It is the 27th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1978.
On a prior show, we remarked that if a church, claiming to have one sole leader, has more than one at one time, there might be a problem. We have seen the papal schism of 1378, and It was in 1978. Six hundred years after 1378, the Catholic Church entertained three men in one year holding claim to the office of the vicar of Christ on earth. In August of 1978, Pope Paul VI suffered two heart attacks and died. It was not unexpected as he was sick and an elderly man. In his place, the church recognized the youthful Pope John Paul I as their next head. While only 65 and in good health, he suffered a heart attack 33 days into the office and died. Seen as a reforming pope, the story of his untimely death has been rife for conspiracy theories from Freemasons, to the mafia, to Vatican insiders. Once again, the College of Cardinals met to elect a new pope for the third time, and the church selected Polish Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, who took the name Pope John Paul II as an homage to his late predecessor.
Papal intrigue is popular news, but it isn't quite as salacious as a cult lead mass murder/suicide. The Jonestown Massacre tragically took the lives of over 900 people. Jim Jones of the People's Temple Church moved from Indiana to California and then to Guyana on South America's Atlantic Coast. The story is well known and has been both documented and dramatized. Fear of cults and demonic influences would become a hallmark of the coming decade. Counter-cult "ministries" and satanic panic would spread like wildfire through many American churches. One last note on the Jonestown tragedy, it wasn't Kool-Aid. It was Flavor-Aide, an off-brand rival. Let's give Kool-Aid a break.
In 1978, many authors would usher in a new era of popular literature. Ken Follett published his first historical thriller, "Eye of the Needle." Mario Puzo followed his smash hit "The Godfather" with "Fool's Die," a story inside the film, gambling, and publishing industries. In 1978, Stephen King published his magnum opus "The Stand," and Douglas Adams began a radio comic science fiction series on the BBC. It would become "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy."
In the context of the deluge of books being published in the late 20th century, a new edition of the best-selling book of all time was published. On this, the 27th of October in 1978, a collection of over 100 scholars completed their labor of over a decade and published the New International Version of the Bible. Historically, Bible translations have been few and far between, especially when it came to officially sanctioned translations. After the 16th century displaced the Vulgate for many, the King James Bible became the established English version and would remain so, despite some competition, for centuries. But as textual evidence came to show the shortcomings of older textual traditions, conservative evangelicals began to look for a new, scholarly, but readable translation.
The Revised Standard Version published mid-century was praised for its literary style and textual accuracy, but some questioned the translators' motives. There were attempts at "conservative" translations appearing mid-century, from the Amplified Bible to the Modern Language Bible and the New American Standard Bible. However, those Bibles didn't hit the sweet spot of readability and scholarship. The Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals assembled a team through the New York Bible Society to produce a new Bible that would balance a word-for-word fidelity to the text thought-for-thought translation of ideas. The Bible that would span at least 13 denominations at the cost of over 8 million dollars would become the best-selling version of the best-selling book of all time. The New International Version of the Bible was first released on this, the 27th of October, in 1973.
The reading for today comes for the theologian N.T. Wright. This is a quote from his "Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense."
"Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who says, "so long, and thanks for all the fish." The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.