In defense of the King James Bible

I have made no secret of my wish that someday the Catholic Church will approve the use of the King James Bible with all the canonical books and perhaps some footnotes or other ways of dealing with any Protestantisms such as the way the word “tradition” is used in a derogatory fashion.   Nothing matches the KJV for its poetry and its language is, with that of the Book of Common Prayer, part of the undergirding of Western Civilization in the English-speaking world.  In other words, it’s a treasure, an heirloom and a key to unlocking English literature and culture.

Why I write about this is that I stumbled across a post from last year by Jimmy Akin about how the New American Bible —which is approved by the Catholic Church—translates Luke 23:4-5.

Akin writes:

What does science say about the darkness during the Crucifixion?

This Sunday I winced when we got to the following line in the Gospel reading:

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun (Luke 23:44-45).

“An eclipse of the sun”? Really? Surely the translators of the New American Bible, which we hear at Mass, didn’t render the passage that way!

But they did.


He then goes on to explain what a solar eclipse is; what a lunar eclipse is and the relationship of the lunar cycles to the Jewish calendar and the fact that all four Gospels tie the crucifixion to Passover.

GAH! No! That’s the kind of eclipse that can’t occur at Passover!

Now, you might think that the NAB translators didn’t know this.

But that’s not plausible, because the fact this wouldn’t have been a solar eclipse is regularlycommented upon in commentaries on Luke, and the translators certainly were familiar with and consulted such commentaries in the translation process.

They knew, but for some reason they just didn’t care.

So, I looked up how the KJV translates Luke 23:44-45

Luke Chapter 23


44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.




4 thoughts on “In defense of the King James Bible

  1. Yes, the translators of whichever edition the New American Bible blew this one. A solar eclipse can occur only at a new moon, and the start of Passover coincides with a full moon.

    The Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (RSVCE), however, is not so bad.

     It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Luke 23:44-45



  2. The Catholic Encyclopedia has an interesting article about the KJV and the various English translations of the Bible and how they influenced each other. One interesting tidbit in the article talks about how the original Douay-Rheims influenced the translators of the KJV which, in its turn, influenced Bishop Challoner when he made his revision to the D-R. One can see this in the very same passage quoted from St. Luke’s Gospel in Challoner’s D-R:

    And it was almost the sixth hour; and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.


  3. Over ALL THE EARTH not possible from an eclipse. Those evangelicals who take a lot of the Bible literally would prefer the sun was darkened .
    Those more standard Christian thinkers believe that the death of God was tremendously important and should be marked by cataclysmic weather events. Today we feel we must give some sort of scientific credence to miraculous events ; explain them away with logic to what we erroneously believe to be a logical world. I prefer the King James and interpret the quote as moral darkness fell over the world since one of its most illuminating figures had been silenced. Curiously although two thousand years have passed and men have done their utmost to cover up this revolutionary teaching it still survives.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s