A Study of the King James Version of the Bible
THE BIBLE IN THE LIFE OF TO-DAY
THIS lecture must differ at two points from those which have preceded it. In the
first place, the other lectures have dealt entirely with facts. This must deal also
with judgments. In the earlier lectures we have avoided any consideration of what
ought to have been and have centered our interest on what actually did occur.
We especially avoided any argument based on a theory of the literary
characteristics or literary influence of the Bible, but sought first to find the facts
and then to discover what explained them. It might be very difficult to determine
what is the actual place of the Bible in the life of to-day. Perhaps it would be
impossible to give a broad, fair judgment. It is quite certain that the people of
James's day did not realize the place it was taking. It is equally certain that many
of those whom it most influenced were entirely unconscious of the fact. It is only
when we look back upon the scene that we discover the influence that was
moving them. But, while it is difficult to say what the place of the Bible actually is
in our own times, the place it ought to have is easier to point out. That will involve
a study of the conditions of our times, which suggest the need for its influence.
While we must consider the facts, therefore, we will be compelled to pass some
judgments also, and therein this lecture must differ from the others.
The second fact of difference is that while the earlier lectures have dealt with the
King James version, this must deal rather with the Bible. For the King James
version is not the Bible. There are many versions; there is but one Bible.
Whatever the translators put into the various tongues, the Bible itself remains the
same. There are values in the new versions; but they are simply the old value of
the Bible itself. It is a familiar maxim that the newest version is the oldest Bible.
We are not making the Bible up to date when we make a new version; we are
only getting back to its date. A revision in our day is the effort to take out of the
original writings what men of King James's day may have put in, and give them
so much the better chance. There is no revised Bible; there is only a revised
version. Readers sometimes feel disturbed at what they consider the changes
made in the Bible. The fact is, the revision which deserves the name is lessening
the changes in the Bible; it is giving us the Bible as it actually was and taking
from us elements which were not part of it. One can sympathize with the
eloquent Dr. Storrs, who declared, in an address in 1879, that he was against
any new version because of the history of the King James version, describing it
as a great oak with roots running deep and branches spreading wide. He
declared we were not ready to give it up for any modern tulip-tree. There is
something in that, though such figures are not always good argument. Yet the
value to any book of a worthy translation is beyond calculation. The outstanding
literary illustration of that fact is familiar. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam lay in
Persian literature and in different English translations long before Fitzgerald