This weekend I'm going to take you back a bit in history to say a few words about Bible translations and the need for good, modern versions.
Why this weekend? Well, it was on July 26, 1603, that King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, and it was James I who sponsored the English Bible translation published in 1611 that we still know today as the King James Version (KJV).
If, like me, you are past age 60 and a Protestant Christian, it's likely that you grew up using the King James Version -- at least before the complete Revised Standard Version was issued in 1952 (and it took a few years for the RSV to move into most Protestant churches). In fact, some churches that would describe themselves as evangelical or conservative never did adopt the RSV and insist that the KJV is the only truly authentic Bible.
I frankly don't understand that argument, given that the manuscripts now available to translators are much better and older, in the main, that those available to the KJV translation team, but to each his own.
Much of the impetus for Bibles published in modern-language versions came from the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The reformers believed the Bible should be available to everyone, not just clergy and scholars. And they pushed to get translations done in local languages. But even before the Reformation, John Wycliffe in the latter part of the 14th century became the first translator of the whole Bible into English. Today, in fact, there's a Wycliffe Bible translation organization named after him.
Well, the KJV -- with its soaring poetry -- served well for a long time, but as the authors of So Many Versions? note, to the average person today "the language of the KJV seems strange and foreign." So lots of versions have come out in the last 50 years, and I collect them.
I use a New International Version study Bible, though I find it has a number of drawbacks. I also am quite fond of the New Living Translation, despite its odd and annoying anachronisms, such as assuming there was a Christianity when Paul began writing his epistles. In the pews of my church you will find the New Revised Standard Version, which is the widely accepted translation among Mainline churches.
But whatever version is used, the idea is to be able to study the Bible with people who can help you understand what its writers meant, which means doing serious exegetical work to know when it was written, to whom, under what circumstances and to know what words meant then as opposed to what we might mean by them today. Chrisitans also would say that to understand the Bible and its message, it needs to be read with the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
So hats (crowns?) off to old King James this weekend. In his honor, you might want to dig out your old KJV and read parts perhaps familiar from your childhood (or that you heard your grandparents read aloud).
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HE CAST HIS NOTES AWAY
Pope Benedict XVI, with his wrist still in a cast because of a break, just delivered a homily without notes, this report says. That's certainly much better than some sermons I've heard that were delivered without points.