Did William Shakespeare Hack the Bible?

I mentioned this in yesterday’s post – there is a theory that William Shakespeare hacked the Bible. Slightly bizarre I know, but…

It’s the reign of King James I, and he decides there needs to be an English translation of the Bible – an authorised one, of course – and so, in 1604, 47 scholars started work on the translation and, seven years later, the Authorised King James Version of the Bible was published, soon to have a major impact on the world, to the extent that this year sees the commemoration of its 400th anniversary. So far, so unshakespearean.

However, the theory goes that, because Shakespeare was such a successful writer, and because he had both a flair for language and links with James I, he must have been asked to be involved in the translation the problem is that we know the names of most of the translators and Shakespeare’s not one of them.

However, there’s a curious coincidence that some say is evidence that Shakespeare planted an ‘Easter Egg’ in the book of Psalms. Here’s Psalm 46 from the King James Version:

“1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

4There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

6The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

7The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

8Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

9He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Okay, count 46 words from the start of the passage. Now count 46 words from the end of the passage. Put the two together and…

By the way, guess how old Shakespeare was in 1610, when the manuscript was almist ready for printing… Yep, 46.

So, did Shakespeare hack the Bible? Probably not, which is probably for the best, but if it was true then it would be the mother of all culture hacks. It’s also not surprising that people want to draw connections – Shakespeare and the King James Bible are two of the greatest influences on the English language, both appearing around the same time; it feels like there should be a connection, even if there most likely isn’t. And besides, all the other English translations have managed perfectly well without sneaking in the name of the Bard…

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