Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Recommendation - "God's Secretaries"

Tonight we have moved our regular Wednesday night services to Fordsville Baptist Church in order to listen to Dr. Chad Owen Brand talk about the history of the translating of the King James Version.  It is a fascinating story and I strongly encourage everyone to join us tonight in Fordsville for this fascinating conversation.  I preparation of that, I want to repost an old review I wrote on an important book on the translation of the King James Version called "God's Secretaries."  I highly recommend the book.

The review is a little dated, but the point is still made.

My pastor preaches from the King James Bible. Whenever he had open heart surgery and was spending a lot of time recovering unable to do much I gave him a copy of the book, "God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible." I always thought that the book would be interesting to read, and so, once I found it for real cheap at a used bookstore, I thought I might read it. And I am glad that I did.

I am not a KJV-only kind of person. The KJV has a lot of flaws. Perhaps the two biggest flaws it has are first, it's language (my favorite verse coming from John 11:39, "by this time he stinketh") and secondly, it's use of bad manuscripts (it was the best they had at the time, but since then, we have been able to uncover a more accurate Bible). Therefore, I do not teach or preach from the King James. Usually I will teach and preach from the New King James Version because I know my audience. However, my personal favorite is the New American Standard Bible along with the English Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

But with all of that aside, what the King James Bible has done for the English language and for Western culture in general cannot be overlooked. 200 years prior to the 1611 Bible, it would have been unthinkable that a Bible would have been translated into English with the full authority of a protestant king.

The work of men like Tyndale, Wycliffe, Luther, and others had finally come to fruition. These ground breaker's deaths had not been in vain.

The book as a whole is an excellent read. The author looks at many of the translators, the events leading to the translation, and the events surrounding the translation. I was most surprised by the "terrorist" attack that took place by the hands of some Catholics who tried to kill the King and others in his court.

One thing is obvious about the author, he loves the language of the King James Version. Throughout the book, especially at the end, he gives example after example of the richness of the language and translation of the KJV. He does this best whenever he compares the KJV to other versions available at the time and even translations since. One of the advantages of such a study reveals the benefits of having a committee of translators (like the KJV) rather than just one person doing all of the translation (like the Tyndale Bible and Luther's Translation).

One cannot deny the richness and precision of the translation. The only problem today, with most people, is the that the language is a bit outdated. Though I do not use the KJV myself (for reasons mentioned above), I have great respect and even refer to it in my own personal Bible study. Just because the KJV is hard to understand doesn't mean we should abandon it. What it means for Western Christianity, culture, and literature is profound.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book comes at the end where the author looks into some of the printing mistakes of the KJV. One such mistake is a known as the "'Wicked Bible." The Wicked Bible had one one inherent flaw: it was missing a word in the seventh commandment. Instead of saying, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." It said, "Thou shalt commit adultery." Therefore, the Bible was replaced with a more accurate copy.

Overall, if anyone is interested in the history of King James, his translation and the events surrounding it, I highly recommend this book. It is a good read, with excellent research, and is a story that keeps your attention. I have walked away with a better understanding of it's legacy and a greater appreciation of it.

The one thing the author emphasized throughout the book was the purpose of King James making this translation: unity. And though it took sometime, unity was reached (though at times strained). How important it is to note that what should bring us together is the Word of God above everything else. Perhaps this is the greatest of legacies of the KJV: unity among the brethren.

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