Monday, 19 December 2011

19th December 2011

Thou [art] my battle axe [and] weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms. Jeremiah 51:20

The Israelites seldom listened to their prophets’ warnings to turn away from national conflict. Jeremiah vows angrily to turn the weapon of God’s law against the tribes and end their expansionist ambitions for good; war itself will be destroyed. World War I was described at the time as the war to end all wars, yet history has shown that we are no better than our forebears at heeding Jeremiah’s warning. Thomas Hardy, often dismissed as a stark pessimist by careless readers, follows Jeremiah’s thought in his poem ‘In Time of “The Breaking of Nations”’ (1915). War is not merely ineffective but in the scale of human existence merely irrelevant.

Yonder a maid and her wight*
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die. (Lines 9-12) *man

Monday, 12 December 2011

12th December 2011

It is a tribute to Gloucestershire born William Tyndale that nearly eighty per cent of the King James’ Bible originates from his 1525 Bible. Many of the expressions found in the King James’ Bible, for instance, fight the good fight, were coined by him. It also retained many of the older linguistic forms from Tyndale’s Bible, for example, the –eth verb ending and the pronoun ye, despite other texts of the early 1600s using the contemporary –s verb ending and you pronoun. The use of Tyndale’s language produced the King James’ Bible’s traditional and dignified style, which has endeared it to its readers for the last four hundred years.

For futher details, please see
Brake, Donald L. (2008) A Visual History of the English Bible The Tumultuous Tale of the World’s Best Selling Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Crystal, David (2010) Begat The King James’ Bible and the English Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Crystal, David (2010) Evolving English One Language Many Voices. London: British Library.
Crystal, David (2003) The Cambridge Encylopedia of the English Language. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Metzger, Bruce M. (2001) The Bible in Translation Ancient and English Versions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

6th December 2011

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. Genesis 47.9-10

Days seem like years for the old patriarch, and years like days. The longest life span is never enough and never adequate. Many years earlier God gave Jacob the name ‘Israel’ after a mysterious encounter with a being who wrestled with him until daybreak (Genesis 32: 24). Yet despite this divine confidence in him, Jacob knows that he did not achieve all he set out to do. It is tempting to remain in thrall to the past, to replicate the actions of our forebears, to expect the same of our inheritors. Jacob’s humility reminds us that we must accept what we inherit, act in the present, and go forward. Robert Browning puts Jacob’s wisdom to ironic use in ‘The Bishop Orders His Tomb’ (1845). The corrupt prelate plays his illegitimate sons off against each other as they gather around his deathbed hoping to inherit the old man’s wealth. ‘Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage’, he remarks, before threatening to bequeath his villas to the Pope (line 101).

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

29th November 2011

Matthew 13:45-6 (King James Version)
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-6 is a passage of great beauty and eloquence, which illustrates perfectly the concept of worth, and describes with powerful simplicity what it means to love and to treasure. The passage also tells us that such love comes at a ‘great price’ after much searching. When eventually you find that ‘one pearl’, it is so precious that you are compelled to give away all that you possess, in order to obtain the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Its true beauty lies in the fact that it is by sharing this with others, that the value of this ‘kingdom’ becomes manifest.

Monday, 21 November 2011

21st November 2011

Gen. 31: 19. ‘Meanwhile Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household idols.’ (Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. The New Jewish Publication Society Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text).

Reading this biblical verse as a Jewish woman, I recall its traditional rabbinic interpretation, which is that Rachel stole the idols to keep her father Laban from the sin of idolatry. And yet it seems more plausible that, about to leave her father’s home and travel with Jacob to an unknown land, Rachel would have wanted to take the doll-like teraphim with her, hidden under her skirts, because it was these that she still half-believes had kept her safe since she was a child. If she were trying to preserve her father’s religious virtue the narrative’s tragic irony would be lost. For Jacob, not knowing that Rachel had stolen the figurines, makes an oath to her father that whoever is found with them will not remain alive (Gen. 31:32). By the end of Genesis 35, Rachel has died giving birth to Benjamin and is buried by the road to Ephrath (Gen, 35:16-20).

Monday, 14 November 2011

14th November 2011

‘The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26.41) This admission, in a call to resist temptation, recognizes the difficulty of living up to high moral standards. According to Clarke’s commentary, ‘Your inclinations are good - ye are truly sincere; but your good purposes will be overpowered by your timidity. Ye wish to continue steadfast in your adherence to your Master; but your fears will lead you to desert him.’

Monday, 7 November 2011

7th November 2011

While the Authorized Version was meant to replace the Bishops' Bible as the official version for readings in the Church of England, it was apparently (unlike the Great Bible) never specifically "authorized", although it is commonly known as the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom. However, the King's Printer issued no further editions of the Bishops' Bible; so necessarily the Authorized Version supplanted it as the standard lectern Bible in parish church use in England. In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version replaced the text of the Great Bible — for Epistle and Gospel readings — and as such was "authorized" by Act of Parliament. The phrase "King James version" first appeared in print in 1884.’