February 2011

“Cake?” … “Cake?” … “Cake?”As I waited downstairs to collect Aedan, Natalie and Mayaana for lunch and church, I could hear this plaintive, querulous cry, almost as Aedan descended each step. A firm invisible voice replied, “No cake!” Cake is one of his latest clear words – like all words at nearly two, it is flexible in meaning and use; for Aedan, ‘cake’ translates into anything broadly cake-like, sweet and nice to eat. Most desserts seem to be ‘cake’ as well. On this occasion, he simply accepted that there was “no cake”, and set about collecting his chosen toys to clutch and ferry to the Rectory. However, on Friday 21st January, he will reach the grand age of 2, and in reply to the question ‘What does he want for his birthday?’, Natalie responded with some options, and ended with ‘… and cake on Sunday’, so he will no doubt be excitedly seeking ‘Cake?’ again. He has, of course, effectively communicated his interest and desire, however few the words.

Another significant anniversary occurs in 2011; 400 years ago in 1611, King James caused and commanded his definitive translation to be released, authorised and appointed for reading in church. For 200 years, it would simply be called ‘The Bible’; with the advent of a new translation, it became known as the AV, the authorised version, and then internationally, as the KJV, the King James’ version. Of course, King James didn’t actually translate any of the Bible from the original Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek; he left that to a coterie of translators working together. The translators were not starting from scratch, either; men like Tyndale and Wycliffe had laboured in the first translations a century earlier, paying for their vision with their lives, but leaving a legacy incorporated into the Authorised Version.

Like Aedan, the issue was one of communication. God had a plan from the beginning of time to rescue us from our isolation and save us from our sin, to live with him forever. The plan was progressively revealed, until it found its fullness in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The New Testament was written in the language of its day. The Greek in which it was written was not the ‘posh, classical’ Greek, but the everyday Greek used in shopping lists and carpenter’s shops, a Greek written to communicate. The Old Testament was translated into Greek as well. With time, the common language of international communication became Latin, the everyday language of the Roman Empire, so the Bible was translated into Latin.

By the time Wycliffe and Tyndale and the rest were on the scene, Latin was restricted to the educated elite, and Wycliffe longed for God’s word to be communicated in all its freshness, directly to the people. For many people, going to church was a mystery – the priest led all the service in Latin, and read from the Latin Bible; pious people who could read would take an English text of inspirational writing to read while the priest rattled on, only pausing to ring a bell when significant moments had been reached in the service. Even many of the priests didn’t really know Latin; a survey by a Bishop found very few knew where the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments were to be found in the Bible. Wycliffe’s famous line was that he wanted the ploughboy to be able to sing the Psalms in English as he ploughed his furrow. His vision was of God communicating to his people, directly, vibrantly, vividly, just as he had in the originals. King James brought a variety of translations together into one authoritative and authorised version.

Today, we are blessed with a variety of versions, seeking to make the Bible easily accessible. The King James’ Version has played a major part in the development of the English language, and was directly responsible for improved literacy as well, people learning to read because they could read the Bible in their own language.“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3.16) The KJV Bible

This is “The year of the Bible”, a celebration of the gift of the KJV bible, and of our God who longs to communicate in our own language. As a church, we are accepting a national challenge to read the 100 most essential passages of the Bible over this year; if you would like to join us, contact the Rectory and ask for the E100 leaflet. Unlike Aedan, when you ask him for “Cake?” the answer will not come back “No cake!” – He longs to communicate and to give.

Praying that you may find in God’s lively Word all that you need to bring you to peace and righteousness in Christ our Lord.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.