9th May 2011

Happy Anniversary, KJV!

The second of a series

“And there are also many other things which Iesus did, the which if they should be written euery one, I suppose that euen the world it selfe could not conteine the bookes that should be written, Amen.”
John 14:24 (original KJV of 1611)

The KJV didn’t come on the scene from nowhere 400 years ago. There is a rich history of translations from the Bible dating back to the first millennium in Britain. Asser tells us that King Alfred the Great carried in his bosom night and day his Enchiridion, or Manual, in which he had written his own Anglo-Saxon translation of some of the Psalms (Asser’s Life of Alfred, chapter 4) and the ten Commandments (Bagster’s The English Hexapla, page 3).

Cædmon records a poem in Anglo-Saxon that drew from Scripture and appears to have been circulated beyond his immediate area, and the Venerable Bede is credited with translating portions of Scripture, and was supposedly in the midst of translating the Gospel of John at the time of his death. But it isn’t until the 10th century that we begin to find manuscripts of whole books. Dating from the 900s and 1050s, are four Gospels in Mercian dialect. According to superscriptions at the end of the works, these were penned by two monks otherwise unknown, Farmen and Owen. Various copies of these manuscripts have survived, all differing slightly because, of course, they were written by hand.

Such was the interest in the Scriptures. But all these versions, made from Latin versions, including Jerome’s Vulgate, were in private or ecclesiastical hands. For the people, the only source of information about Christ and his gospel came from priests and bishops. Truly the word of God was constrained.

But today Bibles abound. Even though most bookshops consign Bibles, and religious books in general, to the back of the store, hidden away and largely neglected, there’s usually at least one Bible available. Even libraries, equally minimising their theological section as not of importance any more, have copies available. There is no shortage of the Scriptures even in our secular society.

Considering all the trauma translators went through to bring the Bible in English to us today, we do them and God great disservice by failing to read the Bible in English. A modern translation, made for the people of today, is highly readable, easy to understand and instructive in many fields of learning aside from the study of God. There’s history, economics, social organisation, politics, human interaction, etc., aside from its most important aspect—the study of God, of Christ and of Christianity. Time to blow the dust of your Bible, perhaps?

Most merciful Father, thank you that you have made your Word available to us all. Consisting of some 66 books written over three millennia by many different hands, yet your Bible is one work, one Thought, one Inspiration. We are in awe of your works, O Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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