Wednesday, May 18, 2011
MAY 18 HAPPY 400th BIRTHDAY, KING JAMES BIBLE!
Wait a second! Don't click "NEXT"! Despite the title of this week's post, we are not getting preachy here at the DUNER BLOG. Nope, we are simply 'sticking to our slogan' and bringing you a news story you might have missed! And here it is: Earlier this month (May 2nd to be exact) was the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Version of the HOLY BIBLE. Since then, it has become the most published...the most read...the most quoted... simply put...the most important book in the English language of all time!
But it didn't start out that way. It all began with every one's favorite turkey-leg-totting monarch, KING HENRY THE EIGHTH. Contrary to his current cartoonish image, Henry was a devout Christian and a biblical scholar. He wanted the Bible translated into English so that "even a boy who drives the plow" could learn about the scripture. To accomplish this, a spirited and learned colleague WILLIAM TYNDALE was dispatched to Germany to pen an English version of the great book. He met with clergy members and spent years translating a new edition from old Greek manuscripts. Unfortunately, poor William's timing was bad. Europe was awash in the horribly illogical WARS OF THE REFORMATION. In 1536, a confused bishop had Tyndale burned at the stake for translating our 'most holy words' into the "vulgar English tongue." Ouch!
Nonetheless, some 50,000 copies of Tyndale's work were still smuggled into Britain and dispersed all over the islands. Often called the GENEVA BIBLE, this was the version read by Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. Over the next fifty years, many new Christian sects began popping up all over England. Each had a new interpretation of the faith and a different translation of the Bible. By the time KING JAMES VI became ruler in 1603, the situation had became mess. In addition to the Geneva Bible, Puritans and Presbyterians had their own versions while the 'Bishops Bible' was the accepted Anglican edition. Eager to bring peace to all in his warring lands, James convened a conference where it was decided a new translation was needed so that all of Britain could be on the same page.
After years of work, on the morning of May 2nd, 1611, this esteemed committee graced the world with their accomplishment: The first edition of the KING JAMES VERSION of the HOLY BIBLE. It succeeded in its initial task of unifying the many religious sects of Britain. All could finally agree at least on the basic principles of the faith...Never again would a war of religion occur on British soil. But the book went on to accomplish so much more than just that. The work is also a major milestone in the field of English grammar. The rules for things like verb conjugations, prepositional phrases and dangling modifiers were all clarified. The KJV also standardized the spelling rules that we all must memorize today!
However, the most important accomplishment of the KING JAMES VERSION was the simple idea launched by Henry the Eighth: Everyone should have access to a book. In the 1500's, books were both voluminous and valuable (big and expensive). Imagine if every book was like the one carried in on Sunday Mass by two choirboys...not exactly something you can read on the train home. The KJV changed all of this. For centuries after 1611, most households in England had a copy of the KJV Bible at home. Simply put: It was how you taught your children to read. So the next time you say "An eye for an eye" or "My cup runneth over" take a minute and thank the man: King James! (Sorry...LeBron...but you can't compare!)
And finally, here are some FUN FACTS about the King James Bible:
Number of books in the Bible: 66
Number of promises given in the Bible: 1,260
Predictions: over 8,000
Fulfilled prophecy: 3,268 verses
Unfulfilled prophecy: 3,140
Number of questions: 3,294
Longest name: Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1)