The year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the creation of the King James Bible. Award-winning director Jerry Griffith brings to life the fascinating history of this great work, along with its impact for us today.
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The year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the creation of the King James Bible, arguably the greatest piece of English Literature ever produced. King James had an uncanny love of beautiful things, including language to stir the soul. With several inferior English translations in use across the Kingdom, the Puritan leader John Rainolds took his opportunity to suggest that a new, more accurate translation was needed for the people. With the new king’s blessing, a committee of 47 professors began the daunting task of creating a translation that was accurate, acceptable to all, and beautiful enough for the king! While Shakespeare’s rich language lit up the stage, this committee penned a beautiful translation that would eventually bring new life to the churches.
Award-winning director Jerry Griffith doesn’t disappoint as he brings to life the fascinating history of this great work, along with its impact for us today. KJV: The Making of the King James Bible brings the viewer right into the heart of the translation process through specific passage examples. While exploring the varying viewpoints of the different scholars, we get a firsthand look at the immense attention to detail they used. This presentation gives the viewer a renewed appreciation for the sacred scriptures and their place in our homes and churches.
Historical documentaries inhabit two worlds as they blend entertainment and information. In the world of the written word—strong in its ability to convey information—the artist always faces a challenge to appeal to readers’ senses and arrest their attention. In the world of dramatic film— with its ability to portray action, convey tone of voice, and deliver visual and audio stimulation— the artist faces a challenge to slow down enough to engage the brain along with the eye and the ear. Two new films on the King James Version tilt in opposite directions as they try to exploit film’s possibilities while teaching viewers about a monumental 17th-century event. KJB: The Book that Changed the World (Lionsgate), produced and directed by Norman Stone (Florence Nightingale, C. S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia), tilts toward arresting dramatic reconstructions. Robert Cecil cajoles the aging Elizabeth and orchestrates the transition to the newly crowned James I. Young James spars with his strict Calvinist tutor about the observance of Epiphany. The newly crowned James I colorfully abuses both bishops and Puritans at the 1604 Hampton Court conference. (Luther-like, James calls the Puritan requests “a litany of dullness blown out your buttocks.”) The film capitalizes on dramatic developments (which keeps it from exploring historians’ challenges to the story that the Gunpowder Plot conspirators tried to tunnel under Parliament). Colorful host/narrator John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings’s Gimli the Dwarf) intensifies the drama with his grand manner. For all its theatrics, however, the film doesn’t show the drama of translation itself. For that, we have KJV: The Making of the King James Bible (Vision Video).
With a minimum of historical context and at only half the length of Stone’s 90-minute treatment, KJV: The Making of the King James Bible provides text samples from the Bishops’ Bible (a lazy translation from Elizabeth’s reign), the Geneva Bible (a rigorous but agenda-laden translation built on the foundations of William Tyndale), and the Latin Vulgate (the 1,200-year-old official Catholic Bible). In Psalm 23, does the Lord lead me as a shepherd? Or does he rule me? In I Cor. 13, does Paul praise the virtues of love or of charity? Theology and political philosophy will color the expectations of the translator. Are society’s leaders to exercise care or dominion? Is the Christian life about affection or good works? The choices favored by the Puritans, says Adam Nicolson, author of the 2003 book God’s Secretaries, are deeply subversive. Nicolson is one of the best things about this film. Each documentary has its lineup of experts, but Nicolson’s wit and chipmunkish charm trumps them all. While Stone’s film plays Bishop Richard Bancroft as a scheming comic villain, Nicolson roots Bancroft’s ruthlessness in his rough, rural Cumbrian origins. While Stone presents a James who protects his power by imposing his will on the competing religious parties, Nicolson gives us a wily James who grants the Puritan leader John Rainolds only one request—a fresh translation of the Scriptures— and then hands the Puritan project to Rainolds’s nemesis Bancroft for implementation. By forcing the parties to work together, he hoped to bridge the gap. The triumph of the KJV, both films point out, was more in its craftsmanship than in its popularity. It took a nation torn by civil war and wounded by both monarchist and Puritan excesses to embrace the KJV some 50 years later as a symbol of religious unity.
This year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the creation of the famed King James version of the Bible. Produced by the Christian History Institute, filmmaker Jerry Griffith's documentary combines dramatic re-enactments, scholarly interviews, and voiceover narration to examine the sometimes violent controversy in 17th-century England over the three major translations of the Bible then in use: the Latin version favored by Catholics, the Rhelms New Testament, and the Geneva Bible. When John Rainolds, a leader in the Puritan church proposed a new translation, King James gave his blessing, and 47 scholars were tasked with creating what turned out to be the highly influential King James Bible, still widely used today. The film details the painstaking deliberations and scholarship that went into the effort, highlighting specific passages to illustrate the challenges involved in resolving contentious differences. For example, some versions of the passage "Love is patient, love is king" from Corinthians used the word "charity" in place of "love," which changes both the meaning and its implications. In the end, the undertaking produced one of the greates religious works (and a sterling example of English literature). DVD extras include in-depth interviews with biblical scholars Ward Allen, Leonard Greenspoon, and Adam Nicolson.
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