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Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English…

Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It… (2001)

by Benson Bobrick

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523730,147 (3.93)5
Next to the Bible itself, the English Bible was--and is--the most influential book ever published. The most famous of all English Bibles, the King James Version, was the culmination of centuries of work by various translators, from John Wycliffe, the fourteenth-century catalyst of English Bible translation, to the committee of scholars who collaborated on the King James translation. Wide as the Waters examines the life and work of Wycliffe and recounts the tribulations of his successors, including William Tyndale, who was martyred, Miles Coverdale, and others who came to bitter ends. It traces the story of the English Bible through the tumultuous reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I, a time of fierce contest between Catholics and Protestants in England, as the struggle to establish a vernacular Bible was fought among competing factions. In the course of that struggle, Sir Thomas More, later made a Catholic saint, helped orchestrate the assault on the English Bible, only to find his own true faith the plaything of his king. In 1604, a committee of fifty-four scholars, the flower of Oxford and Cambridge, collaborated on the new translation for King James. Their collective expertise in biblical languages and related fields has probably never been matched, and the translation they produced--substantially based on the earlier work of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and others--would shape English literature and speech for centuries. As the great English historian Macaulay wrote of their version, "If everything else in our language should perish, it alone would suffice to show the extent of its beauty and power." To this day its common expressions, such as "labor of love," "lick the dust," "a thorn in the flesh," "the root of all evil," "the fat of the land," "the sweat of thy brow," "to cast pearls before swine," and "the shadow of death," are heard in everyday speech. The impact of the English Bible on law and society was profound. It gave every literate person access to the sacred text, which helped to foster the spirit of inquiry through reading and reflection. This, in turn, accelerated the growth of commercial printing and the proliferation of books. Once people were free to interpret the word of God according to the light of their own understanding, they began to question the authority of their inherited institutions, both religious and secular. This led to reformation within the Church, and to the rise of constitutional government in England and the end of the divine right of kings. England fought a Civil War in the light (and shadow) of such concepts, and by them confirmed the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In time, the new world of ideas that the English Bible helped inspire spread across the Atlantic to America, and eventually, like Wycliffe's sea-borne scattered ashes, all the world over, "as wide as the waters be."… (more)
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Bible > Bible > Modern versions and translations > Religion > Versions in English and Anglo-Saxon
  FHQuakers | Feb 12, 2018 |
If you can't trust a book about the Bible, what can you trust?

Sadly, the number of errors in this book was so high that I couldn't even finish it. I say "sadly" because this is a very interesting, vividly written book on an interesting topic. If you like historical novels -- I don't; give me history any day -- you might enjoy it. But don't believe any of it. Not in detail, anyway.

The problems start early. I first noticed it on page 13, where it says "Each part [that is, the three parts of Jewish scripture, Law, Prophets, and Writings] arose as a separate collection of sacred texts, with the Law in use as Scripture by 400 B.C.; the Prophets, by 200 B.C.; and the Writings by about 130 B.C." Just how wrong you will find this statement depends on your religious stance -- most liberal scholars would say that books such as Ecclesiastes and Esther weren't even written until after 130 B.C.E., while a fundamentalist would date them earlier -- but all would allow that some books of the Writings were not universally accepted as canonical until well after that date.

The discussion of the Septuagint and of the canon on page 14 is so brief as to be extremely misleading, but it could perhaps be accepted, except that it omits the Letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament! (It refers to thirteen letters of Paul, but either Hebrews is a separate letter or there are fourteen letters of Paul). It also refers to the Apocalypse as by John, giving the impression that it's the same John as the person man who wrote the Gospel -- but scholars have been pointing out for more than a thousand years that the same person cannot have written those two books (a fact that is obvious to anyone with even a little Greek).

On page 21, it says that Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the "town council" of Jerusalem. We are told that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, and Mark 15:43, etc. refer to the Sanhedrin as the "council" -- but not a "town council," as if you could call up Joseph of Arimathea and complain about your neighbour not mowing his grass! The Sanhedrin was a religious council.

On page 84, we read about progress in understanding "Greek, Hebrew, and other languages, such as Aramaic and and Chaldee." Just one problem: Chaldee isn't a language. It's a name used by older scholars to refer to Aramaic, since Aramaic was the language used by the Chaldeans when they occupied Babylon, and there are a few sections of the Hebrew Bible written in Aramaic. One could refer to a dialect of Aramaic called Chaldean, just as there is Talmudic Aramaic and Syriac Aramaic and Palestinian Aramaic, but it's not a separate language.

Finally, on pp. 300-301 there is a list of dates in the history of the English Bible. This leaves out some very important dates, such as the publication of Erasmus's Greek New Testament in 1516 (important because this is what Tyndale translated into English) and the later editions of Stephanus and Beza (from which the King James Bible was translated), but those are merely omissions. The last date is "1881-85 Revised Standard Version."

Guess what. I have a Revised Standard Version here. With a copyright page. The first edition of the New Testament was published 1946, the Old Testament in 1952, and a revised New Testament in 1971. This has now been largely supplemented by the New Revised Standard Version. The 1881 date refers to the (English) Revised Version. It is not the same thing!

I'm sure I've either convinced you by now or you've stopped reading, so I won't go on. Most people aren't bothered by small mistakes to the extent that I am. If not, you may read this book with enjoyment, and you may even learn from it. But keep in mind: what you learn may well prove to be alternative facts. ( )
  waltzmn | Feb 6, 2017 |
Excellent book on the history of translating the Scriptures into English
  custisld | Nov 30, 2013 |
Wide As the Waters : The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired by Benson Bobrick (?)
  journeyguy | Apr 2, 2013 |
Excellent book! Gives an indepth view of the making of the King James Translation. How, who, when, where and why... it is all here. The detail is wonderful. I recommend this to someonw who is really interested in the topic and wants to know not only what happened, but why it happened and who were all the playes; the impact on history and why there is no other translation quite like the King James.

All Christians should read this book. It gives a better understanding of the bible and how it was meant to be used and why it is still important 400 years later! ( )
  DivineMissW | Aug 12, 2011 |
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In Memory of My Grandfather
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The first question ever asked by an Inquisitor of a "heretic" was whether he knew any part of the Bible in his own tongue.
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