The people’s Bible

The people’s Bible: The Remarkable History Of The King James Version

Derek Wilson
Lion Hudson, 2010, £14.99. Hardback, 222pp. photos.bibl. ISBN 9780745953519

As we mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James/Authorised Version (KJV) of the Bible, how much do we actually know about it? This book will fill the gaps in our knowledge, giving the background of Bible translation into English from the 13th to the 16th century, explaining why the KJV was undertaken, and discussing its influence up to the present day. Along the way it gives insight into the politics, history and religious life of the 16th and 17th centuries in particular. It concludes with an assessment of the KJV’s strengths and weaknesses and a discussion of more recent English translations.

The fairly dense text looks somewhat daunting at first, but although the content is scholarly and detailed it is written in an easy style and is in no way abstruse or boring. The author is an historian rather than a theologian, but specialises in church history and whilst not an evangelist for the KJV writes from a position of respect for the Bible, giving an objective account and assessment of the version’s origins, importance, impact and imperfections. There is an extensive bibliography for those who wish to read further on specific topics.

Whether or not we use the KJV or have abandoned it for more modern translations we need to be informed about it as it is so much part of our Christian, cultural and literary heritage. I am sure that there will be a plethora of books published on the subject this year but I would certainly recommend reading this one at least. I think everyone would learn much from it and find it interesting and eye-opening

Contributed by: Susan Rugg, BA, DipLib, MCLIP who works as an Assistant Librarian in the IET Library, London.