The King James Bible celebrates its 400th anniversary this month, and we are still steeped in the idioms and phrases of this wondrously rich, subtle and poetic translation.

Here is a story, too good to be apocryphal, that an elderly American lady was advised to swap her King James Bible for a more modern version. Drawing herself up to her full, if insubstantial, height, she declared: “If the King James was good enough for St Paul, it’s good enough for me.”

St Paul, of course, predated it by more than 1500 years and wrote in koine (common) Greek rather than Elizabethan English. But that notion – and a similar one held by certain fundamentalists that the King James is God’s version, and that all other versions are perversions – shows the veneration this book attracts.

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