Forty-Six

I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. I love this story.

I first heard about this on the TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! There have been several shows over the years with that name; the one I’m referring to is the one that was on ABC from 1982 to 1986, hosted by Jack Palance. On a side-note, Jack Palance grew up just outside Hazleton, and lived in a home just a few miles from where I lived. I was never positive which house was his, but after a while, I had a pretty good guess. There were lots of “Jack sightings” in my area, but I never had one. But it sounds like I didn’t miss much. I have a distinct memory of someone telling me that they saw a kid walk up to him once and ask for his autograph. His response? “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and he walked away. I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead like this. That story might be apocryphal. Either way, my little hamlet a few miles north of Hazleton had its celebrity, and it was the man who first told me this little story:

So the books we know as the Bible were not written in English, but rather in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. They have been translated into English hundreds of times over the centuries, creating many various “versions.” In the beginning of the 17th century, King James I of England ordered the publication of a new translation of the Bible, a translation that would eventually be named after him. The translation was undertaken by a group of 47 scholars, people who knew the ancient languages, and were also adept in written English. This was done between 1604 and 1611. There was a rather adept English writer living at the time. You might know him from such plays as “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.” And his name just might be hidden within the chapters of the King James Bible.

Shakespeare was a genius, and it’s easy to believe that the scholars working on this project might look to someone who was frankly rebuilding English in his own image at the time. On the other hand, it’s quite difficult to believe that, because theatre was not considered godly or moral. Acting was sinful, and so would they really have looked to a playwright for help with translating the Bible? (Certainly if they did ask him for help, they would have kept it secret!)

What if he was secretly involved? And what if he wanted to “sign” his work in some way? What if he wanted to reveal his involvement to the world in some sort of code? Well, he might have done it this way:

He might have taken a Psalm, perhaps Psalm 46. (By luck, it was also his age around the time the translation was completed.) He might have taken that Psalm, and encoded his name right inside it. Go find a King James Version of the Bible. Maybe you have one in your house. Or you can swipe one from a hotel room. Or just go here. Look up Psalm 46. Now count the 46th word from the beginning: “shake.” And count the 46th word from the end (ignoring the “Selah,” because that’s just Hebrew punctuation anyway): “spear.”

Believe it … or not.

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