An excerpt from a NY Times article:
Sometime in 1611, a new English Bible was published. It was the work of an almost impossibly learned team of men laboring since 1604 under royal mandate. Their purpose, they wrote, was not to make a new translation of the Bible but “to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.” What was published, 400 years ago, was indeed one principal good one: the King James Version of the Bible.
It’s barely possible to overstate the significance of this Bible. Hundreds of millions have been sold. In 1611, it found a critical balance in a world of theological conflict, and it has been beloved since of Protestant churches and congregations of every stripe. By the end of the 17th century it was, simply, the Bible. It has been superseded by translations in more modern English, translations based on sources the King James translators couldn’t have known. But to Christians all around the world, it is still the ancestral language of faith.
What intrigues me most are the ending words….ancestral language of faith. For me the language of faith isn’t language spoken or written. The language of faith is forgiveness – an act, a posture of extending grace and gift. Yet, the KJV is the vehicle from which we learn that unwritten language. So in some sense, every compilation of the translated texts of the Bible, like the KJV, bears some resemblance – at least in the indigenous language of the times – to the language of faith, especially as it portrays forgiveness.
Why pick forgiveness? Perhaps it’s a blind ambition, but I have come to stake my life, my ministry, my call on the forgiving habit of God, especially in and through His Son – Jesus Christ.
When it comes to forgiveness, words tend to get in the way and often are the weapon of original intent when it comes to an act to be forgiven. But words can also do some justice to forgiveness (pun intended) and those in the KJV have done that miraculously.
In the age of competing narratives for our life to be guided by – the KJV in all her glory and imperfections and by way of olde english idioms – has preserved and claimed for the world that the dominant narrative always has been and always will be that of Jesus Christ. Through time, tribulation, translations and testaments – as well as the dubious actions of the church itself (crusades, WWII, Darfur, etc.) Christ in whatever language is the same – today, tomorrow and forever.
Today – in our life – may Christ be made known in the language of forgiveness – real, true and reconcilable – as much as is possible through sinners like me.
In the Word captured by the creators of KJV from Matthew 6:14-15:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.