I was brought up on the King James Bible. It was the only Bible I knew for years. I grew up in a religious environment that strongly encouraged memorization of scripture, a tradition we would do well to claim or re-claim. There was a "memory verse" for every Sunday School lesson and many people committed large sections of scripture to memory, all in 17th century King James English.
The 16th century produced two competing versions of Holy Scripture in England. One was very anti-royalty and the other was very favorable to the English monarch. In the December issue of National Geographic, Adam Nicolson said the world of King James I of England "was a world in which there was no gap between politics and religion. A translation of the Bible that could be true to the original Scriptures, be accessible to the people, and embody the kingliness of God would be the most effective political tool anyone in 17th-century England could imagine."
In 1604 King James I called together 54 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England, to come up with a new English version of the Bible. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek; the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin. This task was completed in 1611.
By the first half of the 18th century, the King James version of the Bible had become the most widely used translation in Anglican and Protestant churches. It would soon become the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars.
The King James Bible has penetrated deeply into American culture. It been used by U.S. Presidents from Washington to Obama on which to swear their oath of office. Its language is obvious in the Gettysburg Address, Moby Dick, and the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nicolson writes in National Geographic, "You don't have to be a Christian to hear the power of (the) words-simple in vocabulary, cosmic in scale, stately in their rhythms, deeply emotional in their impact. Most of us might think we have forgotten its words, but the King James Bible has sewn itself into the fabric of the language. If a child is ever the apple of her parents' eye or an idea seems as old as the hills, if we are at death's door or at our wits' end, if we have gone through a baptism of fire or are about to bite the dust, if it seems at times that the blind are leading the blind or we are casting pearls before swine, if you are either buttering someone up or casting the first stone, the King James Bible, whether we know it or not, is speaking through us. The haves and have-nots, heads on plates, thieves in the night, scum of the earth, best until last, sackcloth and ashes, streets paved in gold, and the skin of one's teeth: All of them have been transmitted to us by the translators who did their magnificent work 400 years ago."
Many good modern translations have come alongside the King James version of the Bible in the last few decades and I find them to be very helpful. It really does not matter which one is used but it is very important for us to read and study the scriptures.
Bishop Watson has encouraged North Georgia United Methodists to read through the Bible each year. In just 15 minutes a day you can read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, in a year. The reading plan he suggests can be found athttp://www.ngumc.org/pages/detail/689. My wife and I have just begun using the Daily Bible as our guide. It arranges the scripture in chronological order with 365 daily readings. It does not matter how you go about it. Any plan is better than no plan.
It is early in the year and we are still thinking about new and fresh ways to enhance our lives. Reading the Bible is one fundamental exercise that I guarantee will help.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," Jan. 23, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]