As well as selling an estimated 1bn copies since 1611, the KJB went straight into our literary bloodstream like a lifesaving drug. Whenever we put words into someone's mouth, or see the writing on the wall, or go from strength to strength, or eat, drink and be merry, or fight the good fight, or bemoan the signs of the times, or find a fly in the ointment, or use words such as "long-suffering", "scapegoat" and "peacemaker" we are unconsciously quoting the KJB. More astounding, compared to Shakespeare's prodigal 31,000-word vocabulary, the KJB works its magic with a lexicon of just 12,000 words.
More than this enthralling matrix of linguistic influence, there's the miracle of the translation itself, a triumph of creative collaboration (54 scholars in six committees), outright plagiarism and good old English pragmatism. The Authorized Version's mission statement was a masterpiece of lowered expectations. Its aim, it declared, was not "to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, that hath been our endeavour".
In its own time, a further aim was not only to help unite the crowns of England and Scotland but to heal religious division and give the word of God to the common people once and for all in the vernacular, without bloodshed or uproar. With some notable contemporary dissent ("It is ill done," wrote one divine. "The edition crosseth me. I require it to be burnt") this was achieved.
In fact, the KJB became, in Adam Nicolson's resonant phrase, "a kind of national shrine, built only of words".