In the Beginning : The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture
In the sixteenth century, to attempt to translate the Bible into a common tongue wasn't just difficult, it was dangerous. A Bible in English threatened the power of the monarch and the Church. Early translators like Tyndale, whose work greatly influenced the King James, were hunted down and executed, but the demand for English Bibles continued to grow. Indeed it was the popularity of the Geneva Bible, with its anti-royalist content, that eventually forced James I to sanction his own, pro-monarchy, translation. Errors in early editions--one declared that "thou shalt commit adultery"--and Puritan preferences for the Geneva Bible initially hampered acceptance of the King James, but it went on to become the definitive English-language Bible.
This fascinating history of a literary and religious masterpiece explores the forces that led to the decision to create an authorized translation, the method of translation and printing, and the central role this version of the Bible played in the development of modern English. McGrath's history of the King James Bible's creation and influence is a worthy tribute to a great work and a joy to read.
The peculiar history of the King James Bible highlights the power of marginal notations to destabilize a nation and command the anxious attention of a monarch. McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford University, recounts the production of this translation, the forces that allowed for its genesis and its influence on modern English, the history of England and the faith of millions since its 1604 publication. Although his "great men" emphasis on "doing" history offers few new insights and is embedded in a narrative that scans in overly broad strokes the intriguing circumstances of the Bible's production, this remains an engaging chronicle. McGrath frames the context for the KJV in phenomena such as the English church during and after Henry VIII's reign, the incendiary creativity of the translation process, the explosive force for change unleashed by the technological breakthrough of the printing press and the rise of nationalism. McGrath also situates the KJV as more immediately provoked by the English-language Geneva Bible, produced by self-exiled "radical" English Protestants in that republican city, during the reign of the Catholic Mary Tudor. As McGrath explains, prefaces to each book of Scripture and extensive interpretive notes offered in "plain English" account largely for the popularity the Bible enjoyed among laypersons hungry to read the word of God. This is a tale ripe for the telling; one wishes the execution were more satisfying. (Apr.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
February 18, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from In the Beginning by Alister McGrath
1 Unknown to the Ancients: The New Technology New technology promises new riches to its pioneers. The development and commercial exploitation of television and computer technology in the twentieth century made fortunes for many, just as the railroad and oil industries created a new wealthy social class in nineteenth-century America. In the fifteenth century, a new invention promised to revolutionize communications and generate untold riches for those fortunate enough to be in it from the beginning. In 1620, the influential English philosopher Francis Bacon observed how three inventions had reshaped the world as he knew it. It is well to observe the force and virtue and consequence of inventions, and these are nowhere to be seen nowhere more conspicuously than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, and of which the origins, though recent, are obscure and inglorious; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the magnet. For these three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world. Bacon here identified the three inventions that changed the face of the known world. Gunpowder altered the course of warfare irreversibly. The magnet, when used to construct a mariner's compass, allowed navigation to proceed even when the sun and stars could not be seen. These two inventions lay behind England's rise to greatness under Queen Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth century, as Bacon well knew. Most important of all for the story that we are about to tell, the invention of printing made it possible for ideas to sweep across Europe and the oceans of the world, ignoring the barriers erected by anxious monarchs and bishops to safeguard the familiar and comfortable old ways. To understand the importance of this invention, we need to consider the social revolution that had engulfed Europe during the later Middle Ages. A new middle class emerged, convinced of the possibility of changing the world. The Social Revolution: The New Middle Class The Middle Ages was witness to a massive social upheaval across much of Western Europe. The feudal system gradually crumbled, with wealth and power beginning to shift to a new merchant class. Under the feudal system, power and wealth were concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of families. Especially during the fifteenth century, the influence of the traditional families began eroding. Control of some of the great cities of Europe slipped away from the aristocracy, and shifted to the growing number of merchants. These had made their fortunes through trading and dealing, and had little time for the old-fashioned attitudes of the traditional families. Throughout Europe, cities began to be governed by city councils dominated by the new merchant class. Traditional social structures were undermined by greater social mobility, increased wealth and spending power within the middle classes, and a surge in literacy and levels of educational achievement within the population as a whole. This development was of immense significance in the shaping of a new Europe. The control of sections of society was slowly but surely shifting from the old patrician families to the entrepreneurs. The emerging breed of venture capitalists was looking for business opportunities. The great trade fairs of late medieval Europe--held at international crossroads, such as Geneva--became important catalysts for economic growth, encouraging trade across Europe. Investment opportunities were eagerly sought. Our story concerns one such opportunity--the invention of printing. The financial backing of the new technology of printing was quickly identified as one of the surest ways to make money. Investment in printing technology became increasingly attractive on account of a major social change--the rise in literacy. People began to read; someone had to produce the books they came to demand. In the early Middle Ages, literacy was rare, and oft