Read King James Bible for 'big picture' - archbishop

Image caption,
Dr Williams said the King James Bible still had made an "astonishing contribution"

A 400-year-old Bible translation could help people see the "big picture" at a time of financial or job pressures, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a new year address recorded for the BBC, Dr Rowan Williams called on people of all faiths - or even none - to rediscover the King James Bible.

He said the edition still had the power to surprise and shock its readers, and provided a context for their lives.

This would be vital to a "big society", as envisaged by ministers, he added.

A new translation of the Bible was proposed at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at Burntisland in Fife, attended by King James VI, in 1601.

The translation was commissioned following the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 - by which time James had become James I of England - and was published in 1611.

Known as the Authorised Version, it went on to become the dominant edition in the English-speaking world and remains in widespread use.

'Story of universe'

Four hundred years on, its version of "the story of the whole universe" could feel "quite remote", the primate acknowledged.

"You may be the sort of person who feels you can make sense of your own story in your own terms," he said.

Image caption,
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible's publication

"Or you may feel there's only one big story and that's about money and whether I have got a job tomorrow and whether my children can afford higher education."

However, for people to make sense of their lives, the archbishop said it helps have a strongly-defined story in the background that tells us that we all matter.

"Whether you're a Christian or belong to another religion - or whether you have nothing you'd want to call a religion at all - some sort of big picture matters," he says.

"If we are going to talk about a 'big society', that will need a big picture - a picture of what human beings are really like and why they're so unique and precious.

"This year's anniversary is a chance to stop and think about the big picture - and to celebrate the astonishing contribution made by that book 400 years ago."

The Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message 2011 airs on Saturday, on BBC One at 1235 GMT and on BBC Two at 1710 GMT.

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