Bishop Ryle wrote that ‘Ignorance of the Bible is the root of all error’.
No reason for increasingly rootless Anglicans to be ignorant of the fact that this year sees the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorized Version. Speaking with the vigour that rings through the AV, Archbishop Rowan used his New Year message to urge people to read the Bible and find answers to the questions facing modern society. It is often tempting to think of Britain as being a post-Christian country, but this pessimism is perhaps confounded by the fact that Royal Mail finds itself in tune with Archbishop Rowan and will be issuing AV commemorative stamps.
In early January the BBC, increasingly attacked for its growing marginalization of Christianity, commissioned Today’s James Naughtie to produce programmes on the history of the AV and devoted much of a day to readings from that Bible. Preludes to the fact that New Directions this month also adds its voice to the celebration. As a bookseller I could suggest some titles to swell the refrain. Still in print is David Daniell’s 2003 masterpiece, The Bible in English. Daniell is the acclaimed biographer of William Tyndale and it is well to remember how much of Tyndale’s translation remains within the Authorized Version. This year saw the publication of Leland Ryken’s The Legacy of the King James Bible. Ryken is an expert on the Bible as literature and explores the AV’s overall impact on English and American literature and culture.
On a similar theme, Canon Bill Anderson’s Words and the Word argues that literature and the Bible can be brought together in homiletic harmony. For many the Apocrypha is less familiar, and Sever Voicu’s recent book of that name looks at the views of the early Fathers on the Apocrypha. Dating from a generation ago is Derek Wilson’s The People and the Book, and second-hand copies of this work which assesses the revolutionary impact of the English Bible can still be found. Choirs will welcome The Word Revealed, hymns, anthems and specially composed music for services celebrating the AV anniversary.
May our churches be ‘compassed about with songs of deliverance’ [Psalm 32.7].