Though it is the most important book in the religious life and the culture of the English-speaking world, the King James Bible or Authorised Version of 1611 has never been perfectly represented in print as the translators intended. David Norton's edition, first published in 2005, aims to address two main concerns with the standard editions as currently printed.
First, what we now read as the King James Bible contains numerous deliberate and some accidental changes to the text, and these have been revised to make it more faithful to the King James translators' own decisions as to how it should read. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible gives the reader as closely as possible the exact text that the King James translators themselves decided on—but which was far from perfectly realised in the first edition.
Second, the presentation of the text—spelling, punctuation, and formatting—may interfere with the clarity with which it speaks to the minds and souls of present-day readers. An important aim of this edition is to give the reader consistent modern spelling and presentation in order to make it easier to read and study than the received text. The modernisation is kept within strict limits: spellings are modernised, but words and grammatical forms are unchanged. Like the spelling, the punctuation of the received text belongs to the eighteenth century and often appears heavy to modern taste. Since the original punctuation is often closer to modern practice, it is usually restored. Finally, the entire text is presented in paragraphs in order to contribute to the overall aim of making the King James Bible as readable and comprehensible as possible without falsifying the essentials of the translators' work.
Thousands of specks of dust have been blown away from the received text in The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, leaving the King James Bible presented with a fidelity to the translators' own work never before achieved, and allowing the most read, heard, and loved book in the English language to speak with new vigour to modern readers.
To learn more about The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, visit our academic blog.
Genesis 1:14–19: And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth’: and it was so. And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. …
Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.’
Matthew 5:31–32: It hath been said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement”: but I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Matthew 6:9–13: ‘After this manner therefore pray ye: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. …
Matthew 11:25–30: At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. …
Matthew 12:31–32: ‘Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
John 14:16–17: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
1 Corinthians 15:51–55: Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. …
Philippians 4:6–7: Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
2 Peter 2:20–21: For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
It is hard to overstate Norton’s achievement: it is a work of colossal and magnificent scholarship and devotion to the text of sacred Scripture. Like a conservationist bringing back to life the colours of a faded and damaged painting, Norton has shed new light on an old treasure.
David Norton is a professor of English at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today (Cambridge, 2011) and his previous publications include A History of the Bible as Literature, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1993; revised and condensed as A History of the English Bible as Literature, 2000) and A Textual History of the King James Bible (Cambridge, 2004), a full account of the history of the text and of the principles on which The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible was made.