The King's English

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
How important is it whether an herb is called cumin, rue or laurel, in the Bible?

Submitted: December 02, 2011

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Submitted: December 02, 2011

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The project began in 1604 and ended in 1611. James I, king of England and Scotland, convened the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604. A third official version of the Church of England's official bible had to be created. Printed by the king's printer Robert Barker, the KJV (King James Version) replaced the Great Bible of Henry VIII and the Bishop's Bible of 1568. Puritans did not like those versions, prompting a seven-year effort ending with one of the most popular bibles in the world

Elizabeth I was a tough act to follow. An entire age was named after her. James was no prize as rulers went. Some even called him a queen. Why, only Elizabethans knew for sure. In his day, James was low in popularity. Yet the name 'King James' today is said in the same breath as 'bible.' Modern versions of the good book abound. Different sects have their own versions. I always loved the King James Version best.

The reader may ask why I write an essay on KJV? Has not enough been written on this old, dusty time in history? We are in the age of cyberspace and social media. Would not Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth, or her exciting father, Henry VIII be better subjects? There is a pressing reason for this essay. It is about a recent breakthrough.

It started with an old, long held dream. A believer, I suspected versions of the good book from the Vulgate to Good News for Modern Man were not authentic. There had to be earlier manuscripts unadulterated by medieval monks and well-meaning ecclesiastics. Dead Sea Scrolls, a gospel of Thomas, a Swedish bible with gold letters and purple ink (or perhaps purple letters with gold ink), might contain truths I needed to know. Did Jesus use the word serpent or viper? The King James Bible was written centuries later. To make it so poetic and beautiful, its writers surely whitewashed raw truths of the Master.

Years ago, this search meant travel to the British Museum, the Royal Library in Stockholm, the Holy Land, perhaps even India. None of these options were available to me. Clueless about Aramaic, knowing little more of Latin than 'In Hoc Signo Vinces' on a pack of Pall Mall and ancient Greek being Greek to me, it was a fond, unreachable dream. Then came cyberspace, Google and amazon dot com. Soon a Greek interlinear Bible arrived in my mailbox.

I read a page a day, carefully taping a copy of the Greek alphabet nearby. Many alternate words were noted for concepts such as hell and names of spices. Somehow no one knew what the word Selah meant. My friends were impressed that I knew Kronos was the word for time in Greek. I began surfing the web for further knowledge. Most searches resulted in hazy images with undecipherable symbols, membership requests to biblical societies, and prices in the hundreds for rare translations. I did not give up.

Recently I moved. A compact city studio apartment replaced a one-bedroom ramshackle country place. I gave away all my chipped furniture, dog-eared books and hiking clothes. It would be easy to replace everything in my new, convenient location. In the fervor of clearing out old energy, and certainty that new, beautiful things would soon replace them, I tossed out the well-worn Greek interlinear Bible. It would be a simple matter to order a new one. Perhaps Aramaic might be even better.

I write this from my new place. It is even nicer than I expected. A lovely sculpture frames the red micro-suede couch. Cobalt blue and intense yellow accents are just the right touch to the white, filmy curtains. A pure white pan has replaces a dented steel pot. A golden blond table holds my sewing machine, replacing the wobbly thing that was too low.

It has only been about two weeks since it happened. The search was over. I knew I had been a blind seeker groping in hidden caves, fingering tattered fragments. Suddenly I was on a mountain top full of sunshine and green trees.

"What does it matter," I said, "whether hell is Sheol or Gehenna; if an herb is cumin or rue? What interpretation is needed for 'love your enemies, forgive and you will be forgiven, forsake what you have and give to the poor'?"

Today, the four gospels in KJV are quite enough. If ever I master what is plainly stated in the King's English, I will again investigate whether cumin is threshed with a sledge, or beaten out with a rod, or if camel is a thread or a needle. But I doubt it. 


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