September 21st, 2011


Bible Study

As everyone knows, this year marks the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of The King James Bible. I seem to have undertaken the Bible challenge without knowing there was one.

I decided to have the Bible on my Kindle and to try out some samples first, to make sure I was getting something easy to read. The first one I’ve downloaded has illustrations by Gustave Doré which are pale on the Kindle and not worth having. I’m now annoyed to find that ‘your Amazon library’ doesn’t include samples you’ve requested. I can see from my Kindle that I have ‘The Holy Bible, King James Version, Church of England illustrated Gustave Doré’ but no amount of searching will bring this same version up on Amazon again. *Sigh*. Fine if I decide to buy it but not much use for recommending it to anyone else. Kindle samples are usually two chapters long so with the Bible you get a lot of text to try.

I’m reading the whole thing straight through, hence the Bible Challenge. This is an odd experience that makes me wonder if people my age have the Authorised Version built into their DNA. Pages and pages of tedious begetting and smiting and the inexplicable actions of a capricious Almighty, then suddenly whammo! a passage that you know by heart. Sunday School? Scripture lessons? Hearing the lessons read week after week in church? I just don’t know but the stories are as familiar as nursery rhymes. Here they come: Esau and Jacob; Jacob’s ladder; Jacob serving for Rachel; Joseph and his coat of many colours, his life in Egypt, the seven fat years followed by the seven lean ones and so on.

I can’t help wondering about people who don’t have all this in their heads. Whether or not you are a believer (I am, BTW) you have to accept that our culture is based on the Judaeo-Christian tradition and therefore it’s referenced constantly in art, literature and music. Just one example: James Mortmain’s book Jacob Wrestling in I Capture the Castle. It must be strange not to get all these allusions naturally and to need footnotes and endless explanations; like having to learn a new language. So I think there’s a good case for at least teaching children bible stories, which can be done without indoctrination.

I prefer the Authorised Version both because it’s familiar and because it’s literature. I always have trouble with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac though, because I can never get Bob Dylan’s version out of my head.
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