The weekend debate: Should the Government send a King James Bible to every school?

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

Michael Gove is planning to send a King James Bible to every school in the UK to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation, with a short introduction written by himself.

The National Secular Society has criticised the decision and believe that there are already enough bibles in British schools.

So, is this a worthwhile celebration of an important part of British history or is it a waste of money that could be put to better use?

Agree? Disagree? Post your comments below…

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

43 Comments

  • Sending a copy of the Protestant version of the Bible to all Catholic schools is probably not the best way to get them on your side…

  • I am not religious and found it dull at school.

    That said, the KJB is 400 years old and is a world wide recognised version of the Bible and enabled many people to read in centuries gone by.

    I have no objections to this, whatsoever. After all, who will be forced to read it? I also believe the money is NOT coming out of tax payers money.

    It will be interesting to see the response when it goes to non-Christian faith schools.

  • If it is not taxpayers’ money then why not? Heads can throw it away if they like. If it is taxpayers’ money then it is an appalling example of centralisation.

    PS I much prefer “the Message” version of the bible, and think it would be more likely to get people reading the bible.

  • It is taxpayers’ money…The project will ‘go ahead whilst sponsership is sought’.

    If ‘awareness of it’s historical significance’ is necessary, I would much prefer an information booklet, written by someone with more expertise than Gove ( who came ‘bottom’ in his journalism class) was supplied.and used as the basis of lessons.
    To me the real issue is why such a self-important little man believes he has a need to write a foreward to such a book….Perhaps I’ve answered my own question….

  • “The National Secular Society has criticised the decision and believe that there are already enough bibles in British schools.”

    Hmm, I wonder what their agenda could be.

  • From what I understand, Gove is doing this more because it’s the 400th anniversary of a cultural icon than because he wants to inculcate Christianity into school pupils.

    My view: he could save £375K – and provide a more effective teaching resource than a single book – if instead of sending each school a hard copy he sent them this: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Dec '11 - 11:07am

    @Prue Bray

    “Gove is doing this more because it’s the 400th anniversary of a cultural icon than because he wants to inculcate Christianity into school pupils.”

    Surely, more because he can’t resist the need to inflate his ego in the same way that we have seen this identical trait from May, Lansley and Pickles over the months. If they all keep on like this we might even see a ‘Bring back Liam Fox’ campaign.

  • Lorna Dupre 3rd Dec '11 - 11:21am

    It’s crowd-pleasing nonsense, isn’t it? I’m a great fan of schools having books, and of all pupils having good teaching about belief and value systems around the world including Christianity, but unless this is part of an initiative that will go on to ensure that all schools have a copy of the Qur’an, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Origin of Species, 1984, The Time Machine etc then it’s just a money-wasting sop to the religious right.

  • As part of a comprehensive library – no problem.

    As a single mailshot – pointless expense.

    As a puff for Gove – laughable.

    And please, not another way to get a sponsor’s name into schools.

  • Christine HEADLEY 3rd Dec '11 - 2:32pm

    When did it stop being the Authorised Version and become the King James Bible? Is this American usage?

  • “The Department for Education estimates the cost of the scheme at £375,000, and is seeking philanthropic sponsorship.”

    That may not seem like a lot of money to those in government, but there are countless charities who could put that money to far better use (whether it comes from taxpayers or hypothesised philanthropists).

    Is it localist for Whitehall to specify the contents of school libraries? Give them the £10 and let them choose (I suspect most libraries already have a copy of the bible)!

    A gimmick through and through.

  • Simon Bamonte 3rd Dec '11 - 4:12pm

    It strikes me as odd that our Tory friends claim to be big fans of Christianity and want more people to become Christian, yet they act in a manner which is completely the opposite to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was not a big fan of rich people, nor was he a friend to bankers. Jesus went around helping the sick and the poor (instead of calling them scroungers like Tories do!). He preached taking from the rich to give to the poor. He preached equality, forgiveness, humility and the idea of turning ones’ cheek. This would be funny if it wasn’t so true!

    Maybe they’re really just Old Testament fans, the Tories.. Either way, I can think of far greater uses for this amount of money, like helping the unemployed or pensioners struggling with heating bills this winter.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 3rd Dec '11 - 9:40pm

    I would hope that schools already have sufficient faith related books. This would seem like duplication for many schools. It beggars belief that Gove has the audacity to write a Foreword to the Bible. Completely insane arrogance.
    The King James Bible is amongst many historical texts that pupils should study. One thinks immediately of Chaucer and Shakespeare also.
    My great anguish here is that in this day and age I have heard of many people who have been put off Christianity to an extent when they hear “thees”, “thous” and “wherearts”. It just provides a block to approaching the word of God which is totally unnecessary and inappropriate.
    Jesus spoke in the modern languages of his day, not in a three centuries old dialect. His word should be read in our modern language without the impediment of 17th Century English.
    OK, I was brought up on the KJB. I still say the Lord’s Prayer as it is written in it.
    But it really is extremely frustrating that such an opportunity as this is being squandered by sending out such an ancient translation.
    The whole purpose of the Bible is to bring people to God. If they can’t get over the ridiculous language (to modern ears) then it isn’t fulfilling its purpose.
    For the record, i am not in favour of any 100% single book mailshot of any version of the Bible. But if they are going to do it at all, at least they should do it with a meaningful translation for modern ears and eyes.
    Also, what @Simon Bamonte said (mostly).

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 3rd Dec '11 - 9:44pm

    I would hope that schools already have sufficient faith related books. This would seem like duplication for many schools. It beggars belief that Gove has the audacity to write a Foreword to the Bible. We really are in “you could’t make it up” territory with that aspect of this issue.
    The King James Bible is amongst many historical texts that pupils should study. One thinks immediately of Chaucer and Shakespeare also.
    My great anguish here is that in this day and age I have heard of many people who have been put off Christianity to an extent when they hear “thees”, “thous” and “wherearts”. It just provides a block to approaching the word of God which is totally unnecessary and inappropriate.
    Jesus spoke in the modern languages of his day, not in a three centuries old dialect. His word should be read in our modern language without the impediment of 17th Century English.
    OK, I was brought up on the KJB. I still say the Lord’s Prayer as it is written in it.
    But it really is extremely frustrating that such an opportunity as this is being squandered by sending out such an ancient translation.
    The whole purpose of the Bible is to bring people to God. If they can’t get over the ridiculous language (to modern ears) then it isn’t fulfilling its purpose.
    For the record, i am not in favour of any 100% single book mailshot of any version of the Bible. But if they are going to do it at all, at least they should do it with a meaningful translation for modern ears and eyes.
    Also, what @Simon Bamonte said (mostly).

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Dec '11 - 10:59pm

    Helen

    Sending a copy of the Protestant version of the Bible to all Catholic schools is probably not the best way to get them on your side…

    The inititiative has been welcomed by the RC Church in England and Wales. I do not know about Scotland and Ireland – the RC Church is organised in a way that makes England and Wales one country, Scotland another, and Ireland (all of it) a third.

    There are not radically different “Protestant” and “Catholic” version of the Bible, so it is wrong to suppose this would antagonise Catholics. As it happens, the Catholic Church is in the process right now of changing to using the New Revised Standard Version for readings at mass in English-speaking countries – the NRSV is the descendant of the “King James” Bible.

    However, I think this should really be seen as a literary rather than a religious thing. If anyone wanted to promote Christianity, they would not do it by sending Bible in a language so archaic that modern school pupils would struggle to grasp it. I suspect if anything the impact would be to promote the idea that Christianity is something purely of history. There is not much religious reason for using this version of the Bible rather than one written in a style closer to modern English and taking advantage of scholarly development in understanding the original Greek and Hebrew texts since the 17th century.

    There is however strong historical reason for ensuring English-speakers have some familiarity with it, however – it is THE foundational work of our language. This work, much more than any other, set down the standard form of the language and made it the uniform form through its distribution and use across what was then the whole English-speaking world. In contrast, those countries where worship and scripture remained in Latin did not develop a unified natiomal language until much later. It was until around the middle the 19th century that most people in France spoke French – with no national vernacular Bible, most French people spoke dialects radically different from the Parisian form which became standard French. Italian was essentially invented around 1870. The issue of whether Spanish was the national language of the whole of Spain never was settled.

  • In all probability every school in the UK already has copies of the King James Bible in their classrooms or, at the very least, in their school libraries.

    By all means include in the History lessons or the Religious Studies lessons (whatever it is called nowadays) a one-off lesson on the 400th Anniversary of the KJB and its significance for Christianity in the UK. Beyond that there is no need to labour the point.

    It is totally unnecessary to spend all this money on putting these KJ Bibles into all the schools. I would question very seriously Michael Gove’s motives in proposing this – to me it feels like some kind of gimmick of no educational value whatsoever.

    There has been a very good exhibition in Edinburgh recently on the KJB – taking school parties to such an event elsewhere would make far more sense and would put it into its historical context.

    There are so many much better translations of the Bible now – this move will achieve absolutely nothing.

  • I am quite appalled at this. The King James version may have its place in history, but not as a book of relevance to children (or most other people) in understanding anything about God, and the basis of Christianity. The “importance” of this translation of the bible given by the Government giving it to each school is really going to muddy waters.
    the Secular Society should be pleased – it is a way of putting children off the bible, they will see it as something archaic and of no relevance to them.
    Giving a nicely bound copy to each library (and I am assuming every Borough still has one !) where it is accessible to all might be a better way. Every school could be encouraged to take a trip to the library and see what else is there too.
    I say all of this as a practicing Christian by the way.

  • philip Moss 4th Dec '11 - 10:49am

    It is an Historic book and one should be in all school libraries, as well as all public libraries, are there any left?

    That said other faith books should also have their place, side by side, so that children can be encouraged to read
    about the basis of the most popular religions.

    In all schools please, so that all faith schools will receive the Christian Bible, and Christian schools receive the
    Muslim and Jewish equivalent , also for comparison the secular view of life.

  • Old Codger Chris 4th Dec '11 - 12:44pm

    I’m looking forward to Gove’s introduction. Will we read that the Lord Gove in his wrath banished the Labourites to the Deserts of the North where the sun shineth not and the labourers toileth not in the mines and factories because Lo, all were laid waste in the Financial Services Revolution?

    Or will He say that He leadeth the unworthy out of the slavery of welfare dependance and into the Promised Land of the Cameronites and diverse other Etonians?

  • @matthew harris
    “Maybe the Church of England or a publisher is paying”
    I hope not, there are other big financial pressures there, and a lot of re-prioritising.
    Our Church gives a modern edition of a bible to each child leaving the C of E primary school, paid for from a special fund we have.

  • I have no objection to Gove sending the Authorised Version to Schools if it is not at public expense. I have a copy of it on my IPad. However writting the forward smacks of a someone who has let there ego get out of control. Couldn’t he ask Rowan Williams or someone else with a bit more grounding in theology to do that. Why does it need a forward?

    The sooner he is reshuffled out the better.

  • Patrick Smith 4th Dec '11 - 8:17pm

    The sending out of a copy of the King James Bible to all schools in England and Wales is a good way of marking the 400 year anniversary of its printing in 1611 after scholarly research by 47 church academics presided over by Archbishop Richard Bancroft.

    I just don`t think that the cost of £375,000, at a time when so many families are finding it hard to make ends meet at Christmas, should be borne by the State.

  • Erlend Watson 4th Dec '11 - 11:22pm

    Assuming this has happened I think as an advance thought that we should be asking for the Complete Works of Shakespeare to be similarly issued on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. The other seminal piece of English literature. It should be less controversial and with advance notice the sponsorship should be found.

    My gut feeling is that the foreword could be by Prince Charles. In my opinion the foreword or at least a little letter for the KJB should have been by his mother. In fact that would be a way of trumping Gove. It might not go down well with our own republicans though.

  • John D Salt 4th Dec '11 - 11:45pm

    John 11:35.

  • There already exists a government branch tasked with promoting Christianity, including the distribution of Bibles.

    It is called the “Church of England”.

    Did I fall asleep and miss the point at which Mr. Gove was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury? If not, then why is he involved in this at all?

  • In all likelihood, the text which Mr. Gove plans to send to the schools is not the original 1611 text, but a substantially cut, re-edited, and re-spelled version produced in the 18th century (or later) which removes most of the elements which make the 1611 translation a fascinating text. If it actually were the 1611 text — original spelling, italicization, marginal notes, introduction, illustrations, maps, commentaries, apocrypha, and all, I might change my mind on its appropriateness, as it could be used as an example of 17th century scholarship, and an introduction to a discussion of what has changed in the way we approach source materials between 1611 and 2011. (Much luck in finding a teacher competent to lead such a discussion!)

  • We cannot force religion on any child nor any family They may well have a religion of their own that they practice
    If a parent or child decides they do not want the bible they have the right to say no thank you

    If you send the bible it may well be of help to the people who do want it though so I can see no harm in the bible being sent

  • As a late addition to the conversation, may I point out that most schools probably have a copy of the bible, but may not have a library. Libraries are statutory in prisons in this country, but not in schools, and certainly not libraries staffed by a degree qualified chartered librarian with a thorough knowledge of children’s and young adult literature, who can teach information and digital literacy, run Reading Groups, support 6th Form students taking the EPQ, and liaise with teaching colleagues to provide appropriate resources to support teaching and learning and reading for pleasure across the curriculum. There is also no requirement for school libraries to be inspected by Ofsted, so a school without a library can still be deemed Outstanding. In circumstances where public libraries are being closed or run by volunteers, School Library Services to primary schools are being cut or closed by hard pressed local authorities and the latest National Literacy Trust report shows that around 4 million children don’t own a book, school libraries may be the only contact some children have with the idea of reading for pleasure. Against this background there will be a lobby for school libraries at the House of Commons on Monday October 29th 2012. If you feel that as a bare minimum school libraries should be included in Ofsted inspections and preferably be made statutory, certainly in secondary schools, please let your local MP know how you feel on behalf of all the children you know, and many you don’t. Thanks.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Peter
    @Mark "shouldn't be able to exist" - that's a strong statement. Have you actually engaged with any of those people? To my mind it's no more than asserting a...
  • William Francis
    @Denis Mollison That is the very heart of reactionary politics. The insecurity of status causes people to lash out at others who are perceived to cause said ...
  • Denis Mollison
    @Mark V Sorry, but that's more over-the-top hype. I know no-one, simply no-one, who is anti-trans per se. But we ought to be able to debate freely whether the...
  • Marco
    I don’t see anything distinctively liberal about this speech. Of course we are opposed to people being discriminated against but that isn’t a USP and this s...
  • Roland
    @Hywel - It is a difficult area, however, fundamentally, what the Tavi offers is conversion therapy, just a variant that reinforces a person's perception of the...