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The King James Bible has now entered its fifth century. Prepared by some 50 committed scholars of Hebrew and Greek, its text depended heavily on the work of the martyred scholar William Tyndale. Like the Septuagint, its Greek precedent, begun in the 3rd century B.C.E., the KJV was a team effort, and it was in fact, as the Septuagint was in legend, undertaken at royal command. Like Shakespeare's works, the King James Version both reflected and helped create the modern English language. But its phrases were not always called majestic. Indeed they were frowned upon by many an 18th century writer. But its robust language, hewing closely to the concrete diction of the Hebrew and koine Greek originals, kept to a vocabulary less than a third the size of Shakespeare's, allowing it to fulfill Tyndale's dream, that one day the Bible's message would be open to the humblest speaker of English. Idealized, even idolized in some quarters, this redoubtable text continues to strike fire today, where its many rivals often only sputter.
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