Brain Pickings

BBC: The Making of The King James Bible

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What Medieval catacombs have to do with remix culture and the evolution of the English language.

This week, the King James Bible celebrated its 400th anniversary. The third official translation of the Bible in English, it was completed by 47 scholars from the Church of England over the course of 7 years, with the grand goal of bringing new life to the churches. To this day, the King James version is commonly considered the greatest piece of English Literature ever produced (regardless of whether you consider it fiction or nonfiction) and remains a key to understanding not only one of the world’s largest religions but also a pivotal era of European scholarship, the history of collaborative creation. and even the evolution of the English language. (Did you know that many modern phrases and idioms — “by the skin of your teeth,” “flesh and blood,” “labour of love” — originate from the KJB?)

When God Spoke English: The Making of the King James Bible is a fascinating new BBC documentary exploring the surprising story of the great volume, from it uncanny similarity to the Millennium Dome to rare recently discovered 17th century manuscripts to the actual translation process itself, revealing why this antique work of art and science is anything but antiquated.

17th-century England was a chaotic, violent, often bureaucratic place. The most unlikely beginnings for a book that would change the world. So how did they make it happen? In this program, I look back to a world of religious power and majesty, of immense seriousness and linguistic skill, fraught with religious and political passions, to show how and why it produced the greatest book of all time.” ~ Adam Nicolson

For a related journey into the history of the epic tome, do see the newly released documentary, KJB: The Book That Changed the World (trailer), in which beloved Welsh actor John Rhys-Davie tours historical landmark and explains essential relics that shaped the culture and context of the King James Bible.

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