Editions of the KJV and the Apocrypha


There have been many printings of the King James Version (KJV). The first printing was in 1611. Early printings contained many typographical errors due to printing errors. Major attempts to standardize the text were conducted in 1629 (Cambridge), 1638 (Cambridge), 1762 (by Dr. F. S. Parris, published by Cambridge), and 1769 (by Dr. Benjamin Blayney, published by Oxford). The 1769 Oxford edition has updated spelling and grammar and is a trustworthy edition that is widely used today. Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener conducted a meticulous standardization of the KJV from 1866 to 1873, resulting in the 1873 Cambridge edition. The differences between the 1611 edition and the later editions are due to corrections of obvious printing errors (including words that were accidentally omitted), the standardization and updating of spelling, and the updating of punctuation and paragraph marks.[1]

Removal of the Apocrypha

The Apocrypha was included in early printings of the KJV. The Church of England, having come out of the Roman Catholic Church, had continued the practice of including the Apocryphal books in the Bible. However, the Church of England has a history of disregarding the Apocrypha as doctrinally instructive scripture. King James himself said, “As to the Apocriphe bookes, I omit them because I am no Papist” (Book I:13, Basilicon Doron). Article 6 of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion established by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1801, referring to the Apocrypha, states: "And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine;" (Thirty-nine Articles of Religion). The modern position of the Church of England affirms the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, stating: "The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England" (The Canons of the Church of England, 6th Ed. (2000), A 2 Of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion).

There were many reasons to include the Apocrypha within the pages of the Bible during the 17th century. Protestants of the time were deeply engaged in debates with Catholics over doctrine, so Protestant pastors and theologians were served well by being well-acquainted with the Apocrypha which formed the basis of several Catholic doctrines. Some books, such as Maccabees and Sirach, are quoted in the Talmud; so familiarity with the Apocrypha can be helpful to understand Judaism during the time of Jesus Christ. The fulfillment of some Old testament prophecies, such as those in Daniel, can be confirmed by the historical information in the Apocryphal books such as Maccabees. Despite its inclusion in the KJV, however, the translators did not consider the Apocrypha as part of scripture. Whereas Catholic Bibles included the Apocryphal books mixed with scripture, the KJV separates the Apocryphal books and labels them with the irreverent generic running head, “Apocrypha” (which means “obscure”). The Apocrypha is no more inspired than are other things that might be included in today’s editions of the Bible, such as study notes, book introductions, devotional tips, etc. We can just as well say about some study notes that they are to be "read for example of life and instruction of manners" but not to "establish any doctrine". The Apocrypha is not included in most publications of the KJV today.

Unofficial revisions

There have been several unofficial revisions of the KJV, such as the revisions by the American Bible Society in 1860 and 1867, and revisions in the 1967 Scofield Bible. These revisionary processes are to be distinguished from the standardization processes of Parris, Blayney and Scrivener. From 1611 to 1873 the state of printing had improved significantly. We can trust that Scrivener’s 1873 edition accurately reflects the original manuscripts of the KJV translators.

[1] John R. Kohlenberger III, Preface to the King James Version 1873 Edition.