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Outlines of English and American Literature
The King James Bible
by Long, William J.


The finest example of the prose of the Elizabethan period is the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible, which appeared in 1611. This translation was so much influenced by the earlier work of Wyclif, Tyndale, and many others, that its style cannot properly be called Elizabethan or Jacobean; it is rather an epitome of English at its best in the two centuries between Chaucer and Shakespeare. The forty-seven scholars who prepared this translation aimed at a faithful rendering of the Book which, aside from its spiritual teaching, contains some of the noblest examples of style in the whole range of human literature: the elemental simplicity of the Books of Moses, the glowing poetry of Job and the Psalms, the sublime imagery of Isaiah, the exquisite tenderness of the Parables, the forged and tempered argument of the Epistles, the gorgeous coloring of the Apocalypse. All these elements entered in some degree into the translation of 1611, and the result was a work of such beauty, strength and simplicity that it remained a standard of English prose for more than three centuries. It has not only been a model for our best writers; it has pervaded all the minor literature of the nation, and profoundly influenced the thought and the expression of the whole English-speaking world.

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