The King James Version of the Bible required the authorization of the King to print (hence the name Authorized Version). The King wanted the colonists dependent on England, and so did not give permission to the colonists to print the Bible, thus all Bibles were imported from England.
During the Revolution, the British cut off the supply of Bibles. On September 11, 1777, because “the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great” Congress voted to import 20,000 Bibles from “Scotland, Holland or elsewhere.”
The Declaration of Independence claimed they were sovereign – but did this mean that Americans were no longer bound by the King’s permission to print the Bible? Robert Aitken (1734-1802) thought so and began to work on the American English Bible.
As we’ve seen elsewhere, this wasn’t the first American Bible, that honor belongs to John Eliot’s Native American Bible.
Aitken wanted congressional authorization of his literary break with the King, and following the review of Congressional Chaplain George Duffield (great-grandfather of the author of Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus), on September 12, 1782, it was voted that “the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitkin, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country and being satisfied from the above report (by the congressional chaplains), they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation.” Another marker (GPS: 39.948000, -75.152750) less than a mile west also recognizes this printing of the Bible in English
Photo by Don Morfe, May 16, 2015, HMDB.org
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