By David Norton
A heritage of the English Bible as Literature (revised and condensed from the author's acclaimed background of the Bible as Literature CUP, 1993) explores years of non secular and literary principles. At its middle is the tale of ways the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed within the whole variety of literature." It reviews the Bible translators, writers comparable to Milton and Bunyan who contributed rather a lot to our feel of the Bible, and a desirable variety of critics and commentators.
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Cranmer’s preface is retained, but preceding it is a preface by the organiser of the work, Archbishop Matthew Parker (–), which shows some subtle changes in attitude to the proper use of the Bible. It takes Christ’s words, ‘scrutamini scripturas’, ‘search ye the Scriptures’,2 for text, and exhorts the private reader to study the Bible: ‘let not the volume of this book, by God’s own warrant, depart from thee, but occupy thyself therein in the whole journey of this thy worldly pilgrimage to understand thy way how to walk rightly before him all the days of thy life’.
And if he be learned, let him correct the word or sentence (which may dislike him) with the better, and whether his note riseth either of good will and charity, either of envy and contention not purely, yet his reprehension, if it may turn to the ﬁnding out of the truth, shall not be repelled with grief but applauded to in gladness, that Christ may ever have the praise. The acknowledgement of a customary linguistic form is important, but of special interest is the invitation to think of the English text as unﬁxed, and the encouragement to the learned reader to adjust it as he thinks ﬁt for ‘the ﬁnding out of the truth’.
22 In The Confutation More develops the linguistic point, arguing that ‘Tyndale must in his English translation take his English words as they signify in English, rather than as the words signify in the tongue out of which they were taken in to the English’ (VIII: ; see also VIII: ). Thus in almost playful mood, he writes, ‘though I cannot make him by no mean to write true matter, I would have him yet at the least wise write true English’ (VIII: ). He demonstrates his ideas of true English by discussing the appropriate use of certain words, and points of grammar: More has a clear sense of English as a language with its own proprieties.