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← UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 137 by Cartomancer

In a fascinating piece on his website, my friend Matt Ridley is sceptical that anything so well-written as the King James Version could really be the work of a committee. And indeed, he follows Brian Moynihan's Book of Fire in arguing that the KJV (or at least the well-written bits) is actually the work of one man, William Tyndale,

It is quite interesting (well, pretty much what one would expect, but still reasonably noteworthy) that the most popular and well-used translations of the book tend to be the ones done largely by a single author and not the ones done by committee. In Latin the Vulgate gained considerable prominence over the much less highly regarded Vetus latina version, which was only really cited by academic scholars in the later Middle Ages and rarely used for liturgical or preaching purposes. Almost all of the prominent French bible translations were either the work of a single translator or the result of successive redactions each by a single translator (Jaques Lefevre, Pierre Olivetan, Antoine Lemaistre), and the mass of anonymous, probably committee-produced late-Medieval German bible translations were swept comprehensively away by Luther's bible in 1534 (which had a similar influence on German language and literature to that had by the KJV in English).

The one exception seems to be the Greek Septuagint, although the precise authorship of that is somewhat lost in myth. But even there it is venerated more for its antiquity and the fact it was the Old Testament that most of the gospel writers knew than for any intrinsic literary merits or close proximity to the original Masoretic Hebrew text. Which is why Augustine liked it and Jerome didn't.

Mon, 21 May 2012 12:34:04 UTC | #942602