Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

         May 2, 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the delivery of the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible to the Puritan fathers who pled with James the first of England to give them a Bible in their language.  The work had taken the translators about six or seven years to complete, and it came at a critical time in the history of England.
         The Puritans were a group of reformers who sought to purify the practices of the Church of England.  The Bible translated from  Latin was one concession James was willing to make to pacify them.  Nine years later they took it with them to the New World
         The King James Version of the Bible made a profound and lasting mark on English-speaking nations.  Its words have echoed from pulpits around the world and from space: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.”
         In the middle of the 20th Century some clamor arose about the antique language and difficult passages.  I actually guess in my childish mind I agreed with the pastor who proudly proclaimed: “If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me.”  I thought the Bible was the KJV and any changes would be sacrilege
          As I matured and grasped the enormous importance of having the Bible available in the common language, I simultaneously came to appreciate the grandeur of the King James English.  Now we have a huge variety of modern English translations with some adaptations to slang and vernacular speech.  I often use other versions when I study a difficult passage.  Sometimes I even like to go back to the Vulgate.  
           I return to the magnificant tones of the KJV for reading and for poetic emphasis.  KJV is largely metered in the easy iambic rhythm that lends itself to reading aloud.  Phrases like, “And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered…,” have become a staple in our language.Perhaps because the KJV was the Bible of my childhood, and that is the version I memorized, I enjoy reading about the impact it has had on the our society and the world at large. 
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