The 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) was a centre piece of festive messages from the Queen and Archbishop of Canterbury.
During her message broadcast on Christmas Day, the Queen highlighted the book’s “glorious language”, saying it has “given many of us the most widely-recognised and beautiful descriptions of the birth of Jesus Christ”.
The Queen’s message came from Hampton Court where, she told viewers, King James had “convened a conference of churchmen of all shades of opinion to discuss the future of Christianity in this country”.
Her Majesty continued: “The King agreed to commission a new translation of the Bible that was acceptable to all parties. This was to become the King James or Authorised Bible”.
And the Queen went on to add that the KJV is: “Acknowledged as a masterpiece of English prose and the most vivid translation of the scriptures”.
Watch the Queen’s Christmas speech in full
In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year message Rowan Williams spoke of the number of common English phrases that come from the KJV.
He said: “Perhaps someone some time has said to you that you shouldn’t hide your light under a bushel. Or told you to set your house in order. Maybe you only survived a certain situation by the skin of your teeth. Perhaps it’s time you listened to the still small voice within.”
The Archbishop continued: “All those everyday phrases come from one source – a book whose four hundredth anniversary we celebrate this coming year, the King James Bible – or the Authorised Version as it’s sometimes called”.
The Archbishop described how the KJV had taken “hold of the imaginations of millions of people in the English-speaking world”, giving them “a story in which their lives made sense”.
He said it was “the story of a world broken and out of control – but still a world God loved fiercely” and “of his promise being kept in the most dramatic way you could think of, when God himself lives a human life in Jesus Christ”.
Work on the King James translation began in 1604, at the request of King James, and carried on until 1611.
This month the BBC is set to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the KJV by devoting a Sunday to readings from its text.
The event, on BBC Radio 4, will last for seven hours, broken up into 28 readings each of which will be 15 minutes long.
According to reports the readings on the BBC will be selected from “the most powerful stories in the Bible”, and each of them will begin with an introduction explaining its literary significance.
The Royal Mail is set to mark the anniversary with a series of special stamps.
And the Globe Theatre in London will host a cover-to-cover reading of the KJV around Easter this year.
The production at the Globe is part of a season entitled “The Word is God” and the Theatre says it will interrupt the readings with performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole commented: “We are celebrating the word, and man’s capacity to make a god of language, and out of language.”
Mr Dromgoole said: “If people want to take a bit of God, of whatever religion they might be, they are welcome to do so.”