"Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something 'timeless' in the Tyndale/King James synthesis," admitted Hitchens in his commentary featured in Vanity Fair.
"For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect.
"It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening."
The King James Version was commissioned by King James I during a time of unrest and division in England. He brought together Anglican leaders and Puritans – who had disdain for one another – at Hampton Court in January 1604 for a conference that would lead to a new translation.
At the time, the Puritans were calling for a new translation that would bring reform within the Church of England. Earlier versions, such as the Bishop’s Bible and the Geneva Bible, caused dissension between Christian factions.
On July 22, 1604, King James announced that a new translation would be produced by a committee of scholars and theologians made up of both Anglicans and Puritans. He hoped the partnership between the two rival groups would help heal England’s religious division.
Seven years later, the King James Version was completed with the help of 47 scholars and theologians.
It is believed that the KJV was first published on or around May 2, 1611.
To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the KJV, YouVersion, the most popular Bible app, has organised a mob reading of the translation beginning today. People all over the world will be reading the KJV for 400 seconds in unison.
“To my understanding it’s the first time that something like this has ever happened in history and so people don’t just want to celebrate the history but be part of the making of history,” said Bobby Grunewald, innovation leader at Lifechurch.tv, which created YouVersion, to The Christian Post last week. “We believe that at the rate that people are signing up, tens of thousands will sign up and participate.”
The KJV’s 400th anniversary is also being celebrated across the Atlantic in the US.
The Bible Nation Society will host an expo housing ancient Bibles, including a first edition 1611 authorised King James Bible, in front of the US Capitol building today and tomorrow.
Prominent Bible scholars, including India’s foremost Christian intellectual Vishal Mangalwadi, will also give a lecture on the King James Version’s influence on the development of Western civilisation and America on Monday at George Washington University in Washington DC.
On Tuesday, a rally will be held near the expo tent on the National Mall that will include the reading of a bipartisan congressional resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 38, recognising the anniversary and influence of the KJV.
"To ignore it (KJV), is to ignore the very sun. It has enlightened our souls about Jesus Christ, and enriched our lives by paving a way of thinking," said Doug Levesque of the Bible Nation Society, sponsor of the national event.
"In its pages are the answers to our current dilemmas including, the economy, the middle east, and even political gridlock."