Exhibit celebrates anniversary of King James Bible

Published May 26, 2011

Lambeth Palace is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible with an exhibit that will appeal to both churchgoers and non-believers. Photo: Chris Jenner

Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury for nearly 800 years, is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible with an exhibition that examines how differing motives and techniques have affected Bible translations.

"Out of the Original Sacred Tongues," which opened to the public on May 25 and runs until July 29, includes translations such as John Wycliffe’s 14th century version from Latin and the controversial New English Bible of 1961, which was the work of a committee of scholars.

Palace Librarian Giles Mandelbroke, speaking at the opening, said he believed two themes had emerged in depicting how bibles had developed from manuscript to print over the centuries. One was the quest for truth and certainty by church authorities employing analytical skills in an attempt to ascertain original meanings; the other was the production of Bibles without input from the church or the state.

The centerpiece of the show is a first edition of the King James Bible from 1611, with photographs of hand written manuscript drafts displayed beneath. The monarch is said to have objected to the marginal notes in the Geneva Bible in use at the time, which he considered subversive to royal authority.

A display called "Spreading the Word Overseas" shows how English trade and colonization in North America, India and the Far East from the 16th century took the King James Bible abroad as missionary activity followed trade and settlement, particularly after the founding of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1701. Here the exhibits include St Matthew’s gospel in Chinese, Malay and Maori, St. Mark’s gospel in Mohawk, and a collection of psalms and hymns in Cree, the North American Indian language.

Lambeth Palace expects the exhibition, drawn from its own collection, to appeal to both churchgoers and non-believers. "We certainly hope to interest all people who have an interest in words and translation and how sacred texts are communicated," the exhibition curator told Ecumenical News. "The aim is to illustrate that the process of translation is continually developing in many different ways."


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