King James Bible celebrated

Bible's influence on English language celebrated with public readings

Mary Barlow

Mary Barlow

Some of the English language’s most common sayings and clichés are the product of an influential text celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.

The King James Bible is responsible for the birth of dozens of common sayings, such as “by the skin of my teeth,” “woe is me,” “the blind leading the blind” and “no rest for the wicked.”

“It was (published) around the same time as Shakespeare’s plays,” said Ian Alexander, the chair of the organizing committee for an upcoming celebration. “The English language (was) really being formed. People who know say the King James Bible and Shakespeare are two most influential works in terms of shaping the English language.”

These sayings and thousands of other phrases will be read aloud at Christ Church Cathedral next week, as the church celebrates the anniversary of this version of the Bible.

Author David Crystal wrote in his book Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language that there are 257 familiar English expressions that stem from the King James Bible.

The King James version was so influential because it made the holy book readable for the public, said Alexander, a parishioner at Christ Church for four years.

“It was written to be read aloud,” he added. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing here. We’re reading it aloud cover to cover.”

Between Monday (Sept. 19) and Saturday (Sept. 24), people can sign up to read passages from the Bible at Christ Church Cathedral. Readings run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and some sections will be read in the main nave as well as the upstairs chapel simultaneously, so the whole 900,000-word book can be presented.

Well-known Victoria personalities will read some passages, including CBC Radio host Jo-Ann Roberts, Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox and author Kit Pearson.

To sign up to read a 15-30 minute passage, registration forms are available at the Cathedral, 930 Burdett Ave., or at www.christchurchcathedral.bc.ca.

The public is welcome to listen to any of the readings.