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High And Holy: The King James Bible

The King James Bible at 400: we’ll look at its colorful history and deep impact.

(simpologist/Flickr)

(simpologist/Flickr)

In 1604, King James of England and Scotland needed a new Bible to bind his kingdoms. The word went out, the scholars were gathered, an epic job was done, and in 1611, the King James Bible was delivered.

It was antique-sounding, even in its day. August. High-blown. Majestic. And, for centuries, irresistible.

Its passages became the poetry of Christian devotion. Its texture became the texture of the English language. And its language — from salt of the earth to sweat of the brow — well, we’re still speaking it, every day.

This hour On Point: The King James Bible at 400.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Gordon Campbell, professor of renaissance studies at the University of Leicester and author of “Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011.”

Margaret Mitchell, dean of the divinity school at the University of Chicago and professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature. She’s author of “Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics” and co-editor of “The Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 1.”

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  • Ellen Dibble

    I wonder if Gordon Campbell uncovered the way Christianity managed to evolve to worship a god who had selected others to be his people.  In other words, though we are not the “chosen,” we Christians as sort of stepchildren of this “jealous” God manage to piggyback on the legacy of mission and promise.  We as stepbrethren of the chosen people still read the Old Testament as if the very act of faith and belief can make us participants in this story.  
       To me — both as a toddler repeatedly exposed to the stories and the language, and as an older person looking around more broadly at people of faith — this borrowing of others’ history suggests the kernel of the kind of religious tolerance that to me is quintessentially American.
       I have no idea whether Europeans (English people specifically) have that perspective.  It seems to me unavoidable.  For that matter, I don’t know whether Muslims are also stepchildren of the King James Bible.  We hear that they consider themselves the piggybacking on Christianity which piggybacks on Judaism.  But I don’t think the Koran includes the entire King James Bible, or even the Torah, or any of the Jewish holy books.  Is Islam more explicit in its books than Christianity is in its indebtedness to the predecessors?
         Well, is Christianity explicit in its borrowing of a history, tradition, and library (“bible”)?  Is that syncretism or is that theft?  

    • http://twitter.com/LeeSpaner Lee Spaner

      christians arent chosen nor are jews and the jealous god is no god.its all a myth. and to argue one myth and another myth, is myth talk. how silly.

      • LinP

        To Lee.

        Amen, and thanks for that.

      • WINSTON SMITH

        One day, whether it is during this life time or after death, you will stand before Christ and look at His nail pierced hands and realize that He died for your sins and did all that He could short of taking away your free will to provide forgiveness and make you a part of His kingdom.  You will realize then that it is all true and that no one is with excuse for rejecting His offer of grace and mercy.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          What if you find yourself standing before Allah or Odin or Krishna and have to answer why you didn’t follow their plain teachings?  Of course, only the monotheistic religions claim that we must believe one view and not any other to be saved.

          • WINSTON SMITH

            Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”  I admit that it sounds rather narrow minded.  But either Jesus said it, or He didn’t.  And if He did say it, and it is true, then it leaves no room for Allah or any of the other religions.  I know that in our inclusive, multi-cultural society, that this is not politically correct.  But, it is correct.  As Phillipians 2:10-11 tells us, “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            When Sherlock Holmes claimed to have the correct methods for detecting crime, does that mean that there are no other techniques?

            The point that I’m making here is that the Bible is a work of literature.  The character, Jesus, said what you quoted, but that’s a statement within the context of that story.  Other characters in other stories make claims that are all or nothing, but we don’t feel obliged to accept them simply because they exist.

          • Joshua Hendrickson

            It is narrow-minded, but lots of people are narrow-minded.  The question is:  would any God worthy of the name be narrow-minded?

          • Steve

            You have the freedom Greg – no one, least of all God, demands you must.  Only if you desire what He has to offer.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            I have the freedom to submit or burn forever.  That’s the choice offered by typical monotheism.  The problem that I pointed out is that if a monotheism that you don’t accept turns out to be true, you’re in trouble.

        • Joshua Hendrickson

          Winston Smith, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you really don’t deserve that name.

          Some day perhaps you will realize that you’re worshipping an idea that, taken at face value, deserves as much respect as the Big Brother your illbegotten moniker’s original resisted, suffered torture for, and died loving.

    • Anne S.

      Actually, during the Reformation, embattled Christians showed absolutely no hesitation over identifying themselves as “modern-day” Israelites. John Knox, for example, thought of himself as a latter-day Jeremiah and plenty of commentators at the time were willing to equate the Protestant boy-king Edward VI with Josiah. Even early American settlers thought of themselves as the chosen people of the seventeenth century: that, after all, was why they were willing to endure (and commit) so much to build their beacon of a city. It was supposed to be an example for the rest of the world. The renewed excitement over the Augustinian notion of predestination (and Calvin’s modifications) also played its part in suggesting early-modern equivalents to the Biblical “chosen people.”

      People at that time seemed to think of the Biblical Israelites less as a people who had existed in an earlier era of history and more as a metaphor which could be mapped on to their own lives. The notion of “piggybacking” is, I think, a more recent (and an interesting) development. That said, I certainly can’t claim to speak on how widespread it is internationally. It’s certainly an interesting question to contemplate though.

  • http://twitter.com/LeeSpaner Lee Spaner

    Throw that book out. Babylonian Draconian garbage.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Perhaps you’d like to throw out Western culture as well?  The Bible, for good or ill, is woven throughout the way we think and the allusions that we use.  I am neither a Christian nor a Jew, but I have to know the Bible to understand the world that I live in.

  • Cory

    Let’s all just acknowledge right now that there are atheists in the audience.  They’ll poke fun at the religious among us and make remarks about myths and harmful fairy tales.  They will also question the intelligence of the faithful.

    Hopefully this post covers that angle and scratches the itch for the appropriate folks.  Carry on.

  • CarlJ

    “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.” Joseph Campbell

    The problem obviously comes from the fact that neither the religious fundamentalists (typically from the far right of the political spectrum) nor the atheists (typically from the far left of the political spectrum) seem able to comprehend what a metaphor is. We’ll no doubt see this played out in the “comments” for this program. Watch and see …

    • Ellen Dibble

      I think you see this played out each year around Santa Claus and around the Easter bunny.  Everybody buys into the particular story to whatever extent they deem necessary to make a fair case to a child, and the children learn what the difference is between belief and knowledge.  We believe in Santa Claus.  It’s a way of thinking about benevolence, something like that.  I’m not sure what the Easter Bunny stands for.  I saw the White House Easter Egg hunt this year, in part, on WhiteHouse.com.  And I wondered about the enormous Easter bunny until I saw Michelle Obama put her arm around his waist in a sisterly way when she apparently didn’t think she was on candid camera.  My own belief?  The Easter bunny is Michelle Obama’s brother.

  • Gemli

    As a Godless atheist (is there any other kind?), I don’t think there’s much point in trying to disabuse the faithful of their beliefs by disparaging the bible, or presenting ever more evidence that the stories are just myths given power by our fears and insecurities.   That never seems to work.  Faith has little to do with reality, as was demonstrated recently when thousands of the faithful assumed the position and waited to be taken into heaven.  (Spoiler alert:  It didn’t happen.) 

    This event sums up the problem inherent in matters of faith, which is that to the extent that one believes in superstition and magic, to that same extent does one deny the real world.  It’s true that emptying one’s bank account and expecting to be raptured into Heaven is a particularly egregious example of belief going bad, especially when the faithful are left standing there without cab fare to get home after Armageddon. 

    But there are everyday examples that are just as troubling.  Believing that the earth is 6,000 years old is a belief widely held among fundamentalist Christians, based on the same sort of biblical mathemagic that predicted The End.  Such a belief requires a profound and willful ignorance of reality.  If it were true, everything we know about geology, chemistry, and physics, to name a few, would be wrong.

    The faithful seem to think that ignorance of the real world bestows credentials that give them the authority to speak with certainty about things they can’t possibly know.  It’s the original BS degree.  What troubles me about faith is the way it reveres ignorance and shuns knowledge.  Many use the bible as a blueprint for living, but nothing of value has ever been built on a foundation of superstition and ignorance.

    • WINSTON SMITH

      Please do not lump all evangelical Christians together with the individual who incorrectly predicted the rapture over the weekend (Jesus said that of that day and time, no one but the Father knows).  Most evangelicals would argue that what he did contradicted scripture rather than being supported by it.

      In terms of the age of the earth, have you ever actually examined any of the evidence put out of Institute Of Creation Research?  It is an organization comprised of many highly regarded scientists with prestigious positions at major universities (until they state their politically incorrect viewpoints about creation, of course) which obtain evidence for the Biblical account of a 7 day literal creation.  They do not shun knowledge (actually it is the evolutionists who refuse to allow an objective discussion of the problems with the evolutionary model that are shunning knowledge).  My guess is that you have simply accepted the name-calling labels that the evolutionists hurl at ICR scientists without ever examining the evidence that they cite in their monthly magazine and numberous books and other publications that are available on their website.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Actually, no, the ICR is not staffed with highly regarded scientists.  They are fringe people who pick at nits around the margins and produce nothing original that supports their own position.

        • WINSTON SMITH

          What an ignorant comment.  If you examine their magazine and books on a regular basis, you will see contrinbuting articles from PHDs at major universities including heads of various departments.  The point behind Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled” was that numerous highly regarded scientists at major universities had their careers derailed once they stated their position that they believed in the Biblical account of creation.  As Romans 1:19-22 point out, creation clearly points to a Creator and those who think that this complex universe came about by some random act are denying what is obvious and will have no excuse for believing such nonsense. 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            I know that the overwhelming majority of biolgists and cosmologists accept the modern science of evolution and the age of the universe.  The scientific evidence is all on one side.

            By contrast, the Bible is not a scientific document.  Are you aware that the Bible depicts a flat earth with the sun, planets, and stars orbiting about us?  Are you aware that the firmament in the first chapter of Genesis is a translation of a Hebrew word that refers to a bronze dome?  If you don’t believe in a geocentric universe that circles about a flat earth, you aren’t following the text of the Bible.

            Take a book that claims to be true.  You believe its claims or you don’t, but using its own claims as proof that it’s true is begging the question.

          • Gemli

            Amen.  All the beauty of the language of the Bible is in the service of fanciful stories that have no relation to the real world.  It’s little more and lipstick on a pig.  And there’s no pig.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            Myeh, I can’t go along with that last part.  If you say that it has no relation to the real world, I wonder what you think of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Melville, Homer, Aeschylus, and on and on.  Stories are relevant since that’s our basic way of thinking.

          • Gemli

            The language is indeed beautiful and powerful, and worth reading in its own right.  But the point of my original comment was that none of what it refers to is demonstrable.  And when one gets one’s understanding of cosmology from Ben Stein, one is entering a black hole of knowledge from which there is no escape.  The faithful confuse real-world science with biblical metaphors, which they use to build castles in the air.  Then they buy furniture, and move in.   Creepy.  All lipstick, no pig.

  • http://bjarne.holmes.socialpsychology.org/ Dr Bjarne M. Holmes

    Not only did I grow up with the KJV 1611, I was taught that it was the literal word of God passed down. I went to a private Baptist Academy in North Carolina. I was also taught in school literally that the world was created in 6-days (no more, no less) and is only 6,500 years old! I was Saved at age 10, a boy preacher standing on the streets of Charlotte screaming for people to be Saved or live eternity in Hell at age 13 etc. Luckily, my family left the church by my age 15… we all lost our religious beliefs with time. I got to go to a normal public school (and had a lot of catching up to do) and thankfully had the opportunity for higher education as well. Today, none of my family are believers and we look back to that period in our lives with bewilderment. I respect people’s views to have beliefs, but I think we need to think carefully what it means for a society when we allow children to be brought up in such a radical make-belief world (literally believing the earth if 6,500 years old and that a Rapture is imminent).  

    Bjarne Holmes, Ph.D.
    Director: Family and Personal Relationships Lab. 
    Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. http://www.attachmentresearch.org

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I’m concerned by your question as to whether we ought to “allow children to be brought up in such a radical make-belief [sic] world.”  Who would make that decision?  Do you want the government to choose who gets to raise children based on their religious beliefs?  That’s frightening.

      • http://bjarne.holmes.socialpsychology.org/ Dr Bjarne M. Holmes

        Yea.. perhaps a bit ill worded, I admit… not really what I meant. No, I don’t want government to do anything in particular, I’m just expressing concern. But, yes, society does have a responsibility toward all it’s citizens (especially the young ones who can not control what situation they happen to be born into).

        • http://bjarne.holmes.socialpsychology.org/ Dr Bjarne M. Holmes

          …and by “society” I mean you and me… everyone… we have responsibility toward each other (I’m not referring to government). 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            But you’re establishing your own view of the world as the right and rational one and as the guide for evaluating others.  That sounds a lot like the fundamentalist approach.  I was raised in a similar family, so I understand how the fundamentalist method of thought clings to one, even after the content of the beliefs is gone.

          • http://bjarne.holmes.socialpsychology.org/ Dr Bjarne M. Holmes

            No Greg, I’m not fundamentalist. Please stop trying to “brand” me.  I’m just raising food-for-thought. It’s my opinion yes, but it’s not one I’m either intending to preach or trying to convince anyone of. It’s up to everyone to decide for themselves what they think. I’m simply expressing opinion based on my experience. If you knew me personally, I think you’d think I was pretty open-minded generally and open to listening more than anything. Debate and expression is healthy. 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            Of course, debate and expression are healthy.  I was working from what you wrote.  You said that you were raised in a fundamentalist family in North Carolina.  I was raised Seventh-day Adventist in Hendersonville, so we may have been neighbors, and my escape came at about the same age as yours.  My parents stayed, though.  That being the case, I know how much the black and white view of the world lingers.

          • http://bjarne.holmes.socialpsychology.org/ Dr Bjarne M. Holmes

            Maybe we’ll have a chance to sit for a beer (or other beverage) and talk those experiences through some day Greg. Could make for fun comparisons and probably some interesting debate as well. It’s true  religion brings out more black and white thinking in me than other topics because of my own history and the emotions tied up in that history… that said, I still think you’d still find me pretty willing to be open-minded. Cheers. 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            If you’re ever in northwest Arkansas, look me up.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I’m thinking how can children be indoctrinated enough to have the lens of their family and culture firmly in mind but broadly based enough in orientation to be curious and respectful of other traditions without being threatened by it. 
              I have an example that perhaps doesn’t ring any bells in Edinburgh, Scotland, but would resonate in North Carolina.  
              I grew up in a mainstream New England Congregational church in the 1950s, and was sort of my family’s designated driver for church-going.  Perhaps they were closet atheists.  Anyway, mostly the sermons were sort of ho-hum when I reported them to the family at Sunday lunch.  But one week my church (in an almost lily-white community) had a guest preacher, and I’m thinking it was Stokely Carmichael, but looking at Wikipedia, I see he graduated in 1964, but was about 8 years older than me.  So maybe it was one of his mentors.  This preacher raised the roof higher than it was already.  He stripped off a lot of assumptions we the flock had taken as given.  When I reported it at home, there were murmurings from my parents, and apparently it was concluded that the church should not have invited that guest.  
              I beg to differ.  It gave me a heads-up on the civil rights movement and on the variety of uses of religious passion.  It was the most significant Sunday for me, for sure.

  • Brett

    It’s sort of becoming de rigueure with this forum to comment early in an effort  to preemptively admonish any commenters of a differing viewpoint who may or may not post something later. One can frame what one perceives as an opposing viewpoint and reduce that viewpoint to its lowest common denominator. These self-appointed site guardians are not only reductive finger-waggers and stifling to any broadening of the discussion, but they actually perpetuate the very thing they are condemning. It’s one thing to respond to a comment one doesn’t particularly care for; it’s right down sanctimonious to criticize comments that haven’t appeared yet. It seems more of an attempt to control the narrative and play forum cop in criticizing “imagined comments” than it is to promote any discussion.   

    • Cory

      I think it is lame to hear 20 different people who likely haven’t read through the posts barf up the same idea over and over.  Topics involving religion and the nation of Israel bring out the worst offenders.  So when it is one of those two topics I am one who is guilty of the crime you’ve described above.  As free as they are to regurgitate the same thing over and over, so am I free to call it lame. 

  • Brett

    It’s sort of becoming de rigueure with this forum to comment early in an effort  to preemptively admonish any commenters of a differing viewpoint who may or may not post something later. One can frame what one perceives as an opposing viewpoint and reduce that viewpoint to its lowest common denominator. These self-appointed site guardians are not only reductive finger-waggers and stifling to any broadening of the discussion, but they actually perpetuate the very thing they are condemning. It’s one thing to respond to a comment one doesn’t particularly care for; it’s right down sanctimonious to criticize comments that haven’t appeared yet. It seems more of an attempt to control the narrative and play forum cop in criticizing “imagined comments” than it is to promote any discussion.   

    • Ellen Dibble

      Brett, I commented first, thinking if someone wants to follow that lead, we’ll see what falls out of the woodwork, and it’ll be buried because of being further than 80 comments down, so if I’ve embarrassed myself, it won’t matter much.  I tried to see where this book “comes from” by scooting around the list of other books this author wrote and decided it won’t be the kind of very fine parsing that I learned to do during years of bible study in college (bible meaning library, the collection of writings selected for the masses, by the time of the King James, and which thanks to printing presses, people could carry around like a Kindle, an all-encompassing compendium of history and culture, and also an ethical how-to).  In the last few decades we have so many versions of the Holy Bible that I don’t think it should be capitalized without question.  I have a few, in the languages I know, and the variations are significant enough that it doesn’t take a scholar to say it’s not exactly the Rosetta stone.
           I’d like to hear a discussion of how holy books reflect and shape the relationships between cultures and religions, how in particular the King James has.  A child can’t be steeped in it without wondering who were these “my people,” as in “Let my people go,” and what do I care on a Sunday morning?  Where do I fit in?  The “myth” or the “history” are almost a one-size fits all.  

    • Ellen Dibble

      How do you think a comment stream is best begun?  Is the first post a kick-off, something designed to be jumped on and run in the opposite direction?  Or what?

      • Brett

        Hi, Ellen!
        I don’t mind comments early, that really wasn’t my point, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you admonish what might be considered potential comments coming later. 

  • Brett

    Please delete one of my duplicate comments, thank you…this site gets more glitchy all the time. Thanks, Disqus™!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    One rule needs to be observed:  Bible, as the title of a book, is capitalized.

  • xray

    I believe the correct terminology is “The Bible”, King James Version. There is no such a thing as The King James Bible.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      It’s proper name is “The Authorized Version,” having acquired that title by being accepted by the Church of England.  “King James Bible” is a nickname, perhaps favored by American Protestants who don’t recognize the state church of the country we rebelled from.

  • Anonymous

    Bible translations have always been commissioned by religious factions eager to promote their preconceived doctrine of “God’s” will.  

    This is especially easy to see in passages used today to rail against same sex love, like Leviticus 18:22.  There, some ideologically driven versions stray far from the original Hebrew sentence and willfully insert a totally modern word with broad meaning and connotations: homosexuality.

    A friend who went to seminary and became a minister was shocked to acknowledge the divergent variety of texts and translations that she naively had thought of as THE bible – namely the edition she had been brought up with by accident of birth.

  • Ed

    It doesn’t have seven books that are in the Catholic Canon.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    What this version does show is the extraordinary culture that existed in England at the time.  What more could an age claim for itself than having Shakespeare and Marlowe and others at the same time as these translators and editors lived?

  • Erik

    Mr. Campbell mentions the alteration of text in the King James version of the Bible, lending a more rhythmic, speakable pattern.

    Part my fascination with the melodic flow of the spoken word is where I see a disconnect in English between the words being spoken and the melody we have in our mind. This can be heard when someone speaks “is is” in a sentence. I feel there is something in the “song” to which they are speaking that makes them unconsciously add an extra “is” to fill that extra note.

    Is that “song” or rhythmic pattern perhaps due in part to how the spoken English language has evolved through this version of the Bible?

  • Ed

    To unify a splintering Protestant faithful. What is it’s relation to the Douay-Rheims?

    • Steve

      Very few are willing to invest the time to learn the original languages, and in most cases their modern equivalents would be unrecognizable to the original speakers.

  • Ed

    To unify a splintering Protestant faithful. What is it’s relation to the Douay-Rheims?

    • Steve

      Many are not cognizant of the fact that the Latin Vulgate was also meant to provide scripture in the vernacular language of the time

  • Ellen Dibble

    Since Tom asks, yes I miss the cadences of the King James Bible.  I heard that almost daily till I was about 20, and since then, about 1970, you can’t even hear those cadences in churches.  It seems to me it would shackle an individual’s English not to have that beautiful language underlying — (arrgh, Mitchell has said “beautiful” and “underlying” right as I’m typing them).  ESP again.  
        The beauty of the language, IMHO, is evocative of devotion.  The murmur of quiet praying voices is exactly the right counterpoint to such beauty.  Leaving aside “belief,” and “faith,” and all that, the language alone can carry the day.

  • Sofia

    The beauty of the language in the KJV and its impact on literature written in the English language cannot be denied.
     
    Tom, you asked for favorite passages: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, made currently famous in a popular song often sung at weddings now (it’s wedding season):
     
    1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
     2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
     3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
     4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
     5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
     6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
     7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
     8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
     

    • Mill

      In other words, as The Byrds sang:

      To everything – turn, turn, turn

      There is a season – turn, turn, turn

      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to be born, a time to die

      A time to plant, a time to reap

      A time to kill, a time to heal

      A time to laugh, a time to weep

      To everything – turn, turn, turn

      There is a season – turn, turn, turn

      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to build up, a time to break down

      A time to dance, a time to mourn

      A time to cast away stones

      A time to gather stones together

      To everything – turn, turn, turn

      There is a season – turn, turn, turn

      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time of war, a time of peace

      A time of love, a time of hate

      A time you may embrace

      A time to refrain from embracing

      To everything – turn, turn, turn

      There is a season – turn, turn, turn

      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to gain, a time to lose

      A time to rend, a time to sew

      A time to love, a time to hate

      A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Accuracy?  The King James Version is good enough as a translation.  It’s worth reading because of its elegance.  When the language of today rises to the level that was achieved then, I’ll read modern translations.  The same is true about many modern authors when compared with those of the period.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    I don’t worry about the accuracy because for me, the Bible is a work of literature.  We spend some time discussing which version of “Hamlet” is the accurate one, but the story remains largely the same.  The Bible works the same way.  I’m not reading it for proof texts; I read it for ideas and stories.

  • Shurtleff

    the beauty of the king james bible made its text almost sacred.  a problem has been the adoption of the KJB manuscript as though KJB is itself the sacred scripture and so, KJB text becomes the basis of christian fundamentalism.  so the subtle shifts, e.g., in hebrew the commandment ‘do not murder’ is translated to ‘thou shalt not kill,’ a very different statement.  were KJB NOT so elegant, a lot of these problems in politically select translations would not have arisen, because the text would have been read with greater eye for criticism.

  • Bruce

    As an Atheist I read the bible much more than any of my Christain Friends… I love the King James version… and if I can’t understand something I dig out my copy of The New English Bible with Apocrypha a great modern interpenetration.  The KJV is great poetry/literature and should not be missed because one thinks Christians are nuts.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I’ve been amazed over the years how many of my students who claim to believe the Bible have no idea what’s in it.  Of course, even the devils read the Scriptures. . .

  • Sue Cologgi

    When the KJV was written, weren’t “thee” and “thou” the intimate forms of “you”? To us, of course, they’re formal. If they were intimate forms then, this means that some of the “majesty” is a construct of how our language has changed in 400 years – and is a separation of reader from text. Myself, I prefer the New American Bible – it’s clean, dignified, and prosaicly poetic – and allows me a closer feeling of Jesus the man – or of Jeremiah the man! – than the ornate encrustations of KJV.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Oh, enjoy the Renaissance Faire aspect of it.  Reading can be fun as well as having other characteristics.

  • Mezzo

    I’m surprised that neither of your guests have commented on the use of the “thee” and “thou” forms of language.  These are the FAMILIAR forms of second-person address in English, like “du” in German, “tu” in Spanish, etc.  Actually a more personal, endearing way to talk to and about God. This form has gone out of use in contemporary English.  It’s ironic that now we consider this form majestic or formal since it was enshrined in this version of the Bible   

  • David

    I’m wondering if your guests could recommend a literal translation of the Bible.  What I like to do with texts like the bible is to learn the literal meaning so that I can map it onto the poetry.  The poetry then inspires and the literal translation satisfies the intellect.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Search for an interlinear translation.  It’s difficult to read until you get the hang of it, but you see word for word what the original text has.

  • Simoond

    Some of the phrases that Tom mentions such as “Nothing new under the sun” first came from Shakespeare

    • Sofia

      Wrongo, Pongo. “What has been will be again,
         what has been done will be done again;
         there is nothing new under the sun”–Ecclesiastes 1:9

  • RL

    Are you serious?
    The Bible speaks of horrible human atrocities and the god of the Bible is a horrible character – commanding genocide, demanding attention and worship, supposedly sending a son to earth as a human sacrifice- seriously, let’s call it what it is- a book of stories, many of which are horrible. 
    Why do people keep calling this a “beautiful” or “elegant” book?  From my perspective, it is absolutely not a book worthy of admiration for anything other than literary mythology and is absolutely not something to be used as a guide for morality or spirituality.
    Unfortunately, most so-called Christians haven’t read it from cover to cover- if they have and still admire this book, they selectively ignore the inaccuracies, contradictions, and atrocities.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      A character can serve as a shining example or as a dire warning and still be a useful guide to living.  What we see in the Bible are realistic people doing things that human beings still do today.  The Bible isn’t a simplistic manual, but it does have the same depth that any other great work of literature has.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Dream on.

    • Ellen Dibble

      RL, I doubt there is any religion with a scripture that is Reality TV, just-the-facts-ma’am.  You don’t even get that in a court of law where people are under oath.  That’s not the purpose.  To my mind — my mind from about the age of 2 — I understood from the beginning of Genesis that we were hearing poetry.  The creation of the world in seven days made a kind of sense.  It makes a kind of sense that I had never been introduced to before.  Well, in Grimm’s Fairy Tales I heard a kind of sense too.  Even a child can understand the ways words can extrapolate, encapsulate, transport, etc., etc.  Nobody says it is a diary, so to speak.  Or if they do, I’d say that is “their business.”

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        Then what is the point of the Bible? To tell us stories…what rubbish.

    • Fhuxley

      Such thoughts seem to indicate an inability to see mankind as he is, a fairly brutal and selfish creature, who can, but all too infrequently, exhibit what most would consider virtuous behaviour; or to understand that the Bible is comprised of many different types of literature, narrative, history, poetry, etc.  Really, such comments indicate a lack of literacy about many subjects such as hermenuetics, theory of types, etc. etc., and indicate a very closed view and superficial understanding of the subject.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      You are right on target. A book of cruelty, a yoke from the Middle Ages. It should have been tossed out the door when they discovered that the Earth was not the center of the Universe. But humans could never be that progressive or intelligent.

      Let’s carry the burden of ignorance with us forever.

  • Arnold Joseph White ~

    ~“Feeling”~ ~“led”~ almost ~“compelled”~ to ~“write”~ my
    ~“book”~ ~”DIVINE 9/11 INTERVENTON”~ which you can read and download for free
    at http://www.LoveGodIsLove.org  ~“thusly”~ I
    ~“discovered”~ a ~“77”~ ~“alignment”~ of ~“seven…”~’s ~“hidden”~ in the book
    of ~“Revelation”~! Do you think ~“this”~ ~“physical evidence”~ of ~“Spiritual
    Intelligence”~(i.e.~“God”~)might cause more of ~“us”~ to sit up and take notice
    of what it ~“truly”~ means to ~“Love thy neighbour as thyself.”~!  ~“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining
    anonymous.”~ Albert Einstein. Also at YouTUbe.com, watch “The Curtain is Moving
    Again”. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/a77white?feature=mhum
    ~”Whoever”~ or ~”Whatever”~ is ~”moving”~ my curtain. It ain’t me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=591946892 Drahcir Alighieri

    While few would dispute the cultural significance of the KJB, few critical thinkers could come to the conclusion that it is the direct word of a deity that should be adhered to with the fervor of the typical American  Christian.  Much like Aesop’s Fables and other morality plays, the bible might represent teachings that have value to an individuals life, but to say it came from a creator deity, puts that type of person in the category of fundamentalist Christian beside the fundamentalist Islamic believer. 

    • Ellen Dibble

      As I recall, Protestantism’s consideration of scripture as the fundament of Christianity (getting a boost from the printing press about the same time) was a reaction to the Catholic idea that the flock should not be able to read the Bible.  Therefore, the Bible was in Latin, not common Latin but the Latin of the priests.  I think that was the Vulgate Mitchell was speaking of.  There was a requirement for a priestly intermediary between the Word of God and the common person.  I forget what the Septuagint was, but I know there were plenty of bits of apocryphal scripture fought over in the early years post Jesus, and some scripture has been unearthed in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East in the last half century.  And I believe the same is true of the old testament.  Actually, I think that until recently, for Jewish people, only the men were allowed to study the Talmud.  There was not a language barrier (Latin), but a tradition.  Again, I have more questions than answers.  The Torah (the first five books of the Christian Bible), even if it is as identical (in Hebrew) as possible to the Christian version, is a compendium from various sources.   A compendium and selection made from what was available at a certain point in time.  
          It takes historians and linguists to trace it, and our knowledge is unfolding.  To some extent, it’s like watching a PR campaign unfold.  That way it is extremely informative.   I  would really like to hear a discussion among Christian, Jew, and Muslim about their shared and overlapping scriptural traditions.   It seems to me now would be a very good time to get that “on the table.”   

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Well, it’s a little more complex.  The Protestant movement took off shortly after the printing press was invented, and that’s not a coincidence.  Luther used the press as a marketing tool by printing up flyers with cartoons and German and Latin commentaries to appeal to everyone.  The printing press made cheap books possible, meaning that a majority of the population could buy them.  This made literacy a characteristic of the masses, rather than just the elites.  The priests of the Middle Ages had to interpret the Bible for their congregations because most people then couldn’t read.  That wasn’t a deliberate choice so much as a fact of long standing.  The Jews were an exception to this.  They believed that all males needed to read the scriptures, regardless of their social status.

        What we see here is not how wickedly discriminatory the past was, but how far we’ve come and how long it took us to get here.

        • Sofia

          To go full circle, check out “The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World.” Though one caller said Orthodox liturgies use the King James Version today, that is because few English translations had existed for Orthodox Christians who did not speak or read the ancient languages. The Orthodox Study Bible attempts to fill this void, drawing on ancient manuscripts and commentaries from many lands and traditions not all of which were familiar or available to translators who created the KJV, which was largely based on Fr. Wm Tyndale’s great effort.  Word choice in translation is always somewhat subjective/political. Calling a presbyter an elder rather than a priest heped get the Catholic-priest-would-be-reformerTyndale put to death for heresy. English-speaking Orthodox Christians are now revisiting the original texts and re-interpreting them in light of their 2,000-year tradition, which began a thousand years before the Roman bishops broke away from the rest of the Church, and 1,500 years before Protestants felt the need to reform the Catholics.

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston Aki Stamatelaky

    No one can decipher the Bible. No one can predict the end of the world.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      All wasted effort.  Man created God..nothing more or less. The people who wrote the Bible thought the Earth to be flat.

  • Anonymous

    Thou Knowst?

     Perhaps the KJV is the origin of that most over-used phrase in American English speech … “you know”. Some callers (and guests) can barely string together a sentence without using “you know”. One caller said it 3 times before eventually blurting out his comment.

    Perhaps the scholars will enlighten me?

    Just wondering…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

    It is interesting to note the differences between the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible done by Jewish scholars in Alexandria), the Samaritan Torah, and the current Jewish [Masoretic] Torah.

    The article at:

    http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=10404

    [ also at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13417a.htm ]

    In the section “II. LITERATURE,” under “A. The Samaritan Pentateuch [Torah] and the Translations of It,” the second paragraph starts with:

    “A comparison of the Samaritan Pentateuch with the Masoretic text shows that the former varies from the latter in very many places and, on the other hand, very often agrees with the Septuagint.”

    I also recall reading that some biblical passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls are more in agreement with the Septuagint than with the Masoretic text.

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston Aki Stamatelaky

    The council of Nicea changed the Bible from its original contents. A lot of people believe that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Books or Gospels written by Jesus Christ, Mary M. etc. were removed or revised.

  • Robkobrin

    In 1990, Charlton Heston produced a 4 hour miniseries about the King James bible for the A&E network.  It consisted primarily of his readings of passages, staged in an ancient amphitheater in Palestine, interwoven with documentary of the sites described in the stories.

    I was fortunate enough to be the film editor on the series.  It was surprising that Mr. Heston would chose myself, a devote Buddhist, as his editor, and Tony Westman, an atheist, as his director.  Chuck was clear that his interest in the material was not religious, but the beauty of the writing.

    Having watched them every day for months, I can say with confidence Mr. Heston’s readings of the the King James bible are without equal. Charlton Heston Presents the Bible is still available as home video and may also be available as an interactive CD.

    If you’d like to discuss the production with me, feel free to call at 818-738-4392

    Rob Kobrin

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston Aki Stamatelaky

    temple and then the Christ story skip for 10 to 13 years. He was mentioned again when he was 33 years old. The age that he was going to be crucified. The bible never mentioned the missing life of Jesus or it was mentioned from the Original Holy Bible but was revised but the Council of Nicea

  • Hrol77d

    again, i find tom doesn’t seem to do his homework.  many times as i’ve listened to him, i’m reminded of a kid in high school who “ad libs” but hasn’t even investigated the most primary facts, ie. the “history of the bible’. hey tom – it doesn’t  take that long to google … to do a show on the king james bible and not connect it intellectually (wouldn’t take that long) to its’ beginnings – that was a big hole that was missing from this show.

  • Sofia

    To the caller who pointed out the KJV’s use of English, rather than Hebrew, names, see the translation of the Christian Bible books by Willis Barnstone, “The Restored New Testament” and commentary. It is interesting to read familiar passages (such as Jesus/Yeshua calling his apostles by their Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic names: Andreas, Johanin, Markos, Shimon, Kephas), about his mother, Miriam, and to read the place names in Israel in non-Anglicized versions.  Barnstone’s translation also attempts to create or recreate many of these passages as poetry, as their structure suggests they may have once been, and have they have been chanted aloud, as songs, in churches for 2,000 years. Commentary on his translations also point out the anti-Semitism of at least some of earlier translators.

  • Jim de Vries

    The most prominent feature of the KJV of the Holy Bible, is that its marketing was subsidized by the English Government (at the behest of King James) for 270 years (until 1881).  This made it affordable to virtually every household in the empire during this time, thus imbuing in society a sense of righteousness.

    In 1881, a British publisher was ready with an English Revised Version, having an agreement from publishers in the U.S.A. to postpone new version publication until 1901.  This development reveals that the consequences of the King James subsidization included infeasibility of English language publishers to provide new versions benefiting from textual and literary criticism.  The King James subsidization was detrimental in this respect, while other languages enjoyed new, more reliable versions

  • Jim de Vries

    The most prominent feature of the KJV of the Holy Bible, is that its marketing was subsidized by the English Government (at the behest of King James) for 270 years (until 1881).  This made it affordable to virtually every household in the empire during this time, thus imbuing in society a sense of righteousness.

    In 1881, a British publisher was ready with an English Revised Version, having an agreement from publishers in the U.S.A. to postpone new version publication until 1901.  This development reveals that the consequences of the King James subsidization included infeasibility of English language publishers to provide new versions benefiting from textual and literary criticism.  The King James subsidization was detrimental in this respect, while other languages enjoyed new, more reliable versions

  • wavre

    I cannot wait for the day those mythologies will be finally recognized as such, the day when Reason will ones and for all triumph over superstition

  • Michael

    be careful what you wish for.

    Jon decided to ask god for a favor and he now regrets it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qapa7Xv4H-M

  • Pastor Rob

    I’m enjoying this edition. As a liberal, mainline pastor, it is certainly not my favorite edition by far for reasons that Dean Mitchell mentioned.  But, when I am reading Scriptures from a modern edition during services (such as The New Revised Standard version) I often find myself ignoring what’s on the page in front of me and reciting, from heart, the language of the KJV even when I know better from my studies in original languages .

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

      How can you place any “faith” and confidence is a book written many hundreds of years ago, by people who thought that the Earth was flat….and was the center of the Universe? That kind of thinking seems to me, at least, a great folly.

      Especially when you use it as an example to judge others.  Amazing. Quite honestly, amazing.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

    All this Bible stuff is a waste of time, energy and emotion. There is no God, the Bible is a needless burden from the Dark Ages, and should be tossed into the bin of history. Under the section called:  human stupidity.

    Science and reason are the only way to advancement.

    • Fhuxley

      brainwashed with the current call for moral,philosophpic,
      and critical thinking abolishment in the name of science!!
      nonsense, what has science to do with moral questions?
      to do with literary advancement? beyond this, any knowledge of science
      should show one that the line between physics and metaphysics
      has become blurred, in fact the known universe can be reasonably
      be described as one huge digital simulation, programmed by…who?

      moreover, the need for moral guidance, apart from metaphysical questions,
      can be answered neatly by examples of societies based on science and naturalism,
      Nazi Germany(Nietsche(God is dead)& Darwin based) and Communist Russia(Marxism and materialsim)!
      These enlightened regimes make the crimes committed in societies moderated by
      religious principles look like misdemeanors, no comparison.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        It would be much easier on the reader if you knew how to type, used punctuation, and capitalization…correctly.

        That being said, your “examples” go back to the 19th century – bid deal. The curse of religion and its murderous folly goes back to the beginning of time. You are right, you offer no comparison at all.

    • Slipstream

      Science and reason without morality and spirituality are a pathway to evil.  Take a look at the ideas of the Nazis, most of it based on rational, racist thinking.  Neither or Hitler or Stalin had any faith. 

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

        LOL…and religion is not a pathway to evil?  Religion provides morality? What nonsense. As a gay man I see daily the false morality of the so called “Christian” community in the US and the world.

        I could list religious inspired wars and atrocities, but there is not the space to do so. Your view of the world is simplistic and incomplete.

        Ever hear of 9-11?  Muslim (aka religious) inspired attack. Your memory is lacking.

      • Zero

        I have yet to turn on the news and see: “Today, 200 Atheist rebels invaded the Agnostic stronghold of Nihi City.”

        Nor have I read anything like that in a history book.  Whatever.

    • Anonymous

      As a collection of stories, the Bible has clearly had a massive impact on western culture and art and it’s interesting in that sense.  As a guide to what is true about the universe it’s obviously laughable.

  • Pingback: The week in review « The LatiNone

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’ve been thinking about Palm Sunday, partly because it reminds me of Holocaust survivors who succeeded against all the odds, and there is a lovely anthem written by Faure called The Palms, which was performed at  Dwight Eisenhower’s funeral, I believe, and it is resonant of the United States at a time when we had come through World War II and were rejoicing.  So what was so joyful about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey?  I’m checking my King James.  There were enemies on all sides, but Jesus wouldn’t let the pharisees shut up his disciples from singing his praises.  Like children, you let them celebrate.  Hold on.  
    Also there is a new book that lays out the way the world in the time of Judaism saw this. ” One volume must find its way to seminarians, preachers, and other students of Scripture: The Jewish Annotated New Testament. With insightful essays and page-by-page notes and sidebars on each book, this volume fills a huge gap in the world of biblical interpretation, providing an accessible guide to how this most Jewish document from antiquity is understood by Jewish scholars today.”–The Rev. William Brosend, School of Theology, Sewanee, TN and Executive Director, Episcopal Preaching Foundation 

  • Ellen Dibble

    Here is a version without words.  
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gKkoMaFAsk

    • Ellen Dibble

      And another version without the swelling organ and the full choir, and again clearly about joy and resilience, not about the crucifixion.  I think people find “truth” in the Bible if they want; but they can find hate and so forth too.  
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC93CR5su7c&feature=related

  • Michael M. Ross

    Growing up in ’60s and early ’70s England, there’s no question this was the heart of my prep school curriculum – and the foundation of a “renaissance” education – and all the advantages that gives you in appreciating life….

  • Ellen Dibble

    Palm Sunday story from Matthew:  And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple (this is after Jesus got through the palm-strewn “ways”), and saying ‘Hosannah to the son of David’; they were sore displeased, and said unto him, “hearest thou what these say?  And Jesus saith unto them, yea: have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”  So here is a Lutheran church in Palm Desert, CA rendering that.  

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuiHWj6cvn4

  • Michael Shapiro

    Back in the day (1000 BC – 300 BC, for example) the Old Testament was contemporary literature.  What was it before it was holy?  Try the Jacob Rabinowitz translation,  The Unholy Bible:  Hebrew Literature of the Kingdom Period.  The title is needlessly provocative, but this guy scrapes the barnacles off it and gives you stunning prose.  At this point, I’ve given away at least a dozen copies to friends.  The writing is just that good.
    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=rabinowitz&sts=t&tn=the+unholy+bible&x=0&y=0 

  • Ellen Dibble

    Next I’d like a show about how Hebrew and subsequent Jewish and Christian scriptures/holy writings weave into Islam, which sees itself as standing on the shoulders of these predecessors — or correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Theadora Davitt-Cornyn

    I especially appreciate the discussion about the very late addition/insertion of the passages regarding The Trinity ~ that certainly was/is a major theological issue then and now… thank you for the excellent interview!

  • Wajidalqadaffi777

    These comments are gratuitious and wasteful. The readers of the Holy Bible should know about its origins and authenticity.First any literature that is a version and translated cannot be considered “holy” which means pure and untouched,among other adjectives. The caveat at the forward to the Authorized King James Version says the books had benn translated several times and had been “revised”,which means to change. And it was KJ’s version of the original scriptures or writings which means his “opinion” of what those original writings meant. A man’s opinion of an event is influenced by that man’s paradigm or how he views the world,and that is also determined by the type of man he is. Well, King James was a murderer,liar,slaveholder,homosexual and pedophile. It’s no wonder the book promotes this made-up doctrine that God will forgive our most heinous acts against other humans. King James interpolated that and other pagan doctrines into the Bible, or book.No wonder the many contradictions and doctrines that are simple outside the natural order of things or contrary to human nature,science,math or logic.-Brother Qadaffi-

  • http://www.facebook.com/a77white Arnold Joseph White

    THe following ~”sentence”~ is not MYTH. It is either ~”the signature of Intelligent Design”~ (~”God”~) or it is “the signature of coincidence”. And according to Albert Einstein, ~”Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”~ Here’s the sentence. You can see it on pages 31 & 32 of my free ~”book”~ ~”DIVINE 9/11 INTERVENTION”~ @ http://www.LoveGodIsLove.og

    Here tiz:
     “…… it is, here is every ~“seven”~
    and ~“seventh”~ listed in the book of ~“Revelation”~
    IN THE ORDER THEY APPEAR ~
    save 4*.

    And
    they are: The ~“seven churches”~,
    ~“seven Spirits”~, ~“seven golden candlesticks”~, ~“seven candlesticks”~, ~“seven stars”~, ~“seven lamps”~, ~“seven seals”~, ~“seven horns”~, ~“seven eyes”~, ~“seventh seal”~, ~“seven angels”~, ~“seven
    trumpets”~, ~“seven
    thunders”~, ~“seventh angel”~,
    ~“seven
    thousand”~, ~“seven heads”~,
    ~“seven crowns”~,
    ~“seven plagues”~*, *~“seven
    last plagues”~, ~“seven vials”~*, *~“seven golden
    vials”~, ~“seven mountains”~,
    ~“seven kings”~,
    ~“seven,”~, and ~“seventh, chry..”~.

    LOOK! A ~“77”~ of ~“seven”~ ~“aligned”~! Reread
    “P.S.” on pg. 27!

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