Lord Bragg brings his novelist’s nose for a good story to bear on the dramatic evolution of the King James Bible.
First published in 1611, the Bible was commissioned by James I as a unifying tool to glorify his reign. Drawing heavily on the samizdat translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale (who was executed in 1536 for the heresy of opening up Latin texts), the King James Bible helped standardise the “mongrel English tongue” by dropping its beautiful and powerful phrasing into common usage.
Bragg explores the cultural and linguistic impact of this global bestseller and its pervasive influence on titans of contemporary literature. His Anglican sentiments allow some enjoyably partisan defences, including a sideswipe at Richard Dawkins’ “proselytising” atheism and a lament that current usage has sacrificed the occasionally obscure King James translation on “the bonfire of populism”.
The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011, by Melvyn Bragg, Sceptre £8.99, 354 pages