Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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More meanings from the margins

Here are some more examples of marginal readings that give a somewhat different sense than the reading in the main text. I have highlighted the words in the regular text in orange, and the reading from the margin in green and added my own comment on the difference.

Genesis 4:26 – And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
Margin: to call themselves by the Name of the LORD
This is not when people first began to pray, but the time when there began to be a lineage of people who called themselves the people of the Lord to distinguish themselves from the lineage of Cain.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Margin: Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? whence should my help come?
Hebrew has no punctuation; but this verse is a question. Our help comes from God, not from the hills.

Isaiah 2:12 -16 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: . . .and upon all pleasant pictures.
Margin: pictures of desire
God is not against something just because it is nice to look at. But when our desire is set on a picture rather than on God, He will judge us.

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing
Margin: reasonings
This seems just a little stronger to me.

Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward
Margin: judge against you
in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
Margin: Gr. being a voluntary in humility
Voluntary is of French origin and means of one’s own will. That is clearer in the marginal reading.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;
Margin: a purchased people
Peculiar has shifted in meaning since the translation was made, purchased is still very clear.

There are not a lot of instances like this, and the meaning is usually not very different. The translators were men of great learning, had access to texts in the original languages and translations into many others. There is a portrait of Lancelot Andrewes, the lead translator, in my post of four days ago. Andrewes was fluent in 15 modern and 6 ancient languages. Even with all this learning, the translators were careful not to let their own opinions override the Word of God, thus the reason for the alternate readings in the margin.

What do you think? Do examples like this prompt you to take a closer look at these verses to consider what the message really is?

Some clarifications and an illustration

The Bible translation produced in 1611 was never given an official name. In England, Scotland and many other places it is referred to as the Authorized Version, but that name does not appear in the Bible itself.

The text now in common use dates from 1789. Typographical errors had crept into the various printed versions. Spelling of some words had changed, for instance in Old English a u was often used where we use a v, and sometimes a v where we would use a u. This was not a revision of the text, but a standardization of spelling and punctuation plus some modernization of spelling.

The text of this Bible is not copyright, except in England and Scotland. In England the copyright is a royal prerogative granted to Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. In Scotland it is Collins. The royal prerogative is more meant to guard the integrity of the text than to diminish competition.

I use two electronic Bible programs. The Online Bible, based in Canada with a European branch in the Netherlands, is the oldest. The other is e-Sword, based in the USA. Both apps are free and offer a multitude of Bible translations and supplementary material. The Online Bible offers the Authorized Version and includes the marginal notes in italics after the relevant verse. The e-Sword offers the King James Bible and the marginal notes are an option that one can download and they will appear in a window beside the text.

The marginal notes with alternate readings are not plentiful. There is no question about the text of most of the Bible. But there are places where the alternate reading should cause us to stop and reflect on what we may have assumed to be unquestionable fact.

To illustrate this, I will begin with the account of Jephthah in Judges 11 and 12. Children’s Bible Story books, Egermeier’s for example, try so hard to assure children that it was wrong for Jephthah to offer his daughter as a burnt offering that they have convinced generations of people that Jephthah was a horrible man who killed his daughter and got away with it. If that were true, it would make it kind of hard to trust the mercy a and righteousness of God.

We really shouldn’t need the marginal readings to tell us that there is something wrong with this version of Jephthah’s story. God used Jephthah to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites and then he judged Israel for the next six years until his death. Many years later, when Israel demanded a king, God told them that whenever they had been oppressed He had provided a deliverer, giving a short list of Jerubbaal (Gideon), Bedan, Jephthah and Samuel (1 Samuel 12:11). In the New Testament he is included in the list of the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11:32).

Human sacrifice was anathema to God, how then can this man be named in the Bible in several places as a great man of faith, with never a hint of condemnation? Do you think perhaps the story books got the story wrong?

A close look at the account in Judges will show that it is never said that he offered his daughter as a burnt offering. Judges 11:39 says he “did with her according to the vow which he had vowed.” What was that vow? Verse 31 says “whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house . . . shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” The marginal note says “or I will offer it.” A little more study reveals that there is no conjunction in the Hebrew text, one is needed for coherence in English, so the translators offered us a choice of and or or.

The end of chapter 11 tells us that it became a custom for the daughters of Israel to go once a year “to lament the daughter of Jephthah.” The reading in the margin is “to talk with.”

Here is what Adam Clarke says in his Commentary about Judges 11:40. To lament the daughter of Jephthah. “I am satisfied that this is not a correct translation of the original. Houbigant translates the whole verse thus: ‘But this custom prevailed in Israel, that the virgins of Israel went at different times, four days in the year, to the daughter of Jephthah that they might comfort her.’ This verse also gives evidence that the daughter of Jephthah was not sacrificed; nor does it appear that the custom or statute referred to here lasted after the death of Jephthah’s daughter.”

The real story here is that Jephthah sacrificed any hope of posterity (the daughter was his only child) in order to deliver God’s people from their oppressors. The daughter spent two months bewailing her virginity, the fact that she would never bear children. Then she was dedicated to the service of the tabernacle, much as Samuel was later.

Leviticus 27 gives detailed information for the redemption of a child when the father had made a vow. Both Jephthah and Samuel’s parents could have availed themselves of this provision, yet they had vowed to dedicate their child to the actual service of God, but certainly not as a burnt offering.

Why I do not read the King James Bible

I read the Authorized Version instead, of which Cambridge University Press is the main publisher. The text is identical to that in Bibles that are called the King James Version, except that the AV maintains the alternate marginal readings that were placed there by the translators 400 years ago.

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I suppose that if we would meet the members of the company of translators who produced the AV, we might find their manner of dress far too extravagant to consider them to be humble men. But if we can look past the clothing, we may see that they were far more humble than any who have come after them. They believed they were handling the Word of God and they had a holy fear of inserting their own opinions or preferences into the translation. Thus, when they came to a word or phrase that might be translated more than one way, they did not feel that they had a right to choose one over the other. They placed one in the text and the other in the margin. These marginal notes they considered to be an integral part of their translation.

The custom of calling this translation the King James Version originated in the USA. Our American friends do not seem to have had the same humility as the translators, as I don’t believe the marginal readings can be found in any KJV printed in the USA. There are plain text printings of the KJV with no notes at all, but in many editions they have inserted other notes, producing a great variety of reference Bibles that are of dubious usefulness and trustworthiness.

I am reprinting below an abridged excerpt from the long introduction to the Authorized Version which explains their reasons for placing alternate readings in the margin. You will notice that they did not believe there to be any confusion in things essential to our salvation, but felt that where there were different possible renderings we should seek the assistance of God’s Spirit by prayer and the aid of our brethren by conference.

Reasons moving us to set diversity of senses in the margin,
where there is great probability for each.

Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgement not to be so sound in this point. For though whatsoever things are necessary are manifest, . . . yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to wean the curious from loathing of them for their everywhere plainness, partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God’s Spirit by prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren by conference, and never scorn those that be not in all respects so complete as they should be, . . . it hath pleased God in His divine providence here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence, . . . it is better to make doubt of those things which are secret, than to strive about those things that are uncertain. There be many words in the Scriptures which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbour, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts, and precious stones, &c., concerning which the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgement, that they may seem to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, than because they were sure of that which they said. . . . Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident, so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgement of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption. Therefore . . . diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded . . . They that are wise, had rather have their judgements at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other.

Uncovering the well

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by James Stuart, already King James VI of Scotland. He became King James I of England, uniting the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland under his authority. James was a blend of imperious authority and humility. Tradition says that he told his portrait painter: “Paint me as I am, warts and all.” There is no historical record of those words being spoken, yet they must have been. The official portrait of James shows him with a prominent facial blemish, which would have led to the disappearance of both painter and painting under previous monarchs.

Two translations of the Bible were in use at the time. The Bishop’s Bible, used in worship services of the Church of England, was pompous, emphasized ecclesiastical authority and was not popular with lay people. The Geneva Bible, favoured by Puritans, was more readable, but contained notes and comments that were often critical of church hierarchy and the monarchy. The quirks of these translations, and the competing claims made for them, were in some measure hindrances to drawing the pure water of saving truth from the Word of God.

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James believed a new translation without the aggravating characteristics of the existing ones would ease tensions in the church. He chose the best scholars from both the traditionalists and the Puritans and commissioned them to create it. The Bible produced by this committee appeared in 1611 but James did not impose it on the Church of England as an official translation. It gradually supplanted the other two, but did not become the preferred translation until after the death of James in 1625.

That translation is referred to as the Authorized Version (AV) in England and much of the English-speaking world. The idea of calling it the King James Version originated in the USA. The notation on the title page, “Appointed to be read in churches,” may be mistaken by modern readers for evidence of an official status of this translation. Four hundred years ago, appointed meant furnished, arranged, perfected. In modern terms, the meaning would be “Optimized for reading out loud.” The goal of the translators was to produce the best possible translation for reading aloud.

Many people of that day were either illiterate or too poor to afford a Bible. The words read in church from this translation were retained in their minds and had an impact on the thoughts and intents of their hearts. It is still by far the easiest translation to memorize.

The translators were men of great scholarship. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester and director of the Company of Translators, was fluent in twenty-one languages, fifteen modern and six ancient. He was considered the greatest preacher of his time, a Lord of the church, yet he spent five hours in prayer every morning, with penitential tears confessing his great unworthiness. It was because of men like Lancelot Andrewes that a translation such as the AV was possible four hundred years ago and may not be possible in our day.

The translators were sticklers for accuracy, but that was not enough. After the six companies of translators had finished their work, two men from each were chosen to sit together as a review committee to bind it all together. They came with copies of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Scriptures and translations in French, Italian, German and other languages. The translation was read aloud, sentence by sentence, while they listened to judge the accuracy and the aptness of the words, and how they would sound to the people in the pews. If anyone thought something did not sound quite right, he would speak up and the passage would be adjusted until all were satisfied.

The result is a Bible that retains the essence of the wording in the original languages, yet speaks majestically in a simple English. The language is not the English that was commonly spoken in that day; it is a reverent language meant to convey the holiness of the subject matter. It is remarkable how much of this translation is done with words of one syllable, yet those words are arranged into a cadence that captures the attention of the ear, mind and heart of the hearer.

Modern translations claim to be more accurate, or easier to read, or both. Yet they sound singularly flat beside the words of the AV. The insipid nature of these translations, and the constant introduction of new and “better” translations, makes Scripture memorization seem almost pointless in our day.

The original long preface of the AV described the purpose of translation in these words:

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water.

This is what the AV has done for generations of English-speaking people.

Three keys to getting the most out of reading the Bible

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Read it like a story book, not a recipe book

A cook will pick up a recipe book and look for the type of dish he wants to make. The recipe will list all the ingredients and provide all the instructions needed to prepare that dish. Some folks try to use the Bible in the same way, taking a short passage and trying to find what it says about how to live their Christian life that day. Was that passage meant to be read that way, separated from the context in which it is found? I don’t think so.

A story book will introduce a number of characters, but the story will centre on one of them. We learn to know that person’s character and will come to feel and care about what he or she feels. God is the central character of the Bible. Each time we read a book of the Bible all the way through we get to know Him a little better. We understand what is important to Him, what He really cares about, how He can hate sin, yet be compassionate to the sinner.

The reason He finds sin so distasteful is because it is so harmful to us. He has made a way that we can be forgiven and no longer be controlled by the power of sin. When we make a mistake He does not berate us, but wants to help us go on again. When we meet God outside of the Bible, we find Him to be exactly the person we have been reading about.

Read the Authorized Version, not the King James Version

This is said tongue in cheek, they are almost the same Bible, but not quite. Lancelot Andrews and the other translators of the Bible first published in 1611 were humble men who did not think it was up to them to settle every question of meaning. Thus, when there was not agreement on the meaning of certain words, one meaning would be placed in the text and the other in the margin. Here are the translators’ words of explanation:

“It hath pleased God in His divine providence here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence. There be many words in the Scriptures which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbour, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places. Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident, so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgement of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.”

The translation of 1611 has no official name but is known in most of the English-speaking world as the Authorized Version. This does not mean that it was ever an official version, or required to be read in the churches of England, simply that King James I of England authorized the formation of a committee to do prepare a new translation.

It is in the United States of America that the name King James Version has been popularized, as though the king himself did the translating. And as far as I have found, all the Bibles calling themselves King James Bibles omit the marginal notes place there by the translators. The notes are few, but they do accomplish the purpose stated by the translators. They considered these notes to be an integral part of the Bible and in my mind they are of far greater value than the notes that are substituted in so-called “Study Bibles” or “Reference Bibles.”

Read it out loud

If you look at the title page of AV (or KJV) Bibles, you will find the words: “Appointed to be read in churches.” Do not misconstrue “appointed” to mean “commanded.” In 1611 the word meant “arranged.” The wording of the AV was carefully arranged for reading out loud.

In 1611 many people could not read, and many of those who could read would not have been able to buy a copy of the complete Bible. The translators kept this in mind as they worked, carefully choosing words and sentence structure that would impress themselves upon the listeners in such a way that the words would stick in their minds. For the final editorial review of the translation, the leaders of the individual committees assembled around a table and one would read. If any passage did not sound right to one of the others around the table, he would raise his hand. The reading would stop and they would rework the passage until all were satisfied that it best conveyed the meaning of the original text in the most effective English words.

That carefulness on the part of men who were masters of both the ancient languages and of English produced a Bible that is still by far the easiest to memorize. The majority of the words are words of one syllable and they are arranged in a cadence that is pleasing and striking to the ear. Newer versions may be easier to understand in places, at the cost of some depth of meaning, but sound so flat as to be difficult to remember. What’s the point of trying to memorize them anyway? They will be replaced in a few years by another, newer and “better” version. I’m afraid that something of great value is lost in these new versions.

Perfection and humilty and servanthood and leadership

Is it possible to be perfect, humble, a servant and a leader all at the same time? According to the New Testament, God expects us to be all of the above. If that seems impossible, perhaps we have gotten hung up on a misunderstanding of the meaning of one or more of those words.

Many well-meaning Christians will insist that the only perfection that we can ever attain to is to be found in Jesus Christ and then His perfection becomes ours. I was going to say that this is a cop-out, but that would be too harsh. It is just a misunderstanding of what the Bible means when it calls us to be perfect. The basic meaning of the word is complete when referring to things, and fully grown or mature when speaking of people. It does not mean to be utterly without flaw or blemish. In the AV, the Greek word teleios is translated 17 times as perfect, once as men (“in understanding be men” 1 Corinthians 14:20) and once as of full age (“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” Hebrews 5:14).

Thus, what the Bible is asking of us is maturity. A person who is mature does not think that he knows everything, that he never makes a mistake, never misunderstands. Someone who is mature is quick to own up to his mistakes, apologize where he has caused offence, and to fix what he has broken.

Looked at in this way, perfection begins to sound a lot like humility, doesn’t it? They really are like the two sides of the same coin. A person who is perfect and humble can be entrusted with responsibility. He will do his best to fulfil that responsibility, without running over anyone who might get in the way. In other words, he see himself as a servant. He is not simply trying to please himself, but whoever has entrusted him with this responsibility. Ultimately, he sees himself as a servant of God and of his fellow men.

Such a person is a leader. He does not see himself as lord over those whom he is leading, but rather as their servant. He goes ahead to show the way, to avoid dangers, to help all to reach their goal. We are all called to be leaders in some way, in the home, at work, even at play.

We will not always do everything just right, or say everything just right. We will be misunderstood; we will be criticized, sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Either way, if we respond to the criticism with kindness and respect we will grow and become more useful. This is the way of perfection. If we respond with impatience and anger, we will shrivel and become less useful.

The pursuit of happiness

Times are tough for writers today. Every writers’ group and every writers’ conference tells us that no publisher will even look at a book manuscript unless the author has an impressive “writer’s platform.” That would consist of a blog with at least 10,000 followers and a similar presence on Facebook and Twitter. And then there are experts who will explain how to promote your book on Amazon.

I just don’t want to go there. If the underlying purpose of my writing is to exalt the One who said “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” how can I put that together with going on Facebook and Twitter every morning and finding some new way to call out “Hey everybody! Look at me!”?

I guess that means I’m not going to be rich or famous. I’m OK with that. But at least I can be happy. I don’t think our me-first world today even knows what happiness means. True happiness has no connection to hilarity and thrills, it comes from a holy life, lived in service to God and to our fellow men.

The beatitudes are a description of true happiness. The AV translation uses the word “blessed,” but the original Greek word means happy and is translated that way in other passages. The beatitudes tell us that true happiness is found in being poor in spirit, meek, merciful and pure in heart; to hunger and thirst after righteousness,to be peacemakers. Jesus ends the beatitudes with this astounding statement:

Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus is not telling us to provoke people into reviling and persecuting us, but there is nothing anywhere in His teachings to indicate that we should carefully court the approval of the world. We should rather seek to serve others in whatever way we can, without expecting or begging their approval.

Writing is one way in which we can serve others. But no one will appreciate our attempts to serve if we come across as feeling superior, or try to impress by pompous words and a bombastic writing style. The apostle Paul wasn’t exalting himself when he said “Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ.” We can say the same thing, but only if we can attain to his level of humility in following Christ. That is where we will find true happiness.

Taking stock

Things that I am learning:

– It’s not important to know what my abilities, talents, or gifts are. The only thing that matters is if I am following where the Master leads and doing what He asks me to do.

– It’s not important to know what I have accomplished for the Master, even less important that others should know. If my words and actions do not glorify the Master then they are worthless.

– It’s not important to make plans and resolutions for the future. The Master knows what lies ahead, I don’t.

Books that I am reading:

– La Sainte Bible, traduction Louis Segond – I read the Bible in French each morning and am currently reading through the Psalms.

– The Holy Bible, Authorized Version (KJV) – My wife and I read the Bible in English every evening, we are currently reading through 2 Corinthians.

– Multipliers, How the best leaders make everyone smarter, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown. I am reading this one on my Kobo e-reader.

– The Power of Weakness, Dan Schaeffer. Paperback, published by Discovery House.

– Rise to Greatness, The History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present, Conrad Black. Published by McClelland and Stewart, hardcover. This one is over 1,000 pages and is best digested in small chunks. This is going to take a while.

– Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is also on my Kobo e-reader and I read a little bit from time to time just to savour the writing of a master story-teller.

For I am the Eternal, I change not

The title is taken from Malachi 3:6 as it reads in French Bibles. This use of Eternal for the name of God is found throughout French translations of the Old Testament in places where one would find LORD in the English AV (KJV).

The Hebrew language was first written without vowels and the name of God was spelled YHVH. It is commonly accepted today that the original pronunciation was Yahweh and that the name had its origin in the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush: I AM. However, there developed a superstition among the Jews that a person who spoke this name aloud would be cursed. From then on another word was subsituted when the Scriptures were read aloud, most often Adonai, meaning Lord. In the course of time, the vowels of Adonai were inserted into YHVH, producing Yahovah, which became Jehovah in English.

The English translators of 1611 continued the Jewish practice of substituting LORD for the name of God, setting it in all upper case letters to distinguish God the Lord from other lords. French translators continued the practice of not using the name of God, but opted for a word that reflected the meaning of I AM.

I wonder if the use of LORD for the name of God doesn’t confuse some people.  Who is this Lord? Many people today don’t  understand the significance of the uppercase letters.

Here are a few more examples of how the Scripture sounds when Eternal is used for the name of God:

And the Eternal God formed man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7).

The Eternal is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1).

The fear of the Eternal is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).

But they that put their trust in the Eternal shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

There can be no confusion here, there is only one Eternal. To my ears and my mind at least, it lends a greater weight of meaning to read the verses this way. The main thing is to understand that however we spell and pronounce the name of God, we are referring to the self-existing, unchanging Creator and Master of all that exists.

Verily, verily

The English of the AV, or KJV, translation was not the same as the English commonly spoken 400 years ago. The words were carefully selected to first of all be a true representation of the text in the original languages and secondly, to convey that truth in simple words arranged to have the greatest imapct on the mind and memory when read aloud.

No other translation has the same adhesive quality. No other tranlation lends itself so readily to memorisation. No other translation uses so many one syllable words, yet arranges them in such a powerful poetic form.

American writer Jon M Sweeney pays tribute to this quality of the KJV in his book, Verliy, Verily. The KJV — 400 years of influence and beauty. (© 2011 by Jon Sweeney, published by Zondervan) Here are a few excerpts from the conclusion of the book:

“The English that we speak at work or the dinner table is often the same English we speak at church. It wasn’t always so, however. The KJV offers a language that is slightly outside of everyday experience, which expands our capacity to contemplate, see, and know God. Before the modern era . . . Christian English-speakers were basically bilingual — everyday Englsh and KJV English existed side by side.

“Many Christians today feel vaguely homesick, like people in exile. . . . We long to hear the rhythms of the King James Bible once again, the rhythms that call us back to a place where we can stand in the dark beneath the canopy of the heavens and gaze into the unknown.

“When this happens — when we begin to discover or rediscover the King James Bible — our hearts and minds and imagination begin to expand. I think back to more than a year ago when I decided to begin readi9ng from page 1 in my newly purchased KJV. . . .

“Above all, I began to wonder and imagine in the words of the Bible once again. I found myself hearing God’s voice, and hearing it in different ways and in new places.

“May you do the same.”

 

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