Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

On Love

Title page of the first edition of the King James Bible. The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

What does the Good Book have to say about love? Plenty. Here is a selection of several well-known verses from the King James Bible on love, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Proverbs 10:12
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”

Proverbs 15:17
“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”

Proverbs 17:17
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Song of Solomon 8:7
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

1 John 3:11
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

Finally, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is commonly read at weddings. In many modern translations, the passage begins “Love is patient, love is kind.” However, the King James Bible translates these well-known verses somewhat differently:

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

For the King James Bible translators, “charity” meant benevolent, kind-hearted feelings towards one’s fellow human beings.

The King James Bible is not the only Bible translation to use charity in this sense. The Wycliffe Bible, based on the work of John Wycliffe, one of the first individuals to translate the Bible into English,  also uses “charity” where most modern translations would use the word “love.” For example, in the Wycliffe Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:13 is rendered as “Nowe forsothe dwellen feith, hope, and charite, thes thre; forsoth the mooste of thes is charite.” Today’s readers are probably more familiar with the verse in this form:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. “

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

One response

  1. Pingback: John Wycliffe | pickandprintgallery

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