My sister and I recently went to see the "Manifold Greatness" exhibit at the Nancy Guinn Library in Conyers. The exhibit celebrates the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, first printed in 1611.
This version, while one of the most enduring, was not immediately a popular success. In fact, an early printing was called the wicked Bible due to printing errors. It said, "Thou shalt commit adultery," and several times mistakenly used the name Judas instead of Jesus.
This version of the Bible was not translated by King James; he commissioned the translation. It was suggested that a new translation be undertaken in what was called the 1603 Hampton Court Conference. James I, newly crowned king of England, hoping to please his new subjects, implemented the idea. Specified were that the language should be familiar to the common people, that the text be as accurate as scholarship contrive, and there should be no notes in the margins that would favor one denomination or another.
Groups of scholars and bishops (a total of 54) divided the Bible into sections and went home to translate the parts assigned to them. They used Hebrew texts for much of the Old Testament as well as the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Most of the New Testament was originally in Greek. They also consulted translations made during the Renaissance, including the Erasmus translation and Luther Bible as well as English translations including the Tyndale Translation, Coverdale Bible, the Great Bible (commissioned by Henry VIII) and the Geneva Bible.
They reconvened from time to time to compare translations and ultimately completed their task. It took six years.
Whether you are Christian or not, if you speak English, your life has been influenced by he King James Version of the Bible.
"Turned the world upside down, from time to time, get thee behind me, a thorn in the flesh, set thine house in order, fell flat on his face, how are the mighty fallen, a man after his own heart, to everything there is a season, stand in awe, the skin of my teeth, as a lamb to slaughter, suffer the little children, pour out your heart, east of Eden, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven and beat their swords in plowshares" are just a few of the phrases we use every day that come from The King James Bible.
The literature created by John Milton ("Paradise Lost") and John Bunyan ("Pilgrim’s Progress") is closely intertwined with the King James Bible. If you think it was the apple that Eve tempted Adam with in the Garden of Eden, thank Milton. He said it was an apple in "Paradise Lost." The Bible only calls it the forbidden fruit.
The pilgrims on the Mayflower carried Geneva Bibles. But John Alden, a crew member who elected to join the pilgrims, is believed to have brought the first King James Bible to America. The first Bible printed in the New World was in Algonquin. It was printed by a missionary who was interested in converting the Native Americans who lived in what is now New England.
When intrepid Americans began moving westward and settling, the two books they generally carried with them were The King James Bible and "Pilgrim’s Progress." Generations learned to read from the King James Bible. It influenced not only their lifestyles, but also the cadences and nuances of their language.
William Faulkner, one of the most revered Southern writers, freely admits how much he was influenced by the King James Bible. So does Southern author Pat Conroy.
This is the last stop for the exhibit before it returns to Washington, D.C. It includes much of this information on 6-foot panels. Many show illustrations of pages of early Bibles. Under glass are Bibles printed in Navajo, Greek, Swahili, Turkish and other languages.
Also on exhibition are family Bibles. The pages that listed births, deaths and marriages are displayed. According to the exhibition, this practice began during the Victorian period, and Bibles were printed with extra pages in the front and back for this purpose.
Anyway, it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to view the exhibit, so if you have some time, visit the Nancy Guinn Library. If you go online, you can find several presentations that will be given between now and June 26 to accompany the exhibit.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.