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Sir David Suchet records St John’s Gospel in the Abbey

Sunday, 28th March 2021

Sir David Suchet records St John’s Gospel in the Abbey

Westminster Abbey will offer a specially recorded reading of St John’s Gospel in the Jerusalem Chamber at the Abbey as part of its Easter offering this year.

The recording will be available on the Abbey’s YouTube channel at 4.00pm (BST) on Easter Sunday.

The actor, best-known for playing Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot, made the recording earlier this month.

David Suchet said: ‘I count it as a great privilege to be filmed reading St John’s Gospel in the iconic Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey.’

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, said: ‘When the translators of the ‘King James’ Bible met to agree the final text, they tested it ‘by ear’; they read it aloud. Hearing the gospel is not the same as reading it and having David Suchet read John, in the Jerusalem Chamber, is both exciting and compelling.’

The actor grew up in a Russian Jewish family and became a Christian in 1986 after reading a hotel Bible. He has read the entire Bible before, for Hodder & Stoughton’s NIV Audio Bible, which has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide – and a previous reading of the whole of St Mark’s Gospel at St Paul’s Cathedral has received over 2 million views online.

The Jerusalem Chamber in the Abbey’s Deanery, the residence of the Dean of Westminster, has a pivotal role in the history of printed versions of the Holy Bible. It hosted the committees engaged on writing King James I’s Authorized Version of the Bible in 1611, the Revised Version in 1870, the New English Bible in 1961 and the Revised English Bible in 1989.

St John’s Gospel reached its final form around AD 90–110, although it contains signs of origins dating back to AD 70 and possibly even earlier. Like the three other gospels, it is anonymous, although it identifies an unnamed ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ as the writer.

In addition to its link with Bible translations, Jerusalem Chamber has hosted another significant moment in British history. In 1413 King Henry IV was planning to go to the Holy Land and, when praying at St Edward's Shrine in the Abbey, he was taken ill, apparently with a stroke. He was brought to the Abbot's house and laid by the fire where he recovered consciousness. King Henry asked where he was and was told 'Jerusalem'. In Henry IV, Part IIShakespeare tells this story of the King's death and also has Prince Henry trying on the crown while his father lies dying.

The New International Version of the Bible is the world’s most popular modern English Bible translation. Developed by Biblica, the International Bible Society, it remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance and authority.

The NIV Audio Bible is available in iOS and Android app formats, as well as on MP3 CD and as an audio download, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Support the Abbey

Though this new recording of St John’s Gospel is being made available without charge, we hope that those who watch it will be inspired to make a contribution to the Abbey’s heritage preservation fundraising campaign. Covid-19 has posed unprecedented financial challenges, and our reserves, built up over years, are being rapidly eroded.

Viewers can support our Heritage Preservation Appeal by sending a text to 70025 (UK only) with the words ABBEY5 to give £5, ABBEY10 to give £10 or ABBEY20 to give £20; and you can find out about other ways to support us here.

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It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.

Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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