by Jack Minor –
Just as one of her predecessors had done, Queen Elizabeth paid homage to the King James Bible last week.
During the week of her coronation, Queen Victoria went to hear Handel’s Messiah in the Royal Lodge. The Messiah was what is known as an oratorio, which is a musical composition similar to an opera, except they primarily deal with sacred topics and there is very little movement by the performers. The Messiah consists entirely of verses from the Authorized King James Version.
During the performance, royal etiquette called for everyone to remain standing except the Queen, who remained seated. When the performers began singing the Hallelujah chorus, which was taken from the book of Revelation, Queen Victoria’s lips trembled and her eyes filled with tears. When the singers sounded out “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” in a complete breach of etiquette, Victoria rose to her feet and bowed her head. Since that day it has remained customary for audience members to stand when the Hallelujah chorus is played.
Now on the 400 year anniversary of the King James Bible, another Queen has also honored the words of God.
On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles gathered at Westminster Abbey, one of the locations where the translation was completed, for a ceremony honoring the book.
The translation, which would eventually be known as the King James Bible began in 1603 when John Reynolds, the head of the Puritan Church in England proposed a new English translation that would unite the people of England and Scotland.
The translation was the work of 54 scholars consisting of three teams at Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster Abbey.
The first edition of the bible went to the royal publishers in 1611. Since its publication, it has never gone out of print. It has been translated into languages and is the only bible to have been to the moon. A portion of the King James was even quoted in outer space when Apollo 8 astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman quoted from Genesis chapter 1 on Christmas Eve, 1968.
During the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, a bound copy of the book of Genesis, made up of handwritten verses of the King James by over 22,000 people across Britain was presented at the altar of the church. Four historic copies of the King James were also present.
In a warning about the proliferation of modern translations, Dr. Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury said “The temptation is always there for the modern translator to look for strategies that make the text more accessible – and when that temptation comes, it doesn’t hurt to turn for a moment – for some long moments indeed – to this extraordinary text.”