Enduring impact of King James Bible

A sign of the times, two-edged sword, wolf in sheep’s clothing, an eye for an eye, a baptism of fire, sour grapes, straight and narrow, a fly in the ointment, salt of the earth…

The list could go on and on - all everyday expressions, each one of them testament to the enduring impact of the King James Bible.

It’s an impact Chichester Cathedral will be exploring in a series of lectures to mark the 400th anniversary of what was effectively the Bible in English.

The Very Rev Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester, has put together four lectures, three historical in perspective, the fourth looking at how the Bible should function in today’s church.

“What makes the King James Bible enormously important is the effect that it had on English language and culture ever since,” the Dean said. “There are hundreds of sayings in the English language in common every-day use that nobody would have the slightest idea actually came from the Bible. All came out of the 1611 translation of the Bible.

“It wasn’t the first English Bible, but it had the King’s patronage and 47 scholars worked on it in committees. When they had prepared a text, they would read it to each other. It was designed to be read aloud, and if you look at those expressions, they are nearly all one- or two-syllable words. People think that the Bible is incredibly complicated, but in fact it uses incredibly short and simple words.

“They would read passages to each other and if they could not understand them, they would simplify them. It’s fashionable to think of old English as being very scholarly, but it wasn’t - and that’s why the Bible has such enormous power to stop people in their tracks.

“King James obviously didn’t write the text, but he had a great belief in the importance of common man understanding the basics of Christian meaning. Until then, church services had been in Latin and people didn’t possess Bibles in their homes because they could not read them. This was incredible radical politically and educationally to put the Scriptures into English.”

The lectures are:

Monday, June 13 at 6.30pm: Translating The Bible Into English: History, Politics, Language, Liturgy by Lynne Long, formerly of the Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Warwick.

Monday, June 27 at 7.30pm: The Book Of Books – The Radical Impact Of The King James Bible 1611-2011 by Melvyn Bragg author and broadcaster.

Monday, July 11 at 6.30pm Lancelot Andrewes: The Scholar-Bishop Of Chichester by Professor Graham Parry, Emeritus Professor of English, University of York.

Monday, October 10 at 6.30pm, How Should The Bible Function In Today’s Church? by

Professor James Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, University of Durham.

Lectures take place in the Nave of the Cathedral at 6.30pm following Choral Evensong at 5.30pm. With the exception of Lord Bragg’s Lecture, admission is free – a retiring collection

is taken to cover the expenses of the series.

Lord Bragg’s lecture is presented by Chichester Festivities and takes place at 7.30pm. Tickets £12 and £14. Book online www.chifest.org.uk or 01243 528356.

For further information regarding the lecture series please contact 01243 812485 or visit the Cathedral website at www.chichestercathedral.org.uk