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.

Posts tagged “King James Bible

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.


Casiodoro de Reina and the Bear Bible

1569

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

Yesterday was March 15, the anniversary of the death of Casiodoro de Reina (ca. 1520–1594). And that made us think of the Bear Bible, or Biblia del Oso, first published in 1569. The translation was largely the work of de Reina, a Spanish Reformer who began his religious life as a monk in the monastery of San Isidoro outside of Seville.

Persuaded by the writings of Martin Luther, de Reina fled Spain when he aroused the suspicions of the Inquisition. After a brief stay in Geneva, which he found uncongenial, de Reina traveled to England. In 1559 he became the pastor of the Spanish Protestant exile community in London, who worshipped at the church of St. Mary Axe, named after a neighboring tavern whose sign bore the image of an axe.

Seemingly trumped up due to the machinations of Spanish agents, accusations against de Reina included an astonishing array of crimes, among them dishonesty, embezzlement, immoral conduct with female congregants, and sodomy, as well as doctrinal and ecclesiastical errors. He fled England with his family in 1563 and devoted himself to the translation of the Bible, as well as to writings criticizing the Inquisition.

1569 Bear Bible

La Biblia. Basel, 1569. Folger.

There had been earlier Bibles in Spanish, but de Reina’s, first printed in Basel, was the most influential. The de Reina Bible was revised in 1602 by Cipriano de Valera, originally a member of the same monastic order as de Reina, who was, from 1559, a professor at the University of Cambridge.

Though it was revised again several times up to the twentieth century, this Spanish Protestant translation is still known, and still in use, as the Reina-Valera Bible. It has a status among Spanish Protestants somewhat equivalent to that of the King James Bible among English speakers. The charming printer’s mark of the bear climbing a tree for honey identifies the work of the Bern printer Mattias Apiarius, whose name (in his native German, “Biener”) means “beekeeper.”

Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


Looking Back on the King James Bible

Members of the King James Choir perform as part of the “Manifold Greatness” programming at Sumter County Library. Photo courtesy Sumter County Library.

After an educational and entertaining series of programs at the Sumter County Library, the traveling exhibition for Manifold Greatness has moved to the next destination. During its display at the library patrons attended scholarly lectures, a King James Bible Quiz, a documentary film presentation, an art show and a King James Choir concert.

Seven local artists submitted works for the “Expressions” Art Show. Each piece drew inspiration from a passage in the King James Bible. Four local artists judged the gallery displayed in our Main Meeting Room. A Grand Prize overall winner and 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were announced for those 18 and older and 17 and younger. Linda Hogon and Josie Holler won the grand prize, an Amazon Kindle, for their quilt inspired by the Book of Isaiah.

Submissions to the “Expressions” Art Show at Sumter County Library. Photo courtesy of Sumter County Library.

Soulful selections of music inspired by the King James Bible were sung by a King James Choir at Patriot Hall, a local concert hall in the historic neighborhoods of downtown Sumter. Led by Jacquetta Boone, the choir consisted of local talent ages 7 and up who inspired the audience with their performance. Tiger Productions Choir from Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina opened the concert.

On Thursday, August 9th, the Sumter County Library wrapped up the Manifold Greatness exhibit with a lecture by Dr. Patrick Scott of the University of South Carolina – Columbia. For many years, Dr. Scott oversaw the Rare Books collection at the University. Luckily for everyone in attendance that evening, Dr. Scott brought a 1611 King James Bible for display. Patrons were thrilled to experience such a historical text in person. In addition to the 1611 Bible, Dr. Scott distributed reproductions of pages from a historic King James Bible for everyone in attendance. These keepsakes provided material to ponder as Dr. Scott lectured on the formation and development of the King James Bible.

We thank Ms. Deloris Pringle for submitting the grant application on behalf of the Sumter County Library as well as our local partners the Sumter County Cultural Commission and the Sumter County Museum, which loaned historic family Bibles for display.

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible traveling exhibition was an intellectually stimulating and thought provoking presentation, affording Sumter County the ability to think and speak in a new light about such a historic text.

To see our pictures and videos from the event, please visit our Photobucket and YouTube accounts.

Ford Simmons is the Reference and Information Services Coordinator/Webmaster at Sumter County Library.


“Abide With Me” and the KJB

During the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics, Scottish vocalist Emeli Sandé performed a stirring rendition of the classic hymn, “Abide With Me.” The hymn is often sung at Christian funerals, and this performance was dedicated to victims of a series of bombings in London in 2005, in which 52 people lost their lives.

Those familiar with the lyrics and the King James Bible may notice several striking similarities. Henry Francis Lyte, the author of the hymn, was certainly familiar with the King James Bible.  “Abide With Me” arguably takes its inspiration from a passage in the gospel of Luke , in which disciples ask Christ: “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.”

Many of the phrases in “Abide With Me” are close variations of passages in the King James translation. For example, “healing in Thy wings” is a variant of Malachi 4:2, and “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” is a variant of 1 Corinthians 15:55.

Other lines draw from Biblical imagery. The final verse of the song describes the evening shadows in a way that is very similiar to a description in Song of Songs:  “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” (Song, 2:17)

In the hymn, however, the coming of evening is an allegory for death:

“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

Lyte wrote many religious poems and hymns throughout his life. As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, he won numerous prizes for poetry. “Abide With Me” is his best-known work, and was written shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1847. The hymn is often performed to the music of “Eventide,” composed by William Henry Monk in 1861 to replace Lyte’s original tune.

Although the hymn has many somber associations, it has enjoyed many livlier uses in popular culture. “Abide with Me” has been sung at the Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) finals  in England every year since 1927. Jazz musician Thelonious Monk recorded an instrumental version of  the hymn with John Coltrane in 1957, and soldiers during WWI created an irreverent parody of the lyrics, singing “We’ve had no beer, we’ve had no beer today.”

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is grateful for the excellent information from Hannibal Hamlin, one of the Manifold Greatness curators, on the history of “Abide With Me.”


On Giving Interviews

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition on view at the University of Mississippi. Photo by the Rev. J.C. Browne. Image courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

Here at Ole Miss, community interest in the Manifold Greatness exhibition has been high, and pre-exhibit publicity included press releases to many local news outlets.  When those stories appeared, we did receive many questions from the public about the details and dates for the exhibit.  We also got requests for interviews.

The primary thing I learned from the interview experience is that the results will always surprise you.

When the local newspaper reporter and photographer came to meet me just after we finished setting up, I was very excited.  It was my first chance to show the exhibit off and to talk about what was in it.  I clearly talked too much and too quickly.  The questions I answered in writing later were quoted correctly, but many of the facts and details that I had rambled about in person were jumbled in the article, and in the photo descriptions.  I wished I had supplemented the hours and programs listed on our website with a “fact sheet” about the items from special collections that we were displaying.  Some of these materials are featured in my previous post.  Luckily my community friends didn’t know the difference and enjoyed reading about the exhibit anyway.

My second experience with an interview was later in the month with students reporting for the student-run TV station.  The interview request came with no warning as I was preparing for a meeting.  I went out to meet the students, unsure what to expect, and I was presented with a camera and a microphone.  They asked very good, very quick questions, and their segment was very informative and interesting. Even though I felt rushed, in the end I was pleased with them and with the experience.

Christina Torbert is Head of Serials and  Bibliographer for Philosophy and Religion at the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.


Talking About “The Book That Changed the World”

The Rev. Dr. Charles Sumners. Image courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, CO planned an ambitious month of programming to celebrate Manifold Greatness. Our events were varied, including a concert, lectures, public discussions, and several film screenings built around KJB: The Book That Changed the WorldThis dramatized documentary by actor John Rhys-Davies retraces the history of the King James Bible.  

The first screening brought so many people that we couldn’t fit them in our largest community room. We quickly realized that the demand for this programming was higher than we had anticipated. We asked our local city-run senior center and faith-based organizations to lend us space and technical assistance for additional screenings, which we ran through the month of June.  

Some of our Manifold Greatness scholars hit the road with us and facilitated lively public talks directly following each screening.  The Reverend Dr. Charles A. Summers (retired) led two programs that featured films and discussions about the King James Bible.

“Even though the KJB is specifically part of my heritage as an Anglican/Episcopal priest, I was glad we could utilize resources from other faith groups to understand its history,” he commented.

Audiences actively participated in programming around KJB – the Book that Changed the World, including a recitation from memory of the King James Bible version of the Twenty-third Psalm while it was read aloud.

“They were surprised that they could do it but then commented that it was almost subliminal,” Sumners said.

Other interactive activities included discussions about the process of Bible translation in general, and the process of creating a documentary about the Bible.  

The Reverend Dr. Charles A. Summers received his B.A. from Davidson College, earned his Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Kentucky, and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Presbyterian Seminary in Atlanta, GA. He did post-graduate work in Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  Rev. Sumners is also an accomplished producer of Christian and secular documentaries for over 35 years.  

 Dr. Scott Munger also offered a humanities perspective on the King James Bible. He was the topic of an earlier post.

We are sharing our experiences in the hope that other communities hosting Manifold Greatness can use it to enhance their celebrations while the exhibit is on display in their cities.

Rachel Stovall is a Community Relations Specialist at Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs, CO.


Manifold Greatness at Whitworth University: A Community Effort

A display of family Bibles and certificates for recording births, deaths, and marriages. Courtesy Whitworth University.

A display of Bibles, including one owned by George Whitworth, the founder of Whitworth University, and certificates for recording births, deaths, and marriages. Courtesy Whitworth University.

As Whitworth University Library prepares to pack up the Manifold Greatness exhibit, we have the opportunity to reflect on the community support we have received. Our community partners, and the people who visited the exhibition, have truly made Manifold Greatness at Whitworth University a success!

The Spokane County Library district , which partnered with Whitworth to promote the Manifold Greatness exhibition, hosted programs related to the Bible and Culture at two of their branch libraries. A speaker from Whitworth University asked for audience input about the Biblical themes portrayed in advertising. Audiences were surprised to learn that in some Jewish traditions, Cain is considered the son of Eve and the serpent (the serpent seed), rather than the son of Adam and Eve. This interpretation comes into play in an advertisement for Smirnoff Green Apple Twist, in which the serpent (a female) appears to be seducing Adam.

Gonzaga University Library’s Special Collections contributed items for the Manifold Greatness exhibit room. One such item is a Franklin Mint reproduction of the Thompson Medallic Bible, a group of 60 sterling silver medals depicting famous artists’ rendering of Biblical stories on one side and accompanying scripture (text from the King James Bible) on the other side.

Reproduction of the Thompson Medallic Bible. Image courtesy of Whitworth University.

The Spokane Public Library’s Northwest History Room hosted a display entitled “Early Religious Texts,” showcasing a collection of rare Bibles, psalm books, and other religious tools and texts.  The collection includes a 1475 transcript of Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences, complete with chains to ensure it would not be stolen. The Four Books of Sentences was a classic theology textbook in medieval universities.

Whitworth University Library’s Special Collections displayed a Bible used by traveling salespeople to show customers the many customizable features available to them. There are sample covers and sample leather colors in addition to the illustrations, concordances, and other features included in the Bible. The Bible contains a ledger in which the salesperson can keep an accounting of the names of people who ordered a Bible and how much they agreed to pay. One of the sample covers matches the cover of a Bible owned by George Whitworth, the founder of Whitworth University.

We have been fortunate to have church groups (some who traveled more than 100 miles!), school groups, and retirement community groups view the exhibit and attend programs. This, of course, is in addition to the campus community, including faculty, staff, and students. The exhibition’s schedule gives Whitworth University an additional opportunity to reach a wider audience on the eve of  Commencement with families of graduating students, alumni groups, and trustees also on campus. The exhibit is richer as a result of the community involvement and support we have received. Thank you to all who have contributed and spread the word about Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible at Whitworth University!

Amy C. Rice is an Instructor/ Coordinator of Technical Services & Systems at Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library at Whitworth University.


Special Collections Take Center Stage at Saint Michael’s College

Rare Bibles from the collections of Middlebury College Special Collections, the University of Vermont Special Collections and Saint Michael’s College.  Clockwise from Top left: King James Version 1629; first Bible printed in state of Vermont 1812; Luther Bible 1696; incunable Bible 1477-78, Geneva Bible 1596-97; Geneva Bible 1644.

Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT.

The exhibition of Manifold Greatness at Saint Michael’s College’s Durick Library is off to a great start.  We actually kicked of the events before the exhibit even arrived in Vermont! In March, the University of Vermont Special Collections opened up with an exhibit of their rare Bibles, including their 1613 KJB.  A bit later in the month, they hosted a panel discussion entitled “Authorized Versions: Perspectives on the King James Bible.”  In this panel discussion, three UVM faculty members offered theological, historical, and literary perspectives on the coming of the King James Bible and its place in the early modern world.  Anne Clark spoke on “Before the King James: Medieval Bibles and Their Users”; Charles F. Briggs spoke on “The Problematic Publishing Background of the Bible in English, from Wyclif through the Mid-Sixteenth Century”; and Andrew Barnaby added a bit of drama to the mix, speaking on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and the King James Bible.  This well-attended session was an excellent introduction to the King James Bible, and had us anxiously awaiting the official opening of the Manifold Greatness exhibition!  

Instead of simply hanging around waiting for the panels to arrive, we got working on the complementary exhibits we had planned.  Library staff put together several displays from our circulating collections—one featuring scholarship related to the King James Version, another focused on the Catholic Reformation and Counter Reformation,  and a third featuring some of the more interesting contemporary Bibles in our collection.  

Rare Bibles from the collections of Middlebury College Special Collections, the University of Vermont Special Collections and Saint Michael’s College. Clockwise from Top left: King James Version 1629; first Bible printed in state of Vermont 1812; Luther Bible 1696; incunable Bible 1477-78, Geneva Bible 1596-97; Geneva Bible 1644. Courtesy of Saint Michael’s College.

In our rare book cases, we have complementary exhibits of rare books from our collections and with donations from the University of Vermont Special Collections and Middlebury College.  Their wonderful additions to the display included a Rheims New Testament from 1582, a 1629 King James Version, an incunable Bible printed by Nicolaus Gotz in 1477-78, and the first Holy Bible published in the state of Vermont, published in 1812 in Windsor, VT.  Among our own collection of Catholic Reformation and Counter Reformation works, we have on display Tridentine Catechisms and a lovely Missale Romanum, a Graduale Romanum for the Tridentine Mass, that are fine examples of two of the major reforms of the Council of Trent.  One of the more interesting titles on display is Locorum Catholicorum tum sacrae scripturae, tum etiam antiquorum patrum, por orthodoxa, et vetere fide retinenda, septem, by Francisco Horantio (Orantes) printed in Venice in 1564.  This text discusses the importance of seven Deutero-canonical (or Apocryphal) books of the Bible and includes an “ardent” refutation of John Calvin’s arguments against the veneration of the Saints. 

By the time the panels themselves arrived in the library the day after Easter, the other exhibits were in place.  Saint Michael’s students were away for the long Easter weekend, so they did not have to watch us dismantle some of the most favored group study spots in the library!  Although it is a significant change from the study tables, the exhibit panels fills in the space quite nicely.  It will be sad to see Manifold Greatness close next week.

Elizabeth B. Scott is an Archivist at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT.


Manifold Greatness On the Road: One Year On

A family Bible from a workshop hosted at the University of Minnesota. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

A family Bible displayed at a workshop hosted at the University of Minnesota. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Hard to believe the panel exhibition of Manifold Greatness has been traveling across America for a year! Like you, I’ve followed its progress, reading reports from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA), Winfield Public Library (Winfield, KS), Mobile Public Library (Mobile, AL), and Hope College (Holland, MI). And these are only the posts on the blog’s first page! I remember when Steve Galbraith and I, as co-curators of Manifold Greatness, met with representatives of all the host sites.

In September, 2011, the American Library Association hosted a daylong workshop, where Steve and I talked about the genesis and realization of the exhibition, and about what we saw as its most compelling stories. It was fascinating and moving to hear then from all the representatives, as they described the diverse array of events with which they would surround the Manifold Greatness panels. So many of these have now come to pass: lectures and colloquia on the translation of the Bible, on the influence of the King James Bible on American writers, on family Bibles, on rare book preservation, and much more. Through the wonders of communication technology, we’ve been able not only to read about these celebrations but to see photographs, and even watch a live stream of the colloquium at the University of Minnesota. It’s as if the conversation we started at the Folger is ongoing, being joined and carried on by other communities across the country.

In a way this reminds me of the spread of the King James Bible itself. I wrote in the exhibition book about Parson Weems, the almost legendary Bible salesman of the Philadelphia printer Matthew Carey. Weems hawked Bibles in the 1790s and early nineteenth century in Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and his native Virginia. But he sold Bibles to Northerners, too. From New York he wrote to Collins that their publishing plans had “knock’d up just such a dust here among the Printers as would a stone if thrown smack into the center of a Hornet’s nest.” As an interesting aside, Weems was also the author of The Life of Washington , a collection of stories about America’s first president and the origin of the famous (but untrue!) anecdote of young George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree.

Weems was the Johnny Appleseed of Bibles, planting them wherever he and his horse rode. Weems’s efforts were later eclipsed by those of the American Bible Society, whose goal was to put a Bible (King James Version) in every household. By mid-19th century they were printing and distributing a million Bibles a year. In the twentieth century, the Gideons took on the task of putting a Bible in every hotel room. The huge dissemination of the King James Bible in America ensured its influence on American literature and culture. The influence of Manifold Greatness will be more modest, I’m sure, but like the book it explores, it will have a wide reach. The panels have already traveled to 14 states, and they will reach 13 more before they reach the end of their road in 2013.

Happy trails!

Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, was co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


The Bible or Shakespeare?

Portrait of Shakespeare. Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Watercolor, c. 1865. Folger Shakespeare Library.

William Shakespeare and the King James Bible have both contributed many noteworthy expressions to the English language. In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday, traditionally believed to be on April 23, readers are challenged to decide whether the following phrases come from William Shakespeare’s works or the King James Bible. Some people believe that Shakespeare himself had a role in creating the King James Bible translation. Scholar Hannibal Hamlin refutes this rumor with a resounding “No!” in his post, “Shakespeare did not write the King James Bible, no way, no how.”

And now for the challenge, “The Bible or Shakespeare?”  Answers will be posted tomorrow.

 A. salt of the earth
B. in a pickle
C. the blind lead the blind
D. apple of his eye
E. not a mouse stirring
F. at their wit’s end
G. the skin of my teeth
H. budge an inch
I. turn the other cheeck
J. many are called, but few are chosen
K. a tower of strength
L. for goodness’ sake
M. your own flesh and blood
N. one fell swoop.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website, particularly the content and activities in the “For Kids” section. She is a communications associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Weathering the Storm

Foreign-Language Bibles

Bibles in German, Spanish, French, Navajo, Aymara, and Lao are on display with Manifold Greatness at Winfield Public Library. Courtesy Winfield Public Library.

The Manifold Greatness traveling exhibit opened on April 11 at the Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS and will be on view through May 11. This will be the only stop in Kansas for this exhibit.  

Since its opening, Manifold Greatness has attracted a steady stream of visitors, despite the library’s brief closure while while more than 100 tornadoes passed over Kansas! The town of  Winfield escaped unscathed, and Manifold Greatness opened to a wonderful reception on April 16 hosted by the Friends of the Library.

Dr. Phil Schmidt, Professor of History at Southwestern College, opened the library’s five-part program series with a lecture entitled “The Historical Role of the King James Bible and English Power Politics, 1517 to 1692.” His witty and engaging approach encouraged audience participation. Dr. Schmidt shared information on the political, theological, and dynastic power struggles which engulfed the people of England in the 1500’s and 1600’s, both before and after the publishing of the King James Bible. The speech was well received by a packed house; more programs are planned, and www.wpl.org  has a complete listing of upcoming events and programs for Manifold Greatness while it is in Kansas.

Several organizations loaned historic Bibles that are displayed with the Manifold Greatness exhibit. These include Bibles written in  German, Spanish, French, Navajo, Aymara, and Lao; several of the Bibles on display are treasured family Bibles that traveled to Kansas with settlers or were distributed by early missionaries. The Navajo Bible was used by a missionary in Arizona before making  its way to Kansas. The Lao Bible was brought from Thailand around 30 years ago and is printed on rice paper.  The French Bible has traveled with its family from Switzerland to other countries around the world before finally arriving in Kansas, while the German Bible is an heirloom passed down through generations. Bibles are on loan from the Cowley County Historical Society, The Cherokee Strip Museum, The Winfield Masonic Lodge #110 and family Bibles from the community.  More information on family Bibles is available on the Manifold Greatness website.

Sue Birney is the Adult Special Services Librarian at Winfield Public Library in Winfield, KS.


Handel’s Messiah Reigneth

Charles Jennens. Messiah. An oratorio. London, 1749? Folger Shakespeare Library.

On April 13, 1742, a new oratorio by the famous composer George Frideric Handel made its debut in Dublin, Ireland.

The performance was held to benefit three local charities:  prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer’s Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary.  The Dublin News-Letter provided an early critique on the work, praising the oratorio as “…far surpass[ing] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom”.

Handel’s Messiah has continued to be performed ever since. Its librettist, Charles Jennens, drew from the King James Bible for his text, with one exception: lines from the psalms are taken from Miles Coverdale’s earlier translations in the Book of Common Prayer.

 To hear excerpts from Messiah, with information on their KJB connections, please enjoy the Handel’s Messiah interactive feature on the Manifold Greatness website. More information on Handel himself appears in this previous post.

 

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


Bibles in Battle

New Testament. New York, 1863. American Bible Society. Courtesy of the Museum of Biblical Art.

New Testament. New York, 1863. American Bible Society. Courtesy of the Museum of Biblical Art.

On April 6 & 7, 1862, opposing Confederate and Union forces met in the woods and fields of rural Tennessee. The ensuing battle would become the bloodiest to date in the United States. Casualties totaled over 23,000 dead and wounded—more than the number killed during all 8 years of the Revolutionary War. Even today, the Battle of Shiloh conjures up images of intense suffering.

For soldiers facing injury, illness, and possible death, the Bible could be a source of comfort. Bibles were distributed with items such as food and blankets by the Sanitary Commission, a relief organization organized to aid Union soldiers. One prisoner of war, Thomas P. Meyer, received a King James Bible while he was held captive at  Belle Island prison in Richmond, Va.  Other soldiers inscribed their names or listed battles in which they had fought inside their copies of the Bible, as this short video from the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum shows.  The Museum of Biblical Art is currently featuring an exhibition on soldiers’ Bibles from the Civil War to the present day.

While armies fought on the field, orators waged a war of words for public opinion. Two of the most famous abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and  Abraham Lincoln,  both have connections to the King James Bible. A personal copy owned by Douglass is the subject of an earlier post, and Lincoln (and later, President Obama) were sworn in to office on a King James Bible.

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


Q and A With Bible Translator Robert Alter

The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: newly translated out of the originall tongues: & with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall commandement. Appointed to be read in churches. London, 1611. New Testament internal title page. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Last week, Dr. Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew language and comparative literature, spoke at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas on translating scripture and the influence of the King James Bible. This interview originally appeared on the Harry Ransom Center’s Cultural Compass blog.

In several interviews you have stated that you appreciate the King James Version. You have also created your own translations of many books of the Hebrew Bible. Are your goals in translating different from  the King James Version translators’?

For me, the power of the Hebrew Bible is inseparable from its stylistic virtuosity—its strong, compact rhythms; its expressive use of syntax; the subtlety and liveliness of its dialogue; the fine precision of its word-choices; the purposeful shifts of levels of diction. Though the King James Version often has its own stylistic beauty (though not as consistently as people tend to remember), the 1611 translators paid attention to none of these considerations and probably were unaware of most of them. Their goal was to provide as exact an equivalent as they could, according to their own understanding, of each word in the original. I share their commitment to a certain literalism but as part of a tight weave of stylistic effects in the Hebrew.

In your book Pen of Iron you examine the influence of the King James Bible on famous American writers such as William Faulkner and Herman Melville. Do you see the same influence in the work of any contemporary American writers?

Fewer American writers now, for rather obvious cultural reasons, are drawing on the King James Version, but its influence has far from disappeared. Two contemporary novelists I discuss in Pen of Iron who reflect the language of the King James Bible are Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy. Another is the late Barry Hannah.

With so many new translations available, is the King James Version still important and relevant today?

Translations that cast the Bible in up-to-the-minute American English are definitely cutting into the constituency of the King James Version because they are easier to read and seem more “accessible.” My own sense is that such translations lack any literary grace and distort the feeling and the meaning of the Bible. Though we are distanced from the 1611 version now because of its archaic language, its beauty is undiminished, and I think it will always have readers as a great literary achievement that altered the course of the English language.

Kelsey McKinney is an undergraduate intern at the Harry Ransom Center and a regular contributor to the Cultural Compass blog. The King James Bible: Its History and Influence, a companion exhibition to Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, is on view at the Ransom Center until July 29, 2012.


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.


Living in the Belt with the Good Book

“Most people are bothered by these passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” –Mark Twain.

The poet Andrew Hudgins has identified the King James Bible as the most important work in Southern literature, and the crowd that gathered at William Carey University for the panel discussion, “Living in the Belt with the Good Book,” would agree.  William Carey faculty members Dr. Tom Richardson, Dr. Lorie Watkins Fulton, and Dr. Allison Chestnut led a wide-ranging discussion of Biblical influences on Southern literature, and in particular, the writings of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty.

Richardson, chair of the Department of Language and Literature at William Carey, opened the discussion with reflections on Twain’s complicated, irreverent, and iconoclastic views on the Bible and religion. “It is full of interest.  It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”—Twain’s Letters from the Earth, published posthumously in 1962.

Fulton, author of William Faulkner, Gavin Stevens, and the Cavalier Tradition (Peter Lang, 2011), recounted the story of Faulkner’s grandfather, who demanded that each grandchild recite a verse from the King James Bible each morning before breakfast.  No Bible verse, no breakfast.  Fulton surmised that perhaps this early training directly inspired the many Biblical allusions in Faulkner’s novels.

The influence of parable on the short stories of Eudora Welty was the subject of Chestnut’s presentation.  Chestnut argued that Welty’s stories imitate both the style and structure of Biblical parables.

The “afterlife” of the King James Bible is clearly on display in the works of these great writers that we Southerners claim as our own. A timeline of the King James Bible’s literary influences is viewable on the Manifold Greatness website.

Sherry Laughlin is Director of Libraries at William Carey University.


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