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The Bible in English: Its History and Influence [Hardcover]

By David Daniell (Author)
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Item description for The Bible in English: Its History and Influence by David Daniell...

Eminent scholar Daniell offers a vibrant history of the myriad translations of the Bible and what they meant to their translators, readers, and times. 51 illustrations.

Publishers Description
The greatest of the earlier translators of the Bible into English, William Tyndale, was martyred in 1536 for his work. Immediately after him, however, translations proliferated: the whole Bible, or significant parts, has now been translated into English from its original Greek and Hebrew more than three thousand times. This major new book tells the extraordinary story of the Bible in England from approximately the fourth century, and its later translation into English in Britain and America to the present day. Eminent scholar David Daniell charts the profound impact successive versions of the Bible have had on the people and communities that read them. He explains the work of major translators, the history of influential translations following Tyndale, including Coverdale's, the Geneva Bibles and the King James Bible, and how greatly Americans have contributed in the late twentieth century, especially after the American Revised Standard Version. Encompassing centuries of change--from a time when no one except priests had knowledge of the Bible beyond a few traditional stories mixed with saints' lives, through later years when ordinary people were steeped in Biblical doctrine and language, to the present, when popular knowledge of the Bible, we are told, has disappeared--this eloquent book reveals how the endeavor of translating the Bible into English has changed religious practice, the arts, society, and the English language itself.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Bible in English: Its History and Influence by David Daniell has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 94
  • Library Journal - 10/15/2003 page 73
  • Christian Century - 04/06/2004 page 51
  • Choice - 02/01/2004 page 1092
  • Univ PR Books for Public Libry - 01/01/2004 page 5
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2005 page 12

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Yale University Press
Pages   600
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.56" Width: 6.44" Height: 2.35"
Weight:   3.57 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 11, 2003
Publisher   Yale University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0300099304  
ISBN13  9780300099300  

Availability  1 units.
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More About David Daniell

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Daniell is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of London.

David Daniell currently resides in London. David Daniell was born in 1926.

David Daniell has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Biography
  2. Penguin Classics

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Reference > Words & Language > Translating
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Hermeneutics
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Language Studies
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Bible in English: Its History and Influence?

The best history of the English-language Bible I've read so far  May 3, 2006
This is a thick volume, as well it should be. It covers what the author states to be some 3,000 versions of the Bible in English, some 1,500 of which have been produced in the last 100 years or so. From history dating back to Dark Age glosses in Latin Scriptures through the Geneva Bible and the King James Version up to the current English versions, this single-volume history has more information in one place than any other book I've seen on the subject. Amazingly, it's also a joy to read. If you have any interest at all in this subject, you need to buy this book!
One of my favorite books of all time  Feb 1, 2006
The Bible in English Its History and Influence, David Daniell's comprehensive work, is an exhaustively researched study about the difficult work of translation into the vernacular, for Britain and then America, from the fourth century to the present time. "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost." Tyndale's famous words to an unknown clergyman were a vanguard of the Protestant Reformation and the reason for the drive to translate the Bible into English. Power to the ploughboy! He was to learn to read and understand scripture for himself; biblical literacy would not only empower his spiritual growth but his intellectual life as well, for once that ploughboy could read his Bible, he could read almost anything else. Literacy and the arts blossomed in the Reformation Era. Daniell painstakingly chronicles the major impact Bible translations have had on English speaking peoples, their culture, literacy, and language. His scholarly work spans the centuries: from a time when the priest only had knowledge of scripture, and the parishioner was patronized with a few traditional Bible stories and hagiography, through the Protestant Reformation when Biblical literacy was so widespread obscure scripture references peppered the popular literature of the day, to the present era when the average university student is unsure if a familiar phrase is from Shakespeare or the Bible.
David Daniell, a noted Shakespeare scholar, is Emeritus Professor of English, University College, London, as well as Honorary Fellow, Hertford and St.Catherine's, Oxford. He brings a cross-disciplinary expertise in sixteenth-century literature, history, and Reformation theology to bear upon his thesis that William Tyndale was the foremost figure in English Bible translation. Tyndale's biographer in a previously published work, Daniell has long championed the reformer as "the man who gave us our English Bible". The Bible in English acknowledges Tyndale's debt to Wyclif, Lollardy, Early and Middle English translations, and the richness of English literature from Caedmon to Chaucer. The major text of the book, however, is devoted to the debt owed to Tyndale by all who came after, beginning with Coverdale ( 1535), and of course by Spencer and Shakespeare. Daniell is most passionate arguing that 90 percent of the King James Version, the so-called "Authorized" Bible, was lifted directly from Tyndale's translation , and that the remaining 10 percentshould have been. He is also persuasive in his position that the Geneva Bible, which used Tyndale's work, en toto, remains a much better translation than the KJV, outpacing even respected contemporary versions for its beauty of language, and integrity of translation. The Geneva Bible was the Bible of the English Reformation and of the Pilgrims to the New World. Therefore, "the great change that came over England from 1526, the ability of every ordinary man, woman, and child to read and hear the whole New Testament in English, accurately rendered, was Tyndale's work, and its importance cannot be over-emphasised". Daniell contends Tyndale wrote English that "above all, and at all times, made sense" as opposed to the ornate and flowery English of the King James Version. He notes "No one ever spoke like that , not even in the sixteenth century".
Although Tyndale's is an earlier work, it often sounds more contemporary than the KJV. For example, in Genesis 31:28, the KJV has Laban say to Jacob, "Thou hast now done foolishly in so doing". Tyndale's translation "Thou wast a fool to do it" is a better translation, according to Daniell, and conveys the meaning in a more surprisingly modern cadence. Familiar phrases like "salt of the earth", "the spirit is willing", and "let not your heart be troubled" are some of the many Tyndale legacies. It is Daniell's position that William Tyndale's translation of the Bible is an immeasurable gift to the English language, and that Tyndale's additions to the language were foundational to the great Elizabethan writers, giving us the adage "without Tyndale, no Shakespeare".
The Bible in English focuses on the development of the English language through numerous Bible translations, rather than on the individual life stories of the translators themselves. The word-by-word translation studies throughout this meticulously researched volume will engage any reader who is intrigued by language and confirm the author's well-deserved reputation as a philologist. On the other hand, the average, recreational reader may be overwhelmed by the detailed gloss descriptions, hair-splitting translation minutia, and other etymological disputes. This is a prodigious work that many readers may not finish. Although Daniell often breaks into a lively, entertaining, and even witty style, he sometimes wears the reader down in scholarship. Nevertheless, the book is so delightfully informative, it is better digested in smaller courses than given up altogether as "too heavy" a meal. For example, the chapter entitled "Towards 1769, And After" seems to return to previously covered material. Skipping it and returning later does no harm. The book readily functions as a reference text, with an extensive index of thirty-two pages, Select Bibliography, Chronological List of Bibles in English, Abbreviations glossary, Notes, and an Appendix "Preface to the First 1611 KJV Edition". Center-of-the-book glossy illustrations include illuminated manuscript pages, iconography, and photographs of sacred art. The chapters can function as stand-alone essays.
For the early American History enthusiast, Chapter 14, "The English Bible in America: From the Beginnings to 1640" cuts a swath through the colonial era. Opening with Raleigh's explorations on the Outer Banks, claiming "Virginia" for his queen, to the Drake explorations on the West Coast, Daniell's research into primary sources authenticates the great importance faith, scripture, and evangelism played in early colonization of the New World. Daniell concludes Bibles were common in colonial American homes, Bibles that were "read and believed, and understood to refer to daily experience". That Bibles in English were among the possessions of the colonists is a virtual certainty according to Daniell, evidenced by the frequent reference to Biblical passages in journals, voyage logs, and reports. Colorful stories and journal entries from lesser known figures like Richard Hakluyt , explorer-chronicler, Thomas Hariot, scientific observer, and John White, illustrator, are most welcome to the Virginia history buff. Hakluyt recounts in his Discourse of Western Planting ( 1583) that the presence of Bibles, Books of (religious) service, and preachers were needed to ensure his ship's voyages honored God, that the seamen were instructed, and that discipline be maintained. These goals were not always met it is true , but Bibles in the vernacular nevertheless came to the colonies as part and parcel of the colonists' way of life and worldview, as evidenced by the impressive array of Daniell's primary source document citations.
The last few chapters of the book deal with newer translations of the Bible and their relative value and affect on British and American communities. The fact that there are too many contemporary versions to list is indicative of the problem of quantity versus quality. Although there have been more than a thousand different Bible translations (and transliterations ) since the close of the Second World War, Daniell finds only a handful to be worthy works, (based on solid scholarship rather than a social or theological "agenda" ). Daniell also finds it puzzling that Americans would be so fond of the King James Version, a monarchical rendering, and finds it amusing they act as if the KJV must be the very translation Jesus read.
The Bible in English concludes by mourning the lost of our "ears". Earlier translations, like Tyndale's and Coverdale's , were written to be heard. That is why they "sing" so beautifully in Handel's "Messiah" and in Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", for example. In our new, very visually oriented, 21st century society, the ability to hear and understand the spoken word is waning. "While the visual dominates, aural attention fades. Not only do television and computer images, by their very speed and impermanence, encourage inattention to themselves, they rob us of our attention to words." For the true lover of language, such as David Daniell, this is a tragedy, and a tragedy starkly illuminated by most of the new "user-friendly" Bible translations. For example, poignant, spiritually charged verses such as "...he went out at the doors and wept bitterly" are rendered, by the Contemporary English Version "Then Peter went out and cried hard". Daniell questions the future of the modern English Bible. Translations of the Reformation era swept the countryside, converted a populace, and energized the language and culture. A visual - media addicted culture is not likely to experience any such reaction to any of the meager offerings in the proliferation of new Bible translations. With the exception of the Revised English Bible, Daniell remarks the new translations must "speak the language of the New York Times". Many versions are targeted to an even lower, middle-school reading level. Mature theological concepts and spiritual nuance are lost, and the language is not enriched. In fact, ironically, Bible translation once made a great impact on English language and culture; today, the culture and language impact Bible translation.
This volume would make an excellent addition to an academic or personal theological library, or a public library, and would greatly enhance an English literature research collection as well.This book makes a wonderful gift, because it is a great resource and a fascinating read.
A revolution in understanding the English language  Sep 17, 2005
Is it possible to recommend a book of almost a 1,000 pages? Can it be worthwhile to buy a book that long? Should anyone really read the whole thing?

Yes, yes, and no. I strongly recommend this book, because it literally contains revolutionary new information about the development of the English language, and about perhaps the greatest period of literary creativity in the history of English--roughly 1550 to 1650. David Daniell, a Shakespeare scholar by training, persuasively demonstrates how William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into brilliantly vivid English, and half the Old Testament from Hebrew (all he could complete before he was strangled and burned at the stake), triggered a great burst of literary creativity (and political revolution) in England. Note that Tyndale was killed in 1536, a generation before Shakespeare's birth in 1564. During that period, Tyndale's translation was smuggled into England and provided the language, images and ideas for the brilliant generation of literary geniuses in the latter sixteenth century. In short, modern English was invented by the two Williams, Shakespeare and Tyndale. 99.9% of all educated people only understand the importance of Shakespeare--and he was actually the second William.

I've read Christopher de Hamel's "The Book: A History of the Bible", Benson Bobrick's "Wide as the Waters", and Alister McGrath's "In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Version". None of these books tell so clearly the story that Daniell has to tell. Daniell solves the old mystery of how a committee could produce such an excellent result as the KJV: by essentially plagiarising Tyndale. 90% of the KJV is taken from Tyndale's translations of the same passages. Daniell is a gifted reader of English prose and poetry, and he vividly evokes the importance of the many inter-relationships between Tyndale and the other translators of the Bible into English. Daniell has a fine ear and is a graceful and vivid writer about language's meanings and beauties.

The bottom line is that we should all get the 1599 Geneva Bible available in a reprint version. I've always known that the 1611 KJV couldn't have influenced Shakespeare, but after reading "The Bible in English", I became convinced that in order to understand my favourite 16th and 17th century writers, I have to get the Geneva Bible (essentially the Tyndale translation, with notes, upgraded with the best Greek and Hebrew scholarship available in the generation after Tyndale's execution). This is the book that is the hidden root of the best literature in English.

Of course, like all revolutions, this book is unfair to its enemies. The Catholic position is repeatedly parodied by Daniell. This discussion of key figures like Reginald Pole and Stephen Gardiner is two-dimensional, and ignores the powerful impact on the Catholic Church of the scriptures (exemplified in figures like Pole, a convinced Catholic who was immersed in the Bible). Peter Donaldson's book "Machiavelli and the Mystery of State" is a required antidote to Daniell's distortions about Tudor Catholics.

And it seems clear that Daniell has no really interest in events outside the period that clearly fascinates him, from the birth of Tyndale in approx. 1494 to 1611, when the KJV was published, which Daniell convincingly demonstrates was a victory of the good over the best. This is the superb heart of the book, extending from the forward to page 460.

After this period, there are some interesting passages in the book, which emerge startling out of the stereotypes and shallow scholarship, such as his discussion of Bunyan, and his funny little thesis about the relationship between the composer Handel and Alexander Pope. There is a bizarre, long section about Blake which has no place in this book. And the chapters on America are worthless. Daniell seems to get his understanding of contemporary America from TV, and historically his discussions of Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and their times are innocent of any knowledge of the relevant scholarship. Daniell's views on America and Americans are literally not worth reading.

But in the context of his great theme, I consider these flaws minor, even if they repeatedly mar the last 1/3 of the book. The first 460 pages of this book are magnificent and wonderful. I'd pay ten times the price of this book to learn what is in the first half of the book, and I'm grateful to David Daniell for teaching me what he knows about Tyndale and the Geneva Bible. He has revolutionised my understanding of English literature.
A masterful work!  Nov 13, 2004
What I had thought would be a book I "ought to read" became a book I "had to read." Far from the dry, scholarly exposition I expected, Daniell writes in a clear, patient, conversational tone that made this book an excellent read.

In addition to his exhaustive research and clarity, the author is not afraid to stand up for his own personal beliefs (which are nearly always incontrovertible). Each of these little nuggets caused me to take a look at my own faith, which I found reinforced time and time again.

Daniell seems to have two causes - accuracy of translation and worship of the Almighty. When, occasionally, these two concepts come into conflict, it seems that Daniell would rather err on the side of majesty than clarity. I can't say that I totally disagree. In many attempts to make the Bible more accessible, translators (and paraphrasers) have made it less meaningful - have "cheapened" the majesty of God, if you will.

For not only recounting the history of the translation of the Bible into English, but by placing each version in a historical context (the chapter on Handel's "Messiah" is fascinating!), Daniell raised his work from the level of a reference work to that of a history that is well worth reading.
Interesting - not mixed with silly  Oct 22, 2004
This book reads like a documentary - so if that's not your cup of tea, it might be a hard read. I'm a good way through it and it's been interesting and informative so far.

Regarding the St. James Version. First of all, that's been a long time running joke - with history of course. Fundamentalist, mostly the KJV only, crowd actually did mistakenly called it that. Even the Simpsons took a stab at it in one of their episodes.

If you do a google search for "St. James Version" -- include the quotes. It's about the 5th link down (may have changed). It'st on the AV1611 site - as in Authorized Version, year 1611 - aka the legendary year of the KJV. Half way down page, you will see "St. James Version".

There's a lot of rumors/stupidity circulating around about the KJV. It's widely agreed that it is outdated. It's historically shown that they authors (not King James himself and NOT Bill Shakespeare) chose to go with elegance rather then accuracy. The KJV was first a political weapon against the much royalty feared Geneva Bible. However, it is still a good translation and there's nothing wrong with it if you can understand the vernacular of the time. Roughly 90%, give or take, is William Tyndale - a master of the the English language. Part of the Old Testament is his and part is Miles Coverdales (sp?).

Anyway, it's a good book, well worth the money. Buy it.

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