A look back on the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible

A look back on the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible:
By Gordon Campbell

The celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible were in one respect a surprise. As the Archbishop of Canterbury commented at the end of the year, the KJB had not been treated “simply as a possession of religious believers,” much less as a “preserve of the Church,” but rather as part of a wider cultural legacy throughout the English-speaking world. This did not reflect, in the Archbishop’s tolerant view, a diminution of the Bible’s standing as a sacred text, but rather extended its significance beyond the spiritual to the cultural sphere.

No one would mount the same argument for modern translations. Bibles such as the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the New International Version are associated with religious believers, sometimes of a particular religious persuasion, and seem not to be of particular interest beyond the world of the churches.

The origins of this distinction lie in the Bible as Literature movement, which first emerged at Harvard with the publication of the lectures of John Hays Gardiner as The Bible as English Literature (1906). Gardiner argued that the King James Bible is literature, whereas the Revised Version is a sacred text. This did not mean that he treated the KJB as a secular text. Gardiner explains that he has “assumed the fact of inspiration, but without attempting to define it or to distinguish between religious and literary inspiration.” The consequence of this conflation is that literary study of the Bible should be ‘reverent in tone’.

A century later, Gardiner’s observations still have force. Christianity has its enemies, but even the most vociferous of the New Atheists has a soft spot for the King James Bible. Richard Dawkins, for example, has said that “not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian,” and the late Christopher Hitchens chimed in with an affirmation of the timelessness of the KJB, which “resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening.”

This secular reverence for a religious text was one of the features of the anniversary year. I gave some sixty lectures in the course of the year, and although the venues included a clutch of cathedrals and a healthy sprinkling of churches of various denominations, they also included golf clubs and gentlemen’s clubs, pensioners’ groups and literary festivals. In the United States, I lectured at a university club in New York, at an Episcopalian church, at the splendid exhibitions mounted by the Green Foundation, and at a few Christian colleges, but I mostly lectured at secular universities. It became clear not only that the KJB maintained its place in a variety of faith communities, but that it also has a respectful following among people who are interested both in its literary qualities, and in its historical and cultural impact.

Large numbers of people have emerged from the anniversary year knowing more about the King James Bible than they knew at the beginning of the year. Thousands have attended lectures, and many more have bought one of the histories of the KJB. My own book on the subject has sold in gratifying numbers, and many people have written to me expressing gratitude for what they have learned (and occasionally offering corrections, now incorporated into the paperback). Perhaps the most startling realisation for many people was that the KJB on their shelves is not the text of 1611, but a modernised text of 1769 which differs in some 16,000 instances from the original. To give but one example, ‘For in this we grone earnestly, desiring’ (1611) is changed in 1769 to ‘For in this we groan, earnestly desiring’ (2 Corinthians 5.2); the repositioning of the comma changes the meaning.

Curiosity about the original text has led to large numbers of sales of the 400th anniversary edition of the KJB published by Oxford University Press. There are signs that this text is being adopted by the scholarly community, as this is the only old-spelling text now on the market. In all, the anniversary year has been a jolly good thing, and I am not alone in having learned a lot from the conversations and debates that emerged in the course of the year.

Gordon Campbell is Professor of Renaissance Studies at University of Leicester. His recent books for OUP include Bible: The Story of the King James Version (2010), The Holy Bible: Quatercentenary Edition (2010), The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art (3 vols, 2009), John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (2008), Milton and the manuscript of ‘De Doctrina Christiana’ (2007), The Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture (2 vols, 2007), The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts (2 vols, 2006), Renaissance Art and Architecture (2004), and The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance (2003). His next book, to be published by OUP in Spring 2013, will be entitled The English Ornamental Hermit.

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The Logos

Another great article from the archives of Truth Magazine:

The Logos:
By Jerry C. Ray
In the prologue of the gospel according to John, the Logos is presented without definition or introduction. Such was unnecessary since the idea of the Logos was not foreign to the Jewish or Greek mind. The Jews, from the study of the Old Testament and contact with the Greek outline of the Roman Empire, along with the Greeks, were familiar with the term, Logos.

In the evolution of the Philosophies of Greek culture the Logos had come to mean (1) Idea, (2) The Intelligence be hind the Idea, and (3) The Expression of the Idea. In the blind searchings of philosophers for the secret of the riddle of the Universe, i.e., origin, purpose, destiny, the term Logos was used to designate the unknown factor-the great First Cause of all things. To the Jewish mind Logos represented the wisdom and power of God.

And so John took this expression, familiar to Jew and Greek alike, and declared that Jesus Christ was the unknown factor revealed, the wisdom and power of God incarnate.

Let us observe the evolution of the Logos concept among the Greek philosophers.

Heraclitus is credited with being the first philosopher to “search for some unitary principle to explain the diversity of the universe” (Archibald Alexander, “Logos,” ISBE, III, 1912 ) . Heraclitus observed the process of constant change and sought for some primary element from which all others have their rise. He selected fire. He saw mutations as changes  according to law. This law he called “Justice”, “Logos” or “Reason”, and in two passages “God”, but “it is not probable that he attached to it ally definite idea of consciousness” (Ibid.). This was the Greek philosophers’ first feeble gropings for an answer to the riddle of the universe.

Later Anaxagoras introduced the idea of a supreme intellectual principle which, while independent of the world, governed it (Ibid.). Anaxagoras was the first to perceive some kind of distinction between mind and matter and to suggest a teleological explanation of the universe (Ibid.).

Plato added to this development by making a distinction between “the world of sense and the world of thought, to the latter of which God belonged” (Ibid.). True reality or absolute being consisted, according to Plato, of the “Ideas” which resided in the Divine Mind.

The Stoics were the first with a systematic exposition .of the Logos. The “Divine Worldpower which contains within itself the conditions and processes of all things” they called Logos, or God.

Philo (a contemporary of Christ) sought to fuse the Jewish and Greek concepts, and hence, seems to waver between the two, presenting the Logos.

“. . . Under two relations: As the reason of God, lying in Him-the divine thought; and as the outspoken word, preceding from Him, and manifest in the world. The former is, in reality, one with God’s hidden being; the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations o f God in the world, affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld, and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation; unoriginated, like God, nor made, like the world, but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God’s image; the creator of the world; the mediator between God and it; the highest Angel; the second God; the high priest and reconciler” (“Logos”, McClintock and Strong, V, p. 491).

We can see in Philo’s conception much truth and some error, but any attempt to show ”doctrinal dependence upon Philo by John in writing the gospel is absurd. ‘There are too many and too wide divergences between the two concepts. (See McClintock and Strong, V, pp. 491-492 for a good discussion of this).

Among the Jews, the idea of Logos, as found in the Old Testament, involved (1) The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. The Word is a healer (Ps. 33:4); a messenger (Ps. 147:15); the agent of the divine decrees (Isa. 55:11). (2) The personified wisdom (Job 2 8 :12, Prov. 8, 9) . (3) The Angel of Jehovah. “The messenger of God who serves as His agent in the world of sense, and is sometimes distinguished from Jehovah and sometimes identical with him (Gen. 15 : 713; 32.24-28; Hos. 12:4-5; Exod.
23:20-21; Mal. 3:1)” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, II, pp. 2627).

After the Babylonian captivity the Jewish doctors combined all the revelations and manifestations of God in a conception of one permanent agent of God-the word, or Logos, of Jehovah (Ibid., p. 28).

This brings us to John’s usage of the term, Logos. Marcus Dods has stated this aptly:

“The term Logos appears as early as Heraclitus to denote the principle which maintains order in the world. Among the Stoics the word was similarly used, as the equivalent o f the anima mundi. Marcus Aurelius (4:14-21) uses the spermatikos logos to express the generative principle or creative force in nature. The term was familiar to Greek Philosophy. In Hebrew thought there was fell the need for some term to express God, not in His absolute being, but in His manifestation and active connection with the world. In the O. T. “The Angel of the Lord” and “The Wisdom of God” are used for this purpose. In the Apocryphal books and the Targums “The word of Jehovah” is similarly used. These two streams of thought were combined by Philo, who has a fairly full and explicit doctrine of the Logos as the expression of God or God in expression. The word being thus already in use and aiding thoughtful men in their efforts to conceive God’s connection with the world, John takes it and uses it to denote the Revealer of the incomprehensible and invisible God. Irrespective of all speculations which had gathered around the term, John now proceeds to make known the true nature o f the Logos” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament, 1, pp. 683-684).

John reveals the Logos as:

  1. A person, not just an impersonal force or abstraction (John 1:3, 4, 14a).
  2. Personally distinct from God, but essentially one with God (John 1:1) . 
  3. Deity Incarnate (John 1:1-4, 14a).
  4. The creator of the worlds (John 1:3).
  5. Life and light to the moral world (John 1:4).
  6. The conqueror of darkness (John 1:4-5).
  7. The Savior of the world (John 1:11-13) .
  8. The Revealer of the Father: Jesus declared Him (John 1:18).

Jesus is the Logos of the Greeks. The answer to the riddle of the universe.

Jesus is the Logos of the Jews: The wisdom and power of God unto the salvation of the human family.

Truth Magazine, V:8, pp. 21-23
May 1961

The Weapons of Our Warfare

This article from Truth Magazine may be old, but the wisdom it is based on is timeless:

The Weapons of Our Warfare:
By Leslie Diestelkamp

Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal . . .”). (2 Cor. 10:3, 4). Today it may be possible that some of us are putting too much trust in a physical weapon to help us win a spiritual victory. To allow ourselves to be thus misguided would be like trying to win a Navy victory with trucks and tanks, or like trying to win a football game with tennis balls. By use of a gun or a club a woman would seldom win the love of a man, for the weapons of her warfare in the battles of love are not those that involve violence. Just as surely as God “Dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands” (Ac. 17:24, 25), likewise His people cannot fight His battles with those things that are material in their nature. just as certainly as the mountains of Samaria and the temple at Jerusalem would both be unimportant for true worship to God, for true worship must be “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24, likewise today acceptableness to Him and fruitfulness in His service is determined by our use of those things that are spiritual and not carnal.

Are We Really Soldiers?
It often may be wise for us to be reminded that we are indeed engaged in a very real warfare. Every Christian is a soldier in the Lord’s army. We are all volunteers for the Lord does not conscript us. Yet, though we be altogether willing soldiers, we are, nevertheless real warriors, and we must accept the weapons God has given, train ourselves in their proper use, and wield them with vigor and courage.

Our enemy is Satan and his soldiers are those people who are subjects of sin and victims of deception and false doctrine. Satan’s soldiers need no special qualifications, and  transgression, ignorance and wilfulness are perhaps the three most potent snares he has to gain and to keep his soldiers. John wrote that sin is transgression (I Jn. 3:4). God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hos. 4:6). In 2 Peter 3:5 the Holy Spirit teaches us about those who are willingly ignorant of God’s ways and God’s word, and how that such brings destruction. Satan’s army is full of men and women who have all transgressed God’s word and who go on in transgressions, either ignorantly or deliberately. These are the soldiers against whom God’s army is arrayed. The task of God’s people is to eliminate ignorance and to try to provoke the willful ones to surrender to the Lord.

Throughout all the centuries past the faithful have been engaged in a warfare, and indeed “truth is stranger than fiction” and the stories of the battles fought in behalf of truth and righteousness are the greatest stories ever told. Because he walked so closely with God and pleased Him so completely Enoch was spared the ordeal of death and was thus given a very significant “decoration” for his victory over Satan. Abraham’s battles were fought by faith and it (the faith) was counted unto him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Elijah overpowered the prophet of Baal through his faith in God. John the baptizer lost his head to a wicked woman but even in death portrayed victory in righteousness. Jesus the Christ emerged as the greatest warrior of all time, for he not only demonstrated power over the winds of the sea, over the afflictions of the flesh and over the forces of gravity, but most significantly he exhibited himself to be master of sin and of death and of Satan. For us today, the example of Jesus is truly convincing, for he did his warfare entirely with the spiritual weapon, the word of God which it has also pleased Him to give to us for our use in the same kind of warfare.

Perhaps we should each ask ourself if we really qualify as a good soldier in the army of the Lord? Are we really trying to win a victory in the hearts of men and women for our Saviour and theirs? Let us remember that it is not enough for us to just volunteer, but we must fight! We are indeed added to the Lord’s army when we obey the gospel of Christ (Ac. 2:47), but such does not constitute us as truly good soldiers unless we go on from that beginning to engage ourselves in battle against sin, Satan and error.

Choosing Our Weapons
When Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare ire not carnal, he was surely stressing the truly spiritual nature of the Kingdom of Christ. He was suggesting that the ordinary means used by men to gain their objectives in this life are not to be used in opposing Satan and in defending truth. I take it that he not only meant to forbid the use of unscrupulous ways and means but that he would also have us know that material things, even those that are honest and good in themselves, could not win spiritual victories. We need so badly
to learn this lesson today. Let us notice some ways in which we may be inclined to forget Paul’s words and lean too heavily upon fleshly, human means:

  1. The power of the old-fashioned gospel, unadulterated with the fancy phrases of modern theology, is still God’s only way to bring sinners to salvation. Paul himself said that he was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect – I Cor. 1 :17, and that his speech and his preaching was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2 Cor. 2:4). And so today there is an evident need for the truth that will make men free, and for preaching that possesses no theological ambiguity. The cultured words of man’s wisdom may fill the church houses of our day, but only the unvarnished truth of God’s word will concert the sinner from the error of his way. The fancy technology learned in the speech classes, the illustrations and quotations from the newest and best of men’s literature and the “good mixer” qualities learned in the psychology classes (and from Dale Carnegie’s book) may all combine to make us successful “church builders,” but only the sharp, two edged sword of the Spirit separates sinners from sin and brings them to the Lamb of God to be washed in the blood He shed.
  2. Under the guise of a means to a worthy end we build great and expensive church buildings today, spending huge sums of the Lord’s money, adding much that is entirely of vanity and human pride instead of building only that which is a necessity for proper assembly. Strangely and sadly we note that so many Christians today hardly recognize the existence of the church in any community until a church building is erected. At least many do equate the presence of a church building with the existence of a church. And after the building is erected still more and more funds are poured into the “physical plant” in the form of additions and improvements. In most places any sum suggested can easily be had to pay for these physical things. But out in the destitute fields of the world the people in sin and ignorance are starving for the bread of life and the preachers of the word are often sacrificing significantly while their pleas for help fall upon deaf ears. Ask many churches for a thousand dollars for a carpet for the aisles and the rostrum and it will be forthcoming immediately, but ask the same church for one hundred dollars for support for a preacher in a new field and the appeal is not only rejected but often ignored.

    We need to remember that not one soul was ever won to Christ by a church building, either fancy or ordinary. Let us not forget that pews and carpets, air-conditioners and nurseries and all other such material things appeal only to the fleshly and not to the spiritual. When plain, commodious church buildings are filled with godly, consecrated men and women and when the Lord’s money is expended freely and abundantly for more and more spiritual food and when less and less is used for physical advantages, we will then be more closely imitating Paul and his companions of the first century.

  3. Slides, films and projectors may certainly have their place in the teaching activities of God’s people today, but such mechanical things will never replace consecrated Christians and devoted students of the word. The problem here is not so much regarding the item used but in the attitude toward it. When people must “see a show” in order to study the word of God their attitude is wrong and any action they take will likely be from a wrong concept or motivation, also. (Let this not he construed as a criticism of visual aids is such, but only as an effort to point out abuses. The same is true of former paragraphs regarding education and church buildings).

Truth Magazine, III:10, pp. 10-11
July 1959