Bibles: Ancient and Modern


Giles Fraser, in The Guardian, writes about the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in A Fetish for the Bible. He pleads for protection from all those who would make an idol of this book:

Have a guess who said this: “We are a Christian culture, we come from a Christian culture, and not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian.” No, it’s not former archbishop George Carey complaining again about Christianity being marginalised in modern Britain. In fact this is Richard Dawkins, lending his support to next year’s 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Fans of the feisty atheist need not worry that their hero has gone soft. “It is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource,” he added. I had a little chuckle at that one. Religion? Hijacking the Bible? Whatever next.

Except, of course, that is precisely what the KJB was: an attempt by the Church of England to control the religious and cultural agenda. A team of academics was established in 1604 to translate the Bible in such a way that it bolstered the authority of the established church. James I gave the specific instruction that the translation must toe the official line on the importance of bishops. The Greek word ekklesia was to be translated as “church”, rather than “congregation” or “assembly” – the translators thus giving the impression that the Bible proposes a top-down form of ecclesiastical authority. James insisted no notes were to be made in the margins of the text; it was in this dangerous commentary that the previous, more radical Geneva Bible had dared to question the divine right of kings.

And then there is the latest translation, also with its own bias, the NIV. USAToday reports:

A new e-Bible caught the Christmas sales wind last weekend.


Less than a week ago, Bible mega-publisher Zondervan released its newest translation of the New International Version of the Bible and saw it fly up the charts to become the top seller in the Apple store under Religion/Spirituality and No. 13 seller across all categories over Christmas weekend. On Amazon, it was No. 3, at $9.99 behind older Bibles selling for $1.99.

This is the first time any Bible translation has gone straight to digital. The print version goes on sale in March.

Fraser notes: “…early editions [of the King James Bible] were vast tomes, to be placed on a lectern – unlike the tiny Tyndale Bible, made pocket-sized because it was contraband, banned by the church. When it comes to Bibles, size matters.”

And now you can download a Bible onto your iPod, iPad, Blackberry .. and size matters in a new way.

h/t Thinking Anglicans

Ekklesia discusses Robert Alter’s Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible:

Alter, who teaches Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that writing style is not merely based on aesthetics, but is, in fact, the essential medium through which writers conceive and present their literary visions. “Style is the great agent of transformation in the constructed worlds of novels,” Alter writes.

The great novel Moby-Dick by US writer Herman Melville, with its distinct style, was influenced by the King James Bible, as well as by the works of Milton and Shakespeare. The writing style “elevates the motley crew and crazed captain of a 19th century commercial whaler into the indelible actors of a cosmic drama”.

Alter also examines the works of William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow, and contemporary writers Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy.

h/t to Louie Crew for providing a link to the Translators’ Preface to the 1611 Bible

And below is what the current Queen Elizabeth has to say about the Bible:

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