The King James Bible after 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic and Cultural Influences

Article excerpt

The King James Bible after 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic and Cultural Influences. Edited by Hannibal Hamlin and Norman W. Jones. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, Pp. xii, 364. $32.99, paper.)

This engaging collection of essays is a major contribution from Cambridge University Press to the celebrations surrounding the fourhundredth anniversary of the King James Bible (KJB). It sits usefully in conversation with titles from Oxford University Press for the same anniversary, such as Gordon Campbell's Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011 (2010) which documents the publication history of the KJB over four centuries, and David Crystal's Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language (2010) which details the KJB's linguistic provenance and legacy. The editors' introduction to The King James Bible after 400 Years names the scope of the book concisely as the "reception history" of the King James Bible.

Stephen Prickett's essay on "The King James Steamroller" highlights not so much the particular words or phrases which the KJB has given the English language, but the version's creation of a "Church English." Inheritors of Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer might wish to debate the relative influences of that earlier book and the KJB on "Church English" over the centuries since. Robert Alter 's delightful chapter on the "glories and the glitches" of translation in the KJB's version of the book of Ecclesiastes is the only other linguistically focused essay in the section devoted to the language of the KJB.

In the section on the "history of the KJB," there are chapters on the materiality of English printed bibles, on Antwerp Bible translations and their contribution to the KJB, and on Philip Doddridge's eighteenthcentury expositions of the KJB for a popular readership through The Family Expositor. Paul C. Gutjahr provides a much-needed analysis of the "dethroning" of the KJB by other translations in recent decades in the United States and the emergence of "niche" bibles. …