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King James Bible anniversary marked by Queen

King James Bible: The translation — the Old Testament from Hebrew, the New Testament from Greek — was assembled by 47 translators in six committees working in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles attend a service marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible at Westminster Abbey, London, on Nov. 16. The first edition of the King James Bible was published in 1611.

Chris Jackson/AP

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Queen Elizabeth II attended a ceremony at London's Westminster Abbey Wednesday to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, often considered the most influential book ever printed in the English language.

The translation — the Old Testament from Hebrew, the New Testament from Greek — was assembled by 47 translators in six committees working in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

It came about when King James I summoned a conference at Hampton Court Palace near London in 1604, hoping to thrash out differences between Church of England bishops and Puritans. Failing to make progress on other issues, Puritan leader John Reynolds proposed a new translation — which emerged in 1611.

Wednesday's service at Westminster Abbey came after lectures, educational programs and theater performances around the world marked the anniversary of the Bible dubbed the "DNA of the English language" by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.

The queen was joined by her husband, Prince Philip, and son, Prince Charles, in leading around 2,000 worshippers.

Early editions of the bible were presented at the altar,and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams paid tribute to the "extraordinary" and "abiding importance" of the King James Bible.

Williams told the congregation that the translators would have been "baffled and embarrassed" by the idea of a perfect translation but had sought instead to convey the "almost unbearable weight of divine intelligence and love" into the English language.


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