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God's Secretaries: The Making of the King…

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible

by Adam Nicolson

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Here’s an odd book. It suffers from a little deficiency, through no fault of its own: the story it has to tell (how the King James Bible came into being) is simply not very interesting. Most of the contributors to the King James Bible were obscure, and the historical setting is equally dull. It’s wrought with typical corruption of court, power squabbles, and serious disagreements over doctrine. What else is new throughout the 1500 years since the Bible’s books were written? Even telling the story against a backdrop of the plague and the genius of Shakespeare can’t rescue its setting.

How could our Bible emerge from such a world? But out of this stagnation, through the unlikely cooperation of divergent men, arose a masterpiece. A work meant to be chanted in church, with a rich cadence and a majestic language. Quaint even in its own time, the KJV is nevertheless the language of God, properly aged, in His antiquity and mystery.

Never mind its inaccuracies, and how we have since uncovered more original scriptures to translate. Never mind that the authors have added and subtracted to enhance the beauty of the prose. The ear is the governing organ; if it sounds right, it is right. The end result does indeed rival Shakespeare in its beauty, producing by far the most quotable literary creation in history.

Pity it’s necessary to slog through the first 150 pages of Nicolson’s book in order to appreciate the miracle of the King James Bible, but it is necessary, because that is the story. Each member of the team was to translate all the chapters in his allotted section, alone, without conferring with others. Only then were they to meet together, discuss the text and decide on their final submission. Somehow, inexplicably, it all came together, and the final chapters of Nicolson’s book are glorious. And Nicolson’s rating? A three-star story miraculously transformed into a five-star miracle. ( )
2 vote DubiousDisciple | Jun 6, 2013 |
This is such an interesting book. The King James bible runs as a thread through English culture. Even if we've never read very much of it, we've all heard phrases from it, going to back to earliest nativity plays. this takes the reader through the genesis of probably the only work of art ever created by committee. It covers the society from which the text emerged, the task of the translators and the other texts on which they drew. It also deals with some of the various people involved in the task of translating. there is very little evidence of the process of the translation, but what is available is presented so that the care and attention that went into the translation is clearly seen. He also discusses the more recent efforts at translating, the new English Bible of the 1970s coming in (justifiably, to my mind) no little criticism for removing the majesty and mystery of the King James. A very interesting book on the birth of a very important book. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 30, 2013 |
Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries is well done with just a few quibbles. While many would agree that history is nothing with context, there are times when the author goes off on a few flights of fancy without much reason for doing so. Also, the sheer number of people involved in the translation leaves their backgrounds at a disadvantage. Most of the translators’ lives are sketchy at best. These few drawbacks shouldn’t, however, keep you from reading this book. I find biblio-histories to be some of the better books in my collection. This one was no exception.

http://lifelongdewey.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/220-gods-secretaries-by-adam-nicol... ( )
1 vote NielsenGW | Dec 11, 2012 |
Great insights in how the book was brought together and the culture of King James ( )
  Savagemalloy | Feb 19, 2012 |
This is a very well written book, as befits the language of its subject, and it describes marvellously the atmosphere of England at a time of great change - the end of the Tudor/Elizabethan age and the birth of the Stuart/Jacobean age. It puts across very effectively the point that the Jacobean view of the world is very different from more modern viewpoints, for example in assumptions about the relationship between religion and the state and the nature of both types of authority. Unfortunately there is comparatively little surviving detail about the actual compilation of the Bible itself, beyond the rules set out for the translation and a few scattered examples of the thought processes behind it as revealed through a tiny amount of surviving documentation. This is complemented by vignettes of the lives of some of the translators themselves. The language of the King James Bible is without a doubt wonderful and it deserves its place as a cornerstone of English literature, though one must not forget that it is based very largely on earlier Bibles and the Tynedale version in particular also deserves its own reputation. The King James version is very much a product of its own time and place. 4/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Feb 7, 2012 |
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Few moments in English history have been more hungry for the future, its mercurial possibilities and its hope of richness, than the spring of 1603.
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God's Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible (U.S. title) was published in the UK as "Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060838736, Paperback)

A network of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the era of the Gunpowder Plot and the worst outbreak of the plague. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than the country had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between these polarities. This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment "Englishness," specifically the English language itself, had come into its first passionate maturity. The English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own scope than any form of the language before or since. It drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:11 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A network of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the era of the Gunpowder Plot and the worst outbreak of the plague. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than the country had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between these polarities. This was the world that created the King James Bible.… (more)

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