Exhibit celebrates 400 years of famous Bible text

This version corrects the next location of the Green Collection to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of University Libraries, and Jerry Pattengale, director of the Green Scholars Initiative, prepare ancient biblical works Wednesday for a display lasting today through Saturday in the Armstrong Browning Library.Jed Dean | Lariat Photo Editor

King James version to be recognized at conference

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Baylor will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible with an international conference and world-renowned exhibit today through Saturday.

Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and humanities, said hosting this event fits Baylor’s core mission.

“Baylor’s mission is to provide a high-quality education in a Christian context and environment, so celebrating the 400th anniversary of the most famous English Bible in the world makes a lot of sense,” said Jeffrey, who is also a distinguished senior fellow and director of manuscript research in Scripture and tradition at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

The King James Bible has had an important historical, political and cultural impact since it was first published in 1611, said Dr. Thomas Kidd, associate professor of history and senior fellow at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

“The King James Bible, for the English-speaking world, not only has had a huge influence on religion, but has also had a great influence on English and American literature, on political rhetoric,” Kidd said. “American and English-speaking culture around the world has been shaped dramatically by the language of the King James Bible. It is an important religious anniversary, but it’s also a crucial cultural anniversary.”

The conference, titled “The King James Bible and the World it Made, 1611-2011” will be hosted by Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion and will be held at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Topics will include the King James Bible’s influence on literature, religion and politics.

Kidd said that phrases from the King James Bible are found throughout American and English-speaking literary and pop culture. Examples include “a voice crying in the wilderness,” “feet of clay” and “betrayed by a kiss.” Many times people do not realize this language comes from the Bible.

“[The language] is everywhere in great American political speeches, from Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ speech, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. These are all full of references to phrases if not entire passages from the King James Bible,” Kidd said. “The list where the language of the King James shows up in American history is endless.”

The exhibition will be on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library and will include rare artifacts including a Dead Sea Scroll, an illustrated Gutenberg Bible and a text handwritten by King Henry VII about the sacraments. The collection is on loan from the Green Collection, based in Oklahoma, and will appear at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City after leaving Baylor.

“The idea is to tell the context and story of the King James,” said Dr. Scott Carroll, director of the Green Collection and a research professor in manuscript studies and biblical tradition. “Items tell the story of how we got the Bible from the very earliest ancient things all the way to the early American Bibles. There are scads of things that you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world, especially in the same room. It’s a major deal.”

Carroll said the exhibit ties together with the conference to expand upon the significance of the King James Bible.

“The King James is the most-printed, most-quoted Bible of all time. Put in the context of all the other Bibles, so that it’s not just like the King James has fallen from heaven. There is a process and it helps a person understand the process,” Carroll said.

Carroll said the exhibit will have an impact on its visitors, especially those with strong spiritual connections.

“[This will be] an enormous cultural experience for those that are spiritually inclined,” Carroll said. “They will be spiritually inspired by the cost, the pain, the sacrifice to preserve the Bible and translate it into original languages like English. I think it will help them to see the of the preservation of the Bible. It is an important thing to open up their minds to that and to help them understand and appreciate those things.”

Exhibit hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Correction: The exhibit will be traveling to St. Peter’s Square, not St. Petersburg, in Vatican City. 4/7/11