Thursday, 14 July 2011

King James Bible

In this 400th anniversary year of the publication of the King James' version of the Bible, I've been looking out for phrases and images that we use in everday language which come from this wonderful translation of the scriptures. I'm sure there are hundreds. But, for now, how about

'Eat drink and be merry'
                                                                'Am I my brother's keeper?'                  
                   'The writing on the wall'
                                                                                              'Filthy lucre'
                                                 'A drop in the bucket'

Title page of the 1611 King James Bible

Luke 12.19 (The Parable of the Rich Fool)
 'And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.' But God said unto him, 'Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?''

Genesis 4.9 (Cain murders his brother Abel and tries to hide it from God)
'And the Lord said unto Cain, 'Where is Abel, thy brother?' And he said, 'I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?''

Daniel 5.5-6 (Daniel interprets a sign given at a banquet in King Belshazzar's palace to predict the King's death which occurs that very night.)
'In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosened and his knees smote against one another.'

1 Timothy 3.3 (The character of a Bishop)
'A bishop, then must be...not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient...'  (It is worth noting that, in scripture, it is not generally money or wealth than is seen a bad or corrupting, but a person's attitude to money.)

Isaiah 40.15 (The vastness of God)
'Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.'

Do comment if you can identify others!

Of course, some phrases that sound as though they come from the King James bible in fact come from Shakespeare, writing for the most part a little earlier than the publication of the bible. Both Shakespeare and the KJB were strongly influenced by the English of John Wycliffe (1328 - 1384) whose translation of the New Testament into vernacular English from the Latin Vulgate heavily influenced most later translations. Wycliffe was born at Wycliffe, near Barnard Castle, in this diocese. St Mary's church, Wycliffe (just over the border of County Durham and on the bank of the swiftly flowing River Tees) is a gem and well worth a visit.  

St Mary's Church, Wycliffe

1 comment:

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