The Bible is the most quoted book never read. That is, many people love to quote it without actually reading it all – yes, even Chronicles and Leviticus! The result is that the Bible itself has become a thing of mystery, a magical source of divine power with which the strong may subdue the weak, or by which politicians might win the most powerful office in the free world. The Bible is more dangerous than any weapon its believers may construct, for it is the source of the mandate, the writing that is so much more than ink and paper.
Over the years so many myths have grown about the Bible that it has become a mythical creature. Students often approach those of us who teach the Bible with amazing stories that defy explanation, or sometimes, that are just fun. This past week a student paper waxed eloquent on how the Bible physically describes Satan. It does not. The Bible tells us very little about what anyone looked like! One Bible myth that I have tried unsuccessfully to substantiate or debunk over the years, however, continues to elude me. It is the story of Psalm 46 in the incomprehensibly influential King James Version.
The KJV was completed in 1611, and William Shakespeare died in 1616. There is no evidence that Shakespeare was among those with any responsibility for translating the Bible, but his influence in England in his own lifetime was enormous. Many years ago a student informed me that Shakespeare made his way into Psalm 46. The forty-sixth word of the KJV translation is “shake.” Counting from the end of the psalm to the forty-sixth word from the end, one finds the word “spear.” So the gematria of the psalm give us the name of the putative translator. This story has all the signs of an apocryphal account of a Bible reader with too much time on his or her hands. If the story is true, I would love to see documentation. Otherwise it is one more monument of the power of book that few dare to read.