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

by Adam Nicolson

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1,781389,673 (3.75)106
"A net of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson and Bacon; of the Gunpowder Plot; the worst outbreak of the plague England had ever seen; Arcadian landscapes; murderous, toxic slums; and, above all, of sometimes overwhelming religious passion. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than it had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between the 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" and the English language had come into its first passionate maturity. Boisterous, elegant, subtle, majestic, finely nuanced, sonorous and musical, the English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own reach and scope than any before or since. It is a form of the language that drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book." "The sponsor and guide of the whole Bible project was the King himself, the brilliant, ugly and profoundly peace-loving James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England. Trained almost from birth to manage the rivalries of political factions at home, James saw in England the chance for a sort of irenic Eden over which the new translation of the Bible was to preside. It was to be a Bible for everyone, and as God's lieutenant on earth, he would use it to unify his kingdom. The dream of Jacobean peace, guaranteed by an elision of royal power and divine glory, lies behind a Bible of extraordinary grace and everlasting literary power." "About fifty scholars from Cambridge, Oxford and London did the work, drawing on many previous versions, and created a text which, for all its failings, has never been equaled. That is the central question of this book: How did this group of near-anonymous divines, muddled, drunk, self-serving, ambitious, ruthless, obsequious, pedantic and flawed as they were, manage to bring off this astonishing translation? How did such ordinary men make such extraordinary prose? In God's Secretaries, Adam Nicolson gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the accession and ambition of the first Stuart king; of the scholars who labored for seven years to create his Bible; of the influences that shaped their work and of the beliefs that colored their world, immersing us in an age whose greatest monument is not a painting or a building, but a book."--Jacket.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This is the history and the method of the creation of what is known as the King James translation of the Bible. Many of the details in this book were unknown until an American scholar doing reference in the Bodleian Library found In the 1950s a box of manuscripts from the translators that no one had seen since the early 1600s.
  PendleHillLibrary | Jun 15, 2023 |
Great narrative of making of KJV or Authorized Version Bible and people involved. I recommend it for any interested. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
This is about the men who prepared the King James Bible, along with some of the political and religious history of the early part of the reign of King James. It is not about the actual translation, beyond the praise that the author has for the use of the English language by the translators, especially when compared with modern translations. There is a list of the translators along with the books of the Old and New Testaments that they worked on, for each of the six companies assigned to do the translation. (Nicolson talks about the new concept of "company.") And parallel chronologies of England from 1603 to 1611 and the translators and the translation.

I continue to be amazed and appalled by the torture and execution of people in the name of a religion that says it is about love and kindness. Nicolson seems to feel that this passion for the right way to worship results in the splendid phrases of this bible; our more tolerant era is bland and uninspiring.

In any case, knowing very little about this time, I learned a lot. Including the value placed on writing: George Abbot, one of the translators, also wrote A briefe Description of the whole worlde, in which he describes Native Americans , of whom he has no personal knowledge, as

"without all kinde of learning, hauing no remembrance of historie or writing among them ...."

Nicolson explains "Not only were they not like the English, they were not like the people of the Old World, who, for all their differences, were united from here to China by this one thread: they all wrote and read. . . . the textlessness of the Americans, that was the radical and shocking difference. Abbot could only imagine that it was the work of the devil." [p. 161] ( )
  raizel | Feb 4, 2022 |
I have no idea how the author managed to fill so many pages with so little information. The entire book seemed filled with nothing but inference and speculation. ( )
  fionaanne | Nov 11, 2021 |
God's Secretaries by Adam Nicholson is focused on the translators of the King James Bible, and the political climate they worked in, rather than on the translation itself. The presents a behind-the-scenes view of Jacobean England and the events that led to King James's approval of a new version of the English Bible.

I've read a few books on the early English versions of the Bible, but the perspective presented in God's Secretaries is one I hadn't read before. The book was quite informative, although at times it got tedious. For someone who already knows a bit about the history of English Bible translations, this could be a good book to fill in some of the gaps. I would not recommend this book to someone who is looking for a general overview of English Bible Translations. ( )
  BibleQuestions | Aug 8, 2021 |
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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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. . . James Ussher . . . famous, along with the puritan preacher John Lightfoot of Cambridge, as the man who calculated that God had created the earth on Sunday 23 October 4004 BC, at nine o'clock in the morning, London time, or midnight in the Garden of Eden. [p. 149]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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"A net of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson and Bacon; of the Gunpowder Plot; the worst outbreak of the plague England had ever seen; Arcadian landscapes; murderous, toxic slums; and, above all, of sometimes overwhelming religious passion. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than it had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between the 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" and the English language had come into its first passionate maturity. Boisterous, elegant, subtle, majestic, finely nuanced, sonorous and musical, the English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own reach and scope than any before or since. It is a form of the language that drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book." "The sponsor and guide of the whole Bible project was the King himself, the brilliant, ugly and profoundly peace-loving James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England. Trained almost from birth to manage the rivalries of political factions at home, James saw in England the chance for a sort of irenic Eden over which the new translation of the Bible was to preside. It was to be a Bible for everyone, and as God's lieutenant on earth, he would use it to unify his kingdom. The dream of Jacobean peace, guaranteed by an elision of royal power and divine glory, lies behind a Bible of extraordinary grace and everlasting literary power." "About fifty scholars from Cambridge, Oxford and London did the work, drawing on many previous versions, and created a text which, for all its failings, has never been equaled. That is the central question of this book: How did this group of near-anonymous divines, muddled, drunk, self-serving, ambitious, ruthless, obsequious, pedantic and flawed as they were, manage to bring off this astonishing translation? How did such ordinary men make such extraordinary prose? In God's Secretaries, Adam Nicolson gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the accession and ambition of the first Stuart king; of the scholars who labored for seven years to create his Bible; of the influences that shaped their work and of the beliefs that colored their world, immersing us in an age whose greatest monument is not a painting or a building, but a book."--Jacket.

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