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Representatives from a range of faith communities have lent their support to the King James Bible project. Cultural figures, academics and historians have also expressed their views on the importance of this national, historical, cultural and literary icon.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Head Rabbi, Reform Judaism:
The King James Bible is an important part of British history and our literary heritage. Bringing it into schools across the country provides access to a fascinating artefact of that history as part of the multi-tonal religious landscape that is Britain today.
Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, Chair, Church of England Board of Education:
I'm delighted that a copy of the King James Bible is to be given to every state school in the land. This is a fitting way of marking the seminal contribution this version of the Bible has made to our culture and symbolically places the King James Bible at the heart of the educational process which it inspired. I welcome this initiative most warmly.
Dr. V. P. Narayan Rao, Chairman, Hindu Council (UK):
We would like to express our appreciation and support for the initiative of distributing copies of the King James's Bible to all schools in England to mark the occasion of its 400th anniversary. We Hindus respect all religions according to the tenet of 'sarva dharma samman or smabhava' (respect all religions equally) and therefore, scriptures of all religious are treated with respect. This principle of mutual respect amongst religions is vital in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society in today’s Britain. We feel certain that all schools will benefit by this initiative.
Mr Greg Pope, Deputy Director, Catholic Education Service:
We welcome the Government's decision to send a copy of the King James Bible to every school. Christianity has made a huge contribution to English history, language and culture and it is excellent news that one of the most popular English translations of the Bible should be made available to all children.
Maulana Mohammad Shahid Raza, Chairman, Imams and Mosques Council UK
The King James Bible's influence on English culture, art and literature is unquestionable. It has played a key role in making English a world language and I find it fitting that it will now be distributed on its 400th anniversary to schools throughout England by the Department for Education. I hope it enables children of all faiths to discover the heritage and cultural legacy of their country and helps them to grow up in a peaceful, cohesive and tolerant society. On behalf of the Imams and Mosques Council UK, I warmly welcome this initiative.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations UK
It gives me real pleasure to write a few lines in support of the excellent initiative of the Department for Education to mark the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Bible by giving a presentation copy to all pupils in primary and secondary schools throughout the country. It is a work of huge religious significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims, and in the beauty of language a treasured work of uplifting literature for people of all faiths.
Professor David Crystal, author of Begat: the King James Bible and the English language:
However one sees the King James Bible – whether as inspired text, great literature, cultural identifier, or political stimulus – the fact remains that it has played an unparalleled role in influencing the oratorical and literary style of many writers in English and shaping the expressive character of the language as a whole. Young people are fascinated by the history of their language, when it is presented to them in a vivid and lively way, and to hear the biblical stories that led to such idioms as "salt of the earth" and "fly in the ointment", or (at a younger level) "no room at the inn" and "the land of Nod" is an excellent way of broadening their linguistic horizons and developing their appreciation of the expressive range of English. Having the text easily available will help make this happen.
Professor Gordon Campbell, Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Leicester:
The King James Bible is one of the most important cultural building blocks of England and the English-speaking world. After 400 years, the pulse and simplicity of its language still have a powerful appeal to every speaker of English, and the stories that it tells are embedded in our literature and our cultural memory.
Professor Niall Ferguson, Laurence A Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University:
Alongside the works of Shakespeare, the 1611 King James Bible is one of the defining works of English literature – as well being one of the few masterpieces ever to be produced by a committee of academics. Its displacement by more modern translations was a form of cultural vandalism that I never could understand. Everyone should own a copy, including atheists.
Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible:
You don’t have to be a Christian to hear the power of the King James Bible. People often think of it as difficult and alien but most of it is quite accessible: its stories are cosmic in scale but the words it uses are usually simple and often domestic, stately in their rhythms but deeply emotional in their impact. That is why it is some of the greatest English music ever written, and why it has played such a part in our history: majestic but intimate, the voice of the universe somehow whispered into the innermost parts of the ear.
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, St Cross College, University of Oxford:
Quite apart from its status as a classic version of a great religious text, the King James Bible represents the culmination of a century of biblical translation in the first golden age of modern English literature. It remains a prime reference point for English-speakers everywhere, and we are culturally impoverished as a nation if we do not make our acquaintance with it.
Lord Melvyn Bragg, writer and broadcaster:
The King James Bible has been the most influential book in western civilisation over the last 400 years. Putting aside its extraordinary effect on the spread of the Protestant faith, it has been at the centre of the most progressive optimistic and positive developments of the last few centuries.
It has provided us with one of the foundation stones of our language. Because of that it has become integral to English speaking literature. It was central to the movement which resulted in the ending of the slave trade and of slavery itself. It was also a crucial enabler in the drive to democracy. In the 19th century it was the most powerful factor in the empowerment of women and also in the growth of philanthropy. It has truly been the book of books.
Dr Alison Shell, Department of English, University College London
For Christians and Jews, the Bible is the most important book in the world. For everyone living in Britain today, whatever their beliefs or background, it is an indispensable means of understanding the stories and values that have shaped our culture. Of the English translations it has received, the King James Bible has been the most influential and is, by common consent, the most beautifully written and memorable. Whether we realise it or not, we quote from it every day. Our ancestors often learned to read in order to experience the King James Bible, and writers as diverse as John Milton, Thomas Hardy and Toni Morrison have drawn on it as a source of spiritual and imaginative inspiration. Writers and readers of the present day deserve to learn about it as part of their heritage, and will surely take its influence into the future.
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