The Good Book

Have you ever used the phrases “fought the good fight” or “eat, drink, and be merry?” Odds are you have, and odds are you have no idea those well-known idiomatic expressions came from a book printed more than 400 years ago: The King James Bible.

The Ransom Center’s latest exhibit, “The King James Bible: Its History and Influence,” offers the most comprehensive display of Bibles in museum history to show just how this one volume continues to permeate our society, four centuries after its initial release.

Thanks to a collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library of Washington, D.C., and the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, The King James Bible exhibit boasts 220 biblically inspired items, including sculptures and silk screens.

Through film, photographs, and art, the three-part exhibit delves into the overwhelming influence this particular edition has had on the English language since it was printed in 1611. From Milton’s Paradise Lost to Abraham Lincoln’s slavery-era writings and Robert DeNiro’s tattoos in Cape Fear, references to the holy work have been around so long, we’re unaware that we’re using them.

“So many standard phrases date back to this particular version of the Bible,” says curator Danielle Sigler. “We hope people walk away knowing how much of our daily speech is truly indebted to this translation.”

“The King James Bible: Its History and Influence” opens today and will be on display at the Harry Ransom Center until July 29.


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