Tennessee names first English-language Bible translation in U.S. as official state book — By: Catholic News Agency

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during the signing of the ELVIS Act to Protect Voice & Likeness in Age of AI event at Robert’s Western World on March 21, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee. / Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Human Artistry Campaign

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 18, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The first English-language translation of the Bible in the United States will become an “official state book” in Tennessee on July 1.

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a bill on Tuesday that names the Aitken Bible and nine other texts as official state books in the Tennessee Blue Book (an official manual on the state government). This is the first time Tennessee has formally recognized any official state books.

The Bible translation was published by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken in 1782 and received an official endorsement from Congress. The American Revolution, which began in 1776, halted trade with Great Britain and cut off the supply of Bibles, which prompted Aitken to publish an English-language Bible in the country, according to the legislation.

Aitken’s translation received its official endorsement from the Congress of the Confederation in 1782, which was the American legislative body that preceded the establishment of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The 18th-century resolution states that the lawmakers “highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as the interest of the progress of arts in this country.” It further states that the lawmakers “recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”

The translation, which is a version of the Protestant King James Version of the Bible, is not approved by the Vatican for Catholics. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops lists approved translations of the Bible on its website.

Tennessee’s legislation that names the Aitken Bible as an official state book notes that the state is home to “the largest publisher of authentic reproductions of the Aitken Bible,” which is the Aitken Bible Historical Foundation. It adds that Tennessee is home to “three of the five privately owned original first American Bibles remaining in the world today.”

The legislation received strong support from Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate, who hold strong supermajorities in both chambers. The bill faced opposition from most Democrats but received one Democratic vote in the House.

Some of the other historic books designated as official state books in this legislation included President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. The bill also recognized the 1977 book “Roots” by Alex Haley, which discusses slavery in the United States, and the 2016 book “Coat of Many Colors” by the Tennessee-born country singer Dolly Parton.

Tennessee lawmakers also passed a bill that would recognize November as “Christian Heritage Month.” The legislation was sent to Lee, but the governor has not yet taken any action on it.

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