Honoring the 400th Anniversary of The King James Bible

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  There are many reasons to celebrate this anniversary.  We know it remains the most accurate translation of scriptures, and that serious theologians eventually turn to it if they have not already started with it for study. There is, however, another reason that this anniversary should be widely celebrated by those for whom neither Judaism nor Christianity is the focus.  This English translation of the Bible has done more to influence English Literature than any other single work. Ever.  This Bible itself remains unsurpassed in its elegant prose and unequaled in its poetry.  In light of this, what are public libraries and school libraries doing the mark the occasion?  Are they not our repositories of literature?

The knee jerk reaction that has been seared into the public conscious by atheist activists and activist judges is a fear of some sort of violation of the separation clause.  Any real librarian will tell you that is not an issue at all.  And they would be very likely to have somewhere on their office wall a framed drawing depicting what is still the archetype for all libraries today.

At one point, at the height of Greek civilization, with all its fine art and sculpture and buildings, there was no literature.  For sure, there were the epic poems, Homer’s Iliad, and other works, but you couldn’t really go down to the agora and get yourself a copy to enjoy the stories.  For that, one needed to hire a rhapsodist, a person who made his living by memorizing long works and reciting these rhapsodies to audiences, for a price.  Of course, this system of maintaining literature was not in the best interest of the public good.  It prevented the acquisition of knowledge and did not adequately provide for public education. All this would change with one of Aristotle’s students by the name of Alexander.

Destined to become Alexander the Great for conquering most of the know world and adding it to the Greek empire, the first real library was built in a city named after him in Alexandria, Egypt.  The Alexandria Library operated much like a modern university, and the librarians acted as scribes, translators, and critics as they set about to amass to most accurate and complete accounts of all known works and publish them.  For an idea of their dedication to the task and the level of fidelity they demanded; they once employed seventy experts to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language.  That translation became known as the Septuagint (meaning ‘seventy’), and it is still in print and used today.

The Alexandrian Library became the embodiment of the mission statement for all libraries.  Libraries amass books, and they celebrate and keep track of the most influential and famous works that may also be of the highest literary quality, and make sure those works are available to the public.  That’s in the best interest of the public, and the public decides what they will read or study. Not the library.

Still, it is a legitimate function of libraries to acknowledge, and even to celebrate, seminal works that are in large part responsible for the continuance of libraries themselves, and the existence of most of the classical works they have on their selves.  And for American libraries, it is even more appropriate to acknowledge the Bible this year as it was the defining instrument that produced a document entitled the Declaration of Independence.  So, what’s the answer to our original question: what are libraries doing?

To entertain our question requires a departure. We’re going to vicariously go on a short field trip to a public high school located somewhere in southern California.  To protect the innocent, we’re going to call our school Silence Dogood High School, and we’ll begin our visit in the library.

After searching all reference and religious sections, we are unable to find a King James Bible.  We enlist the help of the librarian, who finds in the data base four books which in include the phrase in their title, but turn out to be slender works on its history—the library does not possess a copy of the Bible itself.  Astonished, we mention the importance of the Bible and its literary impact only to be told that books that are not checked out very often are disposed of in a process of “weeding” to make room for more popular books.

While listening to this explanation we also are looking past the librarian, over her shoulder, at a wall of books one hundred and fifty feet long with its entire two bottom selves empty.  Indeed, as we turn our heads from side to side to see evidence of overcrowding we notice many other selves are far from full.

But, we politely protest, what about the 400th anniversary?  In response, the librarian selects a book off the self, opens it to reveal the publication date is 1952, and tells us that book is on its way out also.  Too old.  Got to make room.  We wonder: where do the old books go?  We are told neither book vendors nor recyclers want them; they are put out on display to be given away.  And if there are no takers?

Most likely the King James Bible met its end, after an uncelebrated tour of duty in this school library, in the dumpster.  Your field trip guide personally picked the King James Bible out of the dumpster five years ago here at Silence Dogood High School; the victim of another librarian’s ‘weeding.’  It’s always nice to have a human interest aside to add to something like this, and we do.  A short time after the Bible was thrown out, the librarian’s house burned to the ground.  After that, she was dismissed from Silence Dogood High School, along with her high outstanding student loans, due to budget cuts.

But what are libraries making room for?  What kind of books are schools spending our money on?

To get an idea, next we will enter a class room where a lesson is already in progress.  It’s an Honors English class for tenth graders.  The Teacher reads aloud from a novel entitled Blindness by Jose Saramago, and each of the students follows along in their own copies.  Supposedly, letters of consent have been sent to students’ parents for permission to expose them to this work.  It soon becomes clear, however, that no letter printed on school letter head and legally transmitted through the U.S. Mail could prepare parents for the novel’s contents.  It contains graphic descriptions of gratuitous sex and violent sexual assault in such explicit language that you are made physically ill upon hearing it.

[Editors note: To make it clear that the above is not hyperbole, and to support this account with facts, the reader is here provided with a link to Amazon.com where visitors can Look Inside on pages 179-181 to substantiate this assessment, but you should understand that this is exactly what is described here. You are strongly discouraged from examining the material yourself unless you have some experience in forensic medicine or worked in the County Coroner’s Office.]

The socially redeeming aspect of teaching this novel is that it can be used to produce a vocabulary list, and some writing prompts for one paragraph responses.  We exit the class gulping down air and looking towards the horizon to steady our stomachs, and we hope that no students saw us present lest our endorsement of this travesty be inferred by our presence.  We leave Silence Dogood High School, paying the curriculum no honor at all.

End of field trip.

Public school libraries are closing in southern California due to the budget crisis, but that is not the reason they are closing.  They are having their doors shut because they’ve thrown God out.

As for the claim that students no longer check out books due to the rise of electronic media, and so every effort must be made to house only sensational contemporary works to compete, and they can’t be interested in older books; there is a simple solution that would turn libraries into popular research and reading centers once again.  The reason school districts haven’t been able to stumble upon it is because without God they are stumbling in the dark.  And, no—I’m not giving it away.

Those who throw out the Bible do so at their own peril.  The King James Bible has withstood four hundred years of attack.  The Roman Catholic Church did all it could to prevent its translation by employing their undercover agents the Jesuits to sabotage the effort any way they could.  Upon failing to prevent it they were forced to produce their own inferior translation to keep its members from using the Bible.  Spurious translations from inferior manuscripts have continued ever since.

Both Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort were Catholic sympathizers who privately denied the virgin birth, claimed Mary had an intercessory office in heaven, thought the theory of evolution was true, and held many other heresies.  These were the translators who used corrupt manuscripts which had been set aside for their errors, and from which they translated their Revised Version in 1885.  It’s from these same manuscripts that most modern translations, including the much favored English Standard Version, are derived. The idea is: if you cannot break the sword, make it dull.  Many a good man has fallen prey to the attack, and is not as sharp as he could be. No other book has been attacked so fiercely, nevertheless, the King James Bible remains, and nations that forget God’s word perish.  Happy Birthday, King James Bible. Thank you Lord God for preserving your Word for us, a lamp unto our feet, a light that shines in a dark place (Psa 119:105; 2Pet 1:19) .

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