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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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This book is more about the early years of the reign of James I and all the people that surrounded him than it is about the making of the Bible. The actual descriptors of the translation of the King James Bible constituted at best 1% of the book. Most of it is descriptions of the people who came together, some well known, some obscure, and about James himself and the kingdom during the transition from Elizabeth to James. It is an interesting read, but extremely repetitive (and not in a useful way; in a redundant way). In addition, the author will often make a point, which he then contradicts by his examples a few paragraphs later. He attempts to be trying to build up James against the reputation of Elizabeth, who he clearly feels was a far below average ruler. His picture of James as a tolerant sort is hampered, however, by the historical details he presents, including the driving of groups of Puritans out of England to America - a fact he discounts as not that important in the overall kingdom, and therefore not a good example of intolerance. In fact, the picture he paints is of a court and a church corrupt and hedonistic, and dissenters who are totally unlikable and unsympathetic as they attempt to free people from the coercion of the Church of England by offering a new form of coercion that is actually much more coercive than the already existing hierarchy. In short, it was hardly the beatific world he tries to present, and hardly the picture of a tolerant and loving monarch that he appears to think he is presenting. That said, the book is very worthwhile for the descriptions of people and places - if you can get past the "gentle" bishop who engaged in and encouraged torture. ( )
  Devil_llama | May 9, 2017 |
Fun popular history of the 1611 King James bible, with some moving defenses of the poetry of the KJV. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
A readable and interesting history of the King James translation of the Bible. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
I must confess: A saint in church loaned this book to me months ago; it has been sitting on my shelf ignored. Until today when, on the most random of impulses (mainly guilt that I had kept the book so long), I picked it up to thumb through it as I'd done a couple times before. That was 10 am; I finished it just after 11 pm. Let me be clear: I. Could. Not. Stop. I can't tell you the last time that I completely ignored my "to-do" list and finished an ENTIRE book in a day.

Here's what I think was most amazing about Nicolson's achievement: He manages to tell the story of Jacobean England through the lens of the King James Bible while simultaneously telling the story of the King James Bible through the lens of Jacobean England. (If that sentence sounds like a tautology, read the section where he compares Hatfield House with the KJV and you'll see what I mean.)

Perhaps most intriguing to me is that I didn't find out until the very final pages of the very last chapter Nicholson's religious leanings which were quite cleverly summarized: " I'm no atheist, but I'm no churchgoer either." I suspected as much; however, that makes this work even more intriguing because of his very evident awe of this translation. This book is a testament to the KJV's cultural power as a shaper of English language and as an expression of English (e.g. British & American) culture.

I think the book's greatest strength is found in Nicholson's comparisons of the KJV with other translations (especially Tyndale's and the NEB). Though he only looks at snippets of text (at most 4-5 verses each), he has chosen well; the passage demonstrate that, in many important ways, the KJV could still claim to be a "superior" translation. In fact, Nicholson's distaste for modern translations I think plays no small part in his "non-churchgoer" status.

I am by no means a "KJV-only" radical...but neither have I ever desired to be seen as one who despises it. Nicholson's approach to the KJV mirrors my own; stunned admiration at its monumental achievement for its time dosed with the reality of its antiquarian nature. And, underneath it all, the yearning that, someday, perhaps we will reach another cultural nexus that will produce a work of the spiritual and cultural magnitude achieved in 1611. ( )
2 vote Jared_Runck | Dec 13, 2015 |
The compilation of the Authorised Version must have been one of the few thoroughly succesful government-sponsored IT projects ever. Completed on time and within budget, despite the fact that all the developers involved were clergymen and/or academics (unfortunately the project sponsor had spent the money on something else in the meantime...), run according to strict project-management principles that sound like PRINCE2 avant la lettre, and resulting in a product that became an industry standard internationally, with no serious competitor for over 350 years. Admittedly, initial acceptance of the product was slow, and some of the early versions did have serious bugs (the celebrated missing "not" in the 10 commandments), but that sort of thing is inevitable.

Nicolson gives us a very readable, if slightly gossipy account of the project and its background. He's rather limited in what he can do because most of the official documentation has been lost, and he obviously doesn't think his readers would be interested in technical discussions of Greek and Hebrew texts, so he tends to fall back a great deal on character sketches of the people involved, which can get a little wearing after a while. There's surprisingly little about the actual English of the translation, but the chapters where he does get into comparing the text of the AV with Tyndale and its other predecessors are some of the most rewarding parts of the book, and also the parts where Nicolson is most willing to intrude himself and give an opinion. ( )
  thorold | Oct 21, 2014 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:41 -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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