Non-masons who attend the Craft’s installation ceremonies are invariably puzzled and attracted at the presence of a Holy Bible at the altar. More so if a Holy Quran is also placed beside it. Which generally strike them in wonderment and awe saying “What kind of religious organization is this?”
Before I tackle that question, allow me first to comment on all the objects atop the altar.. These comprise the “Three Great Lights of Masonry”, although at times the items are not only three but four; namely, the Holy Bible, the Square, the Compasses, and a Holy Quran.
Curiously, this modified phrase has existed for several centuries already but it seemed our ancient brethren did not mind the difference, so the word “Bible” has remained unchanged although it should have been modified long ago.
For the purpose of this article therefore, let me focus on the phrase “The Holy Bible.”, and more specifically, the King James Version to expound on the theme of this article..
THE HOLY BIBLE
The Holy Bible is no doubt the most widely translated and printed book man ever wrote. Consisting of two parts called the Old and New Testaments, the former was written in the “Habiru” or Hebrew language while the latter was in Greek,, both of which were, over a period of time, translated by the Roman Church into Latin and was made the basis for converting the Christians to the faith. In current times, it is said that there is no language on earth that exists does not have a local translation of the Holy Bible and although this claim cannot be verified with a reasonable degree of accuracy considering the magnitude of work that it will entail, it is safe to declare that it may indeed be so. In the Philippines for example, most of the local dialects possess translations that can be called their own; and if by chance the reader thinks this assumption is absurd, he better listen to Ely Soriano over the airwaves as he expounds his commentaries on his “Dating Daan” burgeoning Christian sect..
But whether these printed copies are ever opened and read is an entirely different story; and it is not impolite to ask: “Do you ever touch your own copy at your bookshelf?”
THE KING JAMES (OR THE AUTHORIZED) VERSION
The first thing that immediately comes to mind when the King James Version of the Holy Bible is mentioned is: “Just who the heck is King James?” Is he related to any of the characters mentioned in the Holy Bible during the time of Jesus Christ like Judas, Saul, Simon Peter or Paul?!
Well, this writer declares that King James has a namesake in the New Testament which allegedly is a brother of Jesus who continued the advocacy of the Messiah immediately after the latter’s death, but other than this similarity, no other attachment can be added to it. While this writer was able to trace the renderings or equivalent translations of several Anglo-Saxon names like Moses, John and Jesus to the Castilian Moises, Juan and Jesus, and thereafter to the Jewish Moshe, Yohan and Yeshu, he cannot decipher the English name James that was translated to the Castilian Santiago. But let’s get back to King James before we are accused of electioneering in the 2009 ANCOM.
Seriously now, King James’ real name was James Charles Stuart who was born on June 19, 1566 at Edinburg Castle in Scotland. He was crowned king James VI at the tender age of 13 months after his father’s murder and his mother’s abdicating the throne almost immediately after the murder.
Like many monarchs of the time, James never knew his parents and was thus raised by four tutors in succession, George Buchanan of whom, at 68 years of age, was the most influential. James became fluent in Latin, French, English, and Scots and was also schooled in Italian and Spanish. It was held that he needed no interpreter when entertaining other heads of state as he was found fluent in their respective dialects.
At age nineteen, he began his role as king of Scotland and ruled it well. Robert Lomas, a current Masonic writer and historian claims in one of his bestsellers that King James was made a mason during his reign as king of Scotland; Although he was not able to validly support his claim, this is hardly surprising because the famous Roslyn Chapel that is the crowning glory of the Knights Templar that still exist today was built in Scotland and at the precise era of his reign..
After the death of Queen Elizabeth of England in 1603, King James VI was also crowned King James I of England thereby uniting the two kingdoms and ruled both with superb administrative skills thus avoiding the threat of both internal and external conflicts from within and without his two kingdoms, a feat that was hardly recognized by later historians.
A rabid evangelist and believer of the Christian faith, in addition to the fact that English monarchs automatically also become the spiritual head of their kingdoms, he commissioned fifty four (54) linguists and scholars to translate the two volumes from the original Hebrew and Greek languages that were written in Hebrew and Greek respectively, to the prevailing English language of the time.
It was finally completed in 1611 and despite the opposition of its detractors, notably the Papacy, it was hailed by the English world that the King James Bible of 1611 as the absolute and final word of God. This translated work got further boost when the printing press was later invented and thus paved way for its circulation not only in the British isles but also in Europe and most especially in the northern hemisphere where he was the founding monarch of the United States since it was on his reign that the first successful colonies were planted on the American mainland, notably Virginia, Massachusetts and Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland) in Canada.
An unforgettable vignette in American history is George Washington’s use of the King James Version of the Holy Bible when he was installed first president of the United States.
THE USE OF THE HOLY BIBLE BY THE FREEMASONS
Masonic customs and traditions have it that a copy of the Holy Bible should always adorn the altar and that no lodge can be formally opened without it. Understandably, any version of the Holy Bible sufficed, especially because the Old World (this is how Europe was previously called) have different languages but it really did not matter for symbolically it stands for the word of the Deity, and its votaries in fine, did not mind.
The spread of Freemasonry to the believers of other faiths necessitated a modification. The believers of Allah who were the sworn enemies of the Knights Templar in the tug of war to claim the Holy Land mutually admired each other in the practice of their own professional disciplines and somehow adopted to each other’s ways which reasonably were also being run similar to the administration of lodges. In fine, the three religions that were founded in Semitic concepts namely, Christianity, Jewish and Muslims, soon adorned their altars depending on membership and thus paved way for the inclusion of the Torah and the Holy Quran. In addition to the Holy Bible.
During the advent of atheism in Europe, the Frenchmen, having a unique culture of its own, discarded the Holy Scriptures as a mandatory requirement to adorn its altars, not because its brand of Masonry does not profess in the belief of a Deity but to allow admission even to those who do not believe in it. Because of this, mainstream Freemasonry declared their Grand Lodge irregular and forthwith refused their members recognition.
Thus was the word “Bible” modified to read as “Scriptures” in many writings instead.
HOW THE SCRIPTURE IS ACCORDED IN INDIAN LODGES
If there is one country that exemplifies religious tolerance especially as it pertains to Freemasonry, none can match the Indian continent. Strategically located in what is called as the near East, it is religiously dominated by the Hindus and their breakaway groups called the Buddhists and the Jains who use the BHAGAVAD GITA as their Holy Writings. There are also Pharsis (called Pharisees in the New Testament) with an estimated 200,000 population whose Holy book is called ZEND AVESTA, those wearing turbans that are locally called Bombays in the Philippines but who are called Sikhs in their home country whose Holy Book is called GURU GRANTH. And when the Muslims attacked its frontiers sometime in the fifteenth century, it left its Muslim believers in its wake and consequently, the HOLY QURAN.
When the British occupied India in the eighteenth century, the British expeditionary forces took with them not only the King James version of the Holy Bible but the Catholic edition as well. It was not surprising therefore that when the Golden Lodge of Orange No. 304 was established in Nagpur, India in the mid eighteenth century, the King James Version that originally adorned its altar would soon be joined by the books of the other faiths, notably the Bhagavad Gita, the Zend Avesta, the Gura Granth and even the Holy Quran making its altar the conglomeration of all religious beliefs.
With that concluding paragraph, it’s now time to thank you for your attention. This writer hopes you are able to reach this concluding paragraph.