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. Arick

    Very nice find, not everyday you find an original KJ Bible.

    Oh and I don't care about the religion debate, so carry on.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Eladio

      Sure, now you can see the this guys never use the bible. 400 years or so, and they just noticed!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • I Am That I Am

      An old book of fairy tales? Big whoop!

      March 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • JLS639

      Eladio, that is not what the story said. According to the story, their was a longstanding claim that the book was an original, but they did not know if the claim was true. They did not "just notice."

      March 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Religious sects

      Arick... good point. This is a find of historical value, religion or not. Religion has been a part of human history & has shaped society (to a degree). There are many historical finds that are significant to human history that are religious in nature, it makes no difference whether religion is true or not...history is history.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Jonny McGerk

      Hah, I find it amazing that even the slightest mention of the word "bible" sparks such animosity between beliefs. This article in no way pushes any beliefs upon anyone...it just states that an original 1611 King James Edition was found.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • John Do

      Eladio–They used the Bible but they never took time to see when it was printed, big difference. I assume you read books. How many of them do you look to see when they were printed??

      March 29, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  2. God

    I AM NOT HAPPY! I shall smite you now.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  3. Boo Hoo For Allah

    The operative word here is "version" – There is no definitive original bible. While this is interesting historicially, it only goes to prove the bible and it's many variations are completely man made, therefore False. Man controls man by claiming God and Jesus said things that we can never ever prove. I do not trust man enough to believe in the bible. The bible itself is in fact a false idol.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  4. LoneZero

    The tale of Lilith originates in a medieval work called "the Alphabet of Ben-Sira, The story of Lilith is not actually found in any authentic Rabbinic tradition. Although it is repeatedly cited as a "Rabbinic legend" or a "midrash," it is not recorded in any ancient Jewish text. It is a rather interesting story.

    This book should be cherished, studied, and placed for viewing like Jefferson's bible.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Boo Hoo For Allah

    The operative word here is "version" – There is no definitive original bible. While this is interesting historicially, it only goes to prove the bible and it's many variations are completely man made, therefore False. Man controls man by claiming God and Jesus said things that we can never ever prove. I do not trust man enough to believe in the bible. The bioble itself is in fact a false idol.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • John Do

      FYI –each book of the Bible was written by a different person.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  6. Travis

    And we're supposed to be impressed why?!?!?

    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |


    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  8. Charlie

    Yup, ole mastershake0 has it all figured out. Thanks guy!

    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  9. BOSOX

    As an educated person, I and we are all aware of how people of all religions have commited harm to fellow human beings in the name of whatever religion. I will say as a Christian it is not about religion but relationship (with God) and if you are a believer then it's about Jesus who we believe is who he said he is. Don't let the the evil that flawed human beings have done harden your heart.

    Jesus never forced anyone to convert, he spoke and taught and left the decision to our free will. The Bible is a combination of the old and new testaments for those who don't believe they are difficult to understand and can be very controversial as God's way are not always our way's. Start with the new testament and consider who Jesus is? Either he is who he said he was or he is a liar. There is no gray area. For me, I trust and rely on him in all I do and at the end of my days I know I will be with him. I am his and he is mine through his grace and mercy.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  10. knobe

    " 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."

    And all this time I thought Shakespeare was responsible for eat , drink & be merry !
    My bad . . .

    March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  11. Religious sects

    Wow, what an awesome find. I would love to see it in person & read through it... and I'm an atheist. Religion has & does play such a large role in human society. Finds like this are priceless. I find it interesting that even the parish council questioned it's authenticity, did they think someone in the church lied about it but left it there anyway unsure about whether it was the truth?

    March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  12. ShakAttack13

    Ahhh the endless debate over religion! When will it end?
    Non-believer's argument: God doesn't exist because there is no scientific evidence to prove his existence.
    Believer's argument: God does exist because religion is a matter of faith and not science.

    Here's what I don't get...
    We, as believers (myself included), believe that God will save us from our sins through following the teachings of Jesus Christ and all those who do not accept Jesus will, literally speaking, go to hell. It seems to me that the only thing we can do is pray that one day the non-believers out there experience some kind of an event which opens their eyes to the power of God. However, the sheer massive number of non-believers leads me to conclude that unfortunately many will still go to hell. This leads to my question of why even continue this endless debate? There's always going to some A**hole out there spreading his or her blasphemy and one day s/he will be judged.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • knobe

      Strangely , but most the egregious sinners I know are 'believers' who repent regularly for a 'get out if jail free' card .
      But the non believers live honorably because the family , neighborhood and society flow ever so better when one lives with honor .

      From my experience , it is mostly ' believers ' , and mostly 'god of abraham' religions causing pain , grief and sorrow on planet earth .
      In fact a ' believer ' recently admitted to me , that without the threat of hell , he would live dishonorably .
      ( but of course , with regular repentance , he gets his get out of hell free card and mean while , decent people suffer these 'believers' foul lives .

      March 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • jupiter522

      Where is hell exactly, I used to think it was in Texas, but I am not so sure now. Would a gps locate it?

      March 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Religious sects

      knobe... I believe Theism vs Atheism is more about the ability to self control (self rule) based on the rules of whichever society you live in at any given time. Some can control themselves, others need God & yet others need police. If God helps some to stay within the rules of society then I say it's a good thing.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Too True

      I would argue, that the foundation of what "good" atheists judge right or wrong are generally founded on the prevailing morality of their society. In the west this morality is founded upon Christian teachings. Nearly all of what a "good" atheist judges "good" will be pulled straight off Gods' top ten list, while what they judge "bad" is determined indirectly by the same book.
      Just ask yourself "Is infanticide OK by you?" It was in many cultures, including Greek, Native American and Norse, but frowned on by Christianity.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • John Do

      My wife once told me that several people she knew that were strong atheists came to their deadbead by suddenly were seeking God. Why? Because they were afraid that this life was all there is and there was nothing after death.

      Where does that energy that makes each one of us operate as a human go after death? Where does it come from? That energy that gives us our personality...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  13. Ed Bermeo

    is this really news?? someone has as an old version of a fairytale......big whoop

    March 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • John Do

      Show proof it's a fairy tale. You can't.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  14. John Do

    Before man discovered electricity he could not see it or touch it, yet it was there. People may not be able to see or touch God yet by the same logic He is here. God being a power far greater than what we humans can comprehend and yet we judge on what we don't understand.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  15. dontfearTHEWORD

    1But understand this, that(A) in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be(B) lovers of self,(C) lovers of money,(D) proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3(E) heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal,(F) not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless,(G) swollen with conceit,(H) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -2 Timothy 3

    -if you managed to read the above without your face melting off, you still have a chance. The WORD of God never returns void. For us CHRISTIANS

    March 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  16. Chris

    lol@ people wanting physical proof for spiritual things. Not how it works people.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Is that you, Peewee? You are not qualified to use that argument, as I have already proven you wrong.
      If you're not Peewee, you should try thinking about these things before you post them. If you can.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Ranger 1

      atheists don’t claim that God doesn’t exist. They are simply without a belief in God. Therefore the burden of proof for God is on the Theist, not the Atheist.

      This is a technicality that Atheists use to try to put the burden on the other side. They claim that since “A-theism” means “without a belief in God”, they are not claiming anything and therefore do not have to prove anything. Thus, they claim, the burden of proof is on the Theist, who claims that God exists.

      However, this makes little difference either way because their core philosophy toward God is still the same. Deep down, they believe that there is no God, and they know it. The reason why they emphasize this is to try to put themselves in an unattackable position. It’s a semantic ploy. To try to be consistent with it, they will say “There is no evidence for God” rather than “God doesn't exist”, but sometimes they slip up.
      They can’t really prove that God doesn’t exist because you can’t prove a negative. Regardless, the Atheist obviously believes deep down that there isn't a God or deity anyway, which is prevalent in their attempts to debunk and refute every single argument for the existence of God. Therefore this trivial debate about the implications of the word “Atheism” seems pointless in substance.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  17. knobe

    " Smith identified it thanks to a printing error " ? ? ?

    But I thought as the word of god , mistakes were Never made !
    Falling out of my chair laughing , this is toooooooo funny !

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Chris

      God is perfect... not men. The book was printed by men. Don't know how that is hard to see.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • thorrsman

      It is a highly technical term that you are unfamiliar with: "typo".

      March 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Religious sects

      knobe... Chris is correct about one thing, it was printed by a human & humans make mistakes. You need to be logical about this dismissal of yours, a misprint does NOT disprove Gods existence. You make Atheists look as foolish as the over zealous religious nuts you attempt to mock.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • well

      you don't see what you don't want to see. there is a contradiction with the typo that you have to admit that disproves the book being a perfect expression of god. and if you then admit that the writer made an error there, then they could have made an error with the ENTIRE book. so, even if god is perfect (which is only true because you define it as such), that doesn't make the bible true. that's the point. you can have one and not the other.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • knobe

      Except Years of Christian teaching said the Bible was to be believed as written & as the INFALLIBLE word of god ,
      And NOW ' believers ' cry typo ?
      So god was NOT guiding the publication and therefore , there may be hundreds of false interpretations from the hundreds of Men transcribing for hundreds of years !
      Not to mention the typo errors !

      Get a clue here guys , or is the truth tooooooo painful ?

      March 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Mark

      you idiot – lol – do you think this article is saying that God or even Jesus wrote this bible?? IN fact it states quite the contrary.. did you even read the article?? Or just read it and felt that it was left open to your interpretation? The king james version of the bible was interpretted and written by people just like you and I that were subject to error just like you and I...

      March 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  18. Cubist Tut

    The Atheist’s Paradox.

    If it can be proven that “God does not exist” then I will accept it as an “absolute truth.” But there lays the paradox. For it to be an absolute truth, it has to be proven without a doubt that there is no God. Atheists say that “God(s) does not exist,” which is an absolute statement; and yet they cannot fully disprove the probability that God could possibly exist. In fact, the Cosmological, Teleological, and the Moral argument all show that there is a chance, possibly and a probability that a transcendent being (God) could exist. So my question for the Atheist is… “Do you feel lucky?” Because you are gambling with your very soul.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • well

      there is also a chance that pink elephants will stampede my room on the 4th floor of an apartment building, but i'm not going to dedicate every sunday thinking about it or give money to people who tell me to 'have faith, the elephants are coming'

      March 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Unikraken

      You choose one god out of 10,000 and tell us we are gambling? Heh.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Q

      @Cubist Tut – When an atheist states "God does not exist", this is generally an affirmation that there is no convincing evidence to indicate said deity. Everyone knows you can't "prove it" one way or the other. And that leads to your probability argument in which you conflate apophenia with evidence. An atheist makes the claim "God does not exist" with the same confidence in saying "Leprechauns do not exist". This is not a dismissal of the absolute possibility, but rather an acceptance, given the available physical evidence, that the probability for said ent-ities existence is far too small to be worthy of any merit.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • thorrsman

      @Cubist Tut
      It is simple, really: Atheism is a religion based on the faith that there is no God, yet those who practice it are forbidden by their religion from admitting that they practice a religion.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Mark

      Do you feel gullible?... Why is it ONLY the belief in God that has to be disproven as opposed to a belief in Santa Claus? The burden of proof lies with the ones who make the claim and not on the ones who call it fairy tales. If someone claims that they saw superman leaping over tall buildings in a single bound today, the burden of proof would obviously lie with the ones making the claim, and not with the ones that discounted it. Why would it be acceptable or even logical for the ones making the claim to place the burden of proof on the ones who are discounting the claim? I saw a spaceship with little green men getting out of it and since you are NOT able to prove otherwise then that proves that I am right?? LOL... c'mon – at least be able to think for yourself....and not base your beliefs on something simply because the ones who dont believe the same as you can or cannot prove otherwise...

      March 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Too True

      Your average atheist is smart enough to be smug an look down on all the stupid people that belive in God. They rarely look into modern Cosmological science or read about the likes of Hoyle, who was an atheist and mocked what he termed "the Big Bang" as being to theistic in its ramifications. He became a theist after he found certain properties of the cosmos to be so unlikely as to require a God to explain them.
      No, your average atheist laughs at the Young Earth Creationists and their psuedo-science and think that is what religion is. They don't understand that many religious people, including the Pope, have no problem whatsoever with a 14 billion year old universe full of life evolved on a million planets.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • John

      Hmmmm. It exists because I can not disprove a negative? Use your logic on this one.... I know there exists an element called stupidium. Stupidium is tasteless, odorless, invisible and silent. I know it exists because you can not prove that it doesn't exist. Oh, and you have to send me ten percent of your income or stupidium will 'get you'.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Too True

      There is plenty of evidence in modern cosmology to prove almost without a doubt that one of the following statements is true:
      There are an infinite number of universes.

      Our universe came into existence able to support life against all mathmatical probability.
      There is a God that laid the foundations for a life supporting universe.

      Not a single one of these can be proven or disproven, yet to be anything but agnostic is to accept one of them with zero emperical evidence. The theist is at least honest with himself in saying that his belief is based on faith, while the atheist lies to himself and/or others by claiming the intellectual high ground with mocking comments about Santa Claus etc.

      In truth they rarely give the cosmological implications of the big bang, the balance of matter and anit-matter, the atomic weight of hydrogen, the carbon generation cycle or any of the other incredibly unlikely coincidences required for a life supporting universe to exist. They just say "Religious people are dumb and I am smart. End of story."

      March 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Cubist Tut

      Hey there... -Cubist T...

      In relation to your 'Atheists Paradox.'

      First... I am in full agreement with @ Q in his assertions and worldview.

      Second... With that said, atheists' as a general rule, when they say... "God/s does/do 'not' exist" are in essence saying that they don't, 'believe' that God exists. It's their 'beliefs' which is on a virtually exact logical level as believers saying that... "God 'does' exist." 'Neither the believers, nor the atheists which are basically on opposite ends of the spectrum have 'any' solid and undeniable-'absolute' proof either way.

      As 'beliefs' in this realm of theology are just that...'beliefs' which in 'no way' are = to 'absolute facts,' yes, ...?

      Third... You Said: "In fact, the Cosmological, Teleological, and the Moral argument all show that there is a chance, possibly and a probability that a transcendent being (God) could exist. So my question for the Atheist is… “Do you feel lucky?” Because you are gambling with your very soul."

      Ahhhh.... Of course there is a 'chance' that there is something that you equate to a transcendent being (God). But, 'chance' is just that... 'chance' ...it does not = absolute fact or proof. However, I see you go on to add your *personal opinion* about 'probability'...again, that is just your *opinion*....does not = absolute fact.

      And... When you ask your question for atheists'..." Do they feel lucky?"..."Because they are gambling with their very soul."

      You in effect are attempting to *infer* 'Pascals Wager'.... When again, the 'wager' has been gone over many times. You see, you are 'assuming' even if.... there happens to be an actual 'after-life' that the 'only' scenario is... the Christian one. If you didn't believe... you are going to hell, etc... When in reality... if there 'is' an after-life... it could be countless different scenarios than the Christian one, yes...?

      In my opinion, you made some assumptions and bad logic...while throwing in your personal opinion and acting or inferring that your view... is = absolute fact.

      When you and I both know, that it 'may' be... I will certainly give you that, but... on the flip-side... it very well 'may not.'



      March 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • John Do

      In the year 500, electricity existed, yet nobody could touch it or see it. Nobody can touch or see God, yet people say He doesn't exist. Just because you can't touch it, feel it, or see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  19. Unbelievable12

    Why do those without the gift of faith so adamantly attack and despise those that have been given it? All of the banter about religion being the root of hatred and war is ridiculous. Left alone, man will destroy itself just fine without any help from religion. However, a religion, like Christianity, that is actually understood, condemns violence completely. Of course there are other religions that teach hatred and reward violence, we see reports of those activities almost daily. What was the latest, a bombing at a crowded bus stop? The level of ignorance and stupidity is astounding.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Toph

      Condemns violence? Really?

      Tell that to the tens of millions that were slaughtered in the Christian gods name. The crusades, the inquisition and the Holocaust are a few that come to mind.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Too True

      Toph-The holocost had nothing to do with Christianity. Either way, Stalin and Mao, avowed atheists killed more than all three of your examples combined. This is a boring and facile argument.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. Josea

    God is awsome!

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
About this blog

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.