Four hundred years ago, King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland where it was proposed that a new translation of the Bible be created in English. The result of this assembly was the King James version of the Bible, the version used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of this book, the Orem Public Library will host a three-week series, “Remembering the King James Bible,” which began Jan. 17 and runs through Jan. 31.
“Last year and this year libraries and universities have been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version,” said Eliot Wilcox, program librarian at the Orem Public Library. “We just want to contribute to the celebration here in our community.”
The series will be made up of three presentations, all by BYU professors who will each cover a specific element of the King James Bible.
“We want to focus on what it is, how it came to be, and major historical figures who contributed to its creation,” Wilcox said.
Thomas Wayment, a BYU religion professor, presented on Jan 17. His focus will be on what makes up the King James Bible.
“My presentation will focus on what books didn’t make it into the Bible but that were contemporary with early Christian texts, like the gospel of Matthew or Mark,” Wayment said. “Pieces that people thought may have been authored by church leaders, but never did get accepted as canonical.”
Wayment explained that the creation of any bible is a complex affair involving many decisions of what works to include and consider scripture.
“They really had to sift through things and make tough decisions,” Wayment said. “It’s a fascinating story.”
More on how the Bible came to be will be covered on Jan. 24 by Lincoln Blumell, another religion professor at BYU.
“I don’t think people often ask, well how did we actually get this bible?” Blumell said.
Blumell discussed several misconceptions about the Kings James Bible, including the fact that King James did not come up with the idea for its compilation.
“As Latter-day Saints, we use the King James Bible,” Blumell said. “It’s actually not used a whole lot today, and I think there is something to be learned there. Why the King James? Why not something else?”
Blumell went on to explain that the compilation and events that lead to it’s creation can help us better understand why we use this bible today.
The final presentation will be on Jan. 31 by Richard Duerden, a BYU English professor and founding member of the Tyndale Society. His presentation will cover a major historical figure in the creation of the King James Bible, William Tyndale.
“His is the most interesting of all the of the stories behind the King James Version of the Bible,” Duerden said. “He devotes his life, and then gives his life and does so willingly, if God deems it necessary, so that everyone can have the word of God in their own tongue.”
According to Duerden, Tyndale has, until about 20 years ago, been severely overlooked in history books, even in the LDS Church.
“Everybody who is Mormon knows how we got the Book of Mormon,” Duerden said, “Everybody knows stories of 15 year-old girls hiding pages of the Book of Commandments in corn fields. Not very many people know how it is we got a Bible we can read in English.”
Each presentation is free to the public and will be held on their respective dates at 7 p.m. in the Storytelling Wing of the Orem Public Library.
“The influence of the King James Bible can be felt throughout the world, legally, culturally, and literally,” Wilcox said. “We just want to give the community an opportunity to learn more about this influential book.”