Friday, May 11, 2012

"wee have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the worke to that passe that you see"

In January 1604, the recently-crowned King James the First of England called a meeting of clergy.  Leaders of the Church of England and Puritans who wanted to reform church procedures met with the king.  At the time there were two popular competing versions of the Bible: the Bishop's Bible, read in Church services, and the Geneva Bible, liked by Puritans and disliked by the king because its margin notes were anti-monarchy.  A Puritan leader at the 1604 meeting called for a new translation of the Bible and the king agreed.

Close to fifty scholars began work on the new translation.  They divided into teams for Old and New Testaments, and the Apocrypha.  They had fifteen rules to follow.  One rule was to alter the Bishop's Bible as little as possible.  Another allowed them to use other translations (like the Geneva Bible or Tyndale's work) if they agreed better with the text. Margin notes were only allowed for explanation of Greek and Hebrew terms.

The Bible was published in 1611 but revisions continued until 1769, which edition came to be the "authorized" version used today.  If you would like to see what the original King James Bible looked like, go to

For many years the only copy of the King James Bible that I owned was "copyright 1979, the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, printed by permission of the Crown's patentee, Cambridge University Press."  The front page explained that it was the "Authorized King James Version with explanatory notes and cross references to the standard works of the church..."  It came with copious footnotes and chapter headings, a section of maps with gazetteer, a Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, and an appendix with the Joseph Smith Translation.  It did not include any books considered part of the Apocrypha.

Today I own a Scofield Study Bible, my first Bible purchase after deciding to leave the LDS church.  My trust in the Mormon scriptures was gone and I was feeling lost.  I wanted to read the Bible but I had no idea which Bible translation to turn to, so I stuck with what I knew: the King James Version.  I didn't have any Christian friends to consult but Scofield's reference Bible came highly praised on  I previewed its contents online (since I live in a place where this item is not stocked in any local bookstore).  Scofield's reference Bible provides cross references of Bible themes and commentary and I figured I could use all the help I could get as I transitioned to being a Christian.  I wanted to explore this new world and wasn't sure how much of what I had learned was true or accepted opinion in the Christian world.

Once it arrived I examined it. The King James language is familiar, and having lots of notes on the pages feels comfortable.  The words of Jesus are printed in red, which was different and I liked that.  I love the supplemental materials in the back: the index to themes, the dictionary of proper names, the subject index, and the concordance.  There are maps too. This Bible is a little library in itself.

On the downside, I saw that the commentary reads very authoritatively.  As a Mormon, I used to heed authority ("the words of the living prophet") and put aside doubts that would have to be explained in the next life. I was a little skeptical and wary of these notes in the Scofield Bible, but figured I could read them and research the ideas in other sources.  I would want a new Christian like me to explore the world of Christianity and not just accept something because it is scholarly or sounds definitive.  I did find the cross-references and additional notes helpful and interesting. On the whole, I would still recommend this as a good transition Bible for an ex-Mormon, as a good replacement for the LDS version.

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