Oldsmobile, or Why I Am Not a Genius

September 26, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

A Montclair State professor, Jeffrey Alan Miller, has been awarded a Genius Grant, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship. Four years ago, he discovered the earliest known draft of the King James Bible.

The Times (here) reported the story at the time.

Professor Miller discovered the manuscript last fall, when he was in the archives at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge . . . He came across an unassuming notebook about the size of a modern paperback, wrapped in a stained piece of waste vellum and filled with some 70 pages of Ward’s nearly indecipherable handwriting.

As Professor Miller tried to puzzle out which passages of the Bible it concerned, he realized what it was: a draft of parts of the King James Version of the Apocrypha, a disputed section of the Bible that is left out of many editions, particularly in the United States.

The true scholar who learns of Prof. Miller’s discovery will immediately think of its implications not just for the history of the most widely read book in English literature but also for the history of the English language itself, the history of England, and the Anglican church.

My reaction, alas, was different. My first thoughts — and still my only thoughts — turned to Woody Allen’s 1974 essay on “The Scrolls.”

Scholars will recall that several years ago a shepherd, wandering in the Gulf of Aqaba, stumbled upon a cave containing several large clay jars and also two tickets to the ice show. Inside the jars were discovered six parchment scrolls with ancient incomprehensible writing . . . .

The authenticity of the scrolls is currently in great doubt, particularly since the word Oldsmobile appears several times in the text.

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