Bible, Preferred English Translation of
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1996-11-03
To: The Universal House of Justice
In an email message of 23 September 1996 to the Universal House of Justice, Mr. ... requests clarification on "the principles that govern quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications". He explains that he has heard an unsubstantiated view that only the King James version of the Bible may be used and observes that "this individual seems to give the King James version an authority greater than that of the original text in matters of interpretation". His queries were referred to the Research Department for study and the following is our response.
We have been unable to find guidance in the Writings which refers directly to quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications. It may be helpful to ... to note, however, that, in an incoming letter dated 2 September 1949 to the Guardian, an English-speaking believer asked the following question:
Quite recently, the writer, in guiding at the Temple has been asked just what version of the Bible Bahá'ís use. May we have your directive on this, please?The Guardian's response appears in a letter written on his behalf, where we read:
Shoghi Effendi himself uses the King James version of the Bible, both because it is an authoritative one and in beautiful English.It seems possible to us that this statement may underlie the impression held by some of the believers that the King James version of the Bible carries special authority in the Faith.
It is important to note, therefore, that in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in response to a similar question, the same statement of the Guardian appears and is then followed by this statement:
The House of Justice points out, however, that there is nothing in statements made by Shoghi Effendi to indicate that the friends may not use other translations of the Bible.
It is also worth noting in this connection that this translation, known as the "King James" version in the United States, is generally referred to as the "Authorized Version" in England, and in many editions the following statement appears on the title page:
In this context, one can understand the Guardian's reference to it as an "authoritative" version. Such a statement cannot imply, however, that this translation could be more authoritative than the original texts.
We also draw ...'s attention to the following response of the House of Justice to an inquiry from another National Spiritual Assembly concerning the permissibility of using versions of the Bible other than the King James for selecting readings in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar:
The House of Justice acknowledges your letter of October 30th inquiring whether it is permissible to read from other versions of the Bible than the King James Authorized Version. We are instructed to say that while there do not appear to be any grounds for limiting selected readings from the Bible to the Authorized Version only, the decision is left entirely to your discretion.
Based on the foregoing, it appears to us that the friends are free to use their own judgment about which English translations of the Bible to quote from in their published work.