October 21, 2011

Candler's annual Reformation Day celebrates King James Bible's 400th year

The title page to the 1611 first edition of the King James Bible. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

Candler School of Theology celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible and welcomes one of the world's most prominent theologians to campus for its 24th annual Reformation Day celebration Oct. 27.

An address by Jürgen Moltmann, one of modern times' most celebrated theologians, highlights this year's daylong festivities, themed "Luther and the Translation of the Bible."

Emory's Reformation Day marks Richard and Martha Kessler's 1987 donation of their private collection of Reformation imprints and manuscripts to Candler's Pitts Theology Library. The Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection, as it is known, contains more than 3,500 Reformation-themed items and is home to more than 1,000 pieces written by Martin Luther, the largest collection by an American library.

Moltmann, whose 1967 book, "Theology of Hope," is considered one of the most influential theological works of the second half of the 20th century, will present "'Sun of Righteousness, Arise!' The Justification of Sinners and Victims, from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King," at 3:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. The title stems from his most recent work, "Sun of Righteousness, Arise! God's Future for Humanity and the World," which was released in 2010 and is one of more than 20 Moltmann books available in English.

"At the center of the Reformation stands the doctrine of the 'justification of the sinner by Christ alone, by grace alone and by faith alone,'" says Moltmann, a native of Germany, and emeritus professor of systemic theology at the University of Tübingen. Moltmann has said he turned to God at the age of 18 while in a prisoner of war camp during World War II.

"Churches know how to deal with perpetrators of evil, but not with the victims of evil," he continues. "The Reformation of the churches is unfinished without the liberation of the victims of personal and structural oppression."

"Luther and the Translation of the Bible" not only commemorates the King James Bible's 400th year, it explores the impact of Continental scholars—including Luther himself—on the English translators who composed the work. King James' name may be on the cover, but the Bible was definitely a group project.

Valerie Hotchkiss, head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and professor of medieval studies, religious studies and library science at UIUC, will explore this history in her address, "The Books Behind the King James Bible: The Influence of the Continental Reformations on the Making of the English Bible," at 1:45 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.

Several such books—Bibles written in written in languages like German and Greek, as well as English— undoubtedly influenced King James' 1611 translation and have been on display this summer as part of the Pitts Theology Library exhibit, "The Making of the King James Bible," which ran through Sept. 30.

The packed schedule also includes worship service, at which the Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Miller, president of the Luther Theological Southern Seminary, will preach and a luncheon performance by the Candler Singers. M. Patrick Graham, Margaret A Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography and Librarian, will kick off the day at 10 a.m. with his lecture, "Luther as Translator of the Bible."

For more information about Candler's Reformation Day celebration and to see the full schedule, visit the Pitts Theology Library online. All events are free and open to the public.

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