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.

From the Ole Miss Archives

As we prepared to receive the Manifold Greatness exhibit at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Leigh McWhite, one of our archivists, began seeking items that would give the viewer a sense of the translators’ work and would also make a connection between the exhibit and Mississippi and/or the South. 

As it happened, she found several.

On display is an edition of St. Jerome’s Vulgate, printed in Basel, Switzerland in 1591.  It is among the last editions published before the introduction of the 1592 version, which soon superseded it. The 1592edition of the Vulgate was sponsored by Pope Clementine VIII, and this edition was later consulted by the teams of English translators working on the King James Bible.  The Clementine Vulgate remained the authorized text for the Roman Catholic Church until 1979.

Clementine Vulgate, 1591. Basel, Switzerland. Image courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

The Choctaw tribe has had a long association with the state of Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi has a copy of the Second Book of Kings translated into the Choctaw language by the American Bible Society in 1855.  Choctaw translations of portions of the Bible first appeared in print in 1836 and a complete edition of the New Testament was produced in 1848.  The Choctaw Bible Translation Committee in Mississippi is currently working to translate the entire Bible into Choctaw.

Choctaw Bible, 1855. Courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

  A more contemporary and very Southern translation is the Cotton Patch Bible created by Clarence Jordan.  Born in Georgia in 1912, Clarence Jordan created an interracial Christian farming community outside Americus, GA called Koinonia (from the Greek word for “communion,” which is used in Acts 2:42 to refer to the earliest Christian community).  In the late 1960s, Jordan began writing his “Cotton Patch” series, which translated the scripture into a colloquial Southern accent and context.  “Jews” and “Gentiles” became “white man” and “Negro,” and Jordan changed all references to “crucifixion” to “lynching.”  The Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles in the University of Mississippi’s Special Collections is from the James H. Meredith Collection.  James Meredith is a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement and integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Clarence Jordan. The Cotton Patch Version of St. Paul’s Epistles. Image courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

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

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