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'Manifold Greatness' exhibit chronicles history, impact of King James Bible

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith ---- Nancy Guinn Memorial Library Board Member Delores Baker displays an antique Bible that belonged to one of the library's founders, Irene Irwin, which will be displayed as part of the "Manifold Greatness" exhibit at the Nancy Guinn.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith ---- Nancy Guinn Memorial Library Board Member Delores Baker displays an antique Bible that belonged to one of the library's founders, Irene Irwin, which will be displayed as part of the "Manifold Greatness" exhibit at the Nancy Guinn.

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Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith ---- These three German Bibles, which will be displayed as part of the "Manifold Greatness" exhibit at the Nancy Guinn Library, belonged to the Sproessig family of Conyers, who brought them from Germany when they emigrated to the U.S.

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Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith ---- An interior page of the Irene Irwin Bible shows family members' births.

Bob Marley used passages from it as lyrics to his songs. Charles Shultz incorporated a portion of it into his "Charlie Brown Christmas" television special. Apollo 8 astronauts read from it during a public broadcast as they orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1968.

For millions of others, it serves as the comforting and inspiring Word of God.

Published in 1611, the King James Bible has influenced culture, art and every day language, said Nancy Guinn Memorial Library Director Daryl Fletcher, and is one of the most widely read books in the world.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of it publication, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the American Library Association developed a traveling exhibit chronicling the history of the King James Bible. After visiting 40 public libraries, universities and colleges across the U.S., the exhibit will make its final stop at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers.

"Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible," will be open to the public during library hours from May 30 to July 12. The exhibit will be displayed in the main lobby of the library at 864 Green St. in Olde Town Conyers.

The exhibit consists of seven double-sided panels that examine, among other topics, how the King James version of the Bible came to be written.

"I don't think that most people could tell you that, but when they have the opportunity, they want to know," said Fletcher.

Originally written in Hebrew and Greek, the Bible, up until the early 1600s, remained out of reach for the average person as church leaders, and law, forbade it to be translated to English. Early translators risked their lives to pen English versions.

William Tyndale, who translated the entire new Testament and some of the Old Testament, suffered the fate of being burned at the stake for his efforts to deliver the Bible to the common man, said Fletcher.

"You have people who were willing to die for a book and people did die. William Tyndale is one of those heroes in the story," Fletcher said.

When King James I took the throne, he oversaw a major re-translation of the Bible (which borrowed from earlier translators like Tyndale) by six committees of English scholars, which took place over a period of several years beginning in 1604.

In addition to providing the genesis for the King James Bible, the exhibit also examines the important role the Bible played in people's lives beyond the spiritual -- that being a place of record for family history information, such as births, deaths and marriages.

"The exhibition shows how important the King James Bible has been in history and will help audiences to develop a new understanding of its social, cultural, literary and religious influences over four centuries," Fletcher said.

A series of featured presentations by local scholars, as well as movies about the King James Bible, will also be a part of the exhibit. Movies include "KJB: The Book that Changed the World," and "The Making of the King James Bible," along with a children's film titled, "Torchlighters." Dates and times will be listed on the library website at www.conyersrockdalelibrary.org.

A collection of historic Bibles from families in Rockdale County will also be display.

Ken Jewell, a representative from the National Library Bindery, will be at the library on June 12 and 22 to offer free repair and restoration consultations for family Bibles and other antique books.

Library officials expect the exhibit and all of the activities connected with it to draw hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of visitors from across the state.

Nancy Guinn Library Board member Delores Baker said the exhibit is funded by a $2,500 grant obtained by Rockdale County and that the recent renovations to the library, including an expanded meeting room which can accommodate up to 300, made the library a competitive candidate to for the exhibit. Baker said the committee to plan for the event has been meeting for 16 months.

Fletcher said that he hopes the entire community visits the library to see the exhibit.

"This is not just an exhibit for those who consider themselves Christian or go to church. This is a story of human struggle and this is why I think it's going to be important to everybody," said Fletcher.

To learn more, visit www.manifoldgreatness.org.