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Creation and Illumination: The 400th Anniversary Celebration of the King James Bible

by G. James Daichendt, Ed.D.

Arguably the greatest masterpiece of all time, the Bible eclipses all other literary, artistic, and cultural works of humankind throughout history. Written by 40 authors from different eras, it exemplifies an inerrant continuity of doctrine and resounds with the clear message of God’s love for His creation and genuine desire for relationship that eliminates the possibility of coincidence and points to the only possible explanation—divine inspiration. Through the Bible in all its translations, the Creator reveals His plan and purpose for humanity and inspires unparalleled faith and love. As the guiding text for Judaism and Christianity, the Bible shaped the history of civilization for centuries and still serves as the moral compass for millions.

As the world acknowledges the 400th anniversary of the most popular English Bible ever—the King James Version (KJV) completed in 1611—believers and seekers alike must acknowledge its deep impact on Western culture. Admittedly, winning a license to monopolize the market on printed Bibles provided initial momentum, but this significant translation overcame early criticism and earned praise for its aesthetic and literary beauty. Over time, the KJV standardized Protestant corporate worship and Bible memorization for close to 300 years. President Abraham Lincoln, in his second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, quoted the KJV directly in what many consider one of the most important public addresses in American history, a momentous occasion demonstrating the importance of the KJV’s language.

What better place to celebrate this significant anniversary than at a Christ-centered university? With the full support and enthusiasm of the academy, Azusa Pacific University will host a number of events over the course of five weeks that reflect and explore this text from diverse interdisciplinary perspectives—from history and political science to theology, music, and the arts. Providing context, discussing its impact and relevance, and celebrating discovery, a series of lectures, publications, exhibitions, symposia, concerts, and gatherings will engage faculty, staff, students, and guests as they thoughtfully explore the King James Version.

As a staunch supporter of the liberal arts, APU offers the ideal framework for such exploration and reflection. In this academic environment, students delve into study and investigate a wealth of subjects for the sake of learning. As they engage modern art, discuss the importance of language, and consider historical and political perspectives, they exercise logic and reasoning; and as they explore the

KJV alongside fellow truth-seekers, they interweave faith and scholarship in a unique and powerful way. Scholars at every level of every discipline view this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect and consider questions such as: Why was the KJV considered an unpopular publication when it was first completed? How does the language of the KJV impact the way we understand a novel like Moby Dick? Can the uniqueness of the KJV be represented in abstract art? While answers to these questions may not come easily, the historical, theological, artistic, and philosophical discussions that surround them will allow the APU community to reach new depths of understanding and increase the value of scholarship in classrooms, research, and the integration of faith into the academy.

As an artist, I appreciate the KJV’s impact through that lens. Only through this high level of scholarly inquiry can we identify the people, masterpieces, and moments that alter the course of thought and culture, and truly begin to understand context, meaning, and relevance. For example, many agree that Paul Cézanne’s The Bather changed the way artists created for the next century and established a foundation for understanding modern art. In a more profound way, the KJV ushered in a new era for evangelism and interpretation of God’s intervention on Earth. Though not the first English Bible translation, much like Cézanne’s boy depicted in The Bather, the KJV represents something much more powerful than its face value. Just as each viewing of Cézanne’s painting reveals new levels of meaning, this celebration of the KJV allows a similar reflection, facilitating fresh, insightful experiences. For some, the translation becomes an old friend as they recognize the changes in their engagement with it over time. For others, it may be an introduction filled with opportunity for redemption and relationship with their Maker. For all, the KJV anniversary celebration will highlight deep and personal reflections and the occasion will signify its continued importance in contemporary culture.

G. James Daichendt '98, Ed.D., is an associate professor of art and author of the new text, Artist Scholar: Reflections on Writing and Research. gdaichendt@apu.edu

Originally published in the Fall '11 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).