Exhibition celebrates the King James Bible

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am


As one sacred text gets more complicated, another, praised for bringing the 'word of God' to the layman 400 years ago, is being celebrated. An original King James Bible, published in 1611 when the translation was first released, is on display at an unlikely venue - Sha Tin's New Town Plaza.

It's part of Oxford University Press' 50th anniversary exhibition, displaying original world classics and other bestsellers until May 2.

The King James Bible is widely credited with bringing the holy book to the English-speaking masses at a time when the printing press was a recent invention and formal schooling was non-existent. It took 50 scholars seven years to put it together.

'It was the very first standard version of the English Bible for the English-speaking world,' said Craig Ho, associate professor of religion and philosophy at Baptist University.

It was still the most common English Bible in the 1960s. It influenced the Chinese Union Bible published in 1919, used by most local churches - plus the majority of the world's 70 million Chinese Christians. A team of 30 international scholars completed the 27-year feat of revising the Chinese Union Bible last year.

The King James Bible's influence goes beyond the church. Its writings are also woven into the fabric of the English language. 'An eye for an eye', 'no peace for the wicked' and 'God forbid' are all phrases originating from the text.

More idioms have come out of the King James Bible than the works of Shakespeare, said Ben Mak Ka-lung, deputy regional director of Oxford University Press. 'King James was designed for the ordinary people, so you have to use the language that ordinary people can easily master,' he said. 'The Bible was a very important source for them to learn how to be a good person and also at the same time learn English.'

Today, the scriptures can be found in more than 2,500 different languages and there are dozens of versions in English alone. Although King James is no longer the most commonly used (that title belongs to the New International Version) it still has an important role to play.

'Even in the church you should have different opinions; you should have different understandings of the Bible,' Ho said.