New books herald world’s most famous Good Book

(RNS) Anyone who watched the recent royal wedding in Westminster Abbey heard words and phrases found in the King James Version of the Bible: “vouchsafed” and “thee” and “asunder.” It was a fitting setting as the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Bible commissioned by King James I, the successor to Queen Elizabeth I. Commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611, the Authorized Version, known as the King James Version, or KJV, has become one of the most influential books in the English language. It went through several revisions over the years, most recently (and permanently) in 1769. Nashville-base Christian publishing giant Thomas Nelson, one the world's leading publisher of KJV Bibles, has produced a number of commemorative Bibles and books for the celebration, as well as a traveling exhibit of important KJV editions. The exhibit can be seen via virtual tour at http://www.kjv400celebration.com.

Lofty language of KJV is more common than you might think

(RNS) Twelve phrases believed to have originated in the King James Bible, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year: “Fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) “What comes out of the mouths of babes” (Psalms 8:2) “How are the mighty fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19) “To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) “Beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3) “Set thine house in order” (2 Kings 20:1, 2 Kings 20:1) “A still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 ) “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) “Suffer little children” (Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:16) “Turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) “A thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) “Let us now praise famous men” (Sirach 44:1, from the Apocrypha) Source: “Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language,” by David Crystal.

Oops! Printing errors in the original KJV

(RNS) In the days before spell check, printer errors occasionally crept into the King James Version of the Bible. Here are some of the most notable: — In a 1612 edition, Psalm 119:161 read “Printers have persecuted me without cause,” instead of “princes.” Perhaps a Freudian slip by the copy editor. — A 1631 edition now called the “Wicked Bible” had Exodus 20:14 as “Thou shall commit adultery.” The printers were heavily fined for this lascivious mistake.

Chances are thou keepest a KJV in thy house

(RNS) If thou hast a Bible in the house and readeth it at least once a month, chances are strong it's the majestic King James Version of the Bible in Elizabethan English, according to a recent survey. Of the 89 percent of U.S. adults who own at least one Bible, two-thirds of them own a King James, which marks its 400th anniversary this year, according to LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research agency. Although there are two dozen English-language Bibles in many contemporary translations, the King James Version reigns even more supreme among those who actually read their Bibles: 82 percent of those who read the Good Book at least once a month rely on the translation that first brought the Scripture to the English-speaking masses worldwide. Age makes a difference. Three out of four Bible owners 55 and older have a King James, compared with 56 percent of those under 35, according to the survey of 1,004 adults, conducted March 2-6.

How didst the KJV come to be?

(RNS) The King James Bible, translated from ancient Greek and Hebrew in 1611, is, by virtually all accounts, the most awe-inspiring work of English prose ever written. Over the past four centuries, the KJV has sold more than 5 billion copies. Its exquisite English text has circulated the globe in the hands of missionaries and graced the homes of kings, pastors and peasants. Its lofty language has been repeated over pulpits and podiums, in prayers and poetry, by teachers and travelers. The words are so familiar that some believers may think that's how God actually talks.

Mormon embrace of KJV didn’t come early, or easy

(RNS) Though many early Mormon texts and speeches mirror the English prose of the King James Bible, it was not always the Mormons' only authorized version ofHoly Writ. In fact, Mormon founder Joseph Smith had so many reservations about its language that he stated his new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believed the Bible to be the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” It took more than a century and a half after the church's 1830 founding for the Utah-based LDS Church to make exclusive use of the King James Version “official.” The KJV's move from “commonly used” to “official” began in the 1950s with the leadership of J. Reuben Clark, then a member of the LDS Church's governing First Presidency, explains Philip Barlow in his book, “Mormons and the Bible,” and in an essay in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In 1952, the New York-based National Council of Churches issued a new translation known as the Revised Standard Version.

For many blacks, there’s only one Bible, and it’s the KJV

(RNS) On Sundays, C. Elizabeth Floyd, shows up for worship at Trinity Baptist Church of Metro Atlanta, with her Bible in hand. But the large, black leather Bible with dog-eared pages and hand-written notes in the margins isn't just any Bible: It's the King James Version. And Floyd, like many African-Americans, wouldn't have it any other way. It's more than mere tradition. A civil rights veteran called the KJV's thees and thous “romantic,” and a scholar spoke of black churches' “love affair” with the king's English.

Monday’s Raptureless Religion News Roundup

“It has been a really tough weekend.” Tracked down at his home in Alameda, Calif., that’s what Harold Camping had to say on Sunday, the day after the earth failed to quake and Jesus failed to meet believers in the air. “I’m looking for answers,” Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.” Reaction from the Camping crowd ran from despair to defiance, with some even saying that Judgment Day has indeed come and gone.

Could another Bible unite Christians like the KJV?

(RNS) 1604. England. Rebellious Puritans, establishment Anglicans and Roman Catholics are at each other’s throats. A new king fears his reign will combust in a powder keg of religious strife and anti-monarchical fervor. So King James I does what any sensible monarch would do: He orders up a new translation of the Bible.

The GOP Race

I’m fully prepared to believe that Mitch Daniels’ family proved to be the unleapable hurdle in his abortive run-up to the GOP presidential race. Imagine yourself as wife Cheri, having split for the coast to marry on old flame, your husband and young daughters left behind in Boone County, Indiana, and then returned to the nest four years later, going head-to-head with the most assiduously maternal First Lady–to say nothing of the most together family–in the history of the American presidency. I don’t think so.How far Daniels could have gone is an unknown never to be known, but he was unlikely to have emerged with a lot of white evangelical support, notwithstanding his readiness to stick a knife into Planned Parenthood. Where that support will go is the big unknown to be known in the race, and the best place to start is with good old identity politics. At the moment, the plausible GOP candidates (sorry, RonPau), include two Mormons (Romney, Huntsman), two Catholics (Santorum, Gingrich), and three evangelicals (Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Palin).

Leonard Nimoy, cast member of the film "Star Trek Into Darkness," poses as he arrives at the film's premiere in Hollywood in this May 14, 2013, file photo. Leonard Nimoy, the actor famous for playing the logical Mr. Spock on the television show "Star Trek," died Feb. 27, 2015 at age 83. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

Star Trek’s Spock describes his Jewish roots

ROCKVILLE, Md. (RNS) The V-shaped hand sign that made actor Leonard Nimoy famous as Mr. Spock may have seemed to be from a planet far away. But the “Star Trek” star who died Friday said he created it from childhood memories of his Jewish family.

Friday’s Religion News Roundup

Stay away, folks. I’ve come down with a nasty case of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, I am pleased that RNS, as you may have heard, is going nonprofit, thanks to a generous grant from the Lilly Foundation. On the other hand, a lot of people are saying the world is going to end on Saturday. So, do I party tonight like it’s 1999, or 2011?

Bob Dylan’s religious mystique endures

(RNS) Through the 1960s, Bob Dylan was hailed as a prophet, first of folk music, then of rock ‘n’ roll — at least by those who forgave him the heresy of having “gone electric.” But when rock’s best-known Jew famously declared Jesus to be the answer, many fans turned on him. For five decades, Robert Allen Zimmerman, who turns 70 on Tuesday (May 24), has shocked, mystified, baffled and intrigued fans with songs rife withbiblical references, both Jewish and Christian, and no shortage of religious imagery. For Michael J. Gilmour, an associate professor of New Testament and English literature at Providence College in Manitoba, Canada, and author of the book “Gods and Guitars,” Dylan proves an irresistible subject for theological analysis. Some fans gladly embrace the idea of Dylan as a secular prophet, a term vague enough to permit “a semblance of religiosity that does not actually connect the singer to a faith tradition in any way,” Gilmour writes in his recent book, “The Gospel According to Bob Dylan.”

Getting rid of “social conservatives”

With the presidential election cycle getting up to speed, it’s time for reporters and yakkers like me to stop writing about “social conservatives” as if they were an identifiable segment of the voting population. I say this as someone who has happily been using the term since late 2008, when it looked like the religious right was at least organizationally in eclipse, and that the GOP was engaged in a struggle to balance the competing interests of three types of conservatives: social, economic, and foreign policy.But, as we’ve learned from survey data on Tea Party adherence, social conservatism is thoroughly enmeshed with economic conservatism. Even libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Paul’s heterodoxy is in the foreign policy realm. American conservatives as a whole are way closer to neocon exceptionalism than to Pauline isolationism.

An important announcement from RNS

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE ENTERS NONPROFIT PARTNERSHIP WITH RELIGION NEWSWRITERS FOUNDATION New nonprofit news venture to expand and enhance coverage of religion nationwide with support from Lilly Endowment WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 18, 2011) Religion News Service (RNS), which for 77 years has been the nation’s leading syndicated wire service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion, ethics and spirituality, will become a nonprofit on June 1, 2011, in an innovative new relationship with the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) and its affiliated institution, Religion Newswriters Foundation (RNF). The collaboration also forges ties between RNS and the University of Missouri School of Journalism and its Reynolds Journalism Institute. Founded in 1934, RNS has been owned since 1994 by Advance Publications, Inc. On June 1, 2011, the company will transfer RNS assets to Religion News LLC, a new 501(c)(3) entity affiliated with RNF,, according to an agreement finalized today. A three-year grant totaling nearly $3.5 million from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. will help RNS make the transition, expand its online presence and launch a series of community religion websites devoted to maintaining and expanding coverage of religion news in underserved markets. “Religious beliefs motivate people in key aspects of their lives, yet most small and mid-sized media markets have abandoned coverage of religion,” said Dr. Debra L. Mason, executive director of RNA and RNF and a professor at the University of Missouri, who will manage the new nonprofit.