The Effect of the Bible

Every so often I get to thinking about the non-religious effects of the Bible, and here's one that may not have occurred to you. When the King James Bible was translated in the early seventeenth century it gave the world some wonderful terms to use. I'm sure you have your favorites. Similarly with the book of Common Prayer. This was elevated language for elevated thoughts. The thing is that at that time the number of people who were exchanging elevated thoughts as a matter of course in England was surprisingly few. Farmers, laborers and traders did not speak the way the King James Bible does. Neither did soldiers, sailors, adventurers - only courtiers did, and some clergy. Yet from that time onwards the Bible and the book of Common Prayer were read in church every Sunday to a congregation that had to attend church, by law. And so every citizen began to see that there were in effect two languages, one for every day and one for spiritual thought. At its worst this led to hypocrisy - saying one thing in church and doing another in the larger world. At its best it gave everyone the awareness that there could be more than just one way of being in the world, that we could aim for a higher understanding if we so wished. Those days are now gone. When I think of my students, brought up in a world that is filled with popular culture but often barren of anything else, I wonder if they have any awareness of the two languages, imperfect as those languages might be. I wonder if they know they exist as bodies and as souls.