Tennessee Designates First English-language Bible Translation as Official State Book

Tennessee Designates First English-language Bible Translation as Official State Book

Washington, D.C. - Tennessee has designated the first English-language translation of the Bible in the United States as an “official state book,” effective July 1.

Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a bill naming the Aitken Bible and nine other texts as official state books in the Tennessee Blue Book. This marks the state's first formal recognition of any official state books.

The Aitken Bible, published by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken in 1782, received official endorsement from Congress. The American Revolution disrupted trade with Great Britain, leading Aitken to publish an English-language Bible in the country, according to the legislation.

Aitken's translation was officially endorsed by the Congress of the Confederation in 1782, preceding the establishment of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The resolution from the 18th century highly approved Aitken's work, deeming it beneficial to religion and the progress of arts in the country. It recommended this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.

The translation, 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 notes the state's connection to the Aitken Bible, as the home of the largest publisher of authentic reproductions of the Aitken Bible, the Aitken Bible Historical Foundation. It also states that Tennessee is home to three of the five privately owned original first American Bibles remaining in the world today.

The bill 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.

Other historic books designated as official state books in this legislation include President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. The bill also recognizes the 1977 book “Roots” by Alex Haley and the 2016 book “Coat of Many Colors” by the Tennessee-born country singer Dolly Parton.

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

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