Sunday, February 16, 2014

King James and Patrick Henry

The King James Version of the Bible, in many places, has been replaced by versions with more up-to-date language. I think this is great for children and others for whom the older language cause understanding problems. However, the KJV was the Bible of many generations in our English-speaking world, and many great thinkers and writers made reference to it, adding depth to their meaning. Many of the nuances in their writing have been lost to us who no longer hear and memorize from the KJV.  

I realized this today in church during the Gospel lesson about the master calling workers into the vineyard. In the English Standard Version of the Bible, Matthew 20:6 reads:
And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  
In the KJV, it reads (emphasis mine):
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
That struck me as similar to the children's memory work for history.  They are now learning about the American Revolution, and two of them have chosen the end of Patrick Henry's famous speech (emphasis mine):
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! 
Before today, I didn't recognize that as a biblical allusion, but it certainly adds to Patrick Henry's argument.  I wonder just how much goes right over my head because I do not know the King James Version or even enough of any version of the Bible.

It's not just the Bible.  How many other thinkers and writers allude to other greats, and it just whizzes right by the masses because of our ignorance? What a shame.

And while we're on the subject of Patrick Henry's famous speech, did you know that there's a stinkin' good chance he didn't even deliver it the way we know it? Do yourself a favor and google it.

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