Monday, January 10, 2011
Four Hundred Years And Counting!
If we could step back in time 400 years we would find ourselves in a world completely different than what we find today in every way imaginable. To go back to the world of 1611 would almost be like visiting another completely different planet. The religious landscape was a barren wilderness made so by a millennia of religious intolerance that had desecrated the concept of soul-liberty. It was a world ruled by mostly ruthless, licentious potentates who until recently had trembled in the shadow of the church of Rome!
Religious persecution made the air heavy with fear and superstition. Men were vassels in a world where cleric and king ruled supreme. Unless you were fortunate enough to be born among the aristocracy you were likely to be resigned to a subsistent existence. Although there was a burgeoning merchant class we were still years away from a true middle-class to which all could aspire. It was a world where religious ceremony was most often conducted in Latin, a language that had long since vanished from popular use. It was a world where, in most places, it was a crime to have a bible. It was an ugly, harsh, and cruel world.
There were small groups of people who often assembled in secret dotted across the landscape from Turkey to England. They often had very little bible if any at all and what they did have would have to be guarded and held secretly. Consequently they memorized vast portions of Scripture. They were noted for having a verse of scripture on their tongue when called upon to give account of themselves. They were called Paulicians, Albigenses, Waldenses, Petrobrusians, the Cathari, and they were all known as Anabaptist, re-baptizers.
The Bible that I hold in my hands comes to us from that world, the world of 1611 England and Europe. It was not the first Bible in English. Wycliffe had translated the New Testament into English from the Latin Vulgate 250 years earlier. Tyndale translated from the original tongues some 80 years earlier. There had been the Bishop’s Bible, the Great Bible, the Matthew's Bible and, in popular use at the time, the Geneva Bible. Yet, in 1611 a Bible was published that had been authorized by the British Crown. None of the other translations had been authorized and the earliest translations were unlawful. The King James was translated out of the original tongues with the former translations diligently compared and revised. It was a Bible that was appointed to be read in all the churches.
It is a Bible that has proven its merits time and time again. It has been blessed with the visitation of the Spirit of God in its preaching and teaching for 400 years now. It is not a “Johnny-come-lately”. It is a tried and true standard. It is a Bible that was received by the people of God within just a few decades of its publishing, displacing the Geneva Bible. For over 200 years it alone stood as the Word of God in English. It was preached and taught as such. Even after 100 years of seeking to displace its time honored and God blessed text it remains the standard by which all others are judged and in whose light their blemishes are revealed! It is the Word of God in English. The King James Bible of 1611!
This is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible so it seems appropriate to “magnify thy word” this year. I do so unashamedly and without inhibition. I am a King James Bible preacher and I pastor a King James Bible church! I’m going to spend this year reminding our church why!
I am not one who believes that some issues are only good for the college classroom when it comes to theology and doctrine. I am a firm believer that God’s people should not just be told what to believe but why! Just knowing the “what” our beliefs can dissipate under the blistering attack of unbelief and textual criticism. Knowing the “why” our beliefs are tempered in the forge heated by the scoffing and doubt of those who oppose the truth.
Consequently our preaching/teaching will take us through a maze of personalities and papers, names such as Origen, Constantine, Pamphyllius, Erasmus, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Westcott, Hort, and Dean Burgeon. We will consider manuscripts, papyri, uncials, and minscules. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, received text, textus receptus, and vulgate will become at least a point of recognition for all of us.
This year we are going to “magnify thy word”! We are going to celebrate the history of the King James Bible and glory in its heritage. We are going to promote its premminence among the translations, we are going to celebrate this 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Little could the men that worked on translating the King James Bible realize that they had by God’s providence produced a translation in a language that would in a short time impact the world. The King James Bible almost single-handedly elevated the English language, the English people and watered and fertilized the seed that resulted in the liberating of the human soul both religiously and politically. This book has altered our language, our culture, our morals, our lives. It has altered my life, and I thank God for the King James Bible!