housman, "The English Bible" (1937)
"The King James Version of the Bible, once justifiably thought of as the national book of the American people, helped foster, at least for two centuries, a general responsiveness to the expressive, dignified use of language, to the ways in which the rhythms and diction of a certain kind of English could move readers."