Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
The truth behind the Bible
Elizabethtown display focuses on story of King James Version BY ENELLY BETANCOURT, Staff Writer
Four centuries have passed since the first printing of the King James Bible, but its words still echo today.
They can be heard from English cathedrals to rural American churches, from Anglican hymns to Jamaican reggae music.
However, many who use the King James Version don't know its history or the story of the men who produced it.
Who were the scholars who translated it, and why was this translation so influential?
"Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible" traveling exhibit, which tells the story behind the making of the King James Bible, will be on display in the High Library at Elizabethtown College from Saturday through Feb. 21.
Made possible by a $2,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the exhibit will be available during regular library hours of operation. Additionally, the library will sponsor a number of programs that will give participants a new understanding of the book's social, cultural, literary and religious influence over four centuries.
The exhibit and all the programs are free and open to the public. For a complete list of events, visit www.etown.edu/bible.
Elizabethtown is one of 40 sites across 27 states displaying the "Manifold Greatness" and the sole location in Pennsylvania where the public can experience the exhibit.
The exhibit tour, which began in fall 2011, will run through this summer. It was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the American Library Association Public Programs Office.
"Manifold Greatness" is based on an exhibit of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library at University of Oxford to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version, or KJV, in 2011.
The exhibit consists of 14 graphic panels printed onto seven double-sided banners examining the origins, creation and impact of the KJV.
Elizabethtown College librarian Louise M. Hyder-Darlington noted the exhibit reveals that less than a century before the KJV was produced, the Bible being translated into English could lead to criminal charges -- or worse.
"It was illegal to translate the Bible, and people were being killed for it," Hyder-Darlington said.
The church was opposed to the translations because of concerns about the accuracy of those translations, among other potentially troublesome outcomes.
Religious reformers and their followers, who believed the Bible should be available to all people in their own languages, produced translations against warnings from the church.
But the controversy about the translations changed with King James I, according to Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietists Studies at Elizabethtown College. The newly crowned king, Bach explained, called a meeting in 1604 with representatives of the Church of England. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems with earlier translations.
"He wanted to have more influence on it, put the plan into motion, and the outcome was a really, really good translation," Bach said.
The translation was done by approximately 47 translators working in six committees. The project was completed in 1611 and the name given to the translation was Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Bible.
James did not contribute to the translation, but it is named for him because he was its royal sponsor.
The High Library also will showcase four displays of historical texts and bibles, including its 1599 copy of the Geneva Bible, which preceded the King James translation.
"We were able to customize the display to show why bibles were important in Pennsylvania and in this region," Bach said.
Other exhibit items include a 1712 Marburg Bible, a mystic and prophetic bible, as well as a 1726 Berleburg Bible and related commentary from the special collections of the Young Center.
For information or to schedule a tour, call 361-1454.