(I shared the following reflections in our church's newsletter this week).
With the arrival of 2011, we will find ourselves celebrating the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Version of the Bible. Shortly after his ascension to England’s throne, James I convened the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604 that called for a new translation of the Bible. Seven years later, the forty-seven biblical scholars assigned to the task had finished their work and the new version had been printed by Robert Barker.
I suspect that many of you grew up reading and studying the King James Version. It really wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that other English versions began to appear that would eventually dethrone the KJV as the most widely sold and read of all Bibles. Most of us heard the KJV preached from on Sunday mornings and studied it in Sunday School. It was the version from which we memorized our favorite verses. Many still love the old English language of the KJV and continue to use it today. For others, the KJV language sounds foreign to their ears and is a hurdle to understanding the meaning of the biblical text.
The lesson I take from this is that the only constant in life (including our Christian experience) is change. Many opposed the appearance of new English translations and branded them as heretical. There are still some fundamentalist churches today who insist on the use of the KJV in their services. Most of us have moved on to other Bible translations that help us to better understand God’s message for our lives. We’ve been blessed by the labor of biblical scholars working with more accurate Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. As we begin a new church year with new worship schedules and a host of new Bible Fellowship classes, I pray that we’ll do so with excitement and enthusiasm, realizing that while change can be unsettling for a while, great good and benefit can come from these new experiences.