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June 2011 - Celebrating the King James Bible

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, published in May 1611 at the King’s command. It is the most famous English version ever and it took the 47 translators 7 years to produce it. It has rightly been called the ‘noblest monument of English prose’, and has been treasured ever since for ‘its simplicity, dignity, happy turns of expression, the music of its cadences and the felicities of its rhythm’. Probably no other writing has embedded itself more firmly in the culture and thinking of English-speaking peoples. People everywhere have praised it for the magnificence of its language and for its influence in almost every sphere of human life. It has been said that we owe it an incalculable debt.

However, it has to be said that this great Bible version is rarely read in most churches today. Since the middle of the last century there have been a great many more translations made, some very good, others not so good. There are 3 main reasons why this has happened. First, the Old and New Testament texts are based on hundreds of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and since 1611 a great many more have been discovered. This means that the texts of the original languages that we now possess are more accurate than those of 1611. Secondly, we have learnt a lot more since those days about how to translate Hebrew and Greek. Thirdly and most importantly, many words used in the King James version have changed their meaning substantially and we do not talk or write today in that style of English. It is a fundamental principle that people must be able to read Holy Scripture in language that they understand. We do the 1611 translators no service by using words in ways they did not intend.

So, while we rejoice in this 400th anniversary, the work of translation always goes on, so that anybody and everybody, when reading the Bible, may find in it the Living Word of God. Jesus said “ Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

I give you with a challenge: Do you own a Bible? When did you last read it? Is it time you bought a newer translation?

God bless you all. Andrew.

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