Ronald Reagan’s thoughts on the King James Bible

President Ronald Reagan described his feelings about the beauty of the King James Bible:

“What would you say if someone decided Shakespeare’s plays, Charles Dickens’s novels, or the music of Beethoven could be rewritten and improved?. . .  Writing in the journal The Alternative, Richard Hanser, author of The Law and the Prophets and Jesus: What Manner of Man is This? has called attention to something that is more than a little mind boggling.  It is my understanding that the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments) has been the best-selling book in the entire history of printing.

Now another attempt has been made to improve it.  I say another because there have been several fairly recent efforts to ‘make the Bible more readable and understandable’.  But as Mr. Hanser so eloquently says ‘For more than three and a half centuries, its language and its images have penetrated more deeply into the general culture of the English-speaking world, and been more deeply treasured, than anything ever put on paper.’  He then quotes the irreverent H. L. Mencken, who spoke of it as purely a literary work and said it was, ‘probably the most beautiful piece of writing in any language’.

They were, of course, speaking of the Authorized Version, the one that came into being when the England of King James was scoured for translators and scholars.  It was a time when the English language had reached its peak of richness and beauty.

Now we are to have The Good News Bible which will be in ‘the natural English of everyday adult conversation’.  I’m sure the scholars and clergymen supervised by the American Bible Society were sincerely imbued with the thought that they were taking religion to the people with their Good News Bible, but I can’t help feeling we should instead be taking the people to religion and lifting them with the beauty of language that has outlived the centuries.”

(Radio address aired on September 6, 1977)


  1. michael hobbis January 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    The KJB is the only translation which is based upon the providentially preserved manuscripts. The ‘new’ versions are based upon four or five corrupt manuscripts which delete or add verses and words to the Word of God in thousands of instances. Even the NKJV has notes on most pages which question the certainty of the Word of Truth. God gave us the KJBible if men cannot understand it- thats no supprise since onlt the Holy Spirit cannot teach us what it means- we must seek His help first.

    Men want bibles that read like paperback novels- sadly some of them ar often full of novel fiction The King James Bible was not written in old English the people of 1611 did not use thee thou etc.Men stopped using these form in the 1400 hundreds,.
    The language is Biblical language the message of the Scriptures is that man has cut himself off from his Creator by sin and rebellion but in amazing love God sent His only Son to be crucified and suffer for the sin of all those who would trust in a that crucified Saviour alone. We cannot save ourselves by our own good works only Jesus and His shed blood and that perfect righteousness which He gives, can satisfy divine justice. This is all that we need to know and believe in order to be saved. God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son , that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. God will surely show us where His Word is if we sincerely ask Him.


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