2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The King James Bible has shaped the English language, inspired political and religious thought for generations and, arguably, changed the world.
The story behind the King James Bible has been told before. And several new books this year will aim to tell it again. 1A Productions and Lions Gate studio have created a first class documentary featuring John Rhys-Davies which puts this story on screen. And the result is almost as breathtaking as the powerful prose of the King James Bible itself.
KJB: The Book That Changed the World takes us on a historical survey of the years preceding 1611 and the political and religious landscape which confronted the new King. The story follows James I from his birth to his ultimate ascension to the English throne. Particular focus is placed on the role the King James Bible would play in James’ strategy to unify the landscape, politically and religiously.
Director and producer Norman Stone does a fantastic job of capturing the life of Jacobean England with all of its intrigue. The plot of Guy Fawkes is detailed in memorable fashion. Filmed on location in England and Scotland, the film takes viewers inside Westminster Abbey and Oxford College to some of the actual rooms where the translators labored over their charge. The photography and quality of the film is superb; countrysides and cathedrals alike are displayed in all their evocative power.
John Rhys-Davies exudes energy and vigor in his lively narration. His deep, booming voice adds to the grandeur of the story. At one point he climbs up into the pulpit of a centuries-old church to read from the pages of the King James Bible.
The documentary focuses almost exclusively on the historical setting and making of the King James Bible, only briefly explaining its lasting impact. While acknowledging the place the Bible has for Christians, the film aims at a wider audience. At times some historical license seems to be taken to make the story fit the producer’s goals. While Puritans and Anglicans worked together on the various translation committees, it should be noted the Puritans were a decided minority. More detail on translation techniques and practices could have been expected, too. Still the film does not disappoint. It brings to life the world of King James and the creation of his most lasting monument.