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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'an entertaining read'
In its 400th anniversary year, the King James Bible has enjoyed plenty of attention already. Others have given us the extraordinary story of how it was translated into English, analysed in depth the richness, origins and impact of its vocabulary, and even attempted to put the whole, 4,000-year history of the Good Book itself into context.

The King James Bible,...
Published on 12 April 2011 by Paul Grainger

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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting narrative but unjustifiable grand claims
This is classic Melvyn Bragg : a charming meander through narrative history which requires no justification. But this genre does not suffice for the claims he makes in this book about the Bible, and more specifically for the King James Version of the Bible. What he offers is a fond eulogy in which he claims huge impact for the KJV, usually a highly positive impact. He...
Published on 27 Nov 2011 by Geoff Crocker


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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'an entertaining read', 12 April 2011
By 
Paul Grainger (Lincoln, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
In its 400th anniversary year, the King James Bible has enjoyed plenty of attention already. Others have given us the extraordinary story of how it was translated into English, analysed in depth the richness, origins and impact of its vocabulary, and even attempted to put the whole, 4,000-year history of the Good Book itself into context.

The King James Bible, argues Melvyn Bragg in his tribute, is a triumph of translation by committee, and he's not just talking about their turns of phrase. It has often been called the Book of Books both in itself and in what it stands for; and since its publication in 1611 it has been the best selling book in the world, and many believe has had the greatest impact on not only literature in general but in particular the Protestant faith.

Bragg asserts that its influence on social movements - particularly involving women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - and politics was profound. It was crucial to the growth of democracy and was integral to the abolition of slavery and it defined attitudes to modern science, education and sex.

For his thesis, Bragg's uses, as one example, Mary Wollstonecraft, who in the late 18th century scandalised polite society with her unconventional living arrangements and radical views, was fired not by the intellectual flames of the Enlightenment, with its belief in the supremacy of reason and rejection of the divine, but by her Christian faith. Moreover, as a lifelong churchgoer and the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, she found her inspiration, Bragg suggests, in the King James Bible.

The Book of Books is aimed at the general reader, be he Christian, non-Christian, of some other religion, or none at all. It contains a feast of information and persuasive argument in support of Bragg's claim that it is the most influential book to be published in the past 400 years. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Book of Books, 6 Oct 2011
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This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
Any book on a religious theme will always have two polarised 'opinion camps': those unquestionably in favour, and those unquestionably not in favour.
However, this book is a revelation because whilst it concerns itself with the Bible, it also encompasses the origin of why it was published, the opposition to its publications (perversely, by the Religious Establishment, who did not want the 'comman man' (or woman) to be able to read, and form their own opinions, but wanted everyone to accept their dogmatic statements).
A most enjoyable read, not just for its religious contents, but for its socialogical study of medieval England, and Europe.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Books, 1 May 2011
By 
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
I have really enjoyed getting to know this book; I was interested in getting acquainted with it after hearing Melvyn Bragg talk about it in one of his radio programmes.

The book takes you through the background of the original translations and the work of such pioneers as Bede, Wycliffe and most importantly, William Tyndale. The idea of a vernacular bible was incredibly revolutionary at the time because it took the word of God out of the hands of the priesthood and ruling classes and put it in the ears and hands of congregations directly. In 1611, it was produced (largely from Tyndale's words in the first half of the 16th Century) as a way of imposing some kind of religious orthodoxy. However, as Bragg's book attests, it has a seismic effect on the culture, politics, language and social attitudes of generations over the subsequent 400 years in the English speaking world and also in the areas colonised by the English speaking world.

The language of the King James version of the Bible is so ingrained into our culture with so many frequently used idioms and phrases having been taken from this version of the Bible. Bragg has traced this language in many great works of literature created since the Bible. It is not just the language, it is also the subject matter of the works created.

Melvyn Bragg also traces the effect of immersion of the bible in thinking driving the protagonists in both the English and American Civil Wars. He looks at the Enlightenment, feminism, abolition of slavery, philanthropy, socialism, education, capitalism, industrialisation and many other intellectual and historical movements and links them to the production and use of the King James version of the Bible.

I was very interested in his chapter in which he looked at Richard Dawkins' brand of atheism. He expresses admiration for Dawkins' intellect but considers his atheism to be unjustified. He is also highly critical of Dawkins' approach in seeking to discredit belief by choosing the most outlandish proselytisers of faith rather than the more reasonable intelligent approaches by people of faith.

This book is not a cold intellectual exercise but a highly opinionated and thoroughly entertaining journey through history and I recommend it highly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Book: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, 21 Aug 2011
By 
Mrs. Diana Holden (Lancashire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
I have just finished reading this book (library copy)and have straightaway ordered two copies as presents for close friends. I was completely riveted to the book, which held me as a reader in the evenings and occupied my thoughts in the day. Melvyn Bragg manages to communicate ideas and attitudes, experiences and feelings in his accessible, honest style of writing in good northern English, which stayed with me as a reader. Some of what he wrote is familiar,and rang bells. He also gave me the chance to consider ideas in fresh ways. The King James Bible has been part of my life from childhood. I'm going on for seventy and it still is. I thought I knew quite a lot about it. Melvyn Bragg has given me more, and I'm grateful for that. I can recommend this book.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Its impact has been immeasurable and it is not over yet.', 5 Jun 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
The year 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), and a number of books have been published as a consequence. In this book, Melvyn Bragg provides a chronology of the development of the KJV, and its impact on culture and society. This is done in three parts: the journey of the KJV from its commissioning to the present day.

Part One `From Hampton Court to New England' is broadly chronological: it places the KJV into its historical context and acknowledges earlier translations, especially the translation by Richard Tyndale which was published in 1526. Melvyn Bragg discusses how the KJV was commissioned, planned and then delivered. Mr Bragg discusses the KJV's journey: across the Atlantic with the `Mayflower'; its use during the English Civil War and then the Restoration; and the Great Awakening in America.

I found Part Two, `The Impact on Culture', the most interesting. The journey of the KJV is extended to encompass language, literature, political thought and science. Melvyn Bragg writes about the influence of the KJV on those who formed the Royal Society in 1660. The KJV is seen as great literature in its own right, has contributed to present-day idiom, and has influenced many writers.

`It all but beggars belief that after all the pounding it has taken, the King James Version is still a source for such great imaginative writers today.'

Melvyn Bragg discusses how the KJV has survived attacks by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and David Hume during the Enlightenment, and this leads him to make a case for how the KJV will survive the so-called New Enlightenment attack by Richard Dawkins and others. This section of the book ends with an account of the KJV's influence on some notable individuals - such as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wilberforce.

In Part Three, `The Impact on Society', the journey encompasses slavery and the Civil War in America, and its political consequences. From a global perspective, the KJV is seen as an important force in education, especially for the first two centuries of its existence. As well, the text is seen as influential in the development of social attitudes: to sex, the place of women and in the development of democracy.

`Democracy, as it took root and developed in Britain and then in America in the seventeenth century, owed an essential debt to the Reformation and to the King James Bible. This could be its greatest achievement.'

This is a compelling read: while there are other aspects (and people) who could have formed part of Melvyn Bragg's discussion, the breadth of the discussion is interesting and informative.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting narrative but unjustifiable grand claims, 27 Nov 2011
By 
Geoff Crocker (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
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This is classic Melvyn Bragg : a charming meander through narrative history which requires no justification. But this genre does not suffice for the claims he makes in this book about the Bible, and more specifically for the King James Version of the Bible. What he offers is a fond eulogy in which he claims huge impact for the KJV, usually a highly positive impact. He claims that the Bible is `one of the fundamental makers of the modern world' which `walks with us in our life today' and `can teach us day-to-day morality' (p5). He seems content that American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have its verses engrained in their gun sights. He suggests that particle research at CERN derives from Biblical principles.

He gives pre-eminence to the King James Version over older and newer versions, despite that being due to the legal monopoly imposed by James 1, which was only lifted in 1905. He even makes the extraordinary claim that decline in church attendance is due to the replacement of the KJV by more modern versions (p129), describing a version in modern English as a `misguided decision' (p83) although of course it was a decision made on the same basis as the KJV ie to render the Bible readable. `Would other versions have had the same impact' he wonders (p230). This is one of his few assertions which is capable of empirical test, which it evidently fails.

His best section is his 17th century coverage, since this relies on Christopher Hill's magnificent `The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution', in which Hill brilliantly makes the case that the Bible's prophetic content on social justice led to the regicide of 1649.

He makes the wide claim that we owe the richness and depth of English language to the Bible, whose words have fed Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Defoe, Swift, Blake, Eliot, Melville, Hawthorne et al. This is true in one sense, but mistaken in another - the Bible did not give rise to the English language, but the language of Chaucer and others gave rise to the English Bible. Even the Enlightenment is subservient to the Bible - `where would the Enlightenment have been without it ? (p182) ; the Enlightenment failed to sweep away the KJV (p193). It `authorised the work of ...early modern scientists' (p111). He would do well to read Roy Porter's excellent `Flesh in the Age of Reason' to see just how devastating the Enlightenment was to Bible concepts. After a brief onslaught on Richard Dawkins, Bragg then gives us a list of social movements - abolition of slavery, education, colonisation, sexual ethics, women's rights, social reform, and democracy - all of which apparently owe their inspiration to the King James Version of the Bible. This is fond speculation, based on a flawed methodology which identifies prime movers in each movement, and claims that they were Bible friendly. Today's younger educated elite is almost Bible illiterate. The great myths and stories are unknown to them. I happen to regret this, but claiming otherwise does not help to rectify it. What merit can be ascribed to a Bible which is highly ambiguous on the issue of slavery, an ambiguity which fed the American civil war which cost over 600,000 lives? Bragg fails to mention the impact of the Judaic Bible on modern Zionism, which inspires the exclusion and persecution of Palestine by the state of Israel, and figures as one of today's worst moral failures.

On page 122, Bragg quotes Alister McGrath writing `In 1407,Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, banned the Bible in English'. It is ironic then that Lord Bragg is a member of a legislature which in 2011 bans the reading of the Bible at civil weddings in the UK. The Church of England, the Bible Society, and the Evangelical Alliance, are all complicit in this ban. It would be eminently fitting in the 400th year of publication of the Bible in English, to revoke this contemporary censorship of the Bible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what it could have been, 30 Sep 2013
By 
Mark Loughridge (Letterkenny, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
This book will amaze, amuse and infuriate you. It has laugh out loud moments, and tear your hair out moments. And that's only at Melvyn Bragg's writing style and commentary on the subject!

I have to say I was looking forward to this book. I love the Bible, and wanted to see Bragg explore the richness of the impact of the King James Version. It all started so well - the first few chapters on history and scene setting were well written, and accurate as far as I can remember. Then it all started to slide downhill.

The book is divided into three parts: The History; the Impact on Culture (Literature and Language); and its Impact on Society. The main strengths are in the first third of the book. the second has just about enough useful information, but the final section is where conflation and inaccuracies multiply.

Turgid, convoluted prose bedevils the text thoroughout. As do pointless pithicisms (I felt I had to coin a word to describe these pithy appendages at the end of otherwise complete sentences. Eg.
- "I look upon all the world," said Wesley, "as my parish." As it was.
- The poverty-stricken King hoped it would generate great wealth. It did.
- This was not an inheritance to be lightly thrown over. Nor was it.

To be fair to Bragg this did become a great source of amusement, causing several 'stop and read out loud' moments. So it did.

Add to that vapid, vacuous statements of the obvious - "[Tyndale's] deep study on Hebrew undoubted enriched his translation" - Who'd have thought that would have been helpful in translating a book from Hebrew?!?!

Those are simply matters of preference and style. But of more substance, Bragg repeatedly conflates the King James Version with Christianity or the Bible in general, attaching grandiose claims to the KJV that properly belong elsewhere. This pervades the whole book.

This tendency leaves him open to making frankly ludicrous claims - that the move away from the magnificent KJV to modern translations has led to the decline of Christianity in the UK, to name just one. I'm surprised that there isnt a claim that global warming is linked to the decrease in reading of the KJV too!

Throughout the book there are basic errors either of factual accuracy or interpretation when it comes to the Bible. When it comes to the chapter on the Bible and Sex, it seems as if it was written on the Tube with no Bible handy to check even basic facts - such as the story of Judah and Tamar. It seems more like he was referring to The Da Vinci Code as a primary source. It seems like that chapter alone has more misrepresentations and basic misunderstandings than the others put together.

For a man who has the ability to see through Richard Dawkins empty rhetoric (chapter 16) it was disappointing to see sloppiness throughout the book. Sadly it robs the book of its power. His lack of grasp of theology and his tendency to look only to liberal scholarship with its easy dismissals of the text, and its imposition of its own meaning, leaves Bragg's book the poorer.

Apart from that the idea was a good one - and there are useful quotes and nuggets of information scattered throughout especially in the chapters on the impact on literature - yet, not knowing much in those fields I am left wondering how much is accurate.

It was a struggle to finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Impact of The King James Bible, lessened!, 6 Feb 2012
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This review is from: The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (Hardcover)
Bragg's "History of the King James Bible" is a fascinating, meticulously researched piece of writing. My problem is that the language he uses often dams the flow of reading and obscures the meaning.

Let me quote you an example: "Above all, above anything, it could not only be argued about, this Book of Books, it could and did embolden argument against itself." (p 86)

Now I understand what he means, but I had to stop and interrogate the text, thus slowing the pace and affecting the flow.

I wonder what audience he had in mind when he wrote it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Present for my husband, 28 Sep 2013
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Comprehensive and easy to read. The unusual subject matter may put people off but it well worth trying and is very informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Bragg's book on the King James Bible, 20 May 2012
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Lord Melin Bragg's book on the King James Bible has been a real eye opener for me. As a devout Christian I have appreciated his non-christian 'outside' stance to the subject. It is valuable as a general sweep of history, but I would advise readers who are serious about an indepth study to look much further than this book. However, as an introduction to the making of, and the influence of the King James Bible in English history, it's still worth the read. Well done!
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