Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011

Diarmaid MacCulloch writes:

The modern ‘King James’ bible is a Disneyfied reconstruction of the original, dating from the 18th century, when a Cambridge don called Francis Parris seized the 1611 text by the scruff of the neck and in 1743 published his own, Georgian version. This was only slightly modified in 1769 by Benjamin Blayney, an Oxford scholar who has succeeded in taking most of the credit, and their joint effort is what KJB enthusiasts read today. If they are real KJB completists, they have the benefit of the marginal chronology added to the Bible in 1679. This is useful in letting us know that Noah’s flood happened in 2849 bc, and of course, famously, that the creation of the world took place in 4004 bc (thanks to a misplaced piece of ingenuity by the genuinely learned and original historian James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh). All this and much more is well told by Campbell and Norton. Their books are respectively published by Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, since the 17th century not always friendly rivals in publishing the KJB (in Oxford’s case, originally through a dedicated printing company, whose incorporation in OUP remains a useful source of cash for the university). Like the KJB editions published by the two universities, the two books are beautiful to look at; they are written to the highest standards by two acknowledged experts, who despite their respective insights end up saying much the same thing, though Norton has a better index.

(LRB 3 February 2011)

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