Monday, 22 December 2014

Shakespeare, Milton and the King James Bible?

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Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and dont sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

Henry Higgins speaking to Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

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Shakespeare: yes, of course, and pretty much maintained in England now.

Milton: no, does not deserve this place. Indeed nobody else is in the class of Shakespeare and the Authorized Version of the Bible.

But if a third name is needed then Johnson is the most deserving - Samuel Johnson - who bestrides English letters as a colossus: author of the first real dictionary, the first real critic, arbiter of good taste and morality; and writer of many first rank personal essays, anthology-quality poems, and a novel of high class. And a permanently-influential prose stylist of magisterial distinction.

But the King James Bible is the only prose (if we include with it that other Anglican classic The Book of Common Prayer) that can stand comparison with Shakespeare; as acknowledged even by GB Shaw (who was a communist, Irish, and an atheist); but the KJB has been rejected and abandoned by all of the larger (so-called) English churches.

I am happy to state that it is indeed possible to be English and a real Christian and yet to reject the Authorized Version of the Bible as the basis of your Christian scriptural life^ - but would add that such a person has something seriously wrong with him.

Either he is ignorant (and in need of education) or else he is making a large error of judgment.

So, for someone who is both a Christian and English: the Triad should be Shakespeare, Johnson and the Bible - but the greatest of these in The Authorized Version.

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^Note: The AV should be the basis of an English Christian life - but need not, of course, be the sole translation used.