This comment by C. David Burt is too good to bury in the comments section of this post about the King James Version and Hanukkah. David writes:
If you go into some old Anglican Churches and rummage around you will find the old Bible that once stood on the lectern. Sometimes it is in two volumes and sat on a rotating double lectern that looked like a hen house. Invariably one volume would be the Old Testament and the other the New Testament, And it is the Authorized Version, commonly called the King James Version. Between the Old Testament and the New is bound in a set of books called the Apocrypha, and in there you will find the First and Second Book of Maccabees. In the Book of Common Prayer, which you may also find in an old church there is a lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer, and there you will find some appointed lessons from these books and from other books of the Apocrypha, including I and II Maccabees. In Article VI of the Articles of Religion, these books are listed with the note that they are read for example of life and instruction of manners, but they may not be appealed to in order to establish any doctrine. Here Anglicanism was standing firmly on the side of the reformers who would only allow an appeal to the canonical books of the Old and New Testament.
The Hebrew Bible, what is called the Mazoretic text, was established by rabbinic scholars as late as the 10th century in an effort to eliminate corruptions which crept in during the Babylonian captivity. In the Hellenistic period Greek speaking Jews and Christians used a collection of books called the Septuagint, or “Seventy Scrolls” Some of the books included were Greek translations from Hebrew originals, and others may have been translated from Aramaic or some other semitic language. Others may have been written in Greek. This was the Bible of the early Christians, and the books of the New Testament were added to it. The history of the establishment of the canon of Holy Scripture goes back to the fourth century. Jerome considered some of the books to be apocryphal. Councils and Synods over time accepted the books as “deuterocanonical” meaning a second canon. The result is that Orthodox Church accepts all the books of the Septuagint, The Catholic Church accepts most of them, and the Protestants will not accept any of the books that are not in the Hebrew Bible. Interestingly, the Anglicans, while not accepting the deuterocanonical books to establish doctrine, do use them for worship and for lectionary readings. The Apocrypha, if included in Protestant Bibles, has more books than the Catholic Church recognizes as canonical and fewer than the Orthodox Church.
Catholic Bibles have the deuterocanonical books included and interspersed within the Old Testament. An interesting point is the Book of Daniel. The Greek version of Daniel includes some material that is not in the Hebrew version, and Catholic Bibles have always printed this material together. This includes, by the way, the canticles Benedictus es and Benedicite which we use at Morning Prayer. There are two books of Ezra included in the Protestant Bible, but the Apocrypha has the third and fourth book of Esdras. They are not in the Catholic Bible, but are in the Apocrypha as I and II Esdras. Readings from these books are included in the Prayerbook lectionary.
The Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition of the Bible is a wonderful book. Most Anglicans have switched to the RSV for reading in Church, but there are certain passages from the King James Version that are so familiar that some of us feel jolted when we hear a version that doesn’t sound quite right. Fortunately we are allowed to use texts from the King James Bible in the Ordinariate. While the Psalms are taken from the Coverdale Psalter, as they were in the Prayerbook, the Canticles come from the King James Bible. The Last Gospel is also from King James. The Decalogue is based on the King James version. Any of the minor propers not from the Psalms is based on King James. So we already have a lot of the King James Bible incorporated in our liturgy.
Do we need to have a King James Bible-Catholic Edition? I think it would be nice, but I don’t think I will ever live to see it. The King James Version is a masterpiece of English literature, and while it is archaic, it has not become unintelligible to modern hearers. For those who were brought up hearing it’s sonorous cadences and sometimes quaint phraseology, it has become part of our spiritual lives. Some of us may have memorized passages from the Bible. I think the Ordinariate could start working toward having a King James- Catholic Edition. Here is a suggestion: In the Catholic Church we have a Gospel Book that is used to read or sing the Gospel at Mass. Why not edit a Gospel Book based on the King James version and ask Rome to review it for doctrinal error? If they find anything we could substitute the wording of the Douay version for the offending passages. After we do that, we could do the same with the Epistles. Then we could edit a version of the Old Testament with the deuterocanonical books included, all King James version. Send it to the Vatican bit-by-bit so we don’t overwhelm them with work. My bet is there is very little in the King James version of the Bible that so favors a Protestant doctrine that it would have to be replaced with something from the Douay.
C. David Burt