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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
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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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Mar 2014 17:48:38 GMT
I was with you until you made a reference to "Richard Dawkin's empty rhetoric" - in my book your review is completely invalidated by such obvious and unwarranted prejudice.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Mar 2014 20:05:26 GMT
Hi Robert,

I can't remember off hand, but I suspect that "Dawkin's empty rhetoric" is a summation of Bragg's position, not simply my view - although it is also my view. Bragg has a whole chapter disagreeing with Dawkins.

Furthermore Dawkins has become a parody that even atheists are embarrassed by - cf comments by atheist Michael Ruse on the publication of the God Delusion and since. His arguments are, to varying degrees, already refuted, incoherent, or inaccurate.

My point is that simply, for a man (Bragg) that has the ability to see the flaws, sweeping assumptions and generalisations in another's writing - I was disappointed that he displayed the same in his own.

Ironically, your invalidation of my review seems to fall foul of the same unwarranted prejudice you cry foul for. I do have an a priori commitment to the word of God - could it be that you have an a priori commitment to the Word of Dawkins? :-)

Happy St Patrick's Day from Ireland


In reply to an earlier post on 15 Mar 2014 21:00:11 GMT
Being an atheist, I don't celebrate St Patrick's Day - not even for the craic. I cannot accept any of your comments on Richard Dawkins as they seem to be wholly based on misrepresentations of his work not on any actual analysis. As an atheist, all others I know and read still deeply respect him and in no sense regard him as a self-parody. That is just wishful thining on your part.
His work is logical, evidence-based and, to the open- minded, completely convincing.
You cite Michael Ruse ( never heard of him) one person whose sheer obscurity doesn't inspire confidence.
Melvin Barg is an intellectual muppet compared to Dawkins - not fit to be mentioned in the same sentence. He has never produced anything (including radio) which wasn't derivative and wholly unenlightening.
Yours in Brightness - Bob R

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Mar 2014 21:02:44 GMT
"thining" a combination of whining and thinking!

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Mar 2014 21:51:04 GMT

You jump to conclusions regarding my views of Dawkins - they may be 'wishful thining' (nice definition) to you but they are the result of reading and listening to him. I find other atheists more compelling, Christopher Hitchens for example, even though I disagree with him too.

As for being open-minded--Dawkin's doesnt even convince his fellow atheists. Michael Ruse is a reasonably prominent atheist, although not as noisy as Dawkins - try his wikipedia page for more info. He has written quite a bit on the philospophy of science - an area where Dawkins is rather weak. Theology being another area, and history.

Anyhow - I have no intention of turning a review on A Melvyn Bragg book into a debate on Dawkins, but let me encourage you to read something contra Dawkins. The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson might be an entertaining and brief place to start--if you can stomach his Christian position--its not the biggest gun in the arsenal, but a useful irritant.

If your atheism is secure, you have nothing to lose. Why not doubt your doubts, question your disbelief? Thats why I read the 'opposition'--to question my belief, to see whether it stacks up or not.

Yours, with his hand on the dimmer switch,

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Mar 2014 12:39:39 GMT
I was going to leave it at that but your last was a bit patronising so here I am again. I'm no 'atheist in a bubble' having heard numerous Christian apologists debate and read them and been sorely disappointed by the lack of intellectual rigour. No substantive or logical arguments: always this appeal to the numinous.
I find Christian apologetics so crushingly boring, moribund and sterile that I lose the will to live after a while.
I think you have unsuccessfully tried to condemn Richard Dawkins with generalised misrepresentations. He argues succinctly, with politeness and gentleness - it's his detractors that get their knickers in a twist and develop hysterical stances.
This is now quite definitely a rant which belies my last point - oh well!
Thanks for this correspondence hidden in the depths of Amazon review comments - very odd! Bob.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Mar 2014 16:41:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Mar 2014 16:42:30 GMT
Hi Bob

No patronisation intended--just iron sharpening iron.

I see no need for me to make detailed accusations against RD - that has been done, non-hysterically, by others - for example David Robertson. As far as I know Amazon wont let me insert a link here, but if you Google 'david robertson letter to dawkins' you should at least be able to read some of the letters ( You'll may find the first "crushingly boring" since it deals with introductory matters, but the second might give you a little of what I might have written here. Second one here -

And Happy Birthday for yesterday.


In reply to an earlier post on 20 Mar 2014 18:16:23 GMT
While I impatiently await my copy of The Dawkins Letters (an aggrandising title if I ever heard one, which is going to reach the parts the whole rest of the christian apologistics could not. I'll leave a quote from a reviewer of the book "Many of the previous Christian reviewers of this book praise David Robertson as "gracious and humble" or some such, whilst lambasting Richard Dawkins as splentitive, vitriolic, ranting, etc. I'm afraid I don't really see a significant difference in tone between the two books. Robertson easily matches Dawkins in terms of scorn and ridicule, and is certainly no slouch when it comes to patronizing condescension, e,g, Robertson derides the question of the origin of God as being at the level of a six-year-old. While he is entitled to that opinion and that response, I do feel obliged to point out that perhaps the reason six-year-olds ask such questions is that it only requires the intellect of a six-year-old to recognise "God has always existed' for the lazy special pleading it is."

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Mar 2014 18:24:51 GMT
Thanks for the birthday greetings. Are you psychic or is it on my profile page? I'll go and look you up now to see what you been buying or reviewing!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Mar 2014 18:30:09 GMT
You don't seem to have read any books challenging Christianity and yet you expect me to read Robertson. You should really question your faith more. Apart from that you like diving and ice cream which can be forgiven.
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Review Details



Mark Loughridge

Location: Letterkenny, Ireland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,367