Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bebbington at UTC

Last Monday, November 7 at noon, Bebbington gave the first lecture of the year in the LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecture Series on Christian history and thought at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga entitled, "The King James Bible in Britain from the Late 18th Century." The lecture was attended by a crowd in excess of an estimated 140 people. Since the Raccoon Mountain Room at UTC only has only about 120 seats, several people had to stand at the back of the room.

David argued that the KJ Bible, although written in 1611, did not find a welcome home in Britain until around the end of the eighteenth century. He stated that it was viewed as a "relic of barbarism" by many early and mid eighteenth-century critics. However, at the end of the eighteenth century, and especially into the nineteenth century, public opinion of the KJ Bible began to rise. Bebbington suggested that this appreciation stemmed from four factors: delight in past works for their own sake, British national sentiment and anti-Catholicism, the patronage of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and a redefinition of the KJ Bible as the accepted "Authorized Version." By the end of the 1890s, Bebbington claimed, the "Authorized Version" became the standard Bible in Britain and was firmly embedded in the culture.

The lecture itself offered a number of captivating quotations from the early modern era to the present, including statements by Christopher Hitchens and supporting evidence from Youtube videos (I didn't know Bebbington knew about Youtube). Overall, Bebbington gave an outstanding lecture on a topic intended to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. One of the highlights for me occurred after the lecture when one of my students told me that as a result of what she heard, she was now considering changing her major from English studies to religion. If the other lectures in the Martin Distinguished Lecture series are half as good as this one, I will be elated.

Jonathan Yeager

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