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By David Norton

A heritage of the English Bible as Literature (revised and condensed from the author's acclaimed heritage of the Bible as Literature CUP, 1993) explores years of spiritual and literary rules. At its center is the tale of ways the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed within the complete diversity of literature." It reports the Bible translators, writers reminiscent of Milton and Bunyan who contributed rather a lot to our feel of the Bible, and a desirable diversity of critics and commentators.

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Extra resources for A History of the English Bible as Literature (A History of the Bible as Literature)

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The manner of English translation was a fundamental issue of the Reformation. Though this attempt to make the English Bible latinate, ecclesiastical and majestic failed, anxiety about the proper use of the Bible persisted. Henry VIII’s proclamation of  warns lay readers that they should not ‘presume to take upon them any common disputation, argument or exposition of the mysteries therein contained, but that every such lay man should humbly, meekly and reverently read the same for his own instruction, edification and amendment of his life’ (Pollard, p.

Ar) was for ‘teaching true writing, and understanding of hard usual English words, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greek, Latin or French’ (title). ‘Hard usual’ is the significant collocation. Cawdray thinks of these words as inkhorn terms (fol. Ar), yet almost all of them are now familiar English. As the title goes on it becomes clear that he thinks of this mild inkhornism as a particular difficulty in religious matters: ‘whereby [unskilful persons] may the more easily and better understand many hard English words which they shall hear or read in Scriptures, sermons or elsewhere’.

The official Bibles, then, encourage a studiously devout reading of the Bible without hinting at pleasure of any sort. Cranmer is relatively liberal in his belief in the Bible’s comprehensibility and so more encouraging towards private study than Parker, who prefers the Bible to be for the clergy, allowing them to teach the people better. Cranmer’s readers, it seems, should pore over the very detail of the text, while Parker’s lay readers should look to the Church in preference to the Bible. Parker develops Tyndale’s wish to have his work corrected and Coverdale’s advocation of a variety of translations into a new point in the address preceding the Psalms: Now let the gentle reader have this Christian consideration within himself that, though he findeth the psalms of this translation following not so to sound agreeably to his ears in his wonted words and phrases as he is accustomed with: yet let him not be too much offended with the work, which was wrought for his own commodity and comfort.

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