Charlton Heston on the King James Bible

Actor Charlton Heston described the beauty of the King James Bible in his autobiography:



“. . .the King James translation has been described as ‘the monument of English prose’ as well as ‘the only great work of art ever created by a committee’.  Both statements are true.  Fifty-four scholars worked seven years to produce the work from its extant texts in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English.  Such an undertaking can be expected to produce great scholarship, but hardly writing as spare and sublime as the King James. . .

The authors of several boring translations that have followed over the last fifty years mumble that the KJV is ‘difficult’ filled with long words.  Have a look at the difficult long words that begin the Old Testament, and end in the Gospels:  ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep.’ And ‘Now, of the other things which Jesus did, if they should be written every one, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.  Shakespeare aside, there’s not comparable writing in the language, as has been observed by wiser men than I.

Over the past several centuries it’s been the single book in most households, an enormous force in shaping the development of the English language.  Carried around the world by missionaries, it provided the base by which English is about to become the lingua franca of the world in the next century.  Exploring it during this shoot (Ten Commandments) was one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my life.”

( Heston, Charlton, In the Arena, Simon and Schuster, 1995, p. 554-5.)

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