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Friday, June 24, 2011

Using the Bible for Research

To be more specific, using the King James Version. While in the 17th Century most of the colonists used Geneva Bible (1560), by the 18th Century the King James Version (otherwise known as the Authorized Version) became the most read version.

What can you learn from this Bible?

How language was used. For example, did you know that ‘ye’ was used as the subject of the sentence but ‘you’ would be used for the object?

How verses would have been quoted by people in that time. They didn’t use the NIV or the NASB to quote a verse. Those versions did not exist at that time.

Word choices. The King James Version used words the colonists were familiar with, and in many cases, used on a daily basis. For example, the word charity would still be understood to mean love in the 17th Century.

Sentence structure. While readers today may not appreciate a novel written with the complex sentence structure found in Romans or Philippians in the KJV, you can get a feel for how people spoke and wrote. If you doubt this, read some of the sermons written by John Winthorp or letters by George Washington or read the account of Patrick Henry’s discourse in the courthouse at Spottsylavania when he defended the Baptist Ministers indicted there.

Most educated men were well-versed in the use of Scripture. In fact, when the Puritans arrived in America, they determined to educate both boys and girls so that they could read the Bible. For them, the Bible played a major role in forming society and the laws they sought to establish. There are many sermons or articles written by men that demonstrate how they attempted to make the colonists conform to what they understood Scripture to say.

Governors of the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and other New England colonies were men who knew Scripture and based their decisions on their understanding of the Bible. Dr. John Clarke, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, John Hart, and many others who were instrumental in creating the liberties we presently enjoy founded their beliefs on God’s Word.

While some people did not believe in God nor abide by Biblical precepts and principles, if you read letters, diaries, and other writings from people of the time you'll discover that those most influential knew the Bible to some extent, whether they had a personal testimony of salvation or not.

Therefore, to better understand how society functioned, what people believed and valued, you should also be well-versed in the Bible, particularly the KJV, since that is what many read.

16 comments:

  1. Very interesting article about the role of the Bible in colonist's lives and how they used it. The bits about the language contained in the King James Version is also helpful in understanding some of the language of the time.

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  2. Thank you, Carla. I never realized how much the KJV influenced my writing until I worked with critique partners and they would point it out to me. I love the language of that time. Though many liken it to Shakespeare's language, there are many differences. Shakespeare died in 1616. The KJB was first printed in 1611.

    54 men in three companies (located at Cambridge, Oxford, and Westminster) worked on this translation. This great accomplishment played a major role in establishing rules for the written English language. As a result, a student of Shakespeare and of the KJB will notice great differences in word usage and sentence structure.

    I'm such a nut that I actually chart the sentence structures of verses to gain a deeper understanding. This exercise clued me into the differences in the use of language from how Americans write and speak now.

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  3. I can't help myself--I've got to share with you how phenomenal this translation is.

    Dr. Reynolds, a Puritan leader in the 17th Century, insisted that the work be entrusted to universities and be free from notes. The study notes (or commentaries) included in the Geneva Bible caused some disturbance for some religious leaders (and King James) because their bent was toward Calvin's teachings.

    The three companies I mentioned in the above comment were each split into two and so there were six groups working on six portions. Each member worked alone and then brought it before his committee. The committee then reviewed each members worked and agreed upon a translation. In the end, each part of the Bible had been gone over 16 times.

    Because the translators also referred to previous works, including Tyndale's and Cloverdale's translations (as well as the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus), the KJB was a result of 86 years of work by highly educated, God fearing men.

    When you consider that they didn't have computers or emails or telephones, this was quite an accomplishment!

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  4. Great post, Lynn! And very dear to my heart as I treasure the KJV and use it often (daily) as it appeals to me more than my other versions. Plus it is the version used in my colonial novels. Somehow I can memorize better out of it, too.

    Recently in researching my new series, I found that there was a Gaelic version of the KJV printed in Scotland which I have my hero pack around:) This still delights me as so few folks had Bibles back then even in English. But Scotland produced some amazing preachers.

    Thanks for an in-depth look at this. Like you, I LOVE the language of the times. Nothing can surpass it for the beauty and richness therein.

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  5. When our son was little, he asked me to read him a story out of his Bible because the KJV had "too many TH's in it." Out of the mouths of babes! :) Now he is 23 years old and has purchased a NKJV that he likes.

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  6. Good point! I learned so much from this post.

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  7. Pegg, I've heard that many times. :) I grew up with the KJV and my kids now read and memorize from it. They don't stumble over the 'TH's' because that is what they are used to. I suppose some may feel it is a bit like learning another language, but I must admit I love it!

    Laura, I read it daily as well. In fact I use it as my only source for Scripture reading. While I've read through the NIV and the NASB, after studying more about the KJV, I've decided it's the one for me! :)

    Since I write primarily historical fiction, reading KJV keeps me in shape for research. Recently I went through Charles Spurgeon's sermons and felt as though I was reading my own Pastor's sermons.

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  8. Me, too, Lynn! Today I just ordered Matthew Henry's commentary as that is what Whitefield and other old saints used to go deeper. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it! And all that wonderful old language:) I do believe it fuels our historicals in so many ways.

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  9. Oh, I have that. You can also get Matthew Henry's Commentary online at http://bible.lifeway.com/crossmain.asp.

    Another good source for commentaries is www.BlueLetterBible.org. Sir Isaac Newton's (1642 - 1727) commentary on Daniel and Revelations is also included.

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  10. Great post, Lynn! I switched from King James to NIV when I was almost thirty. I love my NIV, it really spoke to me in a way I could more readily understand and relate to. But there is undeniably a rhythm and beauty in KJ and NKJ versions, too. I still have the KJ bible I earned as a child by memorizing 100 verses at my little country church! Thanks so much for the commentaries citation, too. I will need to be spending time with Wesley and also with some of the back country stump preachers once I move to getting my second manuscript completed and cleaned up. Thanks!

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  11. Thanks Carrie. All this talk of studying the great preachers of the past makes me want to go to a tent meeting revival! Anyone willing to join me? LOL

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  12. I'm so used to the KJV, because that's what our pastor teaches from, so it's what I've heard for the past 18 years or more. My own Bible is NKJ.

    Another great thing about KJV is that we can quote from it in our manuscripts without getting permission or dealing with copyright issues.

    Great post, Lynn. And you guys have spurred me to take a look at some of those old commentaries. Thanks for the links!

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  13. Thanks Lori. This has been a great discussion!

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  14. I prefer reading the King James version over others. It is so poetic in sound and very soothing. :)

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  15. A great post! I like NIV, but love KJV! Every time I need to dig deeper into a passage, it's going to be KJV for the subtlety; and somehow it shows a richer, more layered meaning. Thank you so much Lynn!

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  16. Sonia, I like that - soothing. I must agree. :)

    Pat, that's so true. It does just that. I love how the Holy Spirit reveals so much through it.

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