As part of the Spirit Fest this year, there is a series of lectures at the Cathedral, focusing on the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. After a brief introduction by Peter Rose (Professor Emeritus of Biotechnology at Rhodes University) highlighting some of the topics of the lecture series, the first lecture was given by the very charming Paul Walters, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at the Rhodes University English Department.
The title of the lecture was “Did King James really write the King James Version – and other conspiracies?” The King James Version was completed in 1611 during the reign of King James I of England from 1603 AD to 1625 AD. King James was the Protestant son of a Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots.
He authorised the production of the King James Version, and provided the financing for its translation from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into English. The King James Version included extras such as translation notes, a map of the Holy Land, a calendar of the church year and a genealogical chart from Adam and Eve to Jesus Christ.
The translation of the Bible was a political and theological act dictated by six companies comprising 47 scholars. The scholars hailed mainly from Westminster, Cambridge, and Oxford. They were chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and King James himself, with a preference for moderate, reformist scholars.
Reformist scholars departed from the idea that revolution was necessary in order to effect fundamental societal changes. They believed that gradual, democratic changes could bring about major developments in a society’s political structures and economic relations.
Twelve representatives from the scholars commissioned to translate the Bible out of its original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic convened regularly over a period of nine months.
They worked rigorously, translating the Scripture, literally word for word. Each word would be read out loud and its subsequent translation would be given. If there was any disagreement, it was voiced by one of the representatives before moving on to the next word.
This was the tried and tested method for the translation of the King James Version.
Despite this evidence, Walters states that there is documentation showing about 80% of the original translation under the rule of King James I can be attributed to William Tyndale, whose translations drew mainly on the Hebrew and Greek texts.
One of the most salient points made by Walters was the fact that the King James Version encoded a particular culture at a particular moment, and its dominance was linked to the dominance of the British Navy at the time.
There is a deep embedding of the British culture in the King James Version that is inextricable from any reading of the Holy Book. This turned out to be a very informative and entertaining lecture that was delivered in an inclusive and warm manner by Walters.
If this is just the beginning, then the rest of the series should be full of delightful nuggets of information for the interested listener. There were lectures daily throughout National Arts Fest 2011 at 11am in The Cathedral until Friday 8 July.