Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible, 1611-2011

Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible, 1611-2011 - Melvyn Bragg I liked this book, with reservations. Its purpose is to consider the many ways the King James Bible has influenced our culture and world, using the 400th anniversary of its printing as the reasonable excuse. Melvyn Bragg does not write as a believer - he's open about his point of view here, and I don't think his beliefs disqualify him from the task. Though not one who trusts the Bible as true, Bragg openly confesses his debt to the KJB, and the the culture and world it created. In this way, 'The Book of Books' is a riposte to the angry and myopic 'religion ruins everything' chant that sounds in some circles. There are three sections. Roughly: the formation of the KJB, its influence on culture, and on society. As such, there's coverage of the history of this book, including the sizeable back story (William Tyndale, and all that), as well as matters that are a current as today. The research is very wide in scope: English history, US history, early science, language and literature, the enlightenment, social change, slavery, education, etc. One of the finest chapters, for example, is the last one, on the KJB and democracy. One glaring omission, in my view, is the Bible and modern science - Bragg limits himself to early modern science (around the time of the Royal Society, 1660). Despite these good points, there were a number of evident weaknesses. At times Bragg's views are intellectually lazy, or show no deep engagement with Christian theology and history. The most grating for me was the oft-repeated dichotomy between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. That's not thoughtful or informed, it's just lazy and a caricature. There are other slips too: he writes of missionaries who want to translate the scriptures into many languages 'from the KJB' (surely from the original languages!); he assumes the Bible to be 'contradictory' without argument, or interaction with those who think otherwise; etc. Overall, though, worth a read, to see some of the power unleashed by printing the Bible in the common tongue.

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