Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins reads from the KJB version of the Song of Songs

  • A well-known atheist, Professor Dawkins' participation in the King James Bible Trust project to place the whole of the KJB on YouTube demonstrates his appreciation of the importance of the text

Cover to Philip Pattemore, Am I my Keeper's Brother? Human Origins from a Christian and Scientific Perspective (New Zealand: Privately published, 2011). Used with permission.

  • Professor Pattemore's provocative inversion of the famous KJB phrasing demonstrates the continued relevance of the 1611 text

The English Language

The King James Bible plays a role, often unrecognised, in our everyday speech. While many metaphors and turns of phrase in English have biblical origins and are common to several of the early English translations such as the Wycliffe and Tyndale Bibles, it is often the King James version which best captures the essence of English diction and rhythm.

If you are a ‘cheerful giver’, ‘a good samaratin’, ‘horribly afraid’ to get to the ‘root of the matter’ but like to ‘eat, drink and be merry’, then you are quoting from the KJB. The well-wrought phrases and images of the KJB have inspired further creativity in the form of puns, rhymes and other adaptations. For example, the question from Genesis 4:9 'Am I my brother's keeper?' is reversed for the title of a recently-published book by Philip Pattemore on evolutionary biology: Am I my Keeper's Brother?

In the world of advertising and popular culture, biblical phrases help to build memorable slogans. For example, ‘Let there be light’ is a favourite slogan of electricity providers, but ‘let there be flight’ / ‘...height’/ ‘...night’ / ‘...fright’ may also be readily found on the internet in a variety of contexts.

A 100 phrases from the KJB still in common English usage:

Further Reading

Garry Martin, 'English Phrases and sayings that derive from the Bible', The Phrase Finder (last accessed 5 May 2010).

David Crystal, Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)