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.

Author Archive

Food and the Bible at an Informative “Last Feast”

Missouri Valley College event

Passover food variety

Missouri Valley College event

Professor Beverly Katz explains what each food represents for Passover

Missouri Valley College event

Library Director Pamela Reeder serves pottage from meat

Missouri Valley College’s Murrell Memorial Library held its final event for Manifold Greatness on Tuesday, April 2. The Last Feast featured foods from the time of the Bible along with dishes from Shakespeare’s era, when the 1611 King James Bible was translated.

Beverly Katz, assistant professor of business at the college, kicked off the event with a presentation of the different foods and how they are important to the Jewish faith during Passover. She also explained how the types of Passover foods changed as Jews moved from the Mediterranean area to central Europe. As some Jews moved north, hardier foods such as potatoes, noodles, and soups were introduced to the diet. For the Missouri Valley College event, items representing this later period included pottage from meat, Toastees, and King James biscuits. (At the time of the King James Bible, Jews were excluded from England, however, having been expelled in 1290; the ban was not lifted until the mid-1650s.)

Missouri Valley College students sampling food

Missouri Valley students sampling food

With such foods on the menu as hummus, Curacao haroset, King James biscuits, moretum, pottage from meat, Toastees, Passover crackers, figs, dates, almonds, oranges, matzo, pickled fish, cucumber salads, and bulgur and parsley salad, attendees had plenty of Passover samplings.

Missouri Valley College event

Reference Librarian Mary Slater laughs as a student tries the soup

The Last Feast was also a reminder that food is a very important part of traditions. Food brings families and communities closer during celebrations, holidays, weddings and funerals. The Bible is no stranger to relating food and gatherings, as in this verse from First Corinthians 10:31 as it appears in the King James Bible: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Jae Steinkuhler is the special events coordinator at Murrell Library, Missouri Valley College.


Changing Images of the Bible in Art

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

David Steel talks about biblical images in art at Cameron Village Regional Library

On March 19, the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina, played host to North Carolina Museum of Art curator David Steel, who presented an illustrated lecture about masterpieces of art based on stories from the Bible.

For example, The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man (ca. 1617) was painted by two giants of the art world. Peter Paul Rubens painted the figures of Adam and Eve, and Jan Brueghel painted the animals and the nature elements. Brueghel specialized in these subjects and often collaborated with figure painters. Steel noted that in this work the tree of knowledge contains several different fruits, and that some scholars make a good case for the forbidden fruit being an orange, not an apple.

The story of David and Bathsheba is another popular subject for artists—perhaps because it’s a good excuse to put a female nude in the center of a painting. But Rembrandt’s 1654 Bathsheba at Her Bath is different from others. Bathsheba is not a great beauty, as in earlier versions. That’s because Rembrandt was using his mistress as a model. Bathsheba dominates the canvas, and possibly because Rembrandt’s personal and professional life was in a shambles at the time, she is reflective and sad. The canvas for this painting, unusually, is almost a perfect square.

Curator David Steel speaks on The Bible in Art

Curator David Steel of the North Carolin Museum of Art speaks on biblical images in art

We saw three versions of the story of Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes. The first, by Caravaggio, is Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-99). Steel compared this dramatic version to another painting on this subject by Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, completed between 1611 and 1612. Gentileschi’s portrayal is much more violent and brutal than Caravaggio’s. Perhaps Gentileschi was expressing her anger at men after being raped by her art teacher. The third version, Judith and Holofernes, is a 2012 painting by Kehinde Wiley. In Wiley’s depiction, the model for Judith is an African American Rikers Island prison guard, attired in a Givenchy dress. The head she holds in one hand is that of a white woman.

All in all, the evening was one of both beauty and enlightenment.

Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.


A Lively Opening at Missouri Valley College

Professor David I. Roberts reading a passage from a 20th century Bible.

Professor David L. Roberts reads a passage from a 20th century Bible.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit opened to great fanfare March 19 at Missouri Valley College’s Murrell Memorial Library in Marshall, Missouri. David L. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the college, presented his slideshow, “A Best-Seller like No Other: The King James Bible and Its 400 Years of Influence.”

Students, faculty and community members attended the event and enjoyed not only the displays of historical Bibles, but also the displays of nativities, song books, and other church-related items.

Professor Roberts began his slideshow with the prose of the King James Bible. Comparing it to other and later versions of the Bible, the King James Version is poetic and sounds “pretty” when read aloud. One of the main points was that words sound better with an “eth” at the end. “Maketh,” “sayeth,” even “asseth!”

Professor Roberts presenting his slideshow.

Professor Roberts presents his slideshow.

In the slideshow, Professor Roberts also pointed out some key elements of the Manifold Greatness exhibit. The influence of the King James Bible in popular literature, movies and music spans from children’s programming (A Charlie Brown Christmas) to more adult music (The Byrds.) Also, the King James Bible reached new heights when the creation story was read by Apollo 8 astronauts as they rounded the moon.

Murrell Library is looking forward to several more speakers, fun activities, and even hosting a Last Feast reception during the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

Jae Steinkuhler is the special events coordinator at Murrell Library, Missouri Valley College.


“Three crowns in James’s charter”: An Irish poem for the new king

James I (as James VI of Scotland). Trevelyon Miscellany. 1608. Folger.

James I (as James VI of Scotland). Trevelyon Miscellany. 1608. Folger.

This Sunday is March 24, the date in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth I died, and James VI of Scotland became king of England. When James succeeded Elizabeth to the English monarchy, he also inherited the crown of Ireland.

Although a high king of Ireland was both a legal and historical reality, the concept of an Irish crown was innovative in this period. The bardic poet Fearghal Óg Mac an Bhaird may be the first to have articulated the notion of  ‘the crown of Ireland’ as part of a triple monarchy, which he did in his famous poem “Tri coróna i gcairt Shéamais” (Three crowns in James’s charter), an inaugural poem celebrating James’s accession to the triple monarchy of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

The current Folger exhibition, Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, which I curated with Thomas Herron, Associate Professor of English at East Carolina University, includes a facsimile manuscript of Mac an Bhaird’s poem, in the original Irish language. The poem is one of several Irish-language works on display. A fundamental, and immensely interesting, part of the exhibition, these works have been a way for us to show how the Irish language itself was a powerful cultural and social force in the world of Renaissance Ireland. You can hear a spoken passage from the poem, in Irish, in this online audio stop from our exhibition audio tour (the passage from the poem begins after my spoken introduction) and see an image of the poem here as well.

James I. Miniature on vellum, ca.1620?. Folger.

James I. Miniature on vellum, ca.1620?. Folger.

The poem’s fame derives in part from its seeming curiosity: why would a Gaelic Irishman welcome a “British” king? One answer is that Gaelic intellectuals were not absolutely averse to political connection to the monarchy in London, and currying favor with the new king was simply good politics.

On a more basic level, the bardic class hoped to enjoy greater protection and rights under a Scottish king than they had under an English queen: Elizabeth may have had an interest in the Irish language, but she did next to nothing to arrest the destruction of Gaelic culture. James, by contrast, had successfully ruled Scotland for decades and had managed his Gaelic and Catholic subjects with relative tolerance. Many Irish—bards, lords, and even churchmen—held out hope that his reign would usher in better days.

Mac an Bhaird’s poem details the grounds of James’s claim for all three kingdoms. In the case of Ireland, legitimacy derived from blood (Scottish kings having been descended of Irish Gaels) rather than conquest. In traditional motif, then, Ireland was portrayed in the poem as the feminized ‘spouse’ of the rightful king, a union that would bring peace and plenty to the land.

Great hopes, however, were quickly dashed. A mere six years later, in 1609, James’s government would commence the largest and most ambitious of English/British colonial schemes in Ireland, the Plantation of Ulster, and thus the repeopling of Ireland’s northern province with English and Scottish settlers.

Brendan Kane is Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, Associate Director of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and the curator, with Thomas Herron, of the Folger exhibition Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, January 19 to May 19, 2013.


Tyndale, Quills, and Ink: Manifold Greatness Opens at the Tuscaloosa Public Library

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photo Vince Bellofatto.

Young community members make feather quills and sign their names with blackberry ink. Photos by Vince Bellofatto.

On March 8, the City of Tuscaloosa welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the Tuscaloosa Public Library, a highly anticipated event in a region that lies in the heart of the Bible Belt.

Five displays, which were curated by the library, are scattered throughout the building to enhance the Manifold Greatness experience. These displays offer visitors the chance to experience physical representations of the topics discussed within the Manifold Greatness exhibit, such as the history of books, papermaking, bookmaking, the literary influence of the King James Bible, and what the Bible has become today.

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle giving his presentation during the Manifold Greatness Opening Ceremony. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle’s presentation during the Opening Ceremony.

Our family-friendly opening reception was held Sunday, March 10. Attendees were given the chance to peruse the exhibit while enjoying the classical music of Handel’s Messiah and partaking of light refreshments. The keynote speaker, Dr. L. Jeffrey Weddle, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, introduced the history of the first English Bibles through William Tyndale’s version during his presentation, entitled “William Tyndale: How His Bible Translation Changed the Reformation and Led to the King James Version.”

As an added bonus, the Children’s Department gave patrons a guided tour through the history of bookmaking, starting with a discussion of early bookmaking and the various materials that have been used to make books, followed by a feather quill making activity. After reading the story The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen, participants saw a demonstration of making blackberry ink and were able to use their new quills to sign their names.

Members of the Tuscaloosa community view the Manifold Greatness exhibit in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo Vince Bellofatto

Tuscaloosa community members view the Manifold Greatness exhibit.

From there, they were offered the opportunity to hear from Christopher Davenport and Laura Rowley, students from the University of Alabama Book Arts Department, with lessons and hands-on activities on letterpress printing, bookmaking, and papermaking.

In the coming weeks, the library is looking forward to the many special groups scheduled to attend the exhibit and will be hosting two additional programs geared towards engaging our community in the history and influence that the creation of the King James Version had on the world.

Susana Goldman is Reference Librarian at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


A Scottish-Themed Greeting for Manifold Greatness and King James

Triangle Scottish Dancers at Manifold Greatness exhibit opening, North Carolina

Triangle Scottish Dancers at Cameron Village Regional Library exhibit opening, North Carolina

Cameron Village Regional Library

History of the harp

Because North Carolina has a strong Scottish heritage, we decided to highlight King James’s own Scottish heritage in our Manifold Greatness opening celebration at Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The afternoon began with a performance of highland dancing by the Triangle Scottish Dancers, a local group that is part of the Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle (SCOT). Highland dancing differs from country dancing in that the latter is performed by couples who walk around each other in patterns, much like American square dancing. Highland dancing, in contrast, is performed by individuals and involves very intricate footwork. It is similar to the Irish dancing that was popularized by the “Lord of the Dance”.

Harpist Anita Burroughs-Price with interested observers, Cameron Village Regional Library

Harpist Anita Burroughs-Price with interested observers

Most highland dance groups are made up of girls and young women, as is the case with our group. More than one attendee remarked on how nice it was to see a group of girls performing together in such an accomplished way. Even the bagpipe player is a teenage girl.

After the dance performance in the atrium, the piper played while the dancers led the crowd upstairs to the exhibit room. There refreshments were served while North Carolina Symphony harpist Anita Burroughs–Price performed music from the Jacobean era, and told attendees about the history of the harp from its beginning as an outgrowth of the hunter’s bow to the modern harp we know today.

George Birrell at the exhibit opening

George Birrell of SCOT

During the harpist’s break, SCOT member George Birrell gave a talk about kilts  and read some Scottish poetry. George and Anita then collaborated on an impromptu duet, Anita playing the harp while George recited the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish song with words by the poet Robert Burns. An earlier version of the song has been attributed to Sir John Ayton, a scholarly advisor to King James.

Eventually, the afternoon of music, food, and dance drew to a close. One of the comments left on the white board in the exhibit room summed it up: “Great display. Absolutely spiffing!”

Sue Scott is Arts and Literature Librarian at Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.


Manifold Videos from Manifold Greatness on Tour

Care to explore a wide variety of King James Bible-related lectures, interviews with experts, and other events and entertainments at the Manifold Greatness exhibit sites? What better place to go than our video playlist, “MG on Tour: Experts, Events, Exhibits, and Fun,” on the Manifold Greatness YouTube channel?

From the playlist: an interview, local Bibles, and Manifold Greatness at Arizona State, 11/2011

Using the MG on Tour playlist, you can browse through and view a wide variety of videos from many of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit locations. Ranging from under a minute to an hour and a half, the videos include a fascinating variety of illustrated lectures, one-on-one interviews with experts, video tours of local exhibits and rare Bibles (like the one shown here), and much more.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit first went on tour in September 2011. Since then, the exhibit has appeared at 33 locations around the United States, and is still going strong! The exhibit is opening this week at three new locations: Murrell Library at Missouri Valley College, Tuscaloosa Public Library in Alabama, and Cameron Village Regional Library in North Carolina. For even more Manifold Greatness videos, go to our Manifold Greatness Channel on YouTube.


Bibles Through the Ages: Special Items from Eastern Mennonite University

Each library hosting the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition offers a unique set of resource for its viewers.  At Eastern Mennonite University, the Hartzler Library has had on view a number of Bibles from its Menno Simons Historical Library, a special collection of Anabaptist/Mennonite materials. Manifold Greatness was on view at EMU from January 26 through February 21, 2013.We’ve selected some unique items from the Menno Simons Historical Library to share in this post. Please scroll down to see these remarkable, historic Bibles.

Oldest King James Bible in the Menno Simons Historical Library collection, and its title page. Lancaster, PA, 1793. Menno Simons Historical  Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Oldest King James Bible in the Menno Simons Historical Library collection, and its title page. Lancaster, PA, 1793. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Also on display is this New Testament from 1527 with the text in Greek, Latin which was translated by Erasmus and the Latin Vulgate.

Title page of En Novvm Testa. Basel, 1527. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Title page of En Novvm Testa. Basel, 1527. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

The collection has a number of German Bibles since many Anabaptist groups who settled in the Eastern United States spoke German.

German Bible published by Froschauer. Zurich, 1549. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

German Bible published by Froschauer. Zurich, 1549. Menno Simons Historical Library. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

The collection also includes a copy of an 1853 Chinese New Testament.

Chinese New Testament and title page.  For the Am. & For. Bible Society, 1853. Menno Simons Historical Library.

Chinese New Testament and title page. For the Am. & For. Bible Society, 1853. Menno Simons Historical Library.

One newer item we made available was a facsimile St. John’s Bible, a handwritten and hand-illuminated Bible commissioned in 1998.  The uniqueness of each location is seen in their resources and programing.  We are happy to share these works with our community, and with the readers of the Manifold Greatness blog.

From the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3.  Collegeville, MN, 2005.  Hartzler Library, Eastern Mennonite University. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

From the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3. Collegeville, MN, 2005. Hartzler Library, Eastern Mennonite University. Image courtesy of Eastern Mennonite University.

Jennifer Ulrich is a Technical Service librarian at Eastern Mennonite University.


The Lasting Presence of the KJV in the Music of the Black Church

On Monday, February 11, at the third of four programs designed to explore the themes in Manifold Greatness (and as a part of Loyola Marymount University’s Black History Month celebration),  the Sacred Praise Chorale of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA performed works directly inspired by the words of the King James Bible.

The Sacred Praise Chorale chorale performs at Loyola Marymount University. Photo by Jeannine Emmett.

The Sacred Praise Chorale chorale performs at Loyola Marymount University. Photo by Jeannine Emmett.

The concert, directed by pianist and soloist Diane White-Clayton (affectionately known as “Dr. Dee”), took attendees on an inspiring, energetic musical performance of eight works of that spanned eighty years of worship music written by African American composers.

Reverend Jason Darden, Protestant and Multifaith Campus Minister at LMU, provided moving commentary between songs, and the 120 guests of all ages in attendance left with their hands tingling from clapping and their hearts elated by the honesty, beauty, and soulfulness of the performance. After the concert, guests and performers walked from the Sacred Heart Chapel to the William H. Hannon Library for a reception and viewing of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

I invited Dr. Dee and Reverend Darden to share their personal perspective on the role of the KJV in their life.

“The King James Version of the Bible with its poetic colors and literary prominence has been the source of artistic inspiration for composers for centuries. This is especially true of African American composers.  A culture which relies heavily on lyrical oratory, the Black church in America is often filled with the words from this great work, whether quoted by a pastor in a sermon, read as the Sunday morning scripture, spoken antiphonally by congregants and reader, or sung in the lyrics of the choir’s musical rendition.

Raised in a traditional Black church, my ears were filled with the words of the King James Version as I memorized verses in Sunday School or listened to my father preach them with eloquence.  Hence its influence on me as an artist would be strong.  As a composer, a great percentage of my choral works employ the King James Version as the sole source of lyrics.  I use it for the beauty of the old English, the familiarity it breeds for those entrenched in the tradition, and simply because of the inspiration it breathes to me as a Christian.”

- Diane White-Clayton (“Dr. Dee“)

“The King James Bible holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up as a preacher’s kid; not only was my father a preacher but my grandfather as well.  I can remember sitting in the pews and listening to my father and grandfather preach from the King James Bible.  I memorized scripture using the KJV and whenever I quote a passage during a sermon I always seem to resort back to my KJV vernacular. 

For me, the King James Bible is comforting; it brings back fond memories of our family’s small African American Church of Christ in Sylvania, Georgia. The very first bible that I received after my baptism was a black Thompson Reference King James Bible, with the words of Jesus in red of course!  The King James Bible was with me as I began my ministry in the pulpit and will be with me on the day I deliver my last sermon from the pulpit. For African Americans, the KJV is much more than a translation of scripture. The KJV is our grandfather, father and mother, our friend in times of trouble, and our history as a people.”

- Reverend Jason Darden

Jamie Hazlitt is Outreach Librarian and Manifold Greatness program director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.


Manifold Greatness Opens at Elizabethtown College

Members of the Mennonite community view Manifold Greatness at Elizabthtown College. Photo courtesy Elizabthtown College.

Members of the Mennonite community view Manifold Greatness at Elizabthtown College. Photo courtesy Elizabthtown College.

On February 2, central Pennsylvania welcomed the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit to the High Library at Elizabethtown College. The reception has been overwhelming and we could not be happier with the enthusiasm and support for the exhibit. Even the weather has worked out in our favor and the programs have gone on without a hitch!

Our opening reception was attended by over 200 people, and attracted visitors from outside the area, including individuals from New Jersey and Maryland. To quote our keynote speaker for the event, Jeff Bach, the reception provided “a feast for the eyes in the exhibit and items from our special collections, a feast for the ears thanks to the glorious music provided by our student group Camerata who performed ancient acapella musical selections, a feast for the soul as the Word was read aloud, and our minds through the opening lecture.”

We also hosted a panel discussion on February 6 as scholars discussed “Shakespeare, Literature and the Language of the King James Bible.”  Speakers included Professors Christina Bucher, Louis Martin and Suzanne Webster. On February 7, we were mesmerized by our Elizabethtown’s own Professor Patricia Likos Ricci who lectured on “The Bible as a Work of Art.” Professor Ricci will replay this lecture  on February 19 at the Elizabethtown Public Library. We will also hear from our own Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz on Family Bibles. It has been wonderful to see and experience all the diverse backgrounds and generations who have visited the exhibit. We have had young, old, Mennonite, Brethren, Catholic, Baptist, and Protestant visiting the exhibit.  Our youngest tour thus far has been a group of middle school students who really enjoyed hearing about the Wicked Bible from our student docent, Annemarie. We also hosted a group of Old Order Amish who toured the exhibit with Professors Jeff Bach and Don Kraybill.

The Manifold Greatness exhibition has also provided an opportunity for the High Library special collections to be featured. We have displayed the High Library copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible, the rare 1712 Marburg Bible, and the Berleburg Bible. In addition to the unique displays, the visitors have also enjoyed using iPads we have setup to connect them directly with the audio tour of the exhibit provided by the Folger Shakespeare Library. We hope to continue to reap the rewards of the amazing exhibit and are looking forward to another fantastic 2 weeks with the King James Bible.

Louise M. Hyder-Darlington, M.S.L.S. is Access Services Librarian and Project Director for the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition at the High Library, Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA.


On the Road: Manifold Greatness in California

On Thursday, February 24, a crowd of nearly 90 students, faculty, staff, and local community members gathered to celebrate the opening of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University, and to hear a talk by Dr. Bart Ehrman, New York Times bestselling author and James A. Grey Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill.

Keynote presentation at the opening of Manifold Greatness at Loyola Marymount University. Photo courtesy Loyola Marymount University.

Keynote presentation at the opening of Manifold Greatness at Loyola Marymount University. Photo courtesy Loyola Marymount University.

In a keynote talk titled “What Kind of a Text is the King James Bible? Manuscripts, Translation, and the Legacy of the KJV”, Dr. Ehrman introduced our community to a brief history of Bible translation and his perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the KJV as both a work of literature and a theological text. Ehrman’s conclusion? The King James Bible is indisputably one of the greatest works of English literature ever published. The rhythms of its verses and the richness of its metaphors influenced poets, writers, and speechmakers, including such Americans as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. But due to changes in the English language since 1611, the theological biases of the translators, and problems in the textual basis of the translation, Ehrman considers the KJV one of the “worst study Bibles” one could use to reflect upon the original intentions of the Bible’s authors.

Opening reception for Manifold Greatness at Loyola Marymount University. Photo courtesy Loyola Marymount University.

Opening reception for Manifold Greatness at Loyola Marymount University. Photo courtesy Loyola Marymount University.

After Ehrman’s provocative talk, which you can watch in full here,  attendees moved out to the atrium to enjoy a beautiful reception and continue the conversation while viewing Manifold Greatness and the companion rare books and manuscripts exhibition Singular Wisdom: The King James Bible and Early Printed Bibles, which features treasures from LMU’s Department of Archives and Special Collections including copies of the Vulgate, Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible, and Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, and a second edition of the King James Bible on loan from the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA.

A second program the following week by Dr. Stephen Shepherd, a medievalist from LMU’s Department of English, introduced attendees to the Wycliffite Bible – a predecessor of the KJV — which he placed in the context of the intellectual movement of the time that advocated the vernacularization of erudite knowledge and scholarly precision itself.

In the coming weeks, LMU is hosting two additional programs that will continue to engage our interfaith community with varying perspectives through which to consider the influence of the KJV. A gospel concert with guided commentary will celebrate the lasting influence of the KJV in the music of the Black church, and a panel presentation between LMU Theological Studies faculty from varying Christian faiths considering the KJV into a Catholic context.

Jamie Hazlitt is the Outreach Librarian at the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University.


Doubling Up

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama on Jan. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama on Jan. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

During his second Inauguration on Monday, President Barack Obama used not one, but two King James Bibles. One of the books was the Lincoln Bible, used during his first inauguration. The Lincoln Bible is currently housed in the collection of the Library of Congress and includes a note stating that this is the Bible used by Lincoln for his swearing-in as President on March 4, 1861. You can learn more about the Lincoln Bible from the Library of Congress’ blog post.

The second Bible belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King and accompanied him on many of his travels. “We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the Oath of Office using his bible,” Dr. King’s children said in a statement. “His ‘traveling bible’ inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the President as he begins his second term.”

Barack Obama is not the first president to use more than one Bible while taking the oath of office. Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower both used two Bibles during their inauguration ceremonies. You can watch Barack Obama’s second inaugural address here.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


A New Bible Translation is Born

Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library

Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library

Less than a year after becoming king of England, James I met with clergy from the Church of England on January 14,  16, and 18, 1604 at Hampton Court Palace. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the state of the Church itself. While the Church of England was the established church, initiated by Henry VIII in 1533 after he broke from the Roman Catholic Church, religious practice was not uniform throughout James’ kingdom. James believed that getting all of his subjects on the same page, religiously speaking, would support his own authority.

Although some of the clergymen present at the conference hoped to succeed in further reforming aspects of the Church of England, such as removing the Book of Common Prayer and arguing against church hierarchy that privileged bishops over lower-ranking clergy. To their disappointment, King James had no desire to support a reformist agenda. He did enjoy theological debate, however, and vigorously participated in discussions with the conference attendees. In this regard, James was very unlike his predecessor Queen Elizabeth I, who famously declared, “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles,” and generally avoided prolonged discussion of religious issues.

On the second day of the conference, John Rainolds, a leading theologian and President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, directly addressed the king. Unlike the majority of clergy present at the conference, Rainolds had Puritan sympathies. He hoped to convince King James to reform what the Puritans perceived as abuses within the Church of England. James did not grant these requests. In fact, at one point, the king grew so angry with Rainolds that he left the room. It was from these less than auspicious beginnings that the King James Bible translation was conceived.

Although King James rejected many of the requests made by John Rainolds and the other Puritans, he did agree to one of Rainold’s suggestions; specifically, a new translation of the Bible in English. James believed that the project would unite the various factions of clergymen by giving them a common project to work on. He was also convinced that a new Bible translation, free from commentary that supported either Catholic or Puritan dogma, would bolster the authority of the monarchy and create greater religious harmony among his subjects.

While King James did not play a personal role in creating the translation that bears his name, John Rainolds did. A group of translators met in Rainold’s rooms in Oxford, and Rainolds remained deeply involved in the project until his death in 1607. After years of work by dozen of men in three different locations, the King James Bible was printed in 1611. The rest, as they say, is history.

Click here to watch a short video about the process of creating the King James Bible.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The Queen James Bible

Queen James BibleLast week, a new adaptation of the King James Bible titled the Queen James Bible attracted considerable  media attention. A statement on the Bible’s website notes “The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality.” Its editors have changed 8 verses: Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 1:7, amending each to remove anti-gay language.

One of the claims made on the Queen James Bible website is that James I, the royal sponsor of the King James Bible, was called “Queen James” during his lifetime due to his public affection for other men. While James did have many male favorites, including Robert Carr and George Villiers, his sexual preferences remain ambiguous. There is no historical evidence that James was referred to as “Queen James” by contemporaries, although one epigram noted “Rex fuit Elizabeth, nunc est regina Jacobus” (Elizabeth was King, now James is Queen). However, the epigram is apocryphal. Furthermore, whether the epigram is a comment on his sexuality, or the difference in governing style between James and his forceful cousin, remains unclear.  James and his wife, Anne of Denmark, had 7 children, although only 3 of them reached adulthood. In addition, Anne suffered several miscarriages. Within a few years of his marriage, James also became romantically linked to Lady Anne Murray, a Scottish noblewoman.

Whatever James’ sexual orientation may have been, the King James Bible is one of the definitive achievements of his reign, and its legacy continues to inspire Bible translation and interpretation today.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The KJB on TV

The Emmy-winning television program Little House on the Prairie enjoyed great popularity between 1974 and 1982, and remains in syndication today.  Based on the book series chronicling the adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a girl and young woman on the Western frontier, the program includes dramatic encounters with the harsh realities of pioneer life.

During one poignant episode, the townspeople must shelter in the church and schoolhouse on Christmas Eve to wait out a sudden blizzard while other residents search for several of the town’s children trapped outside in the storm. By the following day, the children are recovered safe and sound, although one man dies during the search and leaves behind a grieving family. Community leader Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon) picks up a copy of the King James Bible and reads the Christmas story from gospel of Luke to comfort the survivors.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Refashioning a Classic

Cover of the 1962 edition of A Wrinkle in Time. Art design by Ellen Ermingard Raskin.

Cover of the 1962 edition of A Wrinkle in Time. Art design by Ellen Ermingard Raskin.

Fans of A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s popular science fiction fantasy novel, will likely remember its trio of leading characters, Meg Murry, Calvin O’Keefe, and the precocious Charles Wallace; the mind-bending possibilities of the tesseract; and the children’s dramatic final confrontation with IT.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, and this epic story of good vs. evil continues to be widely read by children and adults. In fact, A Wrinkle in Time was recently made into a graphic novel by writer Margaret Ferguson and illustrator Hope Larson.

“It was definitely an important book for me. It’s one of those books that I’ve gone back to again and again throughout my life.” Larson said in an October interview.

With the novel’s motifs of love, redemption, and sacrifice, many readers detect spiritual themes. L’Engle herself considered A Wrinkle in Time to be a Christian allegory, and the text borrows directly from the King James Bible in one of the novel’s final scenes as Meg Murray prepares to face IT and rescue her brother Charles Wallace. Meg receives encouragement from another character, who tells her:

The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought that are. (I Corinthians 1:25-28)    

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Pilgrims, a Bible, and a Love Triangle

Artistic rendering of John and Priscilla Alden.

As we approach Thanksgiving,  images of the Pilgrims assembled around an autumnal feast may pop into mind as we stock our own cupboards with cranberries, stuffing, and canned pumpkin. Although the Pilgrims did bring food supplies with them on the Mayflower, these items ran out during their first winter in the New World; a successful harvest the following year prompted a celebration of “thanksgiving.”

Artistic rendering of John and Priscilla Alden.

In addition to foodstuffs, weapons, farming supplies, 102 passengers, and two dogs, the Mayflower also carried a copy of the King James Bible belonging to John Alden. In an earlier post, curator Hannibal Hamlin notes that this may have been the first King James Bible to arrive in America.

Alden was not a Pilgrim himself; rather, he was a cooper, or barrel-maker, hired by the Pilgrims at Southampton, where the Mayflower was docked before beginning her trans-Atlantic voyage.  William Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims, described the 21-year-old Alden as a “hopefull yong man.” Alden may also have been a man of faith, choosing to carry a Bible with him as he journeyed to the New World.

 Alden’s youth and skill must have impressed Bradford, for the future governor of the colony also noted that the Pilgrims very much wished that Alden would join them, although they left the final decision in his hands. Upon arrival on the shores of Massachusettes in November 1620, Alden opted to stay with the Pilgrims and added his signature to the Mayflower Compact, signed on November 21, 1620.

Alden soon had another tie to the Pilgrim settlement. Sometime between 1620 and 1623, he married Priscilla Mullins, a young woman in her late teens or very early 20s. Priscilla had sailed with her parents and older brother Joseph on the Mayflower. However, her parents and brother died soon after their arrival in Massachusetts, leaving Priscilla to fend for herself in the new colony. According to folk tradition, her beauty attracted the attention of Miles Standish, the colony’s military adviser,  as well as John Alden, and the two men were deep rivals for her affection. This story prompted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.

The historical record offers no evidence of a Mullins-Alden-Standish love triangle. However, Priscilla did end up marrying John Alden (the younger man) and over the course of their long marriage, the couple had 10 children, with a possible 11th child dying in infancy. Several of their descendents became notable figures in their own right; their oldest son, John, escaped being tried for witchcraft in Boston, and a daughter, Sarah, married Alexander Standish, son of Miles Standish and his second wife, Barbara.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was descended from another Alden offspring, and helped immortalize his ancestors through his literary output.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


Saul and the Witch of Endor

Nikolay Ge. The Witch of Endor Calling Up the Spirit of the Prophet Samuel. Painting, 1875.

Nikolay Ge. The Witch of Endor Calling Up the Spirit of the Prophet Samuel. Painting, 1875.

You won’t find vampires and werewolves in the King James Bible, but witches (referred to as mediums) and spirits rising from the grave are mentioned. One famous incident occurs in the book of 1 Samuel, when Saul, King of Israel, secretly contacts a woman with powers for summoning the dead. Her name is not given in the story, although in popular culture, she has become known as the witch of Endor.

According to the Biblical account, the prophet Samuel is instrumental in making Saul king of Israel, and continues to provide counsel during Saul’s reign.  After Samuel dies, Saul faces an enormous threat from an army of Philistine soldiers assembled to attack Israel. Saul’s prayers and attempts to seek divine aid are unsuccessful.

Desperate for advice, Saul disguises himself and seeks out a medium. Although she expresses reluctance at first, she eventually agrees to summon the spirit of Samuel for Saul.

Things go downhill from there.

And Samuel said to Saul: ‘Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?’ And Saul answered: ‘I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams; therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.’ 1 Samuel 28:15

Samuel foretells that Saul will be defeated in the upcoming battle, and that he and his sons will be killed. These prophecies come true, and Israel suffers a crushing defeat, after which Saul commits suicide.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The Amish and the King James Bible

Amish boys using traditional farming techniques. Photograph by National Geographic Channels / Jeff Hoagland.

Amish boys using traditional farming techniques. Photograph by National Geographic Channels / Jeff Hoagland.

Amish culture is popping up on television sets across America, thanks to reality series such as National Geographic’s Amish: Out of Order and TLC’s Breaking Amish. In states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, Amish buggies are a common sight along roadways, as are Amish homesteads, distinctive white-sided houses with a single curtain in each window.

Like many other immigrant groups originating in Europe, the first Amish immigrants arrived in America in the early 18th century. Many settled in Pennsylvania, where they are sometimes referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch. However, most Amish are of German or Swiss descent.

The Amish denomination emphasizes a simple lifestyle and a rejection of “worldly” pursuits. The name derives from Jakob Ammann, a member of the Swiss Anabaptist movement, who disagreed with other, less radical Anabaptists on matters related to excommunication, and Amman’s followers split from the main Anabaptist community. Amish dogma forbids its followers from holding government office, participating in the military, or owning modern technology. Historically, these beliefs set the Amish at odds with other Christian groups, and continue to distinguish them today. As a result of widespread prosecution in Europe from both Catholics and Protestants in the 17th and 18th centuries, many Amish fled to America.

One practice that the Amish share with many mainstream Protestant denominations is their use of the King James Bible. While Pennsylvania German (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch) is widely spoken in Amish communities, most Amish read and write in English, and the King James Bible is used in Amish worship services. Amish services typically include two sermons. Most of the time, they are spoken extemporaneously. Unlike some Christian churches, the Amish do not follow a liturgical calendar, so the Bible passages chosen for each particular service are selected spontanesouly.

Another influential text in Amish religious practice is the Ausbund. The Ausbund is a collection of hymns dating back to the mid-1500s; tradition holds that the original songs were composed by Anabaptist prisoners held in Passau Castle between 1535 and 1540.  The first printed edition of the Ausbund appeared in 1564. There is no musical notation, with the tunes being passed on from generation to generation. Songs from the Ausbund are sung in a German dialect, and the lyrics are adapted from passages in the Biblical Psalms and the New Testament. The practice of congregational singing–traditionally without musical accompaniment– reflects the Amish belief in simple worship that encourages humility. To hear samples of hymns from the Ausbund, click here.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.


The Oral Character of the King James Bible

Bible. English. Authorized. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Bible. English. Authorized. London, 1611. Folger Shakespeare Library.

The year 2011 constituted the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Originally created by England’s Anglican Church, it became widely used by all Protestant denominations in America until the twentieth century, as both a pulpit and a personal Bible.

Despite the increasingly old-fashioned character of its language, it was not until the 1950s that a second translation, the Revised Standard Version, gained a foothold in American Protestantism.

Today, the King James Bible, also known as the KJB or KJV (the “V” is for “Version”), still has a revered place among Evangelical Protestantism. The Scofield Reference Bible, widely used among Evangelicals, relies upon it. And although the New International Version has recently gained popularity as a personal Bible, the KJB remains the pulpit Bible for many churches.

Of course, the Gideons continue to place a copy of the KJB in every hotel room in the United States. They believe that an individual alone can read the Bible and by themselves gain an understanding of God.

This attitude derives from the sixteenth-century declaration by the Reformer Martin Luther that the authority for true Christianity rested on “Scripture alone.” Since that time, Protestantism has envisioned each individual believer knowing the Bible. The ideal Christian became someone who read and studied their Bible extensively. Today, most devout Christians own a personal Bible, which they read regularly by themselves.

The achievement of this ideal within modern Evangelicalism has made us forget that for most of Christianity’s history, this ideal was impossible for all but a few. During 95% of its history, the overwhelming majority of Christians could not read.

Until the twentieth century, near universal literacy existed nowhere on earth. Only then, in Europe, did 90% of adults acquire the ability to read. In 1675, 64 years after the KJV’s publication, only about 45% of adult males in England could sign their name at their marriage; for women the percentage was significantly lower. Even in 1850, the best estimates put adult literacy in Europe at no more than 50%. American literacy rates were similar.During most of its history, then, the KJV functioned quite differently from the personal, private use so widespread today. When it was published, it was intended to be read aloud, and that was its primary use until the end of the nineteenth century.

People who can read the Bible gain a sense of its organization as a text and of its character as a physical object. They know how large it is, whether considered in number of words (lots), number of books (66), or just its size (fat). Those who become familiar with it learn the order of its books and develop a sense of the total amount of stories, moral tales, parables, law codes, admonitions and prophecies the book contains.

Those who only hear the Bible read and cannot read it for themselves learn about much of it contents, but they never gain a sense of the book as a written text. Because they are always dependent on a reader, they never acquire any direct access to the text itself.

They know its contents as the material is read to them over the years, in whatever order it is read and whatever passages are selected. They may develop a sense of organization from some of its longer stories, but most oral readings present shorter passages. Just reading a few chapters out loud can take nearly an hour. Hearers will not gain understanding of the Bible’s structure; it will seem an unorganized  collection to them.

Moreover, hearers will rarely gain a sense that they know everything in the Bible. They can always be surprised by some passage they have not heard before. Although many churches have a liturgical calendar that guides regular scripture reading, such calendars present selected readings rather than the entire Bible.

Furthermore, liturgical calendars often feature different readings from different places in Scripture together. The Anglican approach for each Sunday includes an Old Testament passage, a reading from the New Testament letters, and a selection from the Gospels.

So until the twentieth century, the success of the King James Bible came much more from its use for oral presentation of Scripture than from its use as a personal Bible. This is not surprising, for the poetic beauty of much of its language was intended to be heard. The oral hearing of the Bible gave Christians a different sense of Scripture from individual private reading. It is only by the mid-twentieth century, when most Christians can read the Bible by themselves, that a translation whose language is more up-to-date can make headway against the long-standing popularity of the KJB.

 Paul V.M. Flesher, Ph.D. is the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming. The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition is on view at UW from October 7-31, 2012.


The KJB in America: An Interview with Cristina Cruz Gonzales

The Holy Bible: the Entire Canonical Scriptures According to the Decree of the Council of Trent; Translated from the Latin Vulgate. ca. 1884. Loan of the Ryan family. Image courtesy of Oklahoma State University.

The Holy Bible: the Entire Canonical Scriptures According to the Decree of the Council of Trent; Translated from the Latin Vulgate. ca. 1884. Loan of the Ryan family. Image courtesy of Oklahoma State University.

While the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition was at Oklahoma State University, local scholars presented on topics related to the King James Bible and its impact on American culture. Dr. Cristina Cruz Gonzales, OSU assistant professor of art history, provided the opening lecture. After her talk, “King James Bible: Towards a Visual and Transatlantic History,” she shared her insights about the KJB and America.  Here’s a recap of the interview.

Why were you interested in joining us to talk on this topic?

Because I’m not an English Bible expert, but I am an expert in 17th century religious material in America, not the United States, but rather Spanish America. The topic seemed strangely familiar. I didn’t know much about it, but I wanted to know more. It seemed that I should know more, and I thought I could approach it in a comparative way that I found fruitful for both myself and the audience.

 Did you learn anything surprising as you researched this talk?

Absolutely. I had no idea the author of our American dictionary, that’s Noah Webster, was also an author of an American Bible, and he really pushed his Bible project on an America that was just starting to get into a sort of Bible mania.

You told us about a number of different versions of the Bible. Which one did you find most interesting?

I really enjoy the 19th century versions, these large, lavish, family Bibles mostly because you realize it’s not just about text, but about the materiality and the object-ness of these items. They were kept in American homes on tables as showpieces, so they are not just informing American piety or serving American piety at that time, but also reflecting American taste and what that implies in a secular and non-secular way.

You mentioned a number of Bibles that are arguably more American than the King James. Why does KJB remain the most popular in the US?

The King James Bible was by far the most popular Bible in the late 17th century, and I think that longevity means a lot. If Noah Webster had been born a century earlier and had this wonderful idea and the American Revolution had broken out and it was time to publish an American Bible, maybe his Bible would have taken off. But, by the time Webster comes around, the King James Version is too engrained in early American culture, and Americans aren’t going to give it up.

Misty D. Smith is an Assisstant Professor and Catalog Librarian at the Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University.


King James and His Bible

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608. Shelfmark V.b.232. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608. Shelfmark V.b.232. Folger Shakespeare Library.

King James I, the royal sponsor of the Bible that bears his name, grew up as a king. After Queen Elizabeth I executed his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, when he was just one year old, he became King of Scotland and the heir to the English throne after Elizabeth’s death. He was raised by a team of Scottish Presbyterian ministers under the control of his regent, but upon his ascension to the English crown in 1603, he seemed more attuned to English religious politics.

Less than a year after his arrival in England, James officially launched the translation project that would become the King James Bible at a conference in Hampton Court Palace. The complex’s status as a favorite dwelling of King Henry the VIII, the founder of the English church, would not have been lost on the attendees.

The new translation was intended to be a unifying factor, not between Scotland and England, but between the warring factions of the Church of England. In the oversight of the project, James favored the establishment bishops, but a third or more of the 48 “Translators” (as they were known) had Puritan beliefs. Most were connected with Cambridge University, a hot-bed of Puritan theology.

The most popular Bible among English Christians at the time was the Geneva Bible, which Puritan scholars had composed in Geneva during their exile from the persecution of Queen Mary (“Bloody Mary”) in the 1550s. Its popularity had soared at the end of the sixteenth century because the Bishops Bible of 1568, the Church’s official Bible, had met with derision, As Adam Nicholson observes, it was “pompous, obscure and often laughable.” Instead of the well-known phrase “Caste thy bread upon the waters,” for instance, it gave “Lay thy bread upon wet faces.”

But James could not simply follow the people’s choice, for the Geneva Bible contained extensive interpretive footnotes, many of which were anti-monarchical, denying that kings and queens had the right to rule. Given that in 1598 James had written a ringing defense of the “divine right of kings” to govern in his “True Law of Free Monarchies,” this was an anathema.

The new Bible translation would draw upon the best of these two works, while going back to the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts then available. It would undergo several stages of review to ensure both accuracy and understandability. It would be both a pulpit Bible and a people’s Bible: pleasant to read aloud and to oneself.

The new translation did not immediately gain acceptance when it was published in 1611. Like the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate and many modern translations, people preferred the versions with which they were familiar. But within a few decades it had replaced the Bishops Bible and surpassed the Geneva Bible. It was brought across the Atlantic and became America’s Bible, both for English churches that came here and the churches that originated here, such as the Mormons.

The King James Version was the dominant English-language Bible for 350 years and had no significant rivals until the Revised Standard Version appeared in the 1950s. Since then, many new translations have been published, but the KJV remains the most popular book in the English language.

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the KJV, the University of Wyoming is hosting an exhibit and series of six lectures during October. It will open on Sunday afternoon, October 7th, with a talk by Dr. Philip Stine, a former translator and executive of the United Bible Societies, who will discuss the origins and impact of the KJV.

The exhibit is called “Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible,” and is located in Coe Library. It was created by the Folger Shakespeare Library , in partnership with the University of Oxford and the Harry Ransom Center, and with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Library Association.

To accompany this, the Toppan Library of the American Heritage Center is exhibiting Bibles from its rare books collection, and the Albany Country Public Library is hosting a display of Bible translations through the ages. For more information, go to https://uwlibblogs.uwyo.edu/dustyshelves/manifold-greatness-the-creation-and-afterlife-of-the-king-james-bible/.

Note: This post drew from Adam Nicolson, God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, and Philip C. Stine, Four Hundred Years on the Best Seller List.

Paul V.M. Flesher, Ph.D. is the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming. The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition is on view at UW from October 7-31, 2012.


Q&A: Churches That Exclusively Use the KJB

A King James Bible only church in Alabama. Photo by Richard David Ramsey (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons”.

Jason Hentschel is in University of Dayton’s doctoral program in theology. Here, Jason discusses the King James Only movement, in which certain churches use the King James Bible translation exclusively, believing that it is the most accurate and doctrinally correct translation available. This topic arose during one one of the programs offered in conjunction with the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition here at University of Dayton.

 Q: Why do certain churches choose the King James translation?

The churches themselves tend to explain their exclusive use of the King James in terms of an appeal to the only perfect and pure—we might say inerrant—Bible.  All other translations—be they RSV, NIV, NASB, The Message, etc.—are understood to be ultimately misleading at points, usually on account of the fact that they are translated from the modern critical text and not the Received Text. In other words, King James Only (KJO) churches see other translations as corrupting the Bible, particularly the doctrine of Christ, and so they only read from the King James because they believe that it perfectly preserves the true biblical text and thus the true doctrines of the faith.  This does not include churches that prefer the King James translation for “merely” literary or stylistic reasons.

 Q: What do you think the KJB-only movement accomplishes for congregations?

 The movement provides a measure of certainty often questioned in the face of opposition. The KJO pastors around Dayton, OH whom I visited often directed me to one or another author—Samuel Gipp, Edward Hills, Wilbur Pickering, to name a few—whom these pastors found authoritative. Not only can these churches champion the King James Bible, they can champion these defenders of the King James Bible. There is nothing new about appealing to scholarship, of course, but in a group of evangelicals that is more often than not willing to reject such appeals in favor of either emphasizing the priesthood of every believer or the perspicuity of the text, this authoritative claim is significant.

Q: What surprised you about the churches here in Dayton?

Most surprising was their diversity. Whereas one of the churches I visited maintained a hard, polemical stance in its assertion of the King James’ Bible sole validity, another church argued for the validity of other professing believers’ perspectives on the translation debate. The three churches I visited did not see themselves as still in a battle for the Bible. That was a thing of the past. This translated into a rather nonchalant attitude toward visitors and members who resisted the churches’ exclusive use of the King James Bible. Hence, while the pastors I spoke with expressed without fail the importance of the King James Bible over and against the modern translations, that concern failed to translate to the congregation. This raises the question: About what are these churches truly concerned?

Jason Hentschel earned his M.Div. at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary and is currently working on his doctorate in historical theology at the University of Dayton. Besides the theological and cultural foundations of local KJV-only congregations, his research interests lie in American Cold War evangelicalism.

 Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.


Before the KJB: The Coverdale Bible

A passage from the book of Job in the Coverdale Bible, 1535. Image courtesy of the University of Dayton.

A passage from the book of Job in the Coverdale Bible, 1535. Image courtesy of the University of Dayton.

After opening our local Manifold Greatness exhibition on August 24, we were contacted by a local collector, Stuart Rose, who offered to lend to us his first edition Coverdale Bible.  The Coverdale Bible was printed in 1535 and is the first complete English Bible ever printed, as well as the first full Bible in modern English.

We removed the 1838 reprint edition that we had planned to show for the exhibition, featured in our case of early translations of the Bible, and replaced it with the real thing. The following information is from the Sotheby’s catalog listing for this particular book.

BIBLIA: The Bible, that is, the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament. 1535. First Edition in English of the Complete Bible, 307 x 197 mm. Handsome 19th century morroco gilt by Francis Bedford. The Earl of Crawford-John William Pease-Lord Wardington Copy.

Such copies of the Coverdale Bible have appeared for sale in the past 50 years are invariably incomplete. This copy is in fact one of the most complete copies offered during this time period — lacking only one leaf of text proper (the other lacking leaves being prelims).

The Coverdale Bible is much rarer than the first printing of the 1611 King James Bible and is known to be 3 or 4 times rarer than the First Folio of Shakespeare. University of Dayton Libraries is excited to present this rare and magnificent book. Special thanks to Mr. Stuart Rose for sharing this  early translation with Manifold Greatness visitors.

 Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers