A History of the English Bible as Literature (A History of the Bible as Literature)
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A History of the English Bible as Literature (revised and condensed from the author's acclaimed History of the Bible as Literature CUP, 1993) explores five hundred years of religious and literary ideas. At its heart is the story of how the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed in the entire range of literature." It studies the Bible translators, writers such as Milton and Bunyan who contributed so much to our sense of the Bible, and a fascinating range of critics and commentators.
Testament, , with manuscript additions Whittingham’s Geneva New Testament The first Geneva Bible, Barker’s Geneva quarto Rheims New Testament, Bishops’ Bible, folio King James Bible, . Title page King James Bible, . A page of genealogies King James Bible, . A page of text ix This page intentionally left blank Preface My History of the Bible as Literature () ran to two volumes and made large demands on the reader’s time (and the purchaser’s
stead, an increase of sinful men’ [Num. : ]. ‘What is that that hath been done? that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun’ [Eccles. : ], saith the wise man: and St Stephen, ‘as your fathers did, so do you’ [Acts : ]. (p. ) The first quotation is not quite exactly from the KJB, which reads ‘ye’ rather than ‘you’, the second is independent and the third coincides with Geneva. Though Smith does not quote the originals, it is probable that he thought of the Bible as
Testament, interpreters have not put Hebrew phrases into Latin or English phrases, but only into Latin or English words, and have too often besides, by not sufficiently understanding, or at least considering, the various significations of words, particles and tenses in the holy tongue, made many things to appear less coherent and less rational, or less considerable, which by a more free and skilful rendering of the original would not be blemished by any appearance of such imperfection. (pp. –;
syllable is of such moment) but that either for the measure or the rhyme he shall be sometime forced to let go much of the true meaning of the words’ (p. ). He does not try to get round this by arguing the validity of paraphrase. Rather, he accepts the premise that the Bible should be translated as closely as possible and rejects paraphrase. He reports that, ‘reserving only the proprieties of our language, I have chosen rather to confine myself wholly to the text . . . lest I should seem to
worthwhile to show the kind of results he achieved. Here is his version of Psalm : The Lord my pastor deigns to be, I nothing, now, shall need: To drink sweet springs he bringeth me And on green meads to feed. For his name-sake, my heart he glads, He makes my ways upright: George Wither and the Psalter And, I, the vale of death’s black shades, Can pass without affright. Thy staff, thy presence, and thy rod My joyful comforts are, And thou before my foes (O God) My table shalt prepare,