Worship, the KJV, and Plimoth Plantation

Dear Reader,

My post recently on worship and the family (see here), reminded me of a visit we made a couple of years ago to Plimoth Plantation (you know, the Mayflower, Plymouth rock and all that? And, yes, I am spelling Plimoth Plantation correctly). For those of you not from New England, Plimoth Plantation is set up as it would have been in about 1627.  We have been to Plimoth a number of times but made a special trip two years ago because they were having regular talks on worship as it would have been in the Plimoth colony.

When the time for the talk came, we settled down on a hard wooden bench in the fort/meeting hall/church for the service/talk. “We” was myself and my four children who were then 8, 7, 5 and 3. The children were sitting relatively quietly waiting when some old ladies there started staring at us. Then they told me while looking pointedly at the children, “you now there is going to be church service here now, right?” I said yes and we continued waiting. The whole presentation was maybe 20 or 30 minutes. Short for us for a worship service. The children sat and listened the whole time with no problem. One thing that I have found as a side-effect of keeping them with us in service is that at an early age they can sit through just about anything that is shorter and/or more interesting to them than our usual 90 minute service. The presentation began by lining out a psalm (the leader sings a line and the congregation sings it back to him). This is not how we do psalms in our church but the kids participated eagerly. Then there was a talk on how the worship service would have been in Plimoth. As I recall it included lots of Bible reading and prayer. Honestly, my kids probably had no idea why this was being discussed. I am sure it sounded just like a normal worship service to them. Why was I bringing them to hear what happens in church when they go every week? I went away feeling that I would have been more at home in the Plimoth service in  1627 than in most of my friends’ churches today. And of course, kids remained in worship in 1627. No children’s church for them. It was mentioned that moms with small ones would stay near the door so they could slip out easily if the babe fussed. We do this in our churches too.

One interesting part was when they talked about the Bible they used. It was the old Geneva Bible I believe. They did not use the King James Version. I have heard a lot this year as it approaches its anniversary about the wonderful KJV. A couple of reformed people at least have forwarded to me links about this big celebration and how wonderful the KJV is. Frankly, I don’t get it. The KJV was a compromise. The separatists of Plimoth did not like it. I remember specifically that they did not like a word cognate to our word tyrant being translated as king. The language of the KJV may sound beautiful to us. But it is not our modern language. The reformation was about making the bible accessible to common people and as languages evolve over time, the KJV is no longer the English we speak. Nor am I convinced that it is most accurate translation as some would claim. It too had political purposes, more than most modern translation actually. And there have been changes and advances in biblical scholarship since, quite a few in fact. My view of the KJV would be that it was an important point in the history of the Bible in English, but it is not, or should it be, the end point or even the apex.



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