In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture

Alister E. McGrath, Author Doubleday Books $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-49890-6
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.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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