Speaking of banned books, I got some amusing spam some time ago:
Subject: What If Obama Outlawed Your Bible?
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Imagine if the President of the United States outlawed your version of the Bible because he considered it to be a threat to his rule. Imagine that he authorized a new Government “approved” version for you to read instead. That’s exactly what happened in the tumultuous year of 1611. King James despised the revolutionary and “seditious” Geneva Bible. He thought the Geneva Bible’s study notes on key political texts threatened his authority, so he outlawed it and ordered a new translation of the Bible – the King James (Authorized Version). While the King James Version is an excellent translation, it was edited and authorized by the Government. The Geneva Bible was not. It was truly a Bible by the people and for the people.
The Geneva Bible is unique among all other Bibles. It was the first Bible to use chapters and numbered verses and became the most popular version of its time because of the extensive study notes. These notes were included to explain and interpret the Scriptures for the common people and laid the foundation for a Republican form of government. For nearly half a century these notes helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland understand the Bible and true God-ordained liberty.
When the Pilgrims arrived in America in 1620, they brought the 1599 Geneva Bible. You can see why this remarkable version with its profound study notes played a key role in the formation of the American Republic. Today, the 1599 Geneva Bible has been all but forgotten. Thankfully, we’ve brought it back into print in a beautiful, easy-to-read format with updated English spelling and punctuation. This remarkable Bible is available in leather or hardback binding.
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You’ve gotta love that “Obama outlawing your bible” subject line – as though he’s about to do just that! But he’s not going to do that. The politics of Britain in 1611 do not map onto the politics of the USA in 2014, and even then the Stuarts did not “outlaw” the Geneva Bible – they just prescribed an Authorized Version for use in churches. People were free to read the Geneva Bible on their own, and obviously continued to do so. What’s also annoying is the notion that Calvinist-inflected marginal commentary is necessarily “of the people,” and that this is a good thing. The Marian exiles were a small group – and allowing them to call the shots is no better than the Catholic Church reserving for itself the right to interpret scripture. (And don’t you think it’s presumptuous to insert your commentary right in the Bible, rather than letting the text speak for itself?) But if this Bible is being sold as a historical curiosity, then why bother with modern typography and spelling? Why not print a replica of the one that came over on the Mayflower, leaving other Biblical translations, in current English and based on the best Greek and Hebrew texts (unavailable in the sixteenth century), as our spiritual guides?
I find this appeal especially amusing in the light of the King James Only movement, whose adherents “hold the King James Version of the Bible to be superior to all other translations, with some teaching that it is the greatest English translation ever penned, needing no further enhancements.” Looks like we really need to go back one translation to find the ideal one. I myself will start a campaign to resurrect John Wyclif’s Bible – and if you would like to know more about it, see my friend Kathleen Kennedy’s new book, The Courtly and Commercial Art of the Wycliffite Bible (Brepols, 2014).