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The Book of Books: A Biography of the King James Bible, 1611-2011

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The King James Bible is both the standard scriptural text and, for centuries, the bestselling book in the English-speaking world. In this text, Melvyn Bragg reveals the political, linguistic, and religious influences the Bible has had throughout the centuries.


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The King James Bible is both the standard scriptural text and, for centuries, the bestselling book in the English-speaking world. In this text, Melvyn Bragg reveals the political, linguistic, and religious influences the Bible has had throughout the centuries.

30 review for The Book of Books: A Biography of the King James Bible, 1611-2011

  1. 5 out of 5

    Collin

    His argument is poor and his writing is even worse. My main problem with his argument is that he severely overreached. I'm reasonably certain that he has conflated the King James Version of the Bible with the Bible in general. Here's the difference between those two things, via quotations that he cited in his first chapter: "It is the most beautiful piece of writing in any language." VS "The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world." VS "It is impossible r His argument is poor and his writing is even worse. My main problem with his argument is that he severely overreached. I'm reasonably certain that he has conflated the King James Version of the Bible with the Bible in general. Here's the difference between those two things, via quotations that he cited in his first chapter: "It is the most beautiful piece of writing in any language." VS "The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world." VS "It is impossible rightly to govern the world without God and the Bible." The first probably does refer specifically to the KJV, the second might (but I doubt it), and the third certainly does not. So mainly what you end up getting is the radical impact of vernacular translations of the Bible, and in the English speaking world that happens to mainly be the KJV. As for his writing style... For someone who has published primarily fiction--the inner cover lists 22 works of fiction to 10 nonfiction books--he is a shit-poor writer. He is so bad that I felt obligated just now to invent a compound word because no single existing word adequately expressed my feelings about it. Aside from not writing well, he constantly does another thing that drives me crazy. Here are a few examples: "The Geneva Bible was to be banned and it was banned and the sales of the KJV...grew rapidly." "'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." He does this literally dozens if not hundreds of times. It was enough to make me want to stop reading the book. Which I did.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sloane Peterson

    In his 2011 book, The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, Melvyn Bragg attempts to compile a comprehensive yet accessible account of the King James Bible’s impact in history through modernity. He was motivated to start this project in commemoration for the 400th year anniversary of the King James Bible, and as an addendum to his previous book published in 2006, 12 Books That Changed the World (of which Bragg names the King James Bible as one). It is clear from th In his 2011 book, The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, Melvyn Bragg attempts to compile a comprehensive yet accessible account of the King James Bible’s impact in history through modernity. He was motivated to start this project in commemoration for the 400th year anniversary of the King James Bible, and as an addendum to his previous book published in 2006, 12 Books That Changed the World (of which Bragg names the King James Bible as one). It is clear from the beginning of the book that Melvyn Bragg is undoubtedly a very intelligent man- one who is clearly highly skilled in the art of letters. Over his decades-long career as both a novelist and BBC presenter, Bragg has been able to hone his craft as a talented wordsmith. The Book of Books is a very accessible read for a general audience who is curious about the evolution of Christian Biblical interpretation. However, since this book is aimed at the unspecialized audience who likely lacks training in historical analysis, it is severely disappointing that it is a propagandist piece constructed on logic-jumps, plagiarism, and historical falsehoods. Although Bragg has been interviewing expert historians since 1998 through his podcast, In Our Time, this does not make him a historian. His book is easy to consume as a reader, yet no amount of smooth prose can negate the fact that his historical analysis is inaccurate. I shall begin with my accusation of plagiarism against the author. Melvyn Bragg would like to consider himself a historian, especially given his undergraduate degree in modern history from Oxford University. However, if this book was to ever be taken seriously as a historical analysis of the King James Bible’s reception, historians would not hesitate to include detailed citations for their primary sources and argumentations, as well as a comprehensive bibliography for all sources used. However, that is a noticeable absence in Melvyn Bragg’s book. He’ll include famous quotations from figures ranging from George Washington to Thomas Hardy- having included a long passage from his poem, The Oxen- and not give any citation on the page or even in his bibliography. He speaks multiple times throughout his book about the religious connections between Toni Morrison's Beloved, such that it even appears at the beginning of his first chapter analyzing the scope of this Biblical translation, yet he never cites Toni Morrison as an influence in his bibliography. Bragg has even included Biblical quotes from the King James Bible and only given a partial citation. As seen on page on 35, he writes, “This was a man [King James] who wrote a book on demonology and- on Biblical authority, ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ (Exodus)- had ‘witches’ burned to death after questioning them himself at a trial in Edinburgh.” He has taken the time to include that the passage is from Exodus, but not the full citation of ‘Exodus 22:18’. Furthermore, the specific line which Melvyn cites in Exodus was only translated as ‘witch’ versus ‘poisoner’ following the King James Bible’s publication in 1611. However, King James’ Daemonologie was first published in 1597- over a decade before that Biblical line would have been available for popular reference. Given that this book was written in 2011- in the age of the internet- it is disappointing that the author couldn’t Google the quotations’ full citation (or that it got through editing). Although this book is not necessarily meant to act as a reference for historical journals because it is fashioned as a narrative piece, he is inserting long passage quotations as evidence and he needs to give proper citation credit. Regarding his argumentation and the overall structure of the book, it largely falls short of its potential as it spreads itself far too thin, investigating not only 400 years of history but also from America to Africa. It is fully possible to fill an entire book engaging with the scholastic implications of translating the Bible into the vernacular. Bragg could have focused on the theological predecessors of printing the vernacular Bible, or the history of the underground movements of Church reform before Protestantism became popular. He could have focused on why the King James Version was such a groundbreaking piece given the history of religious struggle between the crowns and James’ own mother was a devout Catholic. Yet these are only passing mentions which deserved greater elaboration. Since Bragg organizes his book by themes, rather than chronologically, it repeats itself and is prone to a meandering narration. In particular, chapter sixteen of The Book of Books seems completely extraneous. For fifteen pages, Melvyn Bragg rants about the cultural impact of Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion (2006), and its impact on the growing atheism movement supposedly growing into a cultural epoch. Bragg does not cite any statistics to support this claim. However, although Dawkins’ atheism can be connected to the Bible, Bragg fails to clearly connect it to the King James translation specifically. Furthermore, it also lacks any real relevance to Dawkins because Melvyn admits that “Richard Dawkins scarcely mentions” the impact that the King James Bible had on Protestantism. But why would Dawkins? If his book is centred around the idea that worshipping a God who permits the abuse of women and children, and restricts science by only subscribing to creationism, why would Dawkins simultaneously promote the positive cultural impacts of the Bible? The chapter should have been cut during the editorial stage, yet somehow it made it through to publication. Melvyn Bragg’s book is severely wanting in specific areas of analysis as it floats across large themes over long periods of time. However, it is entirely possible to create a history of the King James Bible spanning across continents and 400 years of history, as demonstrated by Gordon Campbell. On the 28 October 2010, Gordon Campbell’s book, Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 was published by Oxford University Press (Melvyn Bragg’s alma mater). Bragg clearly was heavily influenced by Campbell’s work, as demonstrated throughout his own work, and it is one of the few books listed on Bragg’s select bibliography. The extent of this influence can even be seen in the striking parallels between Bragg’s and Campbell’s opening sentences of their respective introductions. Campbell: “On 20 January 2009, Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office on a copy of the King James Version of the Bible published by Oxford University Press in 1853; it was the same Bible that had been used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861.” Bragg: “In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey. She swore her oath on the King James Bible. This version of the Bible was printed in English in 1611. It was inspired by James I, who was also crowned in Westminster Abbey, 350 years before Elizabeth II.” Just as Campbell had done with his structure, Melvyn imitates by highlighting the foundation laid by early Church reformers, the movement of pilgrims to America, the impact of the Second Great Awakening, and even its subtle impact on Shakespearean performances. Not only is Melvyn Bragg’s work unoriginal in construction, but it is also poorly constructed. Unlike Campbell, who continuously grounds his argumentation in how cultural trends were influenced by the King James Version, Bragg seemingly conflates the King James Bible with ‘the Bible’ in general. This gets him into trouble as he generalizes Protestant theology among widely varying sects of faith. This becomes glaringly obvious as he discusses Puritans using the King James Bible while crossing the Mayflower. This is despite the fact that in general, Puritans preferred the Geneva Bible because of its similarity to Calvinism and they were also against the ‘divine right to rule’ of kings. Yet, Bragg suggests that the Geneva Bible was quite similar to the King James Version because both were likely influenced by Tyndale’s incomplete Biblical translation. Melvyn Bragg even acknowledges that the Geneva Bible’s annotations didn’t support the king’s divine right to rule, yet his work continually contradicts itself. Although Melvyn can spin compelling prose, the actual content of his work shows a lack of historical awareness. This lack of historical awareness- and extended research in general- appears multiple times throughout his book. The greatest risk this presents is that by not fully contextualizing his ‘facts’, it can skew the narrative Bragg is presenting. A prime example is how Bragg praises the superior intellect of a young William Tyndale. He begins, “this became the life purpose of this brilliant boy, who went to Oxford University when he was twelve.” Although this, to a modern readership audience, this would undoubtedly be an astounding feat of genius by a child-prodigy, this was not especially extraordinary at the time. When Tyndale would have been admitted to the university in 1506, twelve would have actually been the average age of matriculation. Additionally, Oxford was still one of two universities open in England at the time. There is no doubt that Tyndale was a highly educated man, but when facts are not contextualized with their historically contemporary surroundings, it fails to paint an accurate picture of the past. Lord Melvyn Bragg of Wigton is a has been a life-long member of the Labour Party, and now serves in Parliament within the House of Lords. While Bragg is able to identify the hint of political agenda behind King James’ translation of the Bible, he needs to improve in identifying his own bias within his historical analysis. Twice in the book, Melvyn dedicates significant portions of his book to the Christian morality behind the Labour movement. Bragg even goes so far as to say during his conclusion, “the birth and growth of the Labour Party- owed more to Methodism than to Marxism”, which is up for historical debate. Although it may not be categorically true or false, he is making sweeping generalizations about entire political movements in a half-sentence without any evidence to support it. This tendency to let his pre-existing biases dominate his narrative is, unfortunately, prevalent throughout his book. Bragg approaches his analysis of the King James Version of the Bible with a narrative that the English language is not only superior but also a potentially civilizing force. This not only presents a progressivist narrative but also promotes a Whiggish interpretation of British history. During the chapter, The Mayflower and the Covenant, Melvyn argues that the English language has been adapting linguistically for a thousand years, yet the settlers preferred their own English words because “[t]hey had the Words of God through His prophets and His Son: what more could they possibly need save a few phrases which speeded up commonplace understanding? [...] But in the beginnings of America, it was very prudent. Perhaps Squanto had spoiled them.” The reasoning Bragg gives for the prominence of the English language slowly dominating as a de-facto language was because of the settler’s commitment to language, first learned through Scripture. However, this also ignores the systematic and violent oppression of Natives as colonial settlers built on Native land, which allowed for English dominance. Melvyn Bragg presents his book as if he is an authority in historical interpretation- this narrative supported by pages of positive reviews of his book before you even begin reading. He pretends to be a historian because he’s been interviewing historians for over twenty years, yet he enters with a progressivist, and frankly Whiggish, outlook on Protestant history. Bragg generalizes theological developments, and he doesn’t think critically or properly engage with scholastic material. When Melvyn Bragg has included ‘evidence’, it is primarily illustrative rather than supportive of any argument, and never properly referenced in citations. This is not a book which should be used in any scholastic citations as a reference because of its glaring inaccuracies and sloppy craftsmanship. Even as a refresher of popular history which might be available for sale at a bookstore, I can find limited virtues about this work. It twists facts to suit its narrative- and that is a misleading history. Bibliography: BBC Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg, [3 March, 2019]. Bragg, Melvyn, The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, (London, 2011). British Council, Melvyn Bragg, [3 March 2019]. British Library, King James VI and I’s Demonology, 1597, [2 March 2019]. Campbell, Gordon, Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011, (Oxford, 2010). Cardozier, V. R., “Student Power in Medieval Universities”, Personnel and Guidance Journal Vol. 46, Issue 10 (1968), pp. 944-948. Norton, David, The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today, (Cambridge, 2011). Penguin, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, [3 March, 2019]. Henderson, Lizanne, Witchcraft and Folk Belief in the Age of Enlightenment: Scotland 1670-1740, (Glasgow, 2016).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brian Robbins

    When Melvyn Bragg presents his "In Our Time" show on Radio 4, he does so very effectively. Each week he presents a discussion with a small group of academics, usually 3, who have expertise in a particular topic. These topics vary considerably ranging through literature, philosophy, various branches of science, history, religion, sociology, anthropology etc, etc. In chairing these discussions, Bragg plays the part of informed Everyman, asking the questions, expressing the kind of generalizations t When Melvyn Bragg presents his "In Our Time" show on Radio 4, he does so very effectively. Each week he presents a discussion with a small group of academics, usually 3, who have expertise in a particular topic. These topics vary considerably ranging through literature, philosophy, various branches of science, history, religion, sociology, anthropology etc, etc. In chairing these discussions, Bragg plays the part of informed Everyman, asking the questions, expressing the kind of generalizations that a non-specialist layman might believe, and which the academics then explain, discuss, bringing to bear their varied views & knowledge, hopefully in interesting, informative & at times challenging discussion. At their best these programmes are very good, enlightening & helping listeners to understand a little more of the complexities & depth of the topic, and Bragg plays his part very well. The big problem I found with his “The Book of Books” was that Bragg took on the same role he plays in “In Our Time” & put it into book form. He asked the questions & stated the often well-worn generalizations about his chosen topics. Unfortunately he did not bring the academic specialists with him, to bring scholarship to bear on his chosen topics. The resulting volume is packed with “soft” material; generalizations that contains many ill-informed & misinformed statements. At times the text reads not simply as badly written history & sociology, but as close on a parody of it. It’s greatest interest is as a document for analysis by future cultural historians, who want an easily accessible overview of popularly held beliefs, well-worn clichés & uncritical thought about a number of cultural, historical & religious issues related to the King James Bible.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

    The King James Bible has spread the Protestant faith. It has also been the greatest influence on the enrichment of the English language and its literature. It has been the Bible of wars from the British Civil War in the seventeenth century to the American Civil War two centuries later, and it has been carried into battle in innumerable conflicts since then. Its influence on social movements—particularly involving women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—and politics was profound. It was c The King James Bible has spread the Protestant faith. It has also been the greatest influence on the enrichment of the English language and its literature. It has been the Bible of wars from the British Civil War in the seventeenth century to the American Civil War two centuries later, and it has been carried into battle in innumerable conflicts since then. Its influence on social movements—particularly involving women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—and politics was profound. It was crucial to the growth of democracy. It was integral to the abolition of slavery, and it defined attitudes to modern science, education, and sex

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Dennis

    In his book, Melvyn Bragg may know the history but he doesn't know the true lessons the Bible teaches. He does a good job of giving us the post-publication history of the KJB as it has progressed through the years and its influence within the world. He is an unbeliever, readily admits it and does not know nor see Biblical truths. He has shown no capability of "rightly dividing the word of truth". He certainly falls for all the illicit passions and false teachings this world has to offer; and if In his book, Melvyn Bragg may know the history but he doesn't know the true lessons the Bible teaches. He does a good job of giving us the post-publication history of the KJB as it has progressed through the years and its influence within the world. He is an unbeliever, readily admits it and does not know nor see Biblical truths. He has shown no capability of "rightly dividing the word of truth". He certainly falls for all the illicit passions and false teachings this world has to offer; and if there is biblical (God) commandment against it, then the Bible is in error. In other words, God is wrong. What arrogance! What foolishness! But in today's world not unexpected. I did enjoy the book, it was informative and thought provoking as could be seen by the margin notes I made in the book

  6. 4 out of 5

    Quinn Rollins

    I love the King James Bible. I know that for many the language makes it difficult to read, and they prefer more recent, modern, accessible translations. For me, part of what I love about it is the archaic language. I find language in general fascinating, and the history of how the English language has changed over time, connections with other languages, and how the expression of ideas changes is something I enjoy learning about. So when I saw Melvyn Bragg's The Book of Books: the Radical Impact I love the King James Bible. I know that for many the language makes it difficult to read, and they prefer more recent, modern, accessible translations. For me, part of what I love about it is the archaic language. I find language in general fascinating, and the history of how the English language has changed over time, connections with other languages, and how the expression of ideas changes is something I enjoy learning about. So when I saw Melvyn Bragg's The Book of Books: the Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, I prepared myself for an educational and enjoyable read. I heard Bragg interviewed on our NPR affiliate, and he came across as entertaining, and I looked forward to reading his book. The 370 page hardcover is a fast read, but it's sadly uneven. The Book of Books is divided into three broad parts: Part One: From Hampton Court to New England, Part Two: The Impact on Culture, and Part Three: The Impact on Society. The first section is Bragg's strongest, where he lays out the process of getting the King James Bible written (translated, collated, and written) in the first place. I don't know a lot about that history, and it was an interesting and often evocative read. The movement of the church to stop an English translation being readily available is laid out. Bragg's contention is that "Language can be a means of control. It has always been used and abused by those claming omnipotence. The medieval Roman Church's mission was to impose recognition of its omnipotence the world over." This mission was undermined by the sacrifices of men like William Tyndale who gave their very lives in pursuit of translating the Bible...it was astonishing to learn about the amount of bloodshed that tried to prevent an English Bible from making it into print. Bragg's background is more in the literary world than as a historian, and his arguments aren't as clearly drawn as I would have hoped. He includes chapters about the influence of the Bible on the English language, with the King James Bible providing "a standard and a stability for what was considered to be the best possible English literary language." The King James Bible joins Shakespeare in this as an examplar, and Bragg spends a lot of time on the words, phrases, and characterizations that are laid out in the Bible. Some of those chapters get more into literary analysis, poetic license and opinion than I'm used to in history books, but gave me food for thought. Bragg seems to have two gross missteps as far as I'm concerned: one is a chapter where he goes off on a tangential rant against Richard Dawkins and his "New Enlightenment" of atheism. The author rambles on for fifteen pages about Dawkins' crusade against religion, but doesn't really connect that with Bragg's central ideas about the King James Bible. It delves into matters of faith and belief, and the perceived condescension of Dawkins' followers toward any and all religions. Even if Bragg is right, it seemed very out of place in this particular book. The other misstep is also later in the book: Bragg uses the King James Bible to represent all bibles, all Christianity. He writes about the emancipation of slaves in England and in the United States, and writes about the role that Christianity played in both enforcing slavery and fighting against it. But he doesn't draw a clean cause-effect relationship between the King James Bible and the slavery movement. This was a fast read, and there are some good ideas about the King James Bible and its role in shaping the English language. But the chapters that deal with the role that the Bible has had in shaping history end up circling back on themselves with no real destination. I still recommend the book to people who are fans of the language of the King James Bible...but it's certainly not for everybody.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    "The Book of Books" was published in 2011, 400 years after the King James Version of the Bible was first published. Outside of Shakespeare, few works in the English language have been nearly so long-lasting. There are still quite a few people who insist the King James Version is the ONLY valid translation of the Bible, as if God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in King James English. The strongest chapters in "The Book of Books" are the early chapters that talk about how the translation came ab "The Book of Books" was published in 2011, 400 years after the King James Version of the Bible was first published. Outside of Shakespeare, few works in the English language have been nearly so long-lasting. There are still quite a few people who insist the King James Version is the ONLY valid translation of the Bible, as if God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in King James English. The strongest chapters in "The Book of Books" are the early chapters that talk about how the translation came about and the chapters on the influence of the King James Version on English literature. On the other hand, the chapter that attempts to rebut Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion") seems as if it was written for another book. And it's a weak rebuttal, at that. And in the latter chapters of "The Book of Books," I was starting to wonder if the author had read the Bible himself. For instance, in the chapter on "The Bible and Sex," he devotes three paragraphs to a woman named Judith. "Judith, a wealthy and beautiful widow, leaves the town at night, seeks out the leader of the army, Holofernes (perhaps by posing as a prostitute?)," he writes. "She makes him drunk, hacks off his head, returns to the town and displays the severed head on the ramparts. The Persians panic; the Israelites charge out and slaughter them." Good stuff. But here's the thing: It's not in the Bible. The only mention of any Judith in the Bible is in Genesis 26:34, and it says nothing about hacking off a head. "When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hiitite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite," that verse tells us. The next verse reports that both women were "a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah," then drops the subject. The same chapter perpetuates the nonsense that, because the Bible says "David loved Jonathan," they must have been homosexual lovers. When the Bible talks about sexual intercourse, it does so in unambiguous language. ("So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose." -- Genesis 19:33 "Then David sent messengers, and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from impurity; and she returned to her house." -- 1 Samuel 11:4) The Bible uses the word "love" in several ways, even including romantic love. ("Now Jacob loved Rachel, and he said, 'I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.'" -- Genesis: 29:18) But I can't think of a single instance where it uses the word "love" as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. That dog won't hunt. "The Book of Books" is 347 pages long but feels longer. At about Page 250, I was ready to be done with it. I think it could have stopped around Page 250 and left out the Richard Dawkins chapter (Pages 194-209) to boot. Writing this book to time it with the 400th anniversary of the KJV was a nice idea, but I think it had the wrong author.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steve Walker

    In the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the KJV Bible comes a book that starts out well then loses steam. Melvyn Bragg is a well known author, tv/radio presenter, and personality in the UK."The Book of Books" is really a long essay on the history and cultural impact of the KJV. Bragg starts off strongly with a history of how the KJV came to be. The first serious problem with the book is the lack of footnotes. It would be nice to know what he read. He alludes to several authors in the vari In the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the KJV Bible comes a book that starts out well then loses steam. Melvyn Bragg is a well known author, tv/radio presenter, and personality in the UK."The Book of Books" is really a long essay on the history and cultural impact of the KJV. Bragg starts off strongly with a history of how the KJV came to be. The first serious problem with the book is the lack of footnotes. It would be nice to know what he read. He alludes to several authors in the various chaptes but one is left guessing as to the book. There is also the lack of understanding of the impact of the KJV on the local church since Bragg is not a professional historian, anthropologist, or believing Christian. Some chapters are down right wishy-washy, example the chapter on Richard Dawkins. This could have been a very good book if the author had invested more time in research and reading. It has the feeling of being rushed, like an essay due the next day. Too bad.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I genuinely can’t tell what the focus of this book is. There is a completely irrelevant chapter denouncing Richard Dawkins, stuff about language, history and slavery. MB doesn’t have a bibliography which makes me doubt the rigour of his research. He also speaks in dangerous general statements: “people thought... slaves did X ... Protestants believed ...” without backing up his claims with specific names or quotes. This seems insufficient even in a work of popular history. It wouldn’t be sufficien I genuinely can’t tell what the focus of this book is. There is a completely irrelevant chapter denouncing Richard Dawkins, stuff about language, history and slavery. MB doesn’t have a bibliography which makes me doubt the rigour of his research. He also speaks in dangerous general statements: “people thought... slaves did X ... Protestants believed ...” without backing up his claims with specific names or quotes. This seems insufficient even in a work of popular history. It wouldn’t be sufficient for a Wiki page or GCSE coursework. It rapidly descended into unfocused miscellanies after the early chapters. Bragg’s sentences either have too many clauses, or are fragmented. Far too hyperbolic about the KJV’s influence, conflating the KJV with all bibles. I wanted to like this but steadily became confused, then bored, then annoyed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    Bragg leads his readers on a tour of the best and worst inspired by the King James Bible, those who fight it and those who are inspired by it, arguing it as a shaping force, still and yet, in the English-speaking world. What was an attempt at consolidating control (James I wanted to sponsor a translation to get rid of the translations concerned with monarchial tyranny) became a tool of authority and antiauthoritarians, reformers and liberators, slavers and the formerly enslaved, and continues to Bragg leads his readers on a tour of the best and worst inspired by the King James Bible, those who fight it and those who are inspired by it, arguing it as a shaping force, still and yet, in the English-speaking world. What was an attempt at consolidating control (James I wanted to sponsor a translation to get rid of the translations concerned with monarchial tyranny) became a tool of authority and antiauthoritarians, reformers and liberators, slavers and the formerly enslaved, and continues to be argued and important in the lives of many. Recommended, and, if you haven't read the King James Version of the Bible yet, pick up a copy to reflect upon while reading Bragg on the Book of Books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Parker

    Melvyn Bragg has demonstrated that he has a firm grip on the subject. For students of theology, this book will sit well on your bookshelf and could be a welcome aid to your studies. For students of English history, this is almost like a summary of 400 years: it's a must. American history? It virtually began with the Pilgrim Fathers, determined to take the Word of God to the Americas. From King James 1st. to President Obama, the King James Bible has been an influential companion and witness to ev Melvyn Bragg has demonstrated that he has a firm grip on the subject. For students of theology, this book will sit well on your bookshelf and could be a welcome aid to your studies. For students of English history, this is almost like a summary of 400 years: it's a must. American history? It virtually began with the Pilgrim Fathers, determined to take the Word of God to the Americas. From King James 1st. to President Obama, the King James Bible has been an influential companion and witness to events that have changed the world. I have no hesitation in recommending this tome.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karin Pearson

    I quite enjoyed this book. The back cover states it is of interest to believers, non-believers, or people of different religions - but I did feel this was written from the authors own experience and a christian perspective. It begins with the accounts of the early translators from Latin to English and how the KJB became accessible to all people. Also the impact (both good and bad) the KJB has had due to people being able to read the bible for themselves and the different ways it can be interpret I quite enjoyed this book. The back cover states it is of interest to believers, non-believers, or people of different religions - but I did feel this was written from the authors own experience and a christian perspective. It begins with the accounts of the early translators from Latin to English and how the KJB became accessible to all people. Also the impact (both good and bad) the KJB has had due to people being able to read the bible for themselves and the different ways it can be interpreted. The later chapters explain the changing face of society over the years and the social implications of the KJB. A really interesting read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gerard Hogan

    As you would expect from Bragg a wonderfully researched account of the journey the King James Bible through the last 400 years. It's use and justification for good and ill by various different players in history. I did however feel the book was a little too long (not as long as the Bible obviously!!). I enjoyed it and I do need to read more Bragg, maybe some fiction next time. As you would expect from Bragg a wonderfully researched account of the journey the King James Bible through the last 400 years. It's use and justification for good and ill by various different players in history. I did however feel the book was a little too long (not as long as the Bible obviously!!). I enjoyed it and I do need to read more Bragg, maybe some fiction next time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    I am a big fan of the King James Bible and the history around it, also a fan of the author. I think he sometimes overstated the reach of the KJV or combined the KJV with all Bibles, but still a really interesting read

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kira Huiqi Ho

    Simple read for general knowledge.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Field

    A good introduction to the history of one of the most important books in history. Use it as a stepping stone onto more in-depth works

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mark Loughridge

    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 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘Its impact has been immeasurable and it is not over yet.’ 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 ‘Its impact has been immeasurable and it is not over yet.’ 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

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I thought this book was well documented, well researched, and thoroughly interesting. it documents how the Bible came to be translated through self-sacrificing martyrs and through the work of a few men. Then it goes on to discuss to great deths the impact having the bible written into a language anyone and everyone can read and understand has had throughout the ages. It discussees events you have heard of and often don't fully understand and gives you a new way of looking at them and a clear rea I thought this book was well documented, well researched, and thoroughly interesting. it documents how the Bible came to be translated through self-sacrificing martyrs and through the work of a few men. Then it goes on to discuss to great deths the impact having the bible written into a language anyone and everyone can read and understand has had throughout the ages. It discussees events you have heard of and often don't fully understand and gives you a new way of looking at them and a clear reason why they might have come about. The language is discussional, and while Melvyn doesn't talk like he believes 100% in the bible or lives his life for it, he acknowledges the impact it has had, and acknowledges the importance of the bible in other people's lives and the impact personally on each person despite their rank, race, or reason. It is an unbiased account, and the only place I felt he went a little on the defensive is when he talked/ defended the bible against the book "The God Delusion" He says that this other book is under researched, extremely biased, and belittles people particularly people of other than english race as having irrelevant beliefs. Melvyn defends 'the little person' as having their own reasons for their beliefs and talks about how short sighted the writer of the god delusion is for only seeing the surface layer of religion, traditions, and belief systems. Thoroughly enlightening. Makes you want to pull out your bible and check it against history. Awesome in fact.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris Walker

    I have a copy of the King James Bible which my mother was given by her mother in 1931. I was given other "modern" versions of the Bible in my childhood by my conscientious Godfather (The Good News Bible and the New English Bible) and bought a Catholic Bible (The Jerusalem Bible) when I discovered that the Protestant Bible doesn't include the books of Tobit, Judith, Esther and 1st and 2nd Book of Maccabees which are considered Apocrypha. (What's that all about?) So I'm pretty versed in the Bible I have a copy of the King James Bible which my mother was given by her mother in 1931. I was given other "modern" versions of the Bible in my childhood by my conscientious Godfather (The Good News Bible and the New English Bible) and bought a Catholic Bible (The Jerusalem Bible) when I discovered that the Protestant Bible doesn't include the books of Tobit, Judith, Esther and 1st and 2nd Book of Maccabees which are considered Apocrypha. (What's that all about?) So I'm pretty versed in the Bible but it is the King James version which I remember and like many people can recite Psalm 23 from it by heart. (And much of the spoof - "The Lord and I are in a sheep/shepherd situation"). I guess I was expecting more from this book. It's quite interesting but Melvyn Bragg needs a better editor as he is repetitive and too much of an apologist for the Anglican Church. I found his saying things over and over "don't make 'em so". Nevertheless there are interesting history lessons in this book about the (inevitable?) consequences for the English monarchy of allowing the people to read their own sacred texts in their own language. I hadn't heard the speculation about whether Shakespeare wrote Psalm 46 ("Be still and know that I am God") either. While Bragg made some good points, the section attacking The God Delusion and its author seemed out of place in this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This was an interesting read and Bragg does make a good case for the King James Version of the bible being one of the most influential books ever written. The King James Version was the book that influenced many of the social movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly those aimed at ending poverty. It was also the book that helped to convice William Willberforce, among others that slavery was wrong although quite why they would need any book to tell them this I don't know.However durin This was an interesting read and Bragg does make a good case for the King James Version of the bible being one of the most influential books ever written. The King James Version was the book that influenced many of the social movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly those aimed at ending poverty. It was also the book that helped to convice William Willberforce, among others that slavery was wrong although quite why they would need any book to tell them this I don't know.However during the American Civil War both sides would use the King James Version to justify their position, and it was also used to attempt to control people by telling them how they should live their lives especially when it came to sex. As for Bragg's book, while it is an enjoyable read if I could have I would have given it two and a half stars instead of three. This is for two reasons, firstly given that he claims that this version of the bible is one of the most influential books of all time he gives very few pages to the actual creation of this book and secondly there were some, lets be charitable and call them typos, that really should have been picked up on before the book went to the printer - the most obvious one being when George Eliot changes sex within the space of a few sentences.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Louise Armstrong

    This was not as enjoyable as I thought it was going to be. For one thing, MB caught a dose of rhetoric from the Bible, I think, because his writing was tripled on every occasion possible and he went nuts with the metaphors, which made it really hard to follow the historical and political sections. Perhaps it would have worked as a voice over TV pictures. I've never read a book of his before. I did better puzzling out the literature sections because I'm more familiar with the subject matter. His a This was not as enjoyable as I thought it was going to be. For one thing, MB caught a dose of rhetoric from the Bible, I think, because his writing was tripled on every occasion possible and he went nuts with the metaphors, which made it really hard to follow the historical and political sections. Perhaps it would have worked as a voice over TV pictures. I've never read a book of his before. I did better puzzling out the literature sections because I'm more familiar with the subject matter. His arguments had odd leaps in the logic here and there, and it wasn't very coherent towards the end, but he does make some interesting points. I think he's very sound on understanding that things were different in the past, and we should understand what life was like for them before judging. The bible was important in its day and it had an impact that can be still measured. I also think he puts his finger on the reasons why I can't take much Stephen Dawkins: he's not kind, and he doesn't understand that people can feel differently. However, I have not changed my opinion of the bible, even the beautifully written King James version, which I'm glad I grew up with. I still think that it is contradictory and full of bad morality.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    I absolutely love the King James Version of the Bible. It is the Bible I carry with me every Sunday, where I scribble notes in the margins and underline verses as my pastor speaks. This truly should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me, given the genres I enjoy reading most. The language itself is so beautifully simple - I suppose to me at least, and I enjoy wondering what it would've been like to live in the time when people spoke this way. That being said, this book, about the Bible I love I absolutely love the King James Version of the Bible. It is the Bible I carry with me every Sunday, where I scribble notes in the margins and underline verses as my pastor speaks. This truly should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me, given the genres I enjoy reading most. The language itself is so beautifully simple - I suppose to me at least, and I enjoy wondering what it would've been like to live in the time when people spoke this way. That being said, this book, about the Bible I love so much, was kind of a disappointment. Bragg's writing is fine, but the arguments got repetitive at times. I enjoyed the first section in regards to history, and the specific chapters relating to women in the bible found in section 3, but overall it just wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I am not sure I can even pinpoint quite what is off about it for me. It's a comprehensive and researched text, it's not a difficult read, and I hesitate to use the word boring, but... Still, I can recommend it for those who enjoy the KJV, and are interested in its cultural and societal impact over the last 400 years.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Beranek

    The radical impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 2011: (P/R) The veteran broadcaster starts with a thrilling blow by blow account of the bravery and vitriol of the gestation and birth of the KJB supplemented by a lucky airing of his documentary on surely England’s greatest martyr William Tyndale. After that it became rather academic with chapters on the role of the book in various areas of life. He seems a typically timid Anglican and in danger I believe like many or his generation of Christ The radical impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 2011: (P/R) The veteran broadcaster starts with a thrilling blow by blow account of the bravery and vitriol of the gestation and birth of the KJB supplemented by a lucky airing of his documentary on surely England’s greatest martyr William Tyndale. After that it became rather academic with chapters on the role of the book in various areas of life. He seems a typically timid Anglican and in danger I believe like many or his generation of Christians to have mistaken the huge power of this work for some kind of linguistic magic of the early modern style of the KJV; he has no thought for the need to communicate the message in contemporary English. He talking about the impact of Bible as intellectual property, but confounds this with the particular turns of phrase of the KJV. Rather I believe the countless benefits of the KJV he alludes to were not ultimately thanks the 15C translators, but the real credit rests with GOD alone. I think Tyndale would have agreed with me. Read also A.N.Wilson's more economical & artful book on the impact of the Bible: 'The Book of the People: How to read the Bible' 2015.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

    The King James Bible is such a well known book that in some ways it has become invisible. Melvyn Braggs purpose here is to show its importance as a pivotal point of English, Western European and world history. Previously the impetus for change in history had been factors of agriculture, warfare, population growth and rule by elites. This was the first huge information revolution comparable to the creation of writing centuries before. Before Gutenberg the slow accumulation of knowledge was held The King James Bible is such a well known book that in some ways it has become invisible. Melvyn Braggs purpose here is to show its importance as a pivotal point of English, Western European and world history. Previously the impetus for change in history had been factors of agriculture, warfare, population growth and rule by elites. This was the first huge information revolution comparable to the creation of writing centuries before. Before Gutenberg the slow accumulation of knowledge was held by small numbers who could read and worked for monarchy. In 1611 England anyone who could read could examine and question what the Authority of the church and the King truly was. The floodgates were opened. Not long after "science" became a force for change that rivaled the power of the Church. It's amazing how scientific inquiry was helped by debate, conflict and ideas shaped from The king James Bible. A great read for anyone interested in science, religion, literature, culture and life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian Smith

    My favourite author (just about - it was Credo that got me going) writing about my favourite book (though I read the NIV in preference to the KJV). So this ought to be a masterpiece - right?? Well, sad to say, it isn't. His love for the Bible is transparent, and the history is truly remarkable. But I found that after a few chapters, I was reading the same thing over and over again, the same arguments, the same background, the same analysis. It was as if he had a few very valid and enormously imp My favourite author (just about - it was Credo that got me going) writing about my favourite book (though I read the NIV in preference to the KJV). So this ought to be a masterpiece - right?? Well, sad to say, it isn't. His love for the Bible is transparent, and the history is truly remarkable. But I found that after a few chapters, I was reading the same thing over and over again, the same arguments, the same background, the same analysis. It was as if he had a few very valid and enormously important points to make, but felt that he needed a book of some substance to justify making them. I confess I stopped reading at page 246, so this is only a partial review, and perhaps in time I will return to it. But for now, I will simply recommend that you read Part 1, which is superb, and then decide whether you want to continue with Parts 2 and 3. It might be enough. It was for me. And no, I never did finish it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Really interesting book where Melvin Bragg passionately describes firstly the events surrounding the attempts (and final success) in translating the Bible into the vernacular, followed by the impact the King James Bible has had on the English speaking world (literature, politics, society and religion to name but a few). The impact on literature was difficult for me to follow having not read the KJV yet myself, nor many of the books cited, but Bragg's enthusiasm and insights led me to start readin Really interesting book where Melvin Bragg passionately describes firstly the events surrounding the attempts (and final success) in translating the Bible into the vernacular, followed by the impact the King James Bible has had on the English speaking world (literature, politics, society and religion to name but a few). The impact on literature was difficult for me to follow having not read the KJV yet myself, nor many of the books cited, but Bragg's enthusiasm and insights led me to start reading the KJV this year and I'm learning a lot from doing so (I wish I'd have read the Book sooner!). The impact of the Bible on society is far reaching and this book looked at a broad range of these situations. I've gained a whole new appreciation of its influence from reading this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    I am still unclear even after partway through this book what made the King James version in particular what it was and why it was so popular! Bragg makes all sorts of superficial comparisons with the Geneva Bible but doesn't really elaborate why the King James version won over, other than ot was to do with the king of the day. But to me, that has more to do with the desire for power and control. Also, there are several references to several innovators like Tyndale having set the pace and that th I am still unclear even after partway through this book what made the King James version in particular what it was and why it was so popular! Bragg makes all sorts of superficial comparisons with the Geneva Bible but doesn't really elaborate why the King James version won over, other than ot was to do with the king of the day. But to me, that has more to do with the desire for power and control. Also, there are several references to several innovators like Tyndale having set the pace and that the Bible was a very important book as It is anyway, so it seems a bit pointless to say that the King James version was the be all and end all. superficially interesting enough but doesn't really elaborate on the great depths of discussion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    I've given thus four stars. It too often confuses the Scriptures themselves with the particular translation in view. It is also less then accurate on some other theological issues. So why the rating? Well, I like the author's style. And his enthusiasm for the language of the AV is still understatement, even if he sometimes ought means something more than the English translation. I also like the various ways he came at the influence of this book. For though admittedly liberal in places it did a fin I've given thus four stars. It too often confuses the Scriptures themselves with the particular translation in view. It is also less then accurate on some other theological issues. So why the rating? Well, I like the author's style. And his enthusiasm for the language of the AV is still understatement, even if he sometimes ought means something more than the English translation. I also like the various ways he came at the influence of this book. For though admittedly liberal in places it did a fine job of informing the reader of the power of the language of this translation in our recent English-speaking history. Liked it a lot.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Terese

    I enjoyed The Book Of Books. The KJV is my favorite so I was thoroughly engrossed by part 1. Part 2 also carried a lot of interest but here the ice starts to get thinner and by part 3 I feel that one has almost completely lost the connection to the KJV itself unless one stretches the imagination. The topics are still very interesting (If repetitive of other literature on the subject) and well worth reading bit might have fitted better in another Book. I appreciate what Bragg tries to do but with I enjoyed The Book Of Books. The KJV is my favorite so I was thoroughly engrossed by part 1. Part 2 also carried a lot of interest but here the ice starts to get thinner and by part 3 I feel that one has almost completely lost the connection to the KJV itself unless one stretches the imagination. The topics are still very interesting (If repetitive of other literature on the subject) and well worth reading bit might have fitted better in another Book. I appreciate what Bragg tries to do but with a near to endless amount of revised modern editions it is hard to pinpoint the exact influence of the KJV itself.

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