Who could have imagined four centuries ago the impact which the King James translation of the Bible would have on the English-speaking world? Among the many commemorative events occurring in 2011, Campbellsville University’s celebration of the quadricentennial anniversary of this landmark translation was an invigorating look back to the past and a reflection on the influence the King James Bible has had upon English-speaking Christians over the centuries. Lectures and concerts brought us together for campus-wide observances of the translation’s anniversary.
Amazingly, the secular world took notice too, though more for the historical and literary qualities of the King James translation than its religious instruction. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a journal which tends to steer clear of faith, praised the fifty or so “men of serious literary culture” for their methodical and systematic approach to translating, noting that it would no longer be possible for specialists today to have a similar feel for literary language as those who labored on this work.1
The groundwork for the translation had been laid over the previous century. Erasmus and William Tyndale had the greatest impact, though many others also contributed. Some risked their lives – in Tyndale’s case, even giving it – to bring the scriptures into English translation. Their conviction seems unparalleled in present-day life, except perhaps in the labors of Wycliffe translators in remote pockets of the earth. The fascinating stories surrounding the King James version became intertwined in the web of developments unfurling with the emergence of Protestantism and its break from the Catholic Church. None of the developments though would grip the English-speaking world as would the King James translation.
The process of translating the King James Bible took place in real time over a seven-year period without the aid of sophisticated equipment or any of the technological resources we have at our disposal today. Each of these translators must have worked slowly with deliberate inspection and enormous patience, all with clear vision of their goals and intentions. Their experience must have been felt to the core with the gravity of their labors dear to their hearts, comparing notes with one another and previous translations. Pure ambition and determination were the guiding principles which motivated them in their quest to fulfill a dream.
This issue of The Campbellsville Review reproduces five papers which were presented as lectures during Campbellsville University’s observance of the King James Bible anniversary. Readers are taken behind the scenes by Joel Drinkard to witness the development of the Bible in English translation, followed by Larry Kreitzer’s research into printer Henry Hills and his contribution as a publisher, Glen Taul’s notes on translating as a political act, Robert Doty’s reflections on the King James Bible and English literature, and Deborah Rooke’s insightful comparison of scripture used by Charles Jennens for the libretto of Handel’s Messiah.
Additional articles in this issue explore a variety of topics. Suzan Johnson Cook’s powerful commencement address on religious freedom and tolerance leaves no doubt that peace will not be obtainable without worldwide cooperation in religious understanding at all levels of society. Judith Collins McCormick’s essay on the next “greatest generation” and her poem Imprint are touching reminders of life’s passages and our response to each aspect of it. Popular songs and music of World War II are recalled by Jean Oostens in an essay reminiscent of experiences he encountered half a century ago. Melissa Skew’s probing investigation of global hymnody is explored through present-day hymnals and its potential use for enhancing worship. Finally, Rick Corum considers the incorporation of Biblical perspectives in the training of business students in Christian-affiliated schools. Each of these are intriguing for their insights and reflections.
Lastly, it has been this writer’s privilege to serve as editor for four volumes of The Campbellsville Review. As I pass the duties along to the next editor, I would like to express my appreciation to the faculty who have served on the editorial board during my tenure. They have made my work easier through careful reading, suggestions, and recommendations. I am also grateful for the editorial assistance of Anne Gibbs, whose skill at the computer and sharp eye has brought each issue into its final form and has given the journal its splendid look.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
1 Jennifer Howard, “All They That Labored,” The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Chronicle Review 58 (January 6, 2012): B16-18.