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Not a King James Version

Published:Friday | September 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Steel Pulse
Max Romeo

The King James Version of the Bible was ready for the colonisation project of the Caribbean. By the time the British, through Admiral Penn and General Venables, took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, the King James Version was ready for introduction to what would become the English-speaking Caribbean without any competing scripts.

The new translation into what became the King James Version was authorised by the monarch in 1601 and was finished a decade later. The richness of its language has contributed immensely to making the King James Version a fixture even outside the physical church. This is despite subsequent versions such as the New International Version, produced in the 1970s and subsequently revised.

Still, there has been some resistance to the King James Version in Jamaican popular music, where its authenticity and authority have been challenged by, among others, Steel Pulse and Max Romeo.

They take different approaches to voicing their objection - Steel Pulse basing their stance on the downplaying and erasure of blackness from the Christian holy text, while Max Romeo calls for the reinstatement of chapters which have been axed but are present in another version.

Steel Pulse makes their definitive statement from the get-go in the chorus:

"A dis ya version

A no King James Version

'Cause out of Africa

Came the Garden of Eden"

Then they state the duplicity ("Hidden from me I was never told"), based in skin colour (Daniel, King David and Abraham ... Israel were all black men) and, along with it, the outright betrayal ("Japhet tried his best to erase/The godly parts we played").




They do not see any mention of black people's achievements in the Bible:

"In Esau's chapter of history

So little mention of you and me

We rulers of kingdoms and dynasties

Explored this Earth for centuries....

Creators of the alphabet

While the West illiterate"

And there is one period in history responsible for the deficiency, as Steel Pulse sings "slavery came and took its toll".

Inevitably, race comes into play in Romeo's call for the Maccabee Version of the Bible. He sings:

"You gave I King James Version

King James was a white man"

Then, in the chorus, he demands:

"Bring back Maccabee Version

That God gave to black man

Give back King James Version."

Of course, the King James must go back to the white man.