Today is a very special day. A day when the world changed, at least for me it did. The day I first appeared in this world, the one my friend calls a stage.
The time of my birth was a strange one. My Father hoped that I would bring peace and healing to people troubled by hatred and bloodshed. He hoped I would heal the nations, something that Iíve always sought to do.
Actually I call him my Father, but he wasnít really, you see I already existed before he set about his work, but no one could understand me. He chose to create me in a way that the ordinary man in the street could understand me and love me for the beauty I brought.
I was to be a thing of beauty, with poetry that would last through the ages. Songs that would ring out year after year and wisdom so profound it would inspire the greatest minds in history.
He didnít know it, but I was to only the first in many incarnations. Some would be in my mother tongue, but others would be in tongues that werenít native to my land. But all would glorify God.
I realized that today is a significant day in not only the history of Christianity, but also in the history of the written word.
Four hundred years ago today the first ever copy of the King James Bible rolled off the printing press. I wonder. If this book had a voice, would it describe the day something like I did above? Maybe.
Most of us donít really know too much about why it was written, but the story is fascinating.
Imagine the height of the reformation. Seventy years have passed since Martin Luther pinned 95 theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg. A line can be drawn across Europe running East to West with the Protestants to the North and Catholics to the south. Much blood has been spilled and all in the name of the one who said ĎLove your enemies and pray for those that persecute you!í
England, an Island Kingdom off the coast of North West Europe has fared almost as bad, Henry the eighth left the Catholic faith and pillaged all the monasteries. When he died, his daughter Mary took England back into the fold with disastrous results. When she died, her sister Elizabeth took over and allowed a degree of freedom of religion. But Elizabeth is now dead and the nearest relative is the son of Mary Queen of Scots, A Catholic!!
James the sixth of Scotland was Elizabethís relative (cousin once removed I think the term is) and he was a Catholic. He was to become King James the 1st of England.
The pope hoped that James would return England to Rome and her church, but James inherited a Kingdom that was 90% protestant and had seen many years of war with Catholic Spain. There was no desire to change back.
Many in the church at the time had seen the need for a personal faith in Christ and were not about to walk away from the faith they knew. James took the same course that his great aunt had taken, he allowed freedom of religion.
The Bible that bears his name wasnít the first English translation, it wasnít even the first to have royal approval, but it was the first to use the Greek and Hebrew languages to translate from, it was the first that was not done from the Latin as a primary source, and as such it was totally new.
James wanted the whole church to be involved and they were, from the high church to the fundamentalist puritans, scholars worked together in committees to translate and put together the Bible, but instead of the muddling mess youíd expect, what came out was a version of such beauty and authority that it would stand unchallenged as the authoritive word for almost four hundred years.
This was the book that fuelled the puritan drive to find a new world where they could live according to their beliefs; it was the book that inspired Wilberforce to declare that slavery was an abomination in the sight of God. It drove an obscure lawyer from Kentucky to become Americaís greatest President and gave him the strength to lead it through a brutal civil war.
It was the book that inspired the great missionaries of yesterday to take the good news of Jesus to lands who had never heard of him.
It taught Sir Isaac Newton that there is a God who loves to create, and his rules are there for us to learn ĎIt is the glory of God to conceal a matter. But the glory of Kings to search out a matterí (Proverbs 25 verse 2).
Itís a book that most of us today think is out of date and uses language that we canít understand, but that hasnít stopped it being a driving force in our society, a force that has brought positive transformation in every life that itís ever touched.
Itís interesting that the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the King James Bible wasnít a book that was read for itís poetry, or because it was a classic, but more for the fact that the translators wanted the reader to stop and think about what they just read, something to ponder and allow it to draw you into the presence of the Almighty.
The famous twentieth century theologian Karl Barth once said that the Bible isnít necessarily the Word of God, but as the Holy Spirit takes a scripture and applies it to your life then it becomes the Word of God to you. Four hundred years ago, the Holy Spirit breathed on the words translated from the Greek and Hebrew and they became the very Words of God to generations.
Today we have many translations in the English language, but none will ever replace the ĎAuthorized King Jamesí at the very heart of the English language, but the translators wouldnít want us to stop there. Many of them paid a high price to bring us the Bible in our language, and with so many who donít yet have the Bible in theirs, they would urge us on to hasten the day when people from Ďevery tongue and tribeí will worship the King together around his throne.