Experts Passionately Debate The 400
Dictionary-maker Noah Webster once said, The language of the Bible has no inconsiderable influence in forming and preserving our national language. More recently, however, theologian Alister McGrath proclaimed it is a model English text, which can be studied as a landmark in the history of the English language, and is to be seen as a major influence on English literature.
In addition to its importance as a sacred text, the KJV exerted significant cultural influence as a treasure house of English prose, as Lewis noted, providing quotes and allusions infused throughout subsequent English literature. Even those who deny the religious aspect of the Bible, praise its literary value. Oxford atheist Richard Dawkins, who in The God Delusion denies the God of the Bible but insists we should remain acquainted with KJV phraseology and imagery in order to understand our cultural past, cites more than 100 expressions to underscore its pervasive presence, from signs of the times, to grapes of wrath, to no peace for the wicked. Further, Canadian critic Northrop Frye created a course in the Bible as literature, citing William Blakes proclamation, The Old Testament and the New Testament are the Great Code of Art.
Posted: October 24, 2011
Archaeological And Historical Research
Biblical archaeology is the archaeology that relates to and sheds light upon the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures . It is used to help determine the lifestyle and practices of people living in biblical times. There are a wide range of interpretations in the field of biblical archaeology. One broad division includes biblical maximalism which generally takes the view that most of the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible is based on history although it is presented through the religious viewpoint of its time. It is considered to be the opposite of biblical minimalism which considers the Bible to be a purely post-exilic composition. Even among those scholars who adhere to biblical minimalism, the Bible is a historical document containing first-hand information on the Hellenistic and Roman eras, and there is universal scholarly consensus that the events of the 6th century BCE Babylonian captivity have a basis in history.
The Language Of The King James Bible
The KJV uses many archaic words no longer in use: words such as , subtil, privily, sunder, and holpen, etc. And it uses archaic expressions and phrases that are unfamiliar to modern readers. For instance, how many people readily understand Charity vaunteth not itself ? Or these verses in Job?:
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers: Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks .
Earlier editions of the KJV also used outdated spelling which can be confusing for some readers . The current edition that is still commonly used has an hungred for hungry in nine verses.
Furthermore, the current edition of the KJV contains several words that have changed in meaning over time. Words such as flowers, suffer, vile, quit, conversation, draught, and bowels convey different meanings to modern readers than was intended by both the KJV translators and the original authors of the biblical texts.
The fact that the KJV uses the word unicorn nine times and satyr twice is also problematic, as unicorns and satyrs are regarded as mythological creatures rather than real animalswild oxen and goatsthat are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and in many contemporary translations.
Also Check: How To Read Bible In Chronological Order
John Wycliffe And His Bible
Picture, if you can, what it would be like to be alive in fourteenth century England. You are most likely a peasant, a farmer who toils to bring in an adequate harvest for the landowner. Like everyone else, you consider yourself a Christian, yet you struggle to understand Gods will. In the middle of this century, in 1348, the Bubonic Plague or Black Death hit England, and at least one out of four of your friends and relatives were dead within a few months. One out of four! Your grief for your loved ones is compounded by uncertainty over their eternal destiny. You doubt your own destiny, too. Your fear of purgatory drives your devotion. You find little comfort in the church instead, your already thin pocketbook is relieved of its meager possessions by the sale of indulgences. The church only seems to be interested in your money and your confession. You long for a better life.
Meanwhile, the Papacy is in a major crisis: the Popes for nearly three-fourths of the century were exiled to Avignon, France in what was called the Babylonian Captivity. How could the English respect and obey a Pope who lived in FranceEnglands mortal enemy!
Into this climate entered the morningstar of the Reformation, a man named John Wycliffe.
Thats called in your face preaching! Wycliffe did not pull any punches and he didnt know how to be polite when heaven and hell were hanging in the balance!
What is the significance of the Wycliffe translation?
How The King James Bible Came To Be
When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, he was well aware that he was entering a sticky situation.
For one thing, his immediate predecessor on the throne, Queen Elizabeth I, had ordered the execution of his mother, , who had represented a Catholic threat to Elizabeths Protestant reign. And even though Elizabeth had established the supremacy of the Anglican Church , its bishops now had to contend with rebellious Protestant groups like the Puritans and Calvinists, who questioned their absolute power.
For the new king, the Geneva Bible posed a political problem, since it contained certain annotations questioning not only the bishops power, but his own. So in 1604, when a Puritan scholar proposed the creation of a new translation of the Bible at a meeting at a religious conference at Hampton Court, James surprised him by agreeing.
Over the next seven years, 47 scholars and theologians worked to translate the different books of the Bible: the Old Testament from Hebrew, the New Testament from Greek and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin. Much of the resulting translation drew on the work of the Protestant reformer William Tyndale, who had produced the first New Testament translation from Greek into English in 1525, but was executed for heresy less than a decade later.
Read Also: Teaching Bible To Preschoolers
James Comes To The Throne
As James prepared to take the throne, strong stirrings of discontent caused him grave concern. Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603, after ruling 45 years. James received word of his cousin Elizabeth’s death and his appointment to the throne, and on April 5, he began his journey from Edinburgh to London for his coronation.
James’ journey south was marked by an important interruption. A delegation of Puritans presented James a petition that outlined their grievances and the reforms they desired. The document was known as the Millenary Petition and had over 1,000 clergy signatures, representing about ten percent of England’s clergy. This petition was the catalyst for the Hampton Court Conference. From the beginning, the petition sought to allay suspicions regarding loyalty to the crown. It treated four areas: church service, church ministers, church livings and maintenance, and church discipline. It also set forth objections that perhaps sound rather frivolous to us today, but were serious matters to the Puritans. Among the things they objected to were the use of the wedding ring, the sign of the cross and the wearing of certain liturgical clothing. However, the Millenary Petition contains no mention at all of a new Bible translation.
After More Than Two Decades Of Work A New Hebrew Bible To Rival The King James
The pre-eminent scholar Robert Alter has finally finished his own translation.
Robert Alter in his office at home in Berkeley, California.Credit…Mark Mahaney for The New York Times
One morning this fall, at his home high in the Berkeley hills, the literary critic and translator Robert Alter chatted with me about the dilemmas he faced while translating the Hebrew Bible. Alter, who is 83, sat on a sofa with a long-limbed, feline watchfulness. Behind him, a picture window looked out onto a blooming garden now and then a hummingbird appeared over his left shoulder, punctuating his thoughts with winged flourishes. He occasionally cast a probing eye on his brand-new, complete translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Bible from Genesis to Chronicles which, at more than 3,000 pages, in three volumes, occupied most of an end table. Published this month, it represents the culmination of nearly two and a half decades of work.
Well, Alter said, speaking in the unrushed, amused tone of a veteran footnoter. That Hebrew word, nefesh, can mean many things. It can be breath or life-breath. It can mean throat or neck or gullet. Sometimes it can suggest blood. It can mean person or even a dead person, corpse. Or it can be appetite or something more general: life or even the essential self. But its not quite soul.
Lodged? Alter said to me, his startling blue eyes widening. Like a chicken bone?
Do you identify? I asked Alter.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Chronological Order Of The Bible
King James Bible: How It Changed The Way We Speak
The impact of the King James Bible, which was published 400 years ago, is still being felt in the way we speak and write, says Stephen Tomkins.
No other book, or indeed any piece of culture, seems to have influenced the English language as much as the King James Bible. Its turns of phrase have permeated the everyday language of English speakers, whether or not they’ve ever opened a copy.
The Sun says Aston Villa “refused to give up the ghost”. Wendy Richard calls her EastEnders character Pauline Fowler “the salt of the earth”. The England cricket coach tells reporters, “You can’t put words in my mouth.” Daily Mirror fashion pages call Tilda Swinton “a law unto herself”.
Though each of those phrases was begotten of the loins of the English Bible, it’s safe to say that none of those speakers was deliberately quoting the Bible to people they expected to be familiar with its contents.
And while a 2009 survey by Durham University found that only 38% of us know the parable of prodigal son, a recent book by the linguist David Crystal, appropriately called Begat: The King James Bible and the English language, counts 257 phrases from the King James Bible in contemporary English idiom.
Such statistics take us back to days of old when this Bible was the daily reading of millions of people throughout the English speaking world, from Northamptonshire cobblers to US presidents – though not perhaps so far distant in the latter case.
A Brief History Of The Kings James Bible
Prior to the discovery of the most complete, ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament the Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus we possessed only much later copies in Greek. One of the most important translations of the Bible, the King James Version, was based not on these earliest manuscripts but on the later Greek texts, as well as on the preceding English editions such as the Tyndale, Great, Geneva and Catholic Bibles, the latter of which was in turn founded upon Jeromes Latin Vulgate.
Claimed by many Christian fundamentalists to be the only inspired and inerrant translation of the Bible into English, the King James Version, also called the Authorized Version, possesses an interesting history, in that it was composed over several years from 1604 to 1609 by six groups comprising upwards of 40 translators. Each translators section was edited by the other members of the group, then passed around to the other groups, and so on, until a finalized version was accepted and was subsequently published in 1611.
This complex history provokes several questions, including why the Holy Spirit needed so many minds and hands to work on Gods Word.
Concerning the KJV, New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman remarks:
The King James was not given by God but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early seventeenth century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text.
The Tyndale Translation
Don’t Miss: 365 Do Not Be Afraid Bible Verses
Common English Phrases Found In The King James Bible:
Though it cannot be said that all of these phrases originated in the bible, it is likely that the King James Bible was the first time that many of them appeared in English.
A drop in the bucket A house divided against itself cannot stand A man after his own heart A wolf in sheep’s clothing An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth Apple of your eye At their wits’ end Baptism of fire Bite the dust Broken heart The blind leading the blind The ends of the earth The root of the matter The powers that be The salt of the earth The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak The Straight and narrow There’s nothing new under the sun Two edged sword Voice crying in the wilderness Wages of sin Wash your hands of the matter White as snow Woe is me Writing is on the wall
Note: Most of these phrases are direct quotations. Others have slight word order changes that make the modern phrase quicker and catchier.
“It is, I think, the most scrupulous process of Bible translation that has ever been,” says Campbell, author of Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011.
What astonishes Jeffrey is that such beauty could be produced by a committee. “The quality of the poetry is extraordinarily high,” he says. “It’s memorable. It’s beautiful. And in the KJV, it’s distinctively the voice of God.”
Consider Isaiah 40, he says.
“You see, see that’s not street discourse,” Jeffrey says, laughing. “We don’t talk like that to each other, do we?”
The Stamp Of Royal Authority
King Henry VIII’s break from the authority of the Catholic Pope hastened the Reformation within England. Soon after Tyndale’s death, the King commissioned his own authorised translation, in order to help legitimise his claim to be Head of the Church of England. Based on the work of Tyndale and Coverdale, this was known as The Great Bible . It was placed in every parish church in 1539 and marked a turning point in the history of the Bible in English. Three decades later the Protestant Queen Elizabeth also produced an official Bible reflecting her reign â The Bishops’ Bible .
Also Check: Bible Verses To Read When Lonely
King James I And The Geneva Bible
In 1604, the year after he claimed the throne of England in 1603, King James I hosted and presided over a conference pertaining to matters religious, the Hampton Court Conference. While the Geneva Bible was the preferred Bible of Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan Age, King James I disliked the Geneva Bible and made his views clearly known at the conference: “I think that of all , that of Geneva is the worst.” Apparently, his distaste for the Geneva Bible was not necessarily caused just by the translation of the text into English, but mostly the annotations in the margins. He felt strongly many of the annotations were “very partial, untrue, seditious, and savoring too much of dangerous and traitorous conceits…” In all likelihood, he saw the Geneva’s interpretations of biblical passages as anti-clerical “republicanism”, which could imply church hierarchy was unnecessary. Other passages appeared particularly seditious: notably references to monarchs as “tyrants”.It followed that the need for a king as head of church and state could be questioned also. James had been dealing with similar issues with the Presbyterian-Calvinist religious leaders back in Scotland, and he wanted none of the same controversies in England. Also, if annotations were in print, readers might believe these interpretations correct and fixed, making it more difficult to change his subjects’ minds about the meanings of particular passages.
Bringing The Bible Directly To The People
Printing had already been invented, and made copies relatively cheap compared to hand-done copies, says Carol Meyers, a professor of religious studies at Duke University. The translation into English, the language of the land, made it accessible to all those people who could read English, and who could afford a printed Bible.
Whereas before, the Bible had been the sole property of the Church, now more and more people could read it themselves. Not only that, but the language they read in the King James Bible was an English unlike anything they had read before. With its poetic cadences and vivid imagery, the KJV sounded to many like the voice of God himself.
Don’t Miss: Who Said Pray Without Ceasing
How Important Was The King James Bible
The commissioning of the King James Bible took place in 1604 at the Hampton Court Conference outside of London. The first edition appeared in 1611. The King James version remains one of the greatest landmarks in the English tongue. It has decidedly affected our language and thought categories, and although produced in England for English churches, it played a unique role in the historical development of America. Even today, many consider the King James Bible the ultimate translation in English and will allow none other for use in church or personal devotions. However, the story behind the creation of this Bible translation is little known and reveals an amazing interplay of faith and politics, church and state. To understand what happened, we need to go back to the world of the early 17th century.
Try to imagine what it was like to live in the England of 1604. Theirs was not a world like ours where speed, change, and innovation are consciously cultivated and thoughtlessly celebrated. Their world moved at a much slower pace and continuity was prized over change. In their world, the crowning of a new monarch was a grand event that deeply affected the life and identity of the nation. The monarch would rule for life. There was no continuous cycle of election campaigns in their world as there is in ours.