A net of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the Gunpowder Plot; the worst outbreak of the plague England had ever seen; arcadian landscapes; murderous, toxic slums; and, above all, sometimes overwhelming religious passion. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than it had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between the polarities.
This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment “Englishness” and the English language had come into its first passionate maturity. Boisterous, elegant, subtle, majestic, finely nuanced, sonorous, and musical, the English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own reach and scope than any before or since. It is a form of the language that drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book.
The sponsor and guide of the whole Bible project was the king himself, the brilliant, ugly, and profoundly peace-loving James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England. Trained almost from birth to manage the rivalries of political factions at home, James saw in England the chance for a sort of irenic Eden over which the new translation of the Bible was to preside. It was to be a Bible for everyone, and as God’s lieutenant on earth, he would use it to unify his kingdom. The dream of Jacobean peace, guaranteed by an elision of royal power and divine glory, lies behind a Bible of extraordinary grace and everlasting literary power.
Adam Nicolson is the author of Seamanship, God’s Secretaries, and Seize the Fire. He has won both the Somerset Maugham and William Heinemann awards, and he lives with his family at Sissinghurst Castle in England.
©2003 Adam Nicolson (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“This scrupulously elegant account of the creation of what four centuries of history has confirmed is the finest English-language work of all time is entirely true to its subject: Adam Nicolson’s lapidary prose is masterly, his measured account both as readable as the curious demand and as dignified as the story deserves.” (Simon Winchester, New York Times best-selling author)
“So few documents have survived this labor—apart, of course, from the translation itself—that piecing together the tale is at least as much a matter of intelligent guesswork as of hard research. This is what Adam Nicolson has done, and he has done it extraordinarily well.” (Washington Post Book World)
“An astonishingly rich cultural tour of the art, architecture, personalities, and experiences of Jacobean England: high and low entertainment, high and low churchmanship, courtiers, schoolmasters, and ecclesiastics. [Nicolson’s] picture is beguilingly full.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))
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It is a tedious read but very informative.
I have a new found respect for King James & the translators.
I must admit I have not finished the book yet but I do enjoy listening to it. It is a great study of world history at the time.
There was nothing in the "Publisher's Summary" nor in the "What the Critics Say" sections for this book on this website which led me to believe that this book was anything other than favorable to the KJV of the Bible. I have complete confidence in the KJV which I have been studying for 30 years, and did not anticipate that this book would attempt to undermine in any way that confidence.
Small red flags began popping up as I listened. This author seems to be going out of his way, I found myself thinking, to emphasize negative details of some of the translators and of King James himself. Then I came across this quote from another book I was reading simultanously:
"After reading and enjoying the light from the writings of the KJV translators, compare them to the dark and vile propaganda printed by Rupert Murdoch's Harper Collins Publishers (owner of Zondervan), the publisher of the NIV and TNIV. To smear their staunchest competitor, the KJV, they have produced a snare-filled history of the King James Bible, entitled, "God's Secretaries" by Adam Nicolson (who boasts he is no churchgoer). With a palette piled with dark words, but no facts or footnotes, he paints a hideous face for King James I and his translators - calling the King "ugly," "vulgar," nervous," and "foul-mouthed" and dubbing his translators "worldly," sensuous," and "self-serving." ("In Awe of Thy Word" by G.A. Riplinger, pg.618)
I was not totally surprised but I was disappointed with the overall flavor of this book.
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