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Mar 11 Archdeacon Kevin: Appointed to be read

This year is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James version of the Bible in 1611. Few books have had the same enduring impact as this one, and it is only right that we mark its centenary with due celebration. Many of us were brought up on the stirring, evocative language of the King James Bible and there are many Christians for whom today it is still their ‘translation of choice’, read and meditated on daily. That in itself speaks volumes for its readability, its intelligibility and its sheer poetic brilliance. It is, indeed, a treasure of the English language and should be rightly celebrated as such.

What always strikes me as I look at the title page of the King James Bible is not only that it was the product of considerable scholarship (“translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised�) but that, on the King’s authority, it was “appointed to be read in the churches�. Quite simply it was designed to be read! That was its raison d’etre. It was never meant to be admired for its leather binding or the incomparable smell of its india paper pages. It was never meant to just sit on a church lectern or be admired on a person’s bookshelf. It was “appointed to be read�. To be (as Thomas Cranmer put it a century earlier in the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer) read, marked, learned and inwardly digested. If I have one great hope for the celebrations ahead of us this year it is that people will turn again and read the Bible. If that is the Authorised Version (as the King James Bible has become most commonly known) then so be it. If it is a modern translation, so be it. What matters is that the Bible (whatever the translation or date of issue) is read as God’s written Word, to shape our thinking, to feed our spirits and to direct the course of our lives. We need to read it in our churches and give space and time for preachers to expound it. We need to read it in our personal lives as a daily discipline and delight. And we need to find a fresh confidence to let the message of the scriptures speak to the world around us. Lots of things may have changed over the last 400 years, but the essential message of the Bible is still relevant today and is still gripping people’s souls and imaginations and giving practical answers to the challenges of contemporary living. As the Archbishop of Canterbury put it in his new year message for 2011, “when we try to make sense of our lives and of who we really are, it helps to have a strongly-defined story, a big picture of some kind in the background�. That is exactly what the Bible gives us, a Big Picture of how things are in God’s world and of who we are as sinners saved by grace and called to service in God’s Kingdom. Without it, life can be thoroughly confusing and disorientating. With it, we know where we come from, what we are here for and where we are going! The King James Bible was “appointed to be read�. Whatever your version of choice (and we are blessed by having so many translations to choose from) be sure to read it day by day, so that in a word-filled world, it is God’s Word that shapes and directs your life. As Lent starts, do you need to give up not reading the Bible! Kevin Roberts Archdeacon of Carlisle

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