Friday, February 18, 2011

AV 400

Earlier today I recorded a reading of the King James Bible's translation of 1 Kings 18:17-39, to be broadcast on BBC Radio Wiltshire on Sunday morning. It is that magnificent passage where Elijah faced down the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Mine was part of a series of Bible readings that will continue through the rest of the year.

Why are BBC Radio Wiltshire doing this? Well, this year marks the 400th anniversary “Authorised” or “King James” version of the Bible, first published in 1611. This certainly wasn’t the first translation of the Bible into English, but it has been one of the most influential. Prior to the Reformation in the sixteenth century, church services were held in Latin and the Bible was only available in a Latin translation. This meant that the Bible was a closed book for ordinary people. However, Reformers such as Martin Luther in Germany and William Tyndale in England wanted to make the treasures of the Bible available to everybody to read. They carefully translated the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into the language of the people.

The “King James” translation of the Bible was very much based on the earlier efforts of William Tyndale. It is called the “King James Version” because King James I of England commissioned this edition of the Bible. The work took around fifty scholars seven years to complete the task of producing a fresh English translation of the Holy Scriptures. Their efforts were worth it. The King James Version soon became the Bible of the English speaking peoples. It opened up the wonders of God’s Word for all to read with its much admired combination of accuracy in translation, clarity of style and literary beauty.

The King James Bible helped make modern English the language that it is today. Boyd Tonkin, The Independent’s literary editor called the King James version of the Bible, “a masterpiece of English prose” and so it is. If you have a long neglected copy of the King James Bible lying around the house, perhaps this might be a good time to dust it off and give it a read. But remember, the Bible is more than a literary classic. It is the best of books with the best of messages, “the holy scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15 KJV).

Written for News & Views, West Lavington parish magazine.

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1 comment:

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