The Queen has attended a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 400th year of the King James translation of the Bible. The translation was ordered by James I in 1604 to help forge unity between religious factions. The Abbey event highlighted the book’s impact on English language and culture throughout the world. It also celebrated the “People’s Bible” – a hand-written version of the King James Bible completed by more than 22,000 people around Britain. As well as the Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales, who is patron of the King James Bible Trust, attended the service.

The King James Bible was the work of 54 scholars working in six translation committees – or companies – based in Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said it was significant because it allowed people to think of their own experience in terms of biblical stories. In his address to the Abbey, Dr Williams said the King James version of the bible was a good translation because there was no attempt to smooth over the “stumbling” of the original.

He told the congregation: “The 1611 translators never let us down in this, never seek to make it easy. It is one of the things that gives this version its abiding importance. It remains an invitation to work, to open up our own language to this weight of presence and gift.”

Expressions from the King James Bible such as “the powers that be”, “the apple of his eye”, “signs of the times” and a “law unto themselves” are still part of the English language.”

Speaking before the service, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said the Bible’s impact was not immediately recognised: “It took some time to establish itself. It wasn’t really till the reign of Charles the First that it became universally used. But for the 350 years, certainly till about 50 years ago, it was the only translation of the Bible that everyone who spoke English knew. And it’s been the biggest-selling book in history.”

A bound copy of the Book of Genesis from the People’s Bible was presented at the altar during the Westminster Abbey service. The first two verses of the Bible have been hand-written by the Prince of Wales with others completed by people including Prime Minister David Cameron, actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales and the comedian and broadcaster Frank Skinner. People in more than 200 towns across Britain – from the Orkney Islands to the Isle of Man, and Jersey, Whitby, Swansea and Wrexham – took part in the project. In London those taking part in the Occupy London protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral were also invited to write some verses.

Source: BBC News