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Beyond words—to the Word!

From the July 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

WHEN I FINISHED my doctoral dissertation on the King James Bible in 1978, the KJV was the runaway best-selling Bible in the English-speaking world, as it had been for close to four centuries. But even then, the rumblings of a seismic shift in Bible-reading habits were being felt worldwide.

I'll never forget, for instance, visiting Canterbury Cathedral during my research trip to the United Kingdom in 1976. My husband and I were eagerly anticipating the thrill of hearing the sonorous rhythms of the KJV read from the pulpit of the world headquarters of the Anglican Church, the church that first launched the Bible in 1611. To our astonishment, however, Archbishop Rowan Williams  A correction was made in the September 2009 Journal: "In the July issue of the Journal, Mary Trammell's Bible Forum article, "Beyond Words-to the Word!" incorrectly stated that Rowan Williams (current Archbishop of Canterbury) was Archbishop in 1976. Actually Frederick Donald Coggan was Archbishop of Canterbury at that time. We regret the error."read from a Scripture translation that was unfamiliar, nonrhythmic, and—to us anyway—pretty bland. One thing for sure, though. It was understandable.

Today, the landscape of English-language Bible reading has erupted into full-scale transformation. The succession of new English Scripture translations that began in the 19th century, and gained momentum in the 20th century, has accelerated into high gear over the past few decades with the publication of watershed texts like the Living Bible, the Good News Bible, and the New International Version—translations that put the literal words of Scripture into kitchen-table vernacular language.