This book is my favourite of all English versions of the Bible. This is true for many; in fact, for many, there is no other English version of the Bible with legitimacy. In fact, there are some for whom there is no other version of the Bible, in any language (even the originals) that has the validity of the KJV. Therein lies a bit of a problem, but not one that should destroy the sense of wonder in this book.
**Why I love the King James Version**
The spirit that permeates this book is astounding. This book was produced at the height of the flowering of the English language, roughly contemporary with Shakespeare. Whereas Shakespeare used the full breadth of the language, the King James Version of the Bible has a remarkable economy of language, with many fewer than 10,000 words, making this a wonderfully accessible book to the common people, who largely did not have schooling, nor a handy dictionary to look up unfamiliar terms.
During the give and take of formation and reformation and evolution of the church in England, revisions of the prayerbook, worship practice, and other elements were fairly commonplace. The idea of putting the Bible into the vernacular (up to this point the church had been using the Latin Vulgate edition, which the rest of western Christendom) sparked controversy -- shouldn't a universal message be shared in a universal language? This is an argument that would keep the Roman Catholic Church Latin in liturgy up until this century. The earliest translators of the Bible into English were a persecuted lot because of this philosophy; indeed, some were even burned at the stake as heretics.
Ironically, the work of these early translators, such as Tyndale, were incorporated largely into the King James Authorised Version -- the majority of this version is in fact not original to it, but rather compilation material from these earlier, persecuted editions. (Not a lot of people realise that.)
This book was compiled under the King's orders as part of the effort (failed, alas) to standardise worship throughout the country. He assembled a committee of churchmen and scholars, and this committee (see, committees can sometimes produce something good!) took the task to heart and produced a masterpiece.
There are so many passages of such power and beauty that it becomes almost an impossible task to select the best. This is a book that has truly touched the hearts and minds of people for hundreds of years. Great literary figures are influenced by the message and the language of this book; worship style and direction in almost every denomination in the English-speaking world includes this version as one of the (if not the only) authorised versions.
There is poetry and prose, there is beauty and simplicity, there is a true worshipful feeling to this work that is quite frankly lacking in many (but not all) translations. However, this leads me to a concern. God is able to communicate with people in all languages. I am very happy that the Bible has been translated into almost every language on earth -- perhaps it is the most widely translated work ever. With literally hundreds of language versions out there, that means the King James Version is, by itself, less than 1 percent of the available versions.The tablets on Sinai were not carved in elegant English script with statements that began 'Thou shalt not...' The King James Version is a translation, a translation variously 1500 - 3000 years later than the originals.
In my belief, God speaks anew to each generation. Our generation is blessed with a greater breadth of knowledge, and greater degree of dialogue with others of differing beliefs and faiths than ever before. We can use multiple translations from differing traditions to greater discern the fullness of God's message -- God is greater than any of our ideas of God; God's word is going to be greater than any particular translation of that word. In reading the texts of Judaism, prepared by and for the Jewish community, I gain a greater insight into the background of my own faith. In studying the texts of other translations, and other languages, we gain an insight in the way God speaks to others, which makes God's message to us even richer.
I love the King James Version, and it remains my favourite English version for many reasons. But I hope that Christians who likewise love the King James Version will allow its cousin-interpretations to also have a voice, if only to help enrich the meaning the King James text.