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Burriss on Media: King James Bible


By Larry Burriss, PhD


MTSU, Murfreesboro, TN – Back in college I took a course called "Bible as Literature," a non-religious look at the history, prose and poetry of the Bible. I remember the instructor stressed that no matter what you think about religious and theological issues, the impact the Bible has had on society is undeniable.

This year, 20-11, marks the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Bible, completed over seven years, from 16-04 through 16-11. And no matter what your views of religion, you have to admit there are few influential 400-year-old books that still cause debate, argument and violent disagreement.

Of course, new discoveries have led to new translations, and in many respects the King James Bible can be difficult for modern readers to understand. But age alone isn't the problem, as seen by William Shakespeare, who wrote several years before the K-J-V was printed, and still has a lasting impression. In fact, if you look at any dictionary of quotations, the Bible and Shakespeare are far and away the most influential sources for modern language usage.

As you might expect, the publication was not without controversy, although many of the problems were of a non-theological nature. It seems the original printer sub-contracted the work to two rival printers who subsequently accused each other of fraud. Both ended up in prison, and shortly thereafter both Oxford and Cambridge universities successfully claimed that they owned the copyright.

So there are actually two different versions that have been recognized as having been produced in 16-11. Unfortunately, the two versions are different in one small, but significant way: one version says "she went into the city," and the other version says "he went into the city."

As a media event, the 16-11 publication of the King James Bible is without equal. As for religion, theology and belief, well, my father always said, "Never discuss politics or religion in public."

I'm Larry Burriss.