Friday, 10 June 2011

The King James Bible - 400 years On

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication on the King James Bible.

Seen as one of the most significant publications in the history of writing and printing, The King James Bible is still widely used and favoured by many Christians around the world today.

Last weekend I went to Oxford for the day and visited the Bodleian Library there. The library is part of the University of Oxford and is the second largest library in the UK after The British Library in London. The library is currently hosting a small exhibition about the making of the King James Bible.

The King James Bible was not the first English translation of the Bible. You can see at the exhibition earlier translations, such as a beautifully preserved and illustrated version of Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament, which belonged to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife.

King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, when his second cousin, Elizabeth I left the English throne without an heir. At that time it was thought that earlier
English translations of the Bible were all too often inaccurate. So just a year after becoming King of England, James brought together Bishops of the Church of England and Puritans at a conference at Hampton Court Palace. At the conference, a new English translation of the Bible was proposed and James commissioned a total of 47 scholars, all members of the Church of England, to do the translation from Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

In 1611 the Authorized Bible, as it was officially known, was published after six years of work by the scholars in Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster.
The reason that the King James version of the Bible was so successful and remains popular today, is due to the fact that a great deal of time and study was put into it. It was thought to be the most accurate translation of the Bible.

As an interesting anecdote to show that nothing ever seems to go without some hitch; a re-printing of the King James Bible appeared to say that it was OK to commit adultery. The now infamous 'Naughty Bible' accidentally left out the word 'not' in the Commandment that says "Thou shalt not commit adultery". King James
was horrified by this and the printers were ordered to pay a substantial fine and burn all the copies. At least one still survives however and is displayed at the exhibition in Oxford.

The exhibition, 'Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible', is on until the 4th September 2011 at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Admission is free.

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