Tag Archives: English language

Don’t do this in any academic paper at any level. Anytime. Ever.

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones in action. Write like he would!

Friend Marc Cortez over at WesternThM has provided some wise and important advice for all academic writers at all levels on how not to kill your essay in the very first line. And yes, Indiana Jones figures in this sage wisdom.

A sample:

“So, I would like to try to explore the possibility of….”

Just stop.

This sentence and its ilk taint the beginnings of far too many otherwise good papers. Using a sentence like this to describe your paper is like building a solid table and then ripping one of its legs off. It may still be standing, but no one will want to use it. With one sentence, you’ve cut the legs out from under your own research paper. Continue reading

On the KJV’s impact on the English language, post #3–David Daniell

Photo taken by Lonpicman

Bust of William Tyndale

This is a continuation from “On the KJV’s impact on the English language, post #2–Lynne Long

David Daniell, The Bible in English

“The language of KJV is beautiful. Right through the sixty-six books of the Bible, from ‘They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ (Genesis 3) to ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Revelation 7 and 21), phrases of lapidary beauty have been deeply admired: ‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle’ (Job 7); ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning?’ (Isaiah 14); ‘The shadow of a great rock in a weary land’ (Isaiah 32); ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Matthew 7); ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17); ‘The unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 2); ‘Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life’ (I Timothy 6); ‘Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12); ‘behold, I stand at the door and knock’ (Revelation 3).” (429) Continue reading

Words in the King James Version that now mean something else: Have you ever run across these and wondered what they meant?

Titlepage and dedication from a 1612-1613 King...

The tantalizing opening pages of the 1611 KJV

Well, work on issue #100 of Christian History magazine, on the King James Bible, is almost completed. By March we expect to have it out to many previous subscribers, plus those of you who have signed up for a free copy here. Meanwhile, what with allotting pages to articles and moving things around, the following nifty “Did You Know” piece will likely be pushed out (it was squeezed out when I realized that one page was not enough space to do justice to the KJV’s fascinating chief translator, Lancelot Andrewes). So what better place to share it than here on Grateful to the Dead?

The following are just a few of the more than 500 words that could trip up modern readers of the King James Version, because they now mean something different—often very different!—than they did in the early 1600s when the KJV was being translated.

accursed devoted, Josh 6:17, 18; 7:1, 11–13, 15; 22:20; 1 Chr 2:7. This one shocked me!

addicted devoted, 1 Cor 16:15. And this one, though more understandable, could also cause considerable confusion in the modern reader. Continue reading

The King James Bible in America–

Cover of "The Bible in English: Its Histo...

A goldmine on the KJV in America

Overwhelmingly, the King James Version has been the “Bible of America”–and although there are plenty of other versions to choose from now, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. In other words, American language, religious thought, and literature, where it has derived from an English Bible, has derived almost exclusively from the KJV.

[On the KJV in African American Churches, see here.]

No one has chronicled this better than David Daniell, in his 900-page doorstop of a book (and I mean that in a good way), The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). The following are some glimpses into the goldmine of research Daniell has given us in that book, into how the KJV rose, proliferated, and dominated in America.

“The Bible the settlers brought with them, even some years after the King James Bible was first issued in 1611, was far more likely to have been a version of the 1599 annotated Geneva Bible than, to coin a phrase, the marginally challenged Bishops’ [Bible].” (409)

But although the Pilgrims and Puritans of the mid-1600s brought with them their beloved Geneva Bibles, this was not to be the translation of the future in the New World, any more than it was in the Old World. No, the future belonged to the King James Version–and this became clear with the printing of the very first Bible on American soil: Continue reading

The darker side of the chief King James Bible translator, Lancelot Andrewes

Portrait of Bishop Andrewes by Hollar

One of the most amazing feats of history was the creation of the King James Version of the Bible in the years leading up to 1611. A committee of bickering scholars pulled together one of the two greatest works of English literature–great, at least, in their formative influence on the language and culture of English-speaking nations–with the other being the plays of Shakespeare.

The “lead mule” on this herculean project was perhaps the most brilliant man of his age, and one of the most pious, Lancelot Andrewes. A fascinating figure in his own right, Andrewes was not only a scholar and a spiritual man, but also a master of ecclesiastical politics. Like all people, he was not without flaws, and Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries, looked unstintingly into those flaws as well as the greatness of the man. Here is some of what Nicolson discovered:

[You should know that a prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral. A prebend is a type of benefice, which was usually drawn from specific sources in the income from the cathedral estates.]

26           “By midsummer [1603], London under plague now looked, sounded, and smelled like a city at war. It was by far the worst outbreak England had known. Here now, grippingly, and shockingly, the first and greatest of the Bible Translators appears on the scene. It is not a dignified sight. Lancelot Andrewes was a man deeply embedded in the Jacobean establishment. He was forty-nine or fifty, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was also Dean of Westminster Abbey, a prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, drawing the income from one of the cathedral’s manors, and of Southwell Minster, one of the chaplains at the Chapel Royal in Whitehall, who under Elizabeth had twice turned down a bishopric not because he felt unworthy of the honour but because he did not consider the income of the sees he was offered satisfactory. Continue reading

Both clear and rich: The language of the King James Bible (The making of the King James Bible, part II: Glimpses from Adam Nicolson)

Cover of "God's Secretaries: The Making o...

Nicolson's penetrating book on the King James Bible

Throughout his book God’s Secretaries, Adam Nicolson probes the culture of Jacobean England (that is, England under James I) for clues to the nature of the King James Bible—in particular the political, spiritual, and aesthetic commitments of those who translated it, and how those emerged in the way it was written, the rhetorical and poetic qualities of the language. Here are a few of those clues, which amount to a penetrating portrait of the language of the King James Bible–its sources and nuances:

“[James I’s] troubled upbringing had shaped a man with a divided nature. Later history, wanting to see him as a precursor for his son’s catastrophe, has chosen only the ridiculous aspects of James: his extravagance, his vanity, his physical ugliness, his weakness for beautiful boys, his self-inflation, his self-congratulatory argumentativeness. Some of that had been in evidence at Hampton Court. But there was another side to James which breathed dignity and richness: a desire for wholeness and consensus, for inclusion and breadth, for a kind of majestic grace, lit by the clarity of a probing intelligence, rich with the love of dependable substance, for a reality that went beyond show, that was not duplicitous, that stood outside all the corruption and rot that glimmered around him. These were the elements in James and in Jacobean court culture that came to shape the Bible which bears his name.” (60-61)

“[T]he method, staffing and manner of the King James Bible stemmed from James himself. Continue reading

In anticipation of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version: A brief review of God’s Secretaries

Frontispiece to the King James Bible, 1611, sh...

Frontispiece to the King James Bible, 1611, shows the Twelve Apostles at the top.

Sorry for the brief hiatus in blog posting—I’ve been off in Atlanta at the Society for Biblical Literature there—to be precise, at a symposium at that conference dedicated to the history of the King James Version of the Bible. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the KJV, and scholarly and popular forces are massing to commemorate it.

A friend had written a paper on the history of the KJV (to be precise, a history of opposition to the KJV) but found himself unable to deliver it at Atlanta, and so asked me to go in his place. Among the high points of that visit was meeting Dr. David Norton, author of the forthcoming The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today and other books on the KJV. Said a conferee: “In the field of KJV studies, Norton is #1, and there is no #2!” Norton is a gracious Brit now living in Wellington, NZ (of which he showed us a slide—LOTR country sure is beautiful).

For reasons I am not yet, as they say, “at liberty to divulge,” the King James Version of the Bible is my intensive study these days. One part of that has been to read the splendidly readable and informative book by Adam Nicolson: God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (2003). Continue reading