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15 of 17 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
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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