News Release

Pacific Area President Speaks on Bible Anniversary

At New South Wales Parliament House, Elder Callister, Pacific Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described the King James Version of the Bible as the text that is "preached from our pulpits, taught in our classes, read in our homes, and ingrained in our hearts."

The 1st June event, sponsored by Latter-day Saints, allowed twenty-five parliamentarians and two ADF chaplains to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible and become acquainted with stake presidents from their geographic areas.

Guests listened intently to sobering accounts of the sacrifices made to bring the printed Bible into existence.

Click here to view the first clip from Elder Callister's address

Elder Callister praised the diligent work of William Tyndale, who withstood persecution long enough to produce and have printed the first English translation of the entire work from the Hebrew and Greek texts. “It is likely that nearly 80 per-cent of the King James Bible remains the writing of Tyndale,” he noted.

Click here to view the second clip from Elder Callister's address

Calling the work of the King James Version scholars miraculous, Elder Callister said, “It was the right language, at the right moment, and the right men under God’s tutelage, that brought it forth.”

He and many other scriptorians believe it still contains the fundamental teachings, ordinances and works of Jesus Christ in a correct and believable form.

The Hon. David Clarke, a member of the Legislative Council and Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, was Master of Ceremonies.

“We have all been taught and uplifted,” said Mr Clarke. He underscored what Elder Callister called the majesty, nobility and dignity of the King James Version and expressed gratitude to the Church for the event. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is welcome into our Parliament at any time at all.”

See below to view the full text of Elder Callister’s remarks:

A Tribute to The King James Version of the Bible

Elder Tad R. Callister


I feel somewhat like the man who survived the Johnstown flood in New York. He told everyone of his encounter. Soon, people sought ways to escape his presence so they need not hear the story one more time. Finally the man died and went to the other side. St. Peter said to him: "You may have one request." The man replied: "I would like a large congregation to whom I could share my story of how I survived the Johnstown flood." St. Peter responded that it would be granted. The appointed day came – a large crowd was assembled. With anticipation the man walked to the pulpit. Just before he began, however, St. Peter tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I just want to inform you that Noah is in the audience." Whatever our degree of expertise may be, I think we usually have Noahs in the audience – someone more versed than ourselves. I am sure that is the case today.

My professional expertise is not that of a religious academic. Rather, I come to the great work of the King James Version of the Bible as a practised observer over decades. I read it frequently. I have studied much about how it came to be, the sources and meanings behind its rich language and the various claims and counterclaims of the great religious scholars. I love its contents. It is the Bible version adopted by our church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; it is preached from our pulpits, taught in our classrooms and read in our homes. Its messages have been engraved in our hearts and on our minds. We know it is the work of God.

2. 400th Anniversary

This year we honour the 400th anniversary since the coming forth of the King James Version of the Bible (1611). Since that date it has "participated" in many historic events. It was January 20, 2009 when Barack Obama placed his hand on the King James Version of the Bible and took the U.S. Presidential oath of office - the same Bible on which Abraham Lincoln had previously taken the oath of office in 1861. The prior U.S. President, George Bush, had similarly placed his hand on a King James Version of the Bible to take the presidential oath – the same Bible on which George Washington had laid his hand. In 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, she commissioned that a copy of the King James Version of the Bible be given to every child born that year in Britain.

The King James Version of the Bible has become the most celebrated and read book in English history – the best seller of all times. It is the single most important and influential book in the English language, probably in the world.

3. History

For a few minutes I would like to talk about the history of the King James Bible, what it cost to bring it forth, and why is it the most influential book in the world today. In order to do so let us go back for a moment to the time of the Roman Empire.

The official language of the Roman Empire was Latin (and it was spoken in the Western part of the realm), but the primary language among the remainder of the Empire was Greek, because it reflected the Greek culture which had permeated the Roman Empire. Accordingly, Greek became the language of the educated, the elite, and of the Christian church. Other languages were spoken in the Roman Empire that represented the native language of countries which had been conquered. For example, in Syria the people spoke Syriac/Aramaic; in Israel (at the time of the Saviour, Jesus Christ) it is believed that the common people spoke Aramaic. In Egypt the common language spoken was Coptic. In Armenia the common language spoken was Armenian.

As a result of the foregoing languages being spoken at or near the time of the Saviour, most early Bible documents are found in Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament and in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian for the New Testament, with the vast majority being in Greek – the dominant language of the empire.

For years there existed a prohibition - even the penalty of death - for publication of the scriptures in one's native tongue. The objection to publication in English seemed to be twofold:

One: For years, the English language was considered too rough, too vulgar, too inadequate for the word of God – unequal to the superior Latin and Greek texts which were abundantly available.

Two: It was thought that only the clergy had the education and capacity to interpret the word of God, and therefore the scriptures should not be available to the common man, certainly not in his native language.

4. April 4th 1519, Coventry England

It was April 4, 1519 in Coventry England - a seemingly normal morning - but for seven parents with young children it would be their last. Six men and one woman made their final pilgrimage to a place known as "Little Park". Stakes were fixed in the ground with the necessary straw and sticks to perform the deathly deed. On this day these seven would face the heretic's fire. They were ordinary people with ordinary names. Nonetheless their names are preserved in history as Christian martyrs: "Mistress Smith, Widow; Robert Hatchets, a Shoemaker; Archer, a Shoemaker; Hawkins, a Shoemaker; Thomas Bond, a Shoemaker; Wrigsham, a Glover; Landsdale, a Hosier – all to be burned at the stake at Coventry." What crime had they committed of such heinous proportions that it would demand the taking of their lives? (1)

The recorded judgment of the time recites: "The principal cause of the apprehension of these persons, was for teaching their children and family the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments in English." I quote from S. Michael Wilcox as he recites the ordeal:

"Their frightened children, forced to provide evidence against [their parents] recited what they had been taught.

Our Father who art in Heaven...
Out of the mouths of babes came the damaging testimony to light the fires of Coventry.

Hallowed be thy name...
With each new English phrase, the clerics' persecuting zeal flamed higher, fanned by the simple words that rolled from the children's lips.

Give us this day our daily bread...
Their parents had been caught earlier and forced to carry a bundle of sticks, reeds, and straw as a warning that scripture was not to be translated into the common English tongue.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...
They were relapsed heretics, obstinately refusing to heed the law of God's holy church.

And lead us not into temptation...
The tear-filled voiced continued, urged on by their inquisitors.

But deliver us from evil...
There was little hope of last-minute mercy.

For thine is the kingdom...
Sin worthy of death had been committed. All that remained was the final Amen.

Only the Widow Smith received a reprieve. She was dismissed and sent on her way. Unhappily for her, the examination lingered till dusk, when Simon Mourton, the bishop's summoner, offered to escort her home in the gathering dark. Taking her arm, he heard the rustle of papers in her long sleeve.

'What have we here?' he asked, pulling a precious roll from its hiding place. The Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer greeted his eyes, but the words from Sinai did not appear in the lofty Latin of the centuries but rather in the vulgar English. 'Come, as good now as another time,' he said, and he returned her to the bishop, who condemned her with the six men sentenced earlier.
And so they were burned."(2)

5. Translations of the Bible – the Forerunners to the King James Version

Let us now go back in time to 1382 A.D.


John Wycliffe felt a need for Christians to read the Bible in their own language. He and some of his followers translated the entire Bible into English (from the Latin Vulgate), but because the printing press had not yet been invented, limited manual copies were available. Many who were caught preaching from the scriptures in England were burned with the English translation hung about their necks. Wycliffe escaped such a fate, but after his death his bones were exhumed, publicly burned for heresy and the ashes scattered in the River Swift so nothing would remain to preserve his memory, but his work could not be erased—it would prosper in the Christian underground. There was an innate desire in the hearts of many to read the scriptures in their native tongue, and that desire could not be stilled. Wycliffe had whetted the appetites of the common man in England for a Bible in his native language.


Now we fast forward to the year 1516 A.D. Erasmus was a Catholic monk, a good man, who wanted to bring about a Reformation – but from within the church – not from without. He published the first Greek New Testament. There were other manuscript copies available, but there were no published texts in existence. For these purposes Erasmus went to Basel, Switzerland and found several Greek documents, namely, two different 12th century manuscripts of the New Testament. Some believe these manuscripts may have dated as late as the 15th century. He compared verses, and using certain other supporting ancient Greek manuscripts, chose what he considered to be the best existing Greek translation and put it into a new Greek translation. Soon it became the accepted Bible of the times. At one point a publisher referred to it as the "Textus Receptus" meaning that it was the text received by all the people as compared to all of the other Greek and other texts that were then circulating. As a result, it is often referred to as the "TR" or "Textus Receptus." It is this text that became the key to the birth of the King James Version.


The next critical stepping stone that led to the King James Version occurred about 1526 A.D. William Tyndale, a gifted linguist and God fearing man, translated the New Testament from Greek (evidently using Erasmus' translation) to English. This became the first English Bible ever printed. Accordingly Tyndale has become known as the father of the English Bible. His translation is so critical because scholars recognize that the language of the King James Version is derived in large part from Tyndale's translation – estimates ranging from a low of 18% to a high of 90%. Scholar, David Daniel, believes that 83% of the New Testament came from Tyndale's translation and 76% of the Old Testament came from Tyndale. He bases his estimate on a careful statistical study of word patterns conducted by Jon Nielson and Royal Skousen (one of my classmates from Brigham Young University) that derived such percentages from their exhaustive studies.(3)

Tyndale's contribution, however, did not come without personal cost. He too, like many others, met a martyr's death. He was first strangled and then burned at the stake, but his legacy lives on.

6. The Rise of the English Language

Scholar S. Michael Wilcox made this observation about the rise of the English language as a necessary preparatory step for the King James Version:

"By the 1500s (Tyndale's generation), the English had developed a love affair with their language. They viewed language as today's industrialized world views electronic technology. New words were created by the thousands. English became the most fertile, colourful, robust, and splendid language on earth. Tyndale had the luxury of selecting from a vast array of sounds, fitting together a wide variety of words, and exploring for subtle distinctions of meaning until the music of scripture sang its way into the soul, creating love for its truths and a desire to live them."

He then concluded with this salient comment:
"The English tongue had become a mother lode of expression, rich and ready for Tyndale to mine...." (4) English had developed from a rough and tumble language to a gold mine of near-divine expression.

Tyndale's additions to the world of Biblical language are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Instead of "the holiest place" he penned, "the holy of holies". There was something about this change that had a melodious ring, a cadence that struck ever deeper into the human soul.

He changed "the best song" to "the song of songs". He created single words by combining two and thus gave us:


He coined phrases that linger on the tongue and in the heart of every Christian:

"the still small voice"
"let there be light"
"with God all things are possible"
"be not weary in well doing"

He was the first to use the word "atonement" to refer to Christ's redeeming act. It was his hope that: "if God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the scripture than thou [the Pope] dost." (5)

7. Commissioning of King James Version

The time was now right for the King James Version. The building blocks had been put into place.

In 1603 James VI of Scotland became the King of England. He became known as James I. It was at a time when various English Bibles were being used, among them being the Bishops' Bible and the Geneva Bible. It seems that King James authorized a new English version for at least three reasons:

(i) It offered an alternative to the Geneva Bible, which contained marginal notes critical of the authority of the monarchs.
(ii) It acquiesced to the request of the Puritans who had had previous religious proposals rejected, and thus, King James was hopeful this concession would promote religious harmony in the community, and
(iii) It would be dedicated to King James – in effect an endorsement of his religious monarchical reign.

8. The Translators

King James commissioned approximately 54 scholars to make a new English translation. The purpose of this translation was not to make a bad translation good, but rather to make a good translation better. It was to be done, not by a single person or small groups of translators as had been the usual modus operandi in the past, but by a panel of translators who could avail themselves of the combined wisdom and spirit of the group. For these purposes the King James translators used Erasmus' Textus Receptus (in Greek) and William Tyndale's English translation (made largely from the Textus Receptus) as their principal texts. The translation was finished in 1611 A.D.

Who were these translators and how did the translation occur? The process of translation was undertaken by six companies or groups, two each in Westminster, Oxford and Cambridge. The surviving lists of translators are not perfectly consistent (some show as few as 47 rather than 54) but we do know much about many of them. These men were the leading scholars, linguists and theologians of the day, drawing from such institutions as Oxford and Cambridge as well as St. Paul's Cathedral. The Bible was divided into sections for each group to translate a portion. History tells us they prayed for divine guidance before each translation session began.

The combined expertise of these 54 men was remarkable. Gordon Campbell, author of Bible-The Story of the King James Version pays to them a fitting tribute. Keep in mind—Mr. Campbell is a Professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Leicester, an author of numerous books, a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a fellow of the Royal Asian Society. With that learned background he eulogized the King James translators as follows:

"The learning embodied in the men of these six companies is daunting. It is sometimes assumed that people in the twenty-first century know more than the benighted people of the seventeenth century, but in many ways the opposite is true. The population from which scholars can now be drawn is much larger than that of the seventeenth century, but it would be difficult now to bring together a group of more than fifty scholars with the range of languages and knowledge of other disciplines that characterized the King James Version translators....To give but one example, the preface to the King James Version ('The Translators to the Reader') affirms 'that the Syrian translation of the New Testament is in most learned men's libraries...and the Psalter in Arabic is with many.' As one who has struggled with both Syriac ('Syrian') and Arabic, I can attest how difficult they are for modern Anglo-phone readers; I am also confident that books in these languages are no longer 'in most learned men's libraries'.(6)

9. The Translation

Common Phrases

Many of our common phrases today have their origins from the King James Version (and ultimately from Tyndale):

The handwriting is on the wall (Daniel 5:5)
A leopard cannot change its spots (Jeremiah 13:23)
There is a fly in the ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1)
Go the second mile (Matthew 5:41)
I escaped with the skin of my teeth (Job 19:20)
Am I my brother's keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

Majesty of the language

The King James Version produces such majestic and poetic lines as:

"And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8);
"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 21:4);
"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle" (Job 7:6);
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2); and
"For God so loved the world" (John 3:16).
I believe that some of the most beautiful lines in recorded scripture are preserved in Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our inequities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed"
(Isaiah 53:5).

When first published, the King James Version was more often heard than read. As Gordon Campbell observed: "The text is prose, but it often has the pulse of poetry. Adam, blaming Eve for the fall, says: 'she gave me of the tree, and I did eat' (Genesis 3:12) – a perfect iambic pentameter [as used by Shakespeare] and one that Milton incorporated intact into Paradise Lost." (7)


The King James Version has a dignity that is befitting of solemn occasions:
(i) Numerous inauguration speeches of U.S. Presidents have incorporated versus of the King James Version of the Bible.
(ii) At the funeral of Princess Diana, Prime Minister Tony Blair quoted
1 Corinthians 13.
(iii) Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address commenced: "Four score and seven years ago," but such language has a familiar ring to it. We read in Psalms 90:10 "The days of our years are three score and ten." Imagine if Lincoln had commenced his most famous of all addresses with: "Eighty-seven years ago our forefathers...." Somehow that fails to have the same punch and captivating power as "Four score and seven years ago."


In spite of the foregoing, the King James Version does receive some criticism today because it was derived in large measure from 12th century manuscripts that many scholars believe to be inferior in quality to manuscripts dated much earlier. Approximately 5700 New Testament manuscripts dating from about 125 A.D. through the 16th century have now been discovered.

10. The New International Version and Other Translations

Since the time of the King James Version of the Bible there have been many other translations, some of which are modernizations of the King James Version (i.e. The Revised Version and the New King James Version) while others are translations from earlier manuscripts. In most cases the doctrinal substance is remarkably identical to the King James Version.

In 1967 the New York Bible Society (now the International Bible Society) believed that a new translation of the New Testament should be done based on the hundreds, even thousands of manuscripts which had been discovered since the time the King James Version had been printed. Accordingly, over 100 scholars were commissioned to provide a new Bible to be known as the "New International Version." For these purposes, they used the best available current texts. It was called the New International Version because scholars from around the world participated and, thus, it was designed to have international appeal. Scholars of many denominations participated, so as to hopefully prevent the translation from having a sectarian bias. I have compared many verses with the King James Version, and while I do not believe it has the same majesty and dignity of language, the doctrine seems to be similar.

11. Pre-eminence of the King James Version

With so many translations, some of which are from older texts than the TR, why do so many Christians have such a depth of passion and feeling about the King James Version? There seems to be three key reasons:

(i) Some admire its poetic prose,
(ii) Some are attracted to the dignity and majesty of the language, and
(iii) Some revere it because they believe God guided the work of the translators—that it was an inspired translation not just an academic one. They might argue: how could a non-believing academician, however astute a linguist he may be, capture the spirit of the Bible. It would be like describing a three dimensional object in two dimensional terms.

12. The Printing Problems

There were many printing errors associated with the early printings of the Bible in English. Some of these are memorable because of their unintended humorous outcome.
Gordon Campbell highlighted some of them as follows:

"Psalms 119:161 read 'Printers have persecuted me without cause'; 'printers' were a misprint for 'princes'. The 1631 edition now known as the Wicked Bible made adultery compulsory by omitting 'not' in Exodus 20:14, which read 'Thou shalt commit adultery'. The printers were heavily fined.... 1 Corinthians 6:9... read 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?' A Bible of 1795 rendered Mark 7:27 as 'Let the children first be killed', when Jesus had in fact asked that they be filled (that is, fed). Similarly, in a Bible of 1801 the murmurers of Jude 16 became murderers, and so the Bible became known as the Murderers' Bible." (8)

There existed in 1611 two editions of the King James Version of the Bible. One is known as the "He" Bible and the other as the "She" Bible. These designations arose because in one such folio it says "he went into the city" (meaning Boaz) and in the other it says "she went into the city" (meaning Ruth).

Since the inception of the King James Version in 1611 there have been many printing and grammatical corrections, most of them minor. In fact such corrections continued for 158 years, until 1769 when Benjamin Blayney produced a revised copy of the King James Version that is now in common use today. It is this 1769 edition that one most frequently finds in the book stores. In fact, few people, if any, use the original 1611 version. People are often surprised to learn that the 1769 edition, which they use, contains approximately 16,000 corrections to the original 1611 edition. The Revised Version of the Bible contains another 36,000 changes.(9) This is of particular interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who firmly believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, but who also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, even though it is criticized by some for its alleged 3000-4000 minor printing and grammatical corrections since its original printing. Ironically, many of these critics are the same people who revere the King James Version as the holy word of God in spite of its 16,000 changes.

Some believe the Bible is inerrant, meaning without any errors. No doubt, with good intentions these people believe that an admission of any errors would somehow dilute God's perfection. History, however, confirms that there have been some omissions, and additions and mistakes over time, not the least of which are the printing and grammatical errors associated with the coming forth of the King James Version. These are the errors, however, of men, not God. Certainly God, who is perfect in every way, works with imperfect men. Jonah, a prophet of God, tried to run away from his calling to preach repentance in Nineveh; Peter, the Saviour's chief apostle, cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest and then later denied knowing the Saviour on three occasions; Thomas, an apostle of Jesus Christ, would not believe in the resurrected Christ until he could see with his eyes and feel with his hands. Yet somehow God performed His work with these good, but imperfect men. And so God performed His work of bringing about the Bible through good but imperfect translators. When all is said and done, the doctrinal differences between the various versions of the Bible are remarkably miniscule—a testimony of God's handiwork.

13. Final Observations

I would now like to conclude with some final observations:

First: It was said of Churchill that "he mobilized the English language and sent it into
battle." (10) Similarly, I believe, God seized the moment and mobilized the English language at its peak and sent it into spiritual battle as the King James Version of the Bible.

Second: The English language had reached it apogee at the time of the King James Version. Shakespeare and Tyndale had captured its power and beauty, and then Tyndale and the King James translators harnessed it into divine thought. This translation was not the creation of brilliance alone, but, more importantly, of divine inspiration. It was the right language with the right men at the right time working under God's tutelage. There was a nobility, a majesty, even a divine ring that echoed from this Biblical collection of words and celestial sounds – it was the closest thing we had to the language of God himself. God has used imperfect men to bring about as perfect a book as mortals could produce.

Third: The King James Version is much more than an appeal to the mind; it is also a plea to the human heart.

Fourth: When we pray to God we use certain words of respect and reverence that are more formal than everyday conversation – "thee" and "thou" and "thine", rather than "you" or "yours". Similarly I believe the King James Version epitomizes that divine formality that can best elicit our respect and reverence for God.

Fifth: In the 20th century the King James Version was singled out as a majestic work of literature. "The Bible as literature" courses began to appear in American colleges. C.S. Lewis, however, made a careful distinction between the literary qualities of the Bible and its inspirational powers:

"Our age has, indeed, coined the expression 'the Bible as literature'. It is very generally implied that those who have rejected its theological pretensions nevertheless continue to enjoy it as a treasure house of English prose. It may be so. There may be people who, not having been forced upon familiarity with it by believing parents, have yet been drawn to it by its literary charms and remained as constant readers. But I never happen to meet them. Perhaps it is because I live in the provinces. But I cannot help suspecting, if I may make an Irish bull, that those who read the Bible as literature do not read the Bible. It would be strange if they did."
He then concludes with his compelling argument that its power is not in its literary merit but its divinity. Accordingly he concludes that it is:

"Not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite, it excludes or repels, the merely aesthetic approach. You can read it as literature only by a tour de force. You are cutting the wood against the grain, using the tool for a purpose it was not intended to serve. It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long except to those who go to it for something quite different. I predict that it will in the future be read, as it always has been read, almost exclusively by Christians."

Sixty years later, Gordon Campbell responded to this "prophecy" of C.S. Lewis:
"....the debate seems to have died away. Books on the Bible as literature no longer appear on the lists of academic publishers." Mr. Campbell later adds: "Indeed, the King James Version is the fountainhead of Bible translation into English, and, although the finest modern translations are models of good scholarly practice, they are admired rather than loved. It is the King James Version that has been loved by generations of those who have listened to it or read it to themselves or to others; other translations may engage the mind, but the King James Version is the Bible of the heart." (12)

The King James Version is a magnificent work of literature but that is the side show. The center stage is its recitation of God's teachings, His ordinances and His will. Its literary value is a means, not an end. Its genius lies in its inherent power to lift men up and inspire them to live more Christlike lives. In this regard its effect on the world has been profound. Of that I have a firm conviction. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Reference to books used:
Bible: The Story of the King James Version, by Gordon Campbell
Fire in the Bones, by S. Michael Wilcox
The Text of the New Testament by Kurt & Barbara Aland
The Bible in English by David Daniel

(1) A summary of the story as told by S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, 1
(2) Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, 1-2
(3) Daniel, The Bible in English, 448
(4) Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, 12-13
(5) Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, 47
(6) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 55
(7) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 80
(8) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 3
(9) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 235
(10) Edward R. Murrow, an American journalist, 1954
(11) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 256-257
(12) Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version, p 257-275


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