My Top 5 King James Bibles

As the bestselling Bible, there are many King James Bibles in print. There is just about one for every occasion. How does one even begin to narrow it down? The following are five King James Bibles that I would recommend for every KJV-reader to own. I am not listing these in any particular order, since they are all valuable, and I suggest everyone have a copy of each.

1. The English Bible: Norton Critical Edition

The English Bible: Norton Critical Edition is an academic study Bible edition of the KJV. It comes in two volumes, the Old Testament and New Testament with OT Apocrypha. Unlike most KJV study Bibles today, this one is designed to be a university and seminary textbook, and is academic in content rather than doctrinal. Reading this Bible, the notes remind me of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th ed.), which is a standard text at many universities and seminaries. 

What is wonderful about this Bible is that they are bringing the KJV back from the grave in academic settings. For centuries, the KJV was the scholarly option for the English-speaking world. It had supplanted the Vulgate as the academic standard, but since the production of the Revised and American Standard Versions, most educational institutions have preferred translations based upon an Alexandrian, critical text. This volume really brings the KJV back to the academic standard it once was. It is one of the most complete KJVs available, and it is a wonderful asset in study.

2. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible

The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible is an update to Scrivener’s 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible, edited by David Norton. This edition is a critically-updated KJV. Most King James Bibles in print today are a 17th century translation that was updated in the 18th and 19th centuries by Oxford, Cambridge, and many other publishers. Many KJVs in print today are even hybrids of various updates and modifications. There are also misprints that entered into the KJV that were never formally corrected. Norton attempted to remedy that situation. First, he gives us the complete text of the KJV, including both prefaces, translation notes, and the Apocrypha. Then he carefully updated it. It was put into a modern paragraph format (which is the standard for books today), additional notes from the translators were incorporated, misprints were corrected, and there was minor spelling and punctuation modernization. None of these changes are foreign to the KJV, just ask Benjamin Blayney or F.H.A. Scrivener.

If you want to read the KJV as it was originally intended by the translators, nothing beats the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible. There is one important exception to this: Norton removed the italicized words that were originally part of the translation (and others since, such as the NKJV and NASB). These are part of the translation, but I understand why Norton felt the need to remove the italic font. In modern English, italics show emphasis, but were not used that way in 1611. In addition, the NCPB does not include the original cross-references. Except for these two points, the NCPB is one of the best KJVs on the market. It brings the 1611 edition fully into the 21st century, rather than leaving it in the 19th century.

3. The Westminster Reference Bible

The Westminster Reference Bible is a production of the Trinitarian Bible Society. It is a compilation of a couple old reference Bibles into one volume, and follows an old Oxford format. It has about 200,000 references as well as the original translators’ notes and additional study notes. Unlike most Bibles with notes, the notes in the Westminster are entirely objective. They provide updated language and some basic information on technical or obscure terms.

A picture from my copy of the Westminster.

The Westminster is now available in several different formats from the Trinitarian Bible Society as well as Evangelical Bible. There is also a commemorative Reformation edition. The Westminster is a perfect study Bible that doesn’t interpret for you.

4. Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible is one of the oldest study Bibles available. It has been around for over 100 years now. Unlike most study Bibles, the Thompson has almost no commentary. Instead, the Thompson includes thousands of topical chain-references throughout the whole Protestant canon. In addition, the Thompson has a large series of indexes full of many study resources, such as dictionaries, a concordance, topic references, and an archaeological supplement. The Thompson is a bit dated at this point, since the last update to the KJV edition was in 1988.

I actually do not own the KJV edition of this Bible. I have an expanded edition in the NKJV, but I have reviewed the KJV edition before. It is an excellent Bible for close topical study. In addition, Church Bible Publishers produces a high-end version of this Bible.

5. Cambridge Pitt Minion and Cameo

For this final spot, it is a tie between the Cambridge Pitt Minion and Cameo. All of the other editions I have mentioned are rather large Bibles. In fact, the first Bible on this list is a large, two-volume edition. All of those Bibles are great for reading at home or studying from at a desk, but if you are anything like me, you also carry a Bible everywhere with you at all times. Also, it is nice to have a smaller Bible for comfortable reading in bed or on a couch. For this, I recommend the Pitt Minion or the Cameo. Both are excellent compact Bibles. They are complete reference Bibles that come in a convenient 5×7 format. The Pitt Minion is thinline with smaller print, while the Cameo is a bit thicker with a nice large, bold font. The Pitt Minion is a modern paragraphed text while the Cameo has that old school KJV look. I highly recommend both.

My Pitt Minion compared with my Cameo.


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