Christmas eve 1972, I received a precious gift from my parents. It was an Authorised Version of the Bible. It wasn’t the first Bible that I had read seriously, that was a Revised Standard Version presented in school, but it was the probably the version that had the most impact upon me. After more than thirty years, there are still some verses that seem much better and easier to remember in the AV than in other translations. For the next four or five years until it got much the worse for wear, I read it regularly. I still have it, it’s the one in the picture, it’s been battered and torn but it remains the bible that I use when seeking the AV.
This year marks an important anniversary for the AV as it is 400 years since it was first published. Most people would agree that it is the most important book ever to be published as no other can come close to the impact that the AV has had on the world and particularly the English speaking world. There are hundreds of phrases in everyday use that come straight from the AV. Even the arch- atheist Richard Dawkins has said that to have not read the AV makes a person a barbarian.
The cultural impact of the AV is nothing compared to the spiritual impact that the Bible has had in the English speaking world and beyond. Many great social reformers of the 19th century, such as William Wilberforce, were Evangelical Christians and in the previous century, many believe the great renewal under the Wesleys, Howell Harris and others, saved the nation from a bloody revolution. Missionary societies founded by believers went on to send missionaries into the developing world to preach the good news and also to set up hospitals and schools.
The fact that we have had a Bible in our own language is a wonderful blessing that should never be taken for granted. This blessing came at great cost as men such as William Tyndale, gave their lives so that ordinary people could read the scriptures for themselves. The translators of the AV drew heavily on the Tyndale Bible for the 1611 King James Authorised Version.
Today, we have plenty of translations available, some would say too many. There are easy to read paraphrases and scholarly versions that can be quite hard to read. There are arguments among believers as to the best and most accurate versions. Some even imply that only the AV is God’s Word.
I could state my own views here and open up a debate but perhaps we should just step back and take a look at the big picture. We have to give thanks and also look forward.
We can give thanks that the bible is freely available in English and that there are good accurate translations.
We can pray for places in the world where the bible is still not available and for those who are working to change that injustice.
We can pray for our own land, that we will be able to share the Word of God in our generation with integrity and in a way that is relevant.
We can pray for ourselves, that our understanding and love of scripture will deepen and grow.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)