ABILENE—References from the King James Version of the Bible permeate language, said Larry Brunner, senior professor of English at Hardin-Simmons University.
Expressions like “to see eye to eye” or “labor of love” all have made it to modern times because they are used in the King James translation of Scripture.
As the King James translation turns 400 years old, it remains the most read book of all-time. Even though the highest-lauded of all versions of the Bible, it is neither the oldest nor the first to be translated into English. It is also not among the first “authorized” English Bibles. Still, the KJV is one of the most recognized and widely used Bibles today.
Hardin-Simmons University has four first editions of the King James Bible among its two extensive Bible collections, and those are the books that inspired the two-day celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version in mid-September.
“As the best-selling book in world history, the King James Bible has had an incalculable impact on the English-speaking world and the church,” said Bob Ellis, professor of Old Testament and associate dean at HSU’s Logsdon Seminary.
“There have been more allusions, more references to the King James Version than any other literary work. It’s central to any understanding of English literature,” Brunner added.
The conference aimed to explore the translation from multiple academic angles and included presentations from faculty members in the history department, Logsdon School of Theology and Seminary, the English department, the School of Music, and even business and art professors who explored how the KJV has affected the way we live our lives and do business today.
Mike Jones, Professor and head of the art department, discussed the role of the King James Bible in book design and production, and John Davis, assistant professor of management from the Kelley College of Business, discussed the influence the King James Bible has had on management styles and management literature.
One of the driving forces behind the HSU event was Ellis.
“Because we have these two remarkable Bible collections, the 400th anniversary of the KJV provided an ideal context for celebrating the rich history of the Bible in English,” he said.
The Bible collections and the original KJVs housed at Hardin-Simmons come from two donors, Mrs. Inez Kelley and her late husband Doyle Kelley, and Charles and Roena Tandy.
The Kelleys met and married while at HSU and moved into their first apartment. During one of the seminar sessions, Inez Kelley described how her husband filled that apartment with orange crates full of books.
“He had a real love for the written word,” she said. “But I have learned more about his Bible collection now since his death (in October 2009) than I did when he was alive,” she said.
“Doyle bought his first Bible in London 30 years ago this October,” she told the audience gathered for a dinner session. “I went to Harrods Department Store. He went to museums and used book stores.
“That day I bought a cashmere sweater, he bought a Bible. The very next winter when I got that cashmere sweater out of the closet, our Houston moths had made it threadbare. The Bible Doyle bought that day was a 1599 Geneva Bible which is now at HSU. I ask you, who made the better purchase?”
Tandy, who attended HSU from 1946 to 1949, and is now an anesthesiologist in Dallas, told attendees that collecting Bibles has engrossed him since his attendance at a Sunday school party in 1960.
Charles Ryrie, the class teacher, was reading the Ten Commandments. Everything seemed to be in order, until he reached the seventh item on the list: “Thou shalt commit adultery.”
As it turned out, Ryrie was reading from the so-called “Wicked Bible,” a 1631 reprint of the original King James Version that contained the infamous misprint. Tandy’s curiosity about the Wicked Bible soon became an obsession, as he and his wife began amassing a collection of rare Bibles, many more than 400 years old.
“You never truly own anything,” Tandy said. “It’s been a pleasure to have had them and enjoy them for a period of time,” he said of his gift to HSU. Mrs. Kelley believes her late husband would concur with that assessment, “Doyle just considered himself a caretaker.”