The King James Bible

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The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:01 pm

Melvyn Bragg brings a storyteller's touch to this breezy but slightly triumphalist tribute to the King James Bible

Henry Hitchings The Observer, Sunday 17 April 2011


Melvyn Bragg writes with 'scriptural certainty'. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The words "bible" and "orgy" don't often appear in the same sentence, but the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible has prompted an orgy of celebrations and meditations, ranging from staged and sponsored readings of its text to erudite essays and the creation (in Peterborough) of a giant model out of approximately 3,000 shoe boxes.


The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 by Lord Melvyn Bragg

Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book Melvyn Bragg's contribution to this commemorative feast is a populist account of the impact of what frequently gets called the Authorised Version – a name that caught on only in the 19th century. His is a book not about the making of the King James Bible, which is dealt with briskly, but about its effects: its role in the movement to abolish slavery and its place in the charitable endeavours of the Victorian social reformer Octavia Hill, its worth as literature and its capacity for invigorating writers as different as John Milton and DH Lawrence.

If you want a meticulous, scholarly treatment of its cultural resonance, you would do better with The King James Bible After 400 Years, a volume of essays edited by Hannibal Hamlin and Norman Jones. Gordon Campbell's Bible: The Story of the King James Version is stronger on its American afterlives. In Begat: The King James Bible & the English Language, David Crystal has probed the question of the work's true influence on common idiom – with surprising results.

But Bragg's tribute is of value because he has an aptitude for storytelling. He is breezily readable where other studies can feel dense and recondite. His turn of phrase is dramatic: describing the King James Bible's popularity, he writes that "since 1611 it has flooded over the world". Later, he says it "let loose a deluge of knowledge unlike anything that had happened before in human history". Saluting the efforts of the 54 men who translated the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New Testament, he avers that "because of them we speak out of that book still, every day of our lives".

Bragg's prose reverberates with scriptural certainty. He can become vociferously insistent, as when dealing with Richard Dawkins – who "preys on anecdotal evidence", "worships statistics", "swoops into neuroscience", and who is characterised for no fewer than 16 pages in terms befitting an Old Testament plague.

Yet mostly this is an affectionate book, coloured by Bragg's personal response to a volume he first encountered when he was six. In The Adventure of English (2003) he remarked of his Cumbrian childhood that "the King James Bible gave us not only cadences and rhythms but metaphors and references". Here he recalls how its stories and admonitions "provided both meat for argument and grist for guilt".

Bragg's central claim is that the King James Bible has been a catalyst for "positive achievement", spurring political radicalism and epochal social changes. He identifies it as a wellspring of democracy and the source of Mary Wollstonecraft's convictions about the importance of women's education. He makes a case for its influence on Thomas Paine and William Wilberforce, on the moderate socialism of James Keir Hardie and the non-violent activism of Martin Luther King. He also touches on the odious ways it has been deployed, such as in justifying homophobia, though he could have reported these at greater length.

Occasionally the argument seems stretched. Yes, many of the social and political changes Bragg relates were accomplished by people who were intimate with the King James Bible; however, this is not to say that the King James Bible was their chief inspiration. And when he discusses its 20th-century literary influence, Bragg's largely fluent narrative begins to resemble a list, in which he makes some glib transitions – "Like TS Eliot, Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for literature".

Often in this wide-ranging book, Bragg strikes a triumphalist note; but he finally concedes that his project is nostalgic. He admires what he calls the "gallantry" of 21st-century churchgoers; in the face of rampant secularism, they "hang on". In the end "the whole idea – God, Genesis, Christ, Resurrection – is… a moving metaphor". Yet while The Book of Books may conclude elegiacally, it demonstrates energetically that this metaphor, as realised by a committee of Jacobean scholars, has exerted an astonishing magnetism.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Doc Watson on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:17 pm

It is strange many older people seem to think the king James version is as laid down by God. They forget it is only a translation from hundreds of years earlier.

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:04 am

US prisoners refused all books except Bible

American Civil Liberties Union says jail in South Carolina is banning books 'for no good reason'

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 May 2011 13.00 BST


A Bible open at Ecclesiastes, chapter three. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Prisoners at a jail in South Carolina are being denied any reading material other than the Bible, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the "unconstitutional" policy at Berkeley County detention centre in Moncks Corner on behalf of monthly journal Prison Legal News last autumn. Last week a request by the US Department of Justice to stand alongside Prison Legal News as a plaintiff in the lawsuit was granted by a federal judge, and the ACLU has now asked a federal judge to block enforcement of a policy which it claims sees the jail's officials "unconstitutionally refusing to allow prisoners to receive any materials that contain staples or pictures of any level of nudity, including beachwear or underwear", effectively banning most books, magazines and newspapers.

Last year's lawsuit quotes an email from a member of staff at the prison to Prison Legal News, which said that "our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher. They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books". It charges that, since 2008, copies of Prison Legal News and books – including Protecting Your Health and Safety, which explains legal rights to inmates – sent to prisoners at the jail have been returned to sender. There is no library at the Berkeley County detention centre, the ACLU says, so that "prisoners who are incarcerated for extended periods of time have been deprived of access to magazines, newspapers and books – other than the Bible – for months or even years on end".

Officials at the jail responded to the ACLU lawsuit by saying that they only banned material containing staples and nudity. But the new ACLU motion to block this policy points out that legal pads containing staples were being sold at the jail. It claims that the no staples or nudity policy was "adopted post hoc and in response to this Case", and that it "eliminate[s] access to reading material almost as completely as the 'Bible only' rule".

"This is nothing more than an excuse by jail officials to ban books and magazines for no good reason," said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU national prison project. "There is no justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and in the process cutting them off from the outside world."

"Jail officials are looking for any excuse they can come up with to obscure the fact that they are unconstitutionally censoring materials sent to detainees," added Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "And in so doing they are failing to serve the detainees and the taxpayers of South Carolina. Helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves and maintain a connection to the outside world by reading books and magazines is a key part of what should be our larger and fiscally prudent objective of reducing the number of people we lock up by lowering recidivism rates."

Sandy Senn, an attorney for the jail, told the Associated Press that she would contest the new motion.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Guest on Fri May 13, 2011 4:34 pm

I'm stealthily posting this from the work computer...I'm on a break so at least I'm not being paid to do so.

I'm about to order a bible and the few I've been browsing present the same passages in wildy varying translations. I'm leaning toward the King James translation as there has been much discussion of it on the radio (it being the 400th anniversary of it), but after reading Doc's post I'm wondering if anyone has any information on the desirability of other versions?

I should be back in the fray and posting wildly within about 3 weeks. alien

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Guest on Fri May 13, 2011 5:32 pm

...thanks sj. I'm ordering two books that you've recommended as well and am looking forward to reading them.

It's a little unnerving posting whilst looking over my shoulder...mind you, it's not as awful as posting with several skeletal shark-jaws leering at me.

I've missed the forum and all who sail in her. My converstional topics have narrowed remarkably since my enforced departure, but my garden looks kempt and my house (shed) sparkles. cheers




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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Guest on Fri May 13, 2011 6:11 pm

...I can't recall the titles from memory...they're written on the notepad at home and I'm still at work (no longer looking over my shoulder because eveyone else has gone home Suspect The titles came up in the course of the Literature game.

The computer crash isn't recommended. I spent the first few nights staring at the blank screen and on the third night I covered it with a cheery sarong to reduce the audible sighing as I glanced at it. It didn't work!

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  ISN on Sat May 14, 2011 12:12 am

Strawberry Jam wrote:Well, the King James isn't the word of God, obviously, but it has the best sound. I did a lesson with one of my courses about the King James a few weeks ago. The most interesting piece I found online while doing research was this by Jeanette Winterson in the Guardian:

Jeanette Winterson wrote:My mother taught me to read from the Book of Deuteronomy because it is full of animals – mostly unclean. So while other children had horses, bunnies, kittens and ducks, I had hoopoes, sloths, snakes, rock badgers, rams, swine and shellfish.

Mrs Winterson was in charge of language in our house. Morning and evening she made her way through all 66 books of the King James Bible – Creation to Apocalypse – took a week off for reflection, and started again. I did not find the language difficult and I was not unusual. The King James translation was written to be read out loud – and that simple overlooked fact changes every argument about "difficulty" and "comprehension". Even now, the phrasing of the King James has a naturalness to it. Awkwardness disappears within a few chapters of vocal reading – providing that you will trust yourself and trust the text. I say that because children are not brought up to read out loud any more, at home or at school. This is a new problem in the history of language development. Until mass literacy, reading aloud was essential and a pleasure.

As every poet knows, words begin in the mouth before they hit the page, and it is our experience of learning language. The King James karaoke nights, common to households where long familiarity with the stories meant that everyone joined in the refrains, built a confidence with language that the educated classes prefer to imagine as their own. My dad left school at 12, and never learned to read properly. He had no trouble with his Bible, and when he didn't understand a word or a construction, he asked Mrs Winterson or the minister. He was a man of few words himself, but he had dignity of speech, learned directly from the King James.

Scrapping the King James version, in the well-meaning way of the well-educated classes, had a number of effects, the most decisive and the most disastrous of which was to destroy for ever an ordinary, everyday connection with 400 years of the English language. In my northern mill town, many working men studied Shakespeare at the Mechanics' Institute or the Workers' Extension lectures. No one thought the language difficult because it is the language of the King James, and we had grown up with that. Shakespeare, like the Bible, was written to be heard; like Shakespeare, the Bible is theatre.

King James does not use sub-clauses or dependent clauses; it is a direct English, and one you can still hear, even now, in northern speech, the kind we celebrate in Alan Bennett. The language is grammatically uncluttered, but rich in vocabulary and image.

There is a difference between "obscure" and "difficult". I accept that, by now, the King James version seems more difficult than it is, but its rewards are greater than its difficulty.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/18/king-james-bible-language

I think this is one of a few authors/poets who wrote about it......Eddie posted them all on the old site.......OK, I see the link has them all

I like my version - which is one of those bibles with simple language but Isaiah is still as beautiful as ever

the only problem with this one is they get the quotes from the OT to the NT wrong

from memory without looking it up

in Isaiah it says

a bruised reed, he would not break
and a dimly burning wick, he would not quench

but in the NT quote of the OT

it says

he would not break a bruised reed
and he would not quench a dimly burning wick

which as we know does not mean the same thing

I'm not quite sure if this misquote is in other versions of the Bible or particular to mine......

I think mine is the Cambridge study version - and I'm guessing the students must be fairly thick because it's really basic language and student notes etc

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Doc Watson on Sat May 14, 2011 10:40 am

blue moon wrote:I'm stealthily posting this from the work computer...I'm on a break so at least I'm not being paid to do so.

I'm about to order a bible and the few I've been browsing present the same passages in wildy varying translations. I'm leaning toward the King James translation as there has been much discussion of it on the radio (it being the 400th anniversary of it), but after reading Doc's post I'm wondering if anyone has any information on the desirability of other versions?

I should be back in the fray and posting wildly within about 3 weeks. alien
There are many translations . The thing to remember is that language and the meaning of words changes over time.
Wile from time to time I read and enjoy the wonderful language of the King James version. Many modern transltions are pobably more meaningful.
Few churches rely on the King James translation these days.
I mainly use The Revised Standard version , The New English Bible or The Good News Bible.

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Guest on Sun May 15, 2011 11:44 am

Thanks Cath and Doc. These two translations/interpretations of the same psalm really illustrate the dilemma:

Psalm 108:1

"My heart is stadfast, oh God; I will sing and make music with all my soul."

"I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul!



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Re: The King James Bible

Post  Guest on Sun May 15, 2011 12:00 pm

Strawberry Jam wrote:Maybe I need a computer crash. The garden might wish for one at least.

Which of my recommendations are you ordering, pray tell?

'The Gum Thief' by Douglas Coupland, and 'Their Eyes were watching God' by Zora N Hurston.

The garden's going to suffer when they arrive. Fortunately most of the trees have reached groundwater so they should survive. The Wet season's over and the lakes we were canoeing over have already reverted to dust , and the dry wind blowing up from the southern expanses is hammering through town. The soft green grass on people's "lawns" is rapidly morphing to straw. It cut my foot yestrday.

Mustn't ramble. There's 3 people in a line-up waiting for this computer.



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Re: The King James Bible

Post  ISN on Sat May 21, 2011 2:10 am

blue moon wrote:Thanks Cath and Doc. These two translations/interpretations of the same psalm really illustrate the dilemma:

Psalm 108:1

"My heart is stadfast, oh God; I will sing and make music with all my soul."

"I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul!



Actually, such small differences between the two versions are mostly unimportant......

my example was a case of Christian 'scholars' twisting the old testament prophecy to fit their purposes......

I'm pretty sure that misquote is in most bibles - and I'm pretty sure nobody is bothered about it (except me)

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  ISN on Sat May 21, 2011 2:56 am

eddie wrote:US prisoners refused all books except Bible

American Civil Liberties Union says jail in South Carolina is banning books 'for no good reason'

Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 May 2011 13.00 BST


A Bible open at Ecclesiastes, chapter three. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Prisoners at a jail in South Carolina are being denied any reading material other than the Bible, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the "unconstitutional" policy at Berkeley County detention centre in Moncks Corner on behalf of monthly journal Prison Legal News last autumn. Last week a request by the US Department of Justice to stand alongside Prison Legal News as a plaintiff in the lawsuit was granted by a federal judge, and the ACLU has now asked a federal judge to block enforcement of a policy which it claims sees the jail's officials "unconstitutionally refusing to allow prisoners to receive any materials that contain staples or pictures of any level of nudity, including beachwear or underwear", effectively banning most books, magazines and newspapers.

Last year's lawsuit quotes an email from a member of staff at the prison to Prison Legal News, which said that "our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher. They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books". It charges that, since 2008, copies of Prison Legal News and books – including Protecting Your Health and Safety, which explains legal rights to inmates – sent to prisoners at the jail have been returned to sender. There is no library at the Berkeley County detention centre, the ACLU says, so that "prisoners who are incarcerated for extended periods of time have been deprived of access to magazines, newspapers and books – other than the Bible – for months or even years on end".

Officials at the jail responded to the ACLU lawsuit by saying that they only banned material containing staples and nudity. But the new ACLU motion to block this policy points out that legal pads containing staples were being sold at the jail. It claims that the no staples or nudity policy was "adopted post hoc and in response to this Case", and that it "eliminate[s] access to reading material almost as completely as the 'Bible only' rule".

"This is nothing more than an excuse by jail officials to ban books and magazines for no good reason," said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU national prison project. "There is no justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and in the process cutting them off from the outside world."

"Jail officials are looking for any excuse they can come up with to obscure the fact that they are unconstitutionally censoring materials sent to detainees," added Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "And in so doing they are failing to serve the detainees and the taxpayers of South Carolina. Helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves and maintain a connection to the outside world by reading books and magazines is a key part of what should be our larger and fiscally prudent objective of reducing the number of people we lock up by lowering recidivism rates."

Sandy Senn, an attorney for the jail, told the Associated Press that she would contest the new motion.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

if a nightmare scenario really happened like the posited rapture of 21/5/11 or Farenheit 451

where books were not available

I suppose the only book I really would want to have would be the Bible.....(I know that means I'm an idiot)

like in the Book of Eli movie......

I guess I should be memorising it for the time of trouble....

we'll see.......

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:31 pm

The Bible according to David Cameron: verse choices surprise

Prime minister ignores options offered by aides as he contributes to celebrity section of handwritten People's Bible

Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 November 2011 16.57 GMT


David Cameron with pen in hand at his home in Oxfordshire. The prime minister contributed two verses to The People's Bible. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/PA

For someone who once likened his religious faith to the "patchy reception of Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes", David Cameron's public professions of belief continue to intrigue.

Contributing to a project celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the prime minister chose to write out two verses from Philippians rather than select a pair of biblical verses on the shortlist compiled by his office.

Philippians 4:8 and 4:9 read: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

"Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."

His picks will feature in The People's Bible, a national tour to produce an entirely handwritten Bible, which has also had contributions from figures as diverse as Prince Charles, the archbishop of Canterbury, the comedian Frank Skinner and singer and television presenter Aled Jones.

They appear in the "celebrity verses" section, with remaining verses written out by the public.

Cameron wrote his verses at Downing Street, saying afterwards he was delighted at being involved. "The King James Bible is a book that has not just shaped our own country, but shaped the world," he said.

"While it is important to understanding our past, it will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future, so to be able to join others in contributing to an online edition that will be easily accessible for all time is very special indeed."

A Downing Street spokesman explained Cameron's choices: "The reason he chose those verses is because he's always liked them.

"They contain the central message of the Bible about leading good lives and helping each other as best we can. There is no hidden meaning and I wouldn't read between the lines."

Prince Charles, who has a keen interest in environmental matters, settled on Genesis 1.1 and 1.2: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, chose 2 Corinthians 12.9 and 12.10: "And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."His selection may or may not have been inspired by his experience leading the troubled Anglican communion or, indeed, his frequent appearances in the headlines.

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:40 pm

Michael Gove to send copy of King James Bible to all English schools

Education secretary will write a brief foreword in special edition marking 400th anniversary of its publication

Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 November 2011 20.13 GMT


Michael Gove, the education secretary, is to send a 400th anniversary edition of the King James Bible to every school in England. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP

Every state school in England is to receive a new copy of the King James Bible from the government – with a brief foreword by Michael Gove, the education secretary, to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation. In a move intended to help every pupil access Britain's cultural heritage, every primary and secondary school will be sent a new copy of the 1611 translation by next Easter.

The initiative has been criticised by secular campaigners as a waste of money. The National Secular Society said that schools were already "awash with Bibles". It urged Gove to send out a copy of Darwin's On the Origin of Species instead.

Gove, who is proposing to write a two-line introduction for the bibles sent to schools, said of the 1611 translation: "It's a thing of beauty, and it's also an incredibly important historical artefact. It has helped shape and define the English language and is one of the keystones of our shared culture. And it is a work that has had international significance."

The National Secular Society said that Darwin's writing is "much harder to find in schools", while evangelical groups are keen to donate bibles.

The Department for Education estimates the cost of the scheme at £375,000, and is seeking philanthropic sponsorship. A spokesman said: "As many people have noted – from former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion to the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor – the King James Bible continues to shape our culture. Understanding the story of its publication and the impact it has had on today's English-speaking society is an important part of the teaching and learning of history and language."

The education secretary has also urged more "unashamedly elitist" institutions, including Cambridge university and leading public schools, to help run state schools. In a speech at Cambridge promoting the virtues of a classical education, he called for a deeper study of literature – "Austen's understanding of personal morality, Dickens' righteous indignation, Hardy's stern pagan virtue" – scientific reasoning, history and foreign languages.

Gove praised an academy school in London that competitively ranks every pupil by subject, and another in Luton that has fostered a love of Shakespeare among "overwhelmingly Asian" pupils.

He called for more leading universities and private schools to sponsor academies to "extend excellence" in the state sector. So far, few private schools have responded. Of 319 sponsored academies, just 17 have private schools or private school foundations as the lead sponsor.

Gove also made twin arguments in favour of an emphasis on high academic standards. He said that countries with the best-educated workforces would be the most attractive to investors, as outsourcing and technology reduced job opportunities for those with low qualifications. He said it was vital in a democratic society for citizens to be well educated.

The education secretary began his address with a reference to a speech by the Victorian statesman William Gladstone in 1879 in which he "invoked Pericles, Virgil and Dryden … discussed the merits of the Andrassy Note and the Treaty of San Stefano and … outlined six principles of Liberal foreign policy".

Gladstone's speech was not made in Parliament, but to a crowd of landless agricultural workers and miners in Scotland's central belt, Gove pointed out. "I think the most striking thing is how different the public of 130 years ago were. Or, more specifically, how different were the expectations that the political class had of that public," he said.

Gove said that society should be more demanding of teachers and students. "We should recover something of that Victorian earnestness which believed that an audience would be gripped more profoundly by a passionate, hour-long lecture from a gifted thinker which ranged over poetry and politics than by cheap sensation and easy pleasures."

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  pinhedz on Sun Nov 27, 2011 12:15 am

The nuns at my grade grade school (grammar school?) were highly critical of the King James translation (although they said it read well from a literary standpoint).

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Sun Nov 27, 2011 1:03 am

pinhedz wrote:The nuns at my grade grade school (grammar school?) were highly critical of the King James translation (although they said it read well from a literary standpoint).

If they were Catholic nuns, as I suppose, that would figure. King James was a Protestant monarch.

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  pinhedz on Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:01 am

The sisters have pointed outed substantive inaccuracies. For example:

"...on Earth peace and good will toward men"

is substantively different from:

"...on Earth peace to men of good will."

The second rendition is conditional; the first (King James') is almost new agey, it has that "I'm-OK-you're-Ok-it's-all-good" attitude about it.

Some would say "C'mon, lighten up sister, it's Christmas." cheers

But sister does not grant license for an unconditional good time--not on Christmas or any other occasion. bounce

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:15 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIeYziaubFY&feature=related
The Lord's Prayer- Roy Harper (Lifemask album).

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Re: The King James Bible

Post  eddie on Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:32 am

Thomas Jefferson's revolutionary take on the Bible reissued

Former US president took a razor to parts of the Gospels he did not agree with to compile his own version

David Shariatmadari

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 January 2012 13.29 GMT


Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US. Only friends and family knew of the existence of the Jefferson Bible. Photograph: Getty

He was one of the men who laid the foundations for God's own country, but Thomas Jefferson had his own revolutionary ideas about the Bible.

The third US president's unwillingness to swallow miracles such as the virgin birth led him to cut out parts of the Gospels he did not agree with and compile his own version.

The result, known informally as The Jefferson Bible, has been published in a new edition by Tarcher, part of Penguin USA, this month.

The original, which has been painstakingly restored by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where it is on display, was created by Jefferson in 1820 by cutting out passages from six other volumes with razors. He then pasted them into a book of his own, which he had bound.

During Jefferson's life the book's existence was known only to his friends and family. His great-granddaughter sold it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1895 and it was finally published in 1904, 78 years after his death.

A heavily redacted version of Jesus's life story, The Jefferson Bible omits many passages fundamental to mainstream Christianity, including the resurrection and ascension to heaven, the holy ghost and holy trinity. The Smithsonian said Jefferson left out "those elements that he could not support through reason or that he believed were later embellishments".

Mitch Horowitz, editor of the new edition, said: "Ethically, Jefferson was a Christian, but – as he put it – 'a real Christian,' who believed in the moral philosophy of Christ rather than the religion later created around Christ, which Jefferson felt would have appalled the man himself."

Jefferson's unorthodox approach to Christianity did not go unnoticed at the time, though it might come as a surprise to many on the religious right today, who tend to revere the Founding Fathers. Despite the fact that he would later allow the Capitol building to be used for church services each Sunday, Jefferson was described by preacher John Mason as someone who "writes against the truths of God's word; who makes not even a profession of Christianity".

The author of the declaration of independence had been strongly influenced by the rationalism of enlightenment France, where he served as US ambassador from 1785-1789. Earlier in the century, philosophers such as Voltaire and Rousseau had disparaged the influence of the clergy and Christian institutions and sought to understand Jesus as a man whose teachings had been distorted by later generations.

"There's an incredible beauty and realism in Jefferson's rendition," said Horowitz. "The figure of Christ emerges as a vivid and consistent figure of great moral power. What Jefferson did was create a deeply persuasive historical and ethical portrait of a great teacher."

The exhibition at the Smithsonian continues until May.

eddie
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