Biblical Literacy and the English King James Liberal Bible
A Twenty-First Century Tale of Capitalism, Nationalism and Nostalgia
Keywords:King James Bible, Biblical Literacy, Michael Gove, Liberal Bible, Big Other
Using the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible as a test case, this article illustrates some of the important ways in which the Bible is understood and consumed and how it has continued to survive in an age of neoliberalism and postmodernity. It is clear that instant recognition of the Bible-as-artefact, multiple repackaging and pithy biblical phrases, combined with a popular nationalism, provide distinctive strands of this understanding and survival. It is also clear that the KJV is seen as a key part of a proud English cultural heritage and tied in with traditions of democracy and tolerance, despite having next to nothing to do with either. Anything potentially problematic for Western liberal discourse (e.g. calling outsiders “dogs,” smashing babies heads against rocks, Hades-fire for the rich, killing heretics, using the Bible to convert and colonize, etc.) is effectively removed, or even encouraged to be removed, from such discussions of the KJV and the Bible in the public arena. In other words, this is a decaffeinated Bible that has been colonized by, and has adapted to, Western liberal capitalism.
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