May 2nd is one of the days of the year that holds special significance in my life. Of course, it doesn’t rank up there with getting engaged (December 24, 1972) or getting married (August 24, 1973) but several important events have happened on May 2nd. The first event was on May 2, 1979 – the day 11 months after the death of my father that I had to have my tonsils removed at the age of 26. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal but Dad had died in the same hospital and I didn’t want to be put under anesthesia. Therefore, I convinced the doctors to perform the surgery under a local.
The surgery took 56 minutes and I have to tell you, it hurt like crazy – even with some topical sprays and injections into my tonsils that were supposed to minimize my pain. Well, it didn’t really work very well. For those of you who may be squeamish, I won’t go into detail, but it does make for a good story so many years later.
Then, May 2, 2018 I had another surgery. It was to repair and re-attach my right quad tendon after a serious injury that I have written about on occasion. The surgery didn’t happen until nine days after the injury occurred and, once again, the post surgical pain was rather significant. At least I wasn’t awake for this one. I had learned my lesson years earlier. It took almost two years for me to recover from that issue and I am thrilled that it turned out as well as it did.
But in the annals of history, there was a really significant event that had far more global impact than my two surgeries. That’s because it is generally accepted that on May 2, 1611 the King James Bible was officially published in England for the first time.
To be sure, there had been several other English translations before the King James, most notably the Tyndale Bible in the 1500’s and even the Geneva Bible (the one used by Shakespeare). But the KJV, or Authorized Version, was the first English Bible translated to settle theological differences and had widespread availability to the ordinary people. Until this time, bibles were held closely by the Church and most ordinary people never had access to the pages of Scripture that we so take for granted today. King James himself actually requested the translation in 1604 and by 1611 it was completed.
For the first time in history, the KJV version was published – the theology was familiar to the people with the added fact that it was supported by the Church of England after the split of the Catholic and Anglican churches. It is also said to have solidified the reign of King James of England. Being available to ordinary citizens was a totally new concept.
In fact, large format Bibles were placed in churches and kept open, signifying that they were “open” to all. The Bible stands were generally brass and looked like an eagle with outstretched wings – on which the open Bible rested. Ben Franklin and others were so impressed with this “open to all” concept that the United States eventually adopted the eagle as a symbol of America. After all, weren’t we founded on the same idea – open to all? Take at look at the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island if you have any doubt…
Another thing that came out of this translation is that the KJV is accepted as the most accurate translation of the Bible in English. It can be argued that our language has changed during the last 400 years and this version is more difficult to understand than some of the modern translations. But make no mistake, the Authorized Version is the most accurate word for word translation we have. In fact, all my studies in seminary were done with the King James and all my Greek studies were done with the Textus Receptus, or TR for short – the original Greek that the KJV was translated from.
Also, the KJV was the first Bible that was reduced in size so as to be easily carried around by the general public. This made it very accessible and to this day, the Bible is the most sold book in the world.
Our verse for tonight is from the apostle Paul in his second epistle to his young friend, Timothy. Paul reminds, Timothy and us, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Make no mistake. The physical books were written by mortals, but under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
My encouragement this evening is that many people worked to create a version of the Bible in English that would become the gold standard for more than 400 years. My prayer is that we will all take advantage of the freedoms we have in this country and exercise our right to read the Bible and be influenced by the Holy Spirit who promises to help illuminate our understanding of God’s word. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…