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March 28th, 2011
03:16 PM ET

Tiny church finds original King James Bible

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Hilmarton, England (CNN) - A little English village church has just made a remarkable discovery.

The ornate old Bible that had been sitting in plain view on a table near the last row of pews for longer than anyone could remember is an original King James Bible - one of perhaps 200 surviving 400-year-old original editions of arguably the most important book ever printed in English.

In fact, the Bible at St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England, was sitting right under a hand-lettered sign saying it was an original.

The sign said it had been found in "the parish chest" in 1857, that the cover had been added, and that it was the second of the two impressions published in 1611 - the year of first publication.

But no one knew whether to believe it, parish council member Geoff Procter said. As the anniversary of publication in 1611 approached, they decided it was worth investigating.

"We had no way of knowing whether it really was a 1611 Bible so we had to get it verified somehow," he said.

He and two other church members took it to a specialist, the Rev. David Smith at the Museum of the Book in London.

Smith knew immediately what he was looking at, Procter said.

"We put it on his table and he opened it and immediately he said, 'Yes, this is a 1611 Bible,'" Procter remembered.

Geoff Procter of St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England, reads from the church’s King James Bible.

Smith identified it thanks to a printing error - a place in the Gospel of Matthew that should say Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane and spoke to his disciples instead says that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, entered the garden.

That the St. Laurence Bible had that error, but not another one in the Book of Ruth, enabled Smith to pinpoint exactly when the book had been printed, Procter explained.

"We realized that this is quite an important find," he said, and last month the church quietly announced the discovery in the diocese newsletter.

They hesitated before going public, Procter said.

"It was one of those discoveries that we wondered if we should tell everybody or tell nobody," he said. "And we thought that as it was the 400th anniversary, we should talk about it."

St. Laurence Church is far from the only one talking about the King James Bible this year - the Globe Theatre in London is planning a reading of the whole thing in the days before Easter, and a literary festival has already done one. Cambridge University has an exhibition, and the King James Bible Trust lists dozens of special events planned this year to mark the anniversary.

The reason is simple, said Moira Goff of the British Library.

The King James Bible is "so embedded in us that we can't overstate the significance of it," she said.

It's the source of dozens of phrases and concepts that have become part of the English language - "an eye for an eye," "born again," "eat, drink and be merry," "God forbid."

The church recently discovered that its old Bible was a rare 400-year-old original King James Bible.

Experts point out that the King James is based on at least two earlier major English translations, so its creators were editors as much as originators of these phrases, but it is the King James Bible that the great English writers knew, Goff said.

"It's passed entirely into the English language, into the thinking of English speakers around the world," she said.

Its influence has been greater than that of Shakespeare, she argued.

"I think it's permeated the language in ways that we can't count as we can count Shakespeare, influencing people's religious thinking, influencing people's social thinking in a way that Shakespeare probably does now - but that's a more recent development," she said.

"It's the Bible that was read to people in church every week," she explained. "The great literary figures from the early 17th century onwards, this was their daily reading. It passed into their works," she said, citing John Milton and John Bunyan among others.

But the King James Bible shouldn't be reduced to merely its influence on writers, she said.

"I think we have to be very careful in looking at the Bible only as a work of literature. It is also Holy Scripture and I think that makes it a different sort of book than the great works of literature," she said. "It will be read by people who will possibly never read Shakespeare or Milton."

The St. Laurence discovery is very unusual, she said. Perhaps 200 copies of the 1611 printings of King James Bibles are known to exist, she estimated. No one knows how many were printed, she added, but she guessed that the number was probably around 1,000.

Most of the surviving copies are in institutions, such as major libraries at universities, colleges and cathedrals in the United Kingdom and United States, she said.

"Some of them may be in private collections," she added, saying there is no way to know how many such copies there might be.

The sign hanging above the Bible, announcing its origins.

The St. Laurence discovery is technically a fragment, not a Bible, since it is missing a few pages (including most of the first pages of Genesis, up to chapter 4, verse 17) and has been trimmed at the top to fit the wooden cover added in Victorian times.

But it fits a pattern, she said. As King James Bibles got old and needed to be replaced, many were tucked away as church treasures, as seems to have happened with the St. Laurence Bible.

The people of St. Laurence Church are now trying to raise money to build a special case so they can keep their Bible in use and on regular display.

That would make the church more or less unique so far as Goff knows, although she speculated that there just might be a few village churches still using their 400-year-old Bibles.

"It's possible there are one or two churches that have gone on doing it and they just haven't thought to say," she said.

"People are now beginning to realize the value of this particular edition. This is the 400th anniversary and there is a lot more emphasis on it," she said.

"They value it. They want to keep it and they want to use it."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bible • Books • Christianity • Easter • Houses of worship • United Kingdom

soundoff (1,211 Responses)
  1. phoenix

    the heathen have no respect for the word of God because they are all possessed and blinded by the prince of darkness, no shrink or chop suey master can help either.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • ThereisnoGod

      You have blind faith that prevents you from seeing the truth that we are alone and there is in fact no such thing as God. Even after all the facts point to that; all the famine, death and sickness all over the world.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Joe

      lol you are an idiot. Wake up you sheep. Religion only teaches hatred and intolerance.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • You Idiots

      Better hide that version from the Pope...before he tries to erase Gods real name out of that one too!

      March 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • wimanf

      This is what I love about God that he gives everyone the free will to either choose Him or to reject him. However, one day, and it's coming fast, all eye will see Him even the so called "Atheists". Will it be too late for them? What will they do?

      March 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • PJ

      Joe,

      After referring to another person as an "idiot," and following by labeling religious people as "sheep," you state:

      "Religion only teaches hatred and intolerance."

      Is it possible that it's not actually religion that causes hatred and intolerance, but rather that those qualities are, unfortunately, innate in most, if not all, humans? I'm not very religious myself. And I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong. But, when you ridicule people that believe in something you choose not to as "idiots," you're only really demonstrating that you are (or at least have the capability of being) just as intolerant, and hateful as you assume them to be.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Jose

      John 13:34 " A new command I give to you: Love one another"

      People who use the bible as an excuse to hate seem to omit large portions.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • His servant

      As soon as I read about this wonderful Bible, I knew the same old God Haters would take their daily Crap for all to see, here. How it must hurt you all, to know that MILLIONS of we Christians are enjoying and sharing God's Love and His Message, and all your Hate just makes us laugh at your pathetic, empty lives. Just keep telling yourselves how smart and brave you are to disbelieve that which you cannot explain. Go on thinking that if YOU don't believe, well then, it MUST be false, because with your big, smart brain (LOL!) you have debunked the Myth, in your own few years. I actually feel pity for you, as you don't even know how shallow & vain you sound. Like a bad Archer, you keep missing the Mark. All they Joy and Love you could enjoy and share...... Waisted..... Because of your lack of Faith. Okay, this is the part where your denial and pain vomits fourth. Go ahead, just let it spew out under all the pressure you can muster, all over yourself and those others like you. You can never get it all out, never truly enjoy Life, until you understand that God is King.... NOT YOU. Get on your knees and beg for His Forgivness and Wisdom. Only then, can you find Peace, and your proper place here and now.
      Praise our Lord. Amen

      March 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • 2true

      Hope you atheist are right or it is going to be a LONG HOT ride!!!

      March 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  2. Talib Kweli

    Who was King James? And why did he think it was so vital to remove chapters and make his own version of the Bible? They say Hell is underground and Heaven is in the sky, and they say that’s where you go when you die but how they know?

    March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  3. Craig

    Very interesting to see the level of hatred on this board. Does Atheism teach hatred? Division? Superior Intellectual ability? Arrogance? Instead of just calling people names and trying to insinuate or directly call believers ignorant why do the atheist not just accept that some can a different belief and that such belief should be able to be discussed in a kind respectful manner. Would that not really make the world a better place.

    In the words of Spinoza – "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them."

    March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Carolyn

      They are disconnected by choice. And for some reason many of them want to drag everyone else into their mindsets.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Tommas

      Because we live in a democracy and ignorant people vote on how a 1,000s year old book tells them. Let alone the fact that this book has been translated so many times and has errors.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Craig – My hatred is for dishonesty and lies. If you see people being cheated wouldn't you be angry?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Sum Dude, reading your crass comments everywhere on this belief blog, its clear you do hate. I find it odd to see you come back to CNN's belief blog quite regularly. Go find others who share your hate due to some unnamed pain. And Thommas the Bible doesn't tell you to vote for anyone or any particular party – that's usually done by preachers on the pulpit. Which is inappropriate and most people would agree with this.

      March 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  4. Pachecosita

    uuh! how cool! now let us compare it with the current bible and see how much has been edited (CHANGED)
    hahaha

    March 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  5. Richard Cheese

    Why is this on the front page of CNN's website? Hardly real news. But then again, so is CNN.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Tim

      It is real news. Or maybe you don't think it is news when there are historical or even scientific discoveries.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Steve

    Ugh... all the people whining about why this is news. Would you really be typing those types of comments if this was an old statue from 1600 that was hiding in plain site and noone knew how old it really was? It's just interesting news because of how rare it is and how it was discovered. What else would you rather be reading about? There are 20 stories of "real life" issues you can look at, a little bit of interesting tidbits here and there never hurt anyone.
    Also – to all the people using this story to complain about people having faith in God: get a life, stop being so angry.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Rock on Steve! In total agreement. Finding an intact 1611 book???? AWESOME! You will have to excuse the lesser lifeforms aka atheists and the like. They have boring lives so they like being trolls online.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  7. warex1234

    Ever wonder why kings james version is shorter? I know, why dont cnn look it up.........

    March 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Pumbaa

      At least buy a Catholic edition of the Bible. That way you get to read a lot of extra text that the Protestants left out.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  8. DUH

    So if the bible is the word of God, yet this bible had an error in it...what does that tell you in a rational sense?

    March 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  9. STLBroker

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalm 14:1 King James Version

    http://www.jesuscompanion.com

    March 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  10. Morgana

    Please, realists, fact checkers and people concerned with truth: Stop spewing all of your hate on these fine folks whoare reeady to facilitate the end times for you unsuspecting sweet realistic humans.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • hi

      puhleaze. end times my ass. Point out the phrase in the bible that says 'end times'. It doesnt occur once. In any bible version. Now with that stupid phrase out of the way, every one of jesus' predictions came true. The temple came down and not one stone remained on another. Go to jerusalem and see for yourself. All thats left is a wall that was south of it. Jews pray at it and put little slips of paper with prayers into the cracks in it. His friend betrayed him. His brother denied him. He was the last sacrifice. He knew all that. He also knew that his people, the new christians, would be persecuted mercilessly. He also said he would return and that no man will know exactly when the end will come until its here. That could mean an asteroid, disease, or an ice age. Or that story told 3 times in different ways (very cryptically too, on purpose i assume) in revelations.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @hi – puhhleaze back at you! Most Christians are willing to admit all those passages about Jesus were written AFTER all those things supposedly came true.
      See the problem? Are you that gullible? And he hasn't returned yet either, so that's ONE thing he can never fulfill – because all the people are dead and he told them he'd return before they died.
      Jesus fail.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • hi

      @sum Matthew 24-25 is where all this 'ill be back' stuff appears. The passage where he says 'this generation' pertains to the temple, his peoples' persecution, and him dying and being resurrected. Which happened. The second coming is under heavy debate.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • hi

      OH and @sum.... MOST events in history are written after they happen, so how do you think it should have been? Written BEFORE he said it????

      March 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  11. Ryan

    I like the posts about burning this original King James Bible. These people have the same thought process as Hitler, the world's foremost Bible burner (ordered all German Bibles and Bibles in occupied countries such as France, Poland, and Holland burned). They'd also probably burn original copies of The Iliad or the works of Aristotle, Galileo, or Copernicus based on they "couldn't be trusted" or "were divisive at the time". What idiots.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  12. Cubist Tut

    "If I were the devil (please, no comment), one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing tht it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and man taps, to frighten people off." - J.I. Packer

    March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  13. Pam

    Fav Bible story? Well, Dmoney, none of those you listed are part of the KJV. Thoses are Old Testament Stories.
    My fav stories? Christ saying, "Please don't kill or steal or commit adultery." "Please treat every person the way you would like to be treated." "Please give as much as you possibly can to help the poor and, if you do, I promise you will receive blessings like you won't believe so that you can continue to do so." "Stop living by old rules about what you can eat and how you should wash before you eat~ that's not important. What's important is that you remain clean in your heart." How can anyone possibly call bulls*** on any of that? If we only obeyed the above, *every* problem in the world would be solved, but, instead, people would rather fight over countries and money. Greed is a powerful opposition. It makes people murder for oil, buy big homes they can't afford when they could be contributing to those in dire need around the world, and buy all the designer goods they can, regardless that they are contributing to slave labor in China...

    March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • FifthApe

      Pam – how about that nice story in Exodus 21?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Patrick B

      Well said! You just summed up EVERYTHING you need from the bible in one paragraph! We'll call it "Pams Extreme Abridged Version"!

      March 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • hi

      @fith AGAIN: As CHRISTIANS we follow christ. He said that the old way of the jews isnt cutting it and lots of wrong has been done in the name of god. He directly disputes slavery, judging others, sacrifice, and host of other crap. He encourages peace, love, giving, and a personal relationship with god, not one through some rabbi. All this happens at the beginning of the new testament. Thats not to say that we should ignore the old testament, but most of it is a history book of wars and family lines and events pertaining to the 12 tribes of israel. Please educate yourself, you come off like a jacka$s.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Donovan

    Does anyone else find it amusing that this book, believed to be God's infallible word by a large segment of the U.S. and world population, was identified as accurate because of...an error? lol.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Tim

      I agree. It is funny. I wonder if our current Bible translations will be identified someday by their misprints. We may never know, since the world is going to end in May 🙂

      March 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • hi

      Anyone who knows the history of the bible knows about the errors. I'm sure you also know that people arent perfect and god said as much himself. He even said that his word would be misconstrued. What you should do is trust scholars who have worked tirelessly to translate from original hebrew the original meanings. (or translate it yourself. start with the dead sea scrolls and the torah) Every language evolves. A word written in the book numbers might have had a different meaning from the same word in revelations as there is 1000 years of language evolution between the two writings. True scholars can weed out these differences and other mistranslations to understand the true meaning the authors had. Hey, guess what? These scholars exist and have made a bible called the NIV. You can laugh all day about people being imperfect, but I doubt this is one of those cases where you can throw the first stone.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @hi
      Here's a gigantic stone coming at you – You say your soul is important yet you trust the words of the other "imperfect" people who wrote all the different books of the Bible. You raise their made-up words as being holy, yet a mistake is not a holy thing.

      So your soul is only worth about 34 cents, I guess, or something like that. You don't care enough to seek the truth.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  15. Julie Scroggin

    This is the Holy Word of God.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • FifthApe

      This is holly?

      31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
      31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      Nice god..... I wont pray to any deity whose morality is less than my own.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • hi

      @fith: that was not said by god. It was said by moses. People of that time didnt conduct war like we do now. All god said was 'take the leaders and kill them' (the enemy) and 'put to death all who worshiped the other gods' during their resort stay in that city. look it up for yourself. numbers 25.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  16. Dan

    CNN, religion is fantasy not news.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • spork

      A discovery of a 400 original edition book is news. This article is not about religion.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Tim

      I agree with Spork. It is about finding an old Bible, one of the original Bibles translated into the English language. Other than being a holy book for Christianity, the article has nothing to do with religion.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  17. Void

    Persecution has been wrought in the name of religion since the foul little concept first arose, and atheists have always been on the receiving end. Sure, Jews and Christians took their lashings at the hands of other religious powers, but atheists and agnostics have always been on the receiving end, even today in militantly Islamic countries.

    No, I'm not confining the breadth of history to where it is convenient for me, as you libelously imply . In fact, I'm doing the opposite. I'm taking all history into account, and yes, atheists have always been on the receiving end, or does that not fit within the frame of history that's convenient for you?

    March 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  18. Craig

    It is interesting that a book so criticized and hated has been handed down with accuracy for 1000's of years.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • FifthApe

      Are you actually calling Genesis actuate? Is pi really 3? Do you *really* think the world was flooded and 8 humans were in an ark with all the animals? Do you *really* think this?

      Should we really cleans a leper with the blood of a dove?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • FifthApe

      For accuracy of the bible, read Misquoting Jesus. It will open your eyes just like it did the authors.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Ariadne

      Apparently you missed the part in the article where they stated that they verified the Bible as a 1611 by it's printing errors.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • hi

      Look, it hasnt. When we found the dead sea scrolls in the 1940s, great scholars and religious leaders poured over them and found lots of mistakes with our current bibles, king james version included. For instance, sometimes when the bible speaks about a place, ghenna i think, which was 14 miles outside jerusalem, it has been translated into 'hell' when the place was being compared to hell. Also, in many instances the words 'I' or 'you' or 'we' were mistranslated, changing the entire meaning of some passages. All of the translations have a bottleneck. One person or the other was entrusted with translation of a huge tome and being fallible, it wasnt done exactly right. If you understand that and read the bible as close as possible to the original text (try the NIV version) the word becomes alive. I suggest starting on the new testament first so that you dont take some old testament stuff as gospel, so to speak. Jesus let us know that eye for an eye (old testament) wasnt the way to go. I think his exact words were 'turn the other cheek'. I see many christians not following chirst. Some churches have you eat or dress a certian way when jesus said 'its not what goes in your mouth thats most important, its what comes out'.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Terry

      Maybe I miss read something. Sorry to whizz on you cheerios, but didn't they say an inaccuracy proved the authenticity of being an original KJV.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Fred Evil

    LOL, calling this an 'Original' is like calling everything that comes out of a Kinko's with a malfunctioning copier an 'original.'
    The most re-written, re-interpreted and re-translated tome in history!
    And if you think it's anywhere close to the TRUE original, then I have a number of lovely water-front properties you may be interested in...ever been to the Antarctic?

    March 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Michael

      I'd be more likely to be excited if it were from the year ONE A.D. and written in Jesus' hand.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Tim

      They didn't say it was an "original Bible" or "original manuscript". but an original copy of the King James translation that was printed in 1611.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Tim

      @MICHAEL. Jesus didn't write any scriptures.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • windrider

      Is your entire family illiterate or just you? The article is very specific: this is an original version of the King James VERSION of the Bible, not the original Bible, that does not exist in any form. Ancient scrolls and bits and pieces of some books and some verses yes, but there's no such thing as an original intact Bible Most intelligent people realize that. I understand. The King James version was a politically motivated act by King James for reasons that had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with power. But mistranslations didn't start there. The Septuagint is a mistranslation nightmare committed by early Greek Jewish converts to Christianity who had no real expertise in Hebrew or Aramaic. That's how we got some of the most ridiculous notions we have today because the Greek translation brought in whole new words which had their own iconic meanings. Case in point: sheol was simply the underworld where all souls resided after they were buried. The Greeks translated it to "Hades" which was a much more elaborate, myth-bound place, still an underworld but one with rules and a ruler. In a few more centuries, Hades became Hell, a completely unknown concept to Jews at the time of Jesus. It's all downhill from there.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Jesus didn't write anything that anyone can find. Pretty clever of him to be illiterate, eh? God is such a joker.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Ranger 1

      @Sum Dude- So I take it you think Socrates was illiterate. Can you show some of his handwritting to us?

      March 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  20. everteta

    Could the Christianity hates please refrain from speaking and spewing hatred?

    March 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • FifthApe

      Funny how when an atheist talks about how silly the stories are in the bible they get jumped on for hate mongering. Please read your bible and see what true hate is (Exodus 21 and Numbers 31 just to start).

      The bible is one of the most evil books in all fiction.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • everteta

      Really? A small country church in England finds an old book and some people's response to this important piece of history is "burn it"?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'everteta – Could the Christianity hates please refrain from speaking and spewing hatred?'
      You first.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Darwin in Vegas

      Geez...so it's an EARLY version of the pack of lies?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Darwin in Vegas- Interesting name, a man who came up with evolution in a city that serves no real purpose. Odd much?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Karen

      A name like Lycidas would fit right in on the strip especially since you post like you think your a Deva. 😉

      March 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Thank you Karen, you have shown that you don't really know the reference to the name. And check your spelling, unless it's one of the CNN moderation things.

      March 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Karen

      Lycidas you have never made a typo in your life right. What a b*!ich and a self proclaimed Deva.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Lycidas

      Sorry for treating you the way you do others. I thought you could handle it 🙂

      March 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.