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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Render unto Crystal..., 18 April 2011
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This review is from: Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language (Hardcover)
Having never read any of other Crystal's works, I came to this with a fairly fresh pair of eyes. As other reviewers have noted, the book is broken down into tiny, bitesize chapters, making it a great coffee table book that can be dipped into. There is no running narrative, so it doesn't matter where you choose to start from (so long as you've read the introduction first).

Now I must confess to reading this from a certain angle; I'm a Christian, and have always been interested in the accuracy of translations of the Bible, as well as the history of how the collection of books (because it is not very accurate to refer to the compendium as a single book) was compiled. Now Crystal is not a theologian, so there is no real analysis comparing the KJV to such sources and the Masoretic Scripts or the Septuagint or any particular comment on what is a 'good' translation. Instead, what we have are numerous examples of how phrases found in the KJV have found their way into the English vernacular, as well as possible reasons for why they have stuck.

Crystal's hypothesis is that the dominant factor is rhythm, and this is noted by looking at some earlier English translations of the Bible (which were banned by the catholic church) such as Wycliffe where the wording differed slightly and seeing which version caught on. The style of the book is quite repetitive, which could make for a dull reading if going through it cover to cover. Rather, I preferred to dip into it and just do a couple of chapters a day, intermittent with other reading.

That said, I did enjoy it a lot and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the English language. Crystal's sources are very broad and include numerous references to online blogs. It may be questioned whether some of the modern cultural references will stand the test of time as well as the idioms discussed are, and I got the distinct impression that this was meant to be read at this time (the 400th anniversary of the publication of KJV).
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Sep 2011 00:19:34 BDT
Banditqueen says:
Good review, but I have to point out that the earlier versions were banned by both the Catholic and the Orthodox (East and West) for very good reasons, they were inaccurate and they were written with the emphasis on the authors own political and theological ideals; putting emphasis on certain words and phrases in a way that detracted from the original and true meaning. The Protestant Church if you will also remember, banned and withdrew books from the Bible, as they were not in the Septuagint, or that was the argument as they were in as an appendix and in the first version of the Septuagint. They also almost removed the Book of James, under Luther as it supported the theology of doing good works as well as faith, so it was just as well the scholars that put together the King James took a fresh look at these issues. They drew from many older versions, including the Catholic Latin Vulgate, the commentaries of Jewish as well as German and Spanish medieval scholars, they used the Tyndale and the Matthew Bibles and they also used the Douii Rhemes Hebrew Bible. They were divided about including the Apocrapha but they agreed in the end to bring the Books together and put them in the centre in the first version.

What I like about the King James is that it uses poetic English and is rythmetic in its delivery which has something to do with why the words remain in our language and are so popular. This was a technique used by the Hebrew writers of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and it helps you to recall and remember things better. The English it uses is high quality and it is more academic than every day English, but it has a way of moving the reader in a way that some older versions seem to have lost. It was written amongst controversial circumstances as many books are; with the Geneva being the main Bible and the Bishops Bible a very unsatisfactory version, and King James did not like the Geneva as it had all sorts of notes that put kings down and even allowed people to disobey leaders. He also did not like the Bishops Bible as it watered down true translations that gave the meaning substance as it also meant that the original meaning was lost. Example 'Cast your bread upon the waters' in the Bishop's Bible becomes "Wipe your palms on wet faces" which is a nonsense. The King James puts the meaning back again.
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