By David Norton

A background of the English Bible as Literature (revised and condensed from the author's acclaimed historical past of the Bible as Literature CUP, 1993) explores years of spiritual and literary principles. At its center is the tale of the way the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed within the complete diversity of literature." It reviews the Bible translators, writers corresponding to Milton and Bunyan who contributed a lot to our experience of the Bible, and a desirable diversity of critics and commentators.

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An English Version (Oxford University Press for EETS, ), p. . Erasmus, Christian Humanism and the Reformation: Selected Writings, ed. John C. Olin (New York: Harper, ), p. . William Tyndale  if there were any power of song which truly could inspire . . I would desire that it be at hand for me so that I might convince all of the most wholesome truth of all. However, it is more desirable that Christ Himself, whose business we are about, so guide the strings of our lyre that this song might deeply affect and move the minds of all .

However simple the language of the Protestant translators may  Creators of English now seem (archaisms apart), it had much in it that the people had to learn before they could understand and appreciate it. Cheke’s objection to words of Latin origin was soon to manifest itself as one side of the conflicting attitudes to what were generally decried as inkhorn terms. George Pettie, writing in , sums up the situation: For the barbarousness of our tongue, I must likewise say that it is much the worse for them and some such curious fellows as they are, who if one chance to derive any word from the Latin, which is insolent to their ears (as perchance they will take that phrase to be), they forthwith make a jest at it and term it an inkhorn term.

This sets the tone for most of his comments on the Bible and translation: his devotion is to the truth; his zeal is for the people to know the truth. His first Bible also contains a prologue, and to read this with the epistle is to get a sense of a more diplomatic Tyndale, ignoring considerations of literary taste and judgement. Possibly his diffidence prevented him voicing such considerations, for he writes, as Luther never would have written, ‘as for the commendation of God’s Holy Scripture, I would fain magnify it as it is worthy, but I am far insufficient thereto’.

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