It was recently reported that the Bible will be made available in almost all language groups by the year 2022 (Ted Bergman from the Summer Institute of Linguistics). Upon reading this, the mention of the year 2022 immediately piqued my interest on account of the fact that I am participating in this project about the year 2022. Given that this project centres around the libraryof Birmingham and libraries are about books, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to consider the Bible, the book that is widely regarded as ‘the book of all books,’ honing in on some of its literary styles and techniques that have shaped English language and culture today.
The Bible is mysterious in the sense that it has stood the test of time, it continues to be the best selling least read book year after year despite numerous historical attempts to destroy it. Religious controversy aside, the variety of literary means and methods make the bible interesting from an artistic standpoint as you can find various styles of poetry, drama not to mention stories of every genre under the sun.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic and Hebrew in particular is known to be a very powerful, dramatic and emotive language. When the King James Version of the bible was translated into English it did some interesting things for the development of the English language. It is no secret that the bible bore influence on many of William Shakespeare plays and of course Shakespeare is widely regarded to have shaped English Language and Literature.
Just to illustrate my point with a few examples, in English when describing a conversation, we would say simply say something like “And he said…” but the same thing expression in the Hebrew language would say something like “And he opened his mouth and spake, saying…” To give you another example, in English we would say something like “He got up to put on his coat and left.” In the Hebrew it would say something like “He arose, girded his loins and went forth.” Get my point? It all sounds much more dramatic and reading it keeps you on tenterhooks.
As we consider arts and culture in Birmingham and its progression in 10 years time, I think it’s important that we reflect on the foundations on which our creative expression is often built. In 2022, The Library of Birmingham will be that place where we can take the where it will be standard practice for visitors to draw on our heritage to help us make better decisions about our lives and our futures. When we consider where are coming from we will always gain insight into where we are going.