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A book that brought God closer

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The KJV represents "the flagship" of "book culture, the print culture, and our modern idea of the book," Professor Beal says. "And that culture is in its twilight."

While the KJV is readily available online in digital form, "When we think of the King James Bible I don't think it's the image of an iPhone. It's that black, leather-bound book," he says. "We have this idea of it being intact and whole and going from Genesis to Revelation. In the digital world ... that's not the way we read texts."

The KJV was compiled from 1604 to 1611 by about 50 clergymen-scholars working in six groups at the behest of England's King James I, who hoped that having a common "authorized" translation would help heal the religious strife threatening to tear apart his country. It drew heavily on previous English translations, especially the work of exiled scholar William Tyndale, who had translated most of the Bible into English in the early 16th century.

"[W]e never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one," wrote the translators in a preface to the first edition (no longer included), "but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.... [T]hat hath been our endeavor, that our mark."

It is translation, the preface goes on to say, that "openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place."

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