Sunday, October 17, 2010

Daisy Hay's review of Gordon Campbell's Bible: The Story of the King James' Version 1611-2011 (OUP) from today's Observer rightly points out political aspects of the translation:

..the story of the King James Version is also a political story, about a monarch determined to assert his authority by setting his seal on every Bible in the land. There had been English translations of the Bible before the King James Version, produced by the likes of William Tyndale, who was condemned by Thomas More for "discharging a filthy foam of blasphemies out of his beastly brutish mouth", and who eventually burned at the stake for his efforts. The King James Version, however, was a state project, which celebrated the King as its God-like "principal mover and author". Rules were drawn up for massed teams of experts to follow, and factions formed and rivalries festered as scholars in Oxford, Cambridge and London raced to outdo each other. When the King James Version was eventually published, those academics who had been denied a slice of the action rushed to condemn it in print. One particularly bitter reviewer thought the translation so hopeless it should be burnt, and another loftily dismissed it as a botched rehash of older versions.

But in the end, she notes that It enabled 17th-century men and women to read the Bible in their own language, it remains at the heart of the English-speaking Christian tradition, and today it continues to be celebrated as one of the great works of English literature.

Printer's errors are noted in Jonathan Yardley's review of the same book in the Washington Post:

"In the first edition of the KJV designed for private study (1612), as opposed to reading aloud in church, Psalm 119:161 read 'Printers have persecuted me without cause'; 'printers' was 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, but in 1641 the same press printed an edition in which they omitted 'no' in Revelation 21:1, which read 'And there was more sea.' The problem with negatives cropped up again in 1653, when another printer omitted the second negative in 1 Corinthians 6:9, which read 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?' From negatives we move uneasily to murderers. 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."

In 2011, we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the translation. This book is designed to mark the occasion. 

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