When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953 she was presented with a copy of the Bible by the Archbishop of Canterbury with the words: ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom. This is the Royal Law. These are the lively oracles of God.’ No other book than the Christian Bible has had such a wide influence on the moral and legal background of Western nations, or upon their art, literature, music and films. Take away the Bible from Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci, from Milton and Byron, from Handel and Sibelius and our heritage would be sadly lacking. Volumes have been written – and continue to be written – with this book as their subject: books on science and history, trivial novels and serious enquiries, plays, poetry, prose and drama. Each year literally thousands of books, articles and papers with the Bible as their subject pour into the bookshops and libraries and onto the tablets, iPads and smart phones of the world, and movies make money when they make the Bible their theme. More copies of the complete Bible are printed and distributed each year in over five hundred and fifty languages (and rising annually), than any other book. The Bible moulded the English language as we know it. Shakespeare was familiar with the translation known as the Geneva Bible (1560) and he allowed it to shape his use of the language. Every day, English speaking people across the world are using words, phrases and expressions that are straight from the Bible – though they are mostly quite unaware of this The Bible stands alone among books not only because of its clarity, longevity and popularity, but because of the opposition it has attracted to itself. Throughout its history, even while it was being written, its enemies have tried to destroy it. It has been burned, banned and its readers have been imprisoned and murdered for reading it – and across large areas of the world they still are.
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