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I moved from dank, dark North Manchester, U.K. to Karmiel, Western Galilee, Israel in March 2010. It is, believe me, one of the sunniest, loveliest towns on earth. With a background in local Jewish journalism I continue to write freelance. I manage several blogs, have  appeared on Technorati and Blogcritics and now contribute to the online magazine, 'Live Encounters'. My main blog is Alwayswriteagain (http://wwwalwayswriteagain.blogspot.com

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Where Shepherds Watched Their Flocks And Wrote Their Verse

This piece first appeared as <a href='http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-the-treasure-of-gods/'>Book Review: <i>The Treasure of God's Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible</i> by Jack Countryman</a> on Blogcritics.

Yesterday the weather was atrocious. But at its spectacular best,  I can stretch my arms and fairly grab the hills that surround us.

“God’s Grace”

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

Coming from England to live in‘God ’s Vineyard’ deep in the Northern Galilee, it takes little imagination to understand why the biblical Psalmist wrote his heart-stopping verse while tending flocks in the region. Nazareth.Shepherd

It also becomes clear why so many scriptural analogies of Man and God refer to the shepherd and his flock and why indeed the landscape serves as the backdrop to so many of the stories best loved by the followers of the three major monotheistic faiths.

But in our ambiguous era of virtual reality it is a modern miracle that the Bible remains such a source of objective interest, let alone spiritual support.

I began musing on all this when I learned that we were about to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of The King James Version of the Bible.

God’s Mercy

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

In the U.K. where the ‘Authorised Version’ was first published in 1611, the celebrations were marred slightly by secularists  unhappy that BBC Radio 4 devoted almost a full to day to the anniversary.  On Sunday 09 January, a relay of well-known figures gave 15-minute readings of 28 passages over 16 hours from early morning until midnight.

The complainants argued that the allotted airtime was excessive as almost all regular broadcasts were dropped from the schedule to make way for the readings, with breaks only for  King James Version Bible the  most popular Sunday shows.

However, a BBC spokesman said: "The King James Bible is generally accepted to have had a significant impact on our language, the arts and music. A 400th anniversary is a rather special landmark, and we feel it is appropriate that the BBC sets aside part of one day's scheduling to mark such an event.”

But there were no crises of conscience when the first issue of the first edition of the 'Authorised Version' appeared in London printed  by Robert Barker.

Now I have a charming 400th anniversary edition which probably escaped the BBC’s attention.

The Treasure of God’s Word – Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible has been compiled by Jack Countryman and published by Thomas Nelson Inc., in Nashville Tennessee, U.S.A.Treasure of God's Word

God’s Faithfulness

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

This handsome, slim leather-bound gold-tooled edition includes many favourite passages from both the Hebrew Bible (‘The Old Testament’) and The New Testament, showing the exquisite Jacobean translation at its best.

I am unsure that it is a totally accurate reflection of the original Hebrew but I can’t argue with the famous English literary scholar, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch who described the King James Version as “the very greatest” literary achievement in the English language.

Much of the language is sublime and it is no coincidence that Shakespeare – who was still living and working when the first KJV Bible appeared – is considered the other major partner in shaping the English language as we know it now.

The Treasure of God’s Word may be aimed at Christian readers but for this Jewish one from a nominally Orthodox background, many of the selected passages from the Psalms, Isaiah and Proverbs are a renewed delight.

I am pleased to see at casual reading, that the passages selected are similar to those in the Hebrew-English version of the Hebrew Bible given to us by the Christian educational but non-evangelical organisation Bridges for Peace shortly after we arrived in Karmiel.

God’s Kindness

“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee,neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” (Isaiah 54:10).

The selected verses are divided into sections named “God’s Love”, “God’s Righteousness” etc. and the book also includes helpful chapters on the origins of the KJV, an explanation of “The Apocrypha of the KJV” and various revisions in 1638, 1769 – when it was standardised – and the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

There are also interesting sections on the KJV’s influence on English writing since the 17th century and its use in everyday life. But it is most intriguing to note that Thomas Nelson was also responsible for the New King James Version  – which replaces archaic pronouns and verb endings with modern equivalents. This appeared in 1980 and 1982. 

 

‘The Treasure of God's Word  - Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible By Jack Countryman is published by Thomas Nelson at $16.99 (approx. £10.55).

 

*[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers programme. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]

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