Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, delivered the first of Westminster Abbey’s autumn series of King James Bible lectures on Wednesday 5 October to a packed Nave.
These lectures form part of a season of events marking the 400th anniversary of the 1611 Bible.
It was at Westminster Abbey that two groups of scholars, one led by the then Dean of Westminster Lancelot Andrewes, met in the Jerusalem Chamber to translate key books of the Bible for King James I. Other companies worked at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Over a billion copies of this translation of the Bible have been published and its impact on our cultural and political landscape has been colossal.
The Lord Chief Justice spoke from A Lawyer’s Perspective.
In a wide–ranging speech on contemporaneous 16th and 17th century law he concluded: ‘Alongside the activities of Lancelot Andrewes to try, as accurately as possible, to translate the word of God into English, for the benefit of men’s immortal souls, the struggle for the new constitutional arrangements, to govern our lives on this earth, had begun.
‘Principles which we now take for granted were not established beyond argument during these seven years, and some of them had still to be fought over, but the ferment of ideas represented ideas whose time had come.
‘Our constitution is not fixed. It retains an element of flexibility. But whenever we consider it, or consider changing it, we are unconsciously at any rate influenced by these early struggles.
‘And so it is that, in the first few years of the reign of James I, we were blessed by the Authorised Version of the Bible and I believe we should simultaneously recognise that it was produced during a seminal period in the history of this country, which influences the way in which it is governed to this day, and the way in which we ourselves as a nation are content to be governed.’
Lord Bragg speaks next Wednesday 12 October at 6.30pm on The Impact of the King James Bible 1611 - 2011.