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Shakespeare’s Jersey

Now he [Judas Iscariot] that betrayed him [Jesus Christ] gave them [the authorities] a sign, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.” And forthwith he came to Jesus and said, “Hail, master”; and kissed him.        (King James Bible – AD 1611)  Matthew 26: 49-50


William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and the King James Bible were contemporaries. When the KJB was published in 1611 – 400 years ago – he was in retirement. The KJB – see bold above – is written in Shakespearian English.


In his plays Shakespeare made much use of the earlier Geneva Bible, produced in many languages in John Calvin’s Geneva and released in English in 1560. Like the KJB it was a scholarly Bible translated from the original Hebrew and Greek.


Here’s how the extract in bold above appeared in Shakespeare’s Geneva Bible: Now he that betrayed him, had given them a token, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, lay hold on him”. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, “God save thee, Master”, and kissed him.


Shakespeare’s play King Henry VI, Part 3, made use of Judas as an example. In the play there had been a struggle for the English throne. Right at the end of the play, the sinister Richard, Duke of Gloucester, a brother of the new king, appears on stage.  


Also on stage is another brother of the new king: George, Duke of Clarence. The new King, Edward IV, tells his two brothers, “Clarence and Gloucester, love my lovely Queen, and kiss your princely nephew, brothers both.” (The Queen’s baby was the nephew of George and Richard.)


Clarence kisses the king’s baby son and the Queen thanks him.


Richard does the same and says aloud, “That I love the tree from which thou sprangest, witness the loving kiss I give the fruit.”


But, as an aside, Richard says, “To say the truth, as Judas kissed his master and cried “All hail” when as he meant “All harm”.


A serious lack of integrity on the part of Richard. And he knew it to be so.


Do you often spot these integrity failures in others? Richard did more – he saw it in himself.


We greet others with a smile. But inside there is no such smile.


We write “Kind regards” when in fact we believe inside us that the person to whom we are writing is “disingenuous” (a liar) and/or “vindictive” (intending to do undeserved harm to me).


As Shakespeare reported regarding Richard, Duke of Gloucester, there is “All hail!” in the kiss but “All harm!” in the mind – and in the deed.


That’s especially true with regard to Jesus Christ. Easter 2011 is in the past. The good man - the man who healed, who raised the dead son of the widow and whose teaching was sublime in its radical love – has been crucified. Crucified because found guilty of crimes deserving only the worst possible capital punishment. Found guilty by the two all-powerful courts in Jerusalem.


And then, to demonstrate the supreme and sublime worth and value of this man’s goodness, he is raised from the dead to die no more. We’ve said and sung, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name.”


But that was Easter 2011. Now, in truth (and aside so nobody knows): “All harm to Jesus!” “I don’t want to know about this man.” “I don’t want anything to do with him.” “I certainly don’t want to speak about him.” “Let’s bury the risen saviour of humankind.”

‘The Lord first of all wants sincerity in his service, simplicity of heart without guile and falsehood.’ (John Calvin, French Pastor and theologian, 1509-1564)
‘If we cannot be believed on our word, we are surely not to be trusted on our oath.” (C H Spurgeon, “Prince of Preachers”, 1834-1892)
Richard Syvret

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