Ryken book: Legacy of the King James Bible

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by franklinmonroe, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. franklinmonroe

    franklinmonroe
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    According to the Preface this book was "occasioned by the four hundredth anniversary" of the KJB "to provide information" about the version and "it's influence." Anybody read it? I just started it.
     
  2. franklinmonroe

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    Perhaps no one else has read this book, or intends to.

    Also in the Preface, Ryken states of the NIV (NT) that he thought it was "an insipid and lifeless translation." Apparently, he feels he has proved that the NIV is "an inferior translation" (in a review for Christianity Today on the NIV's literary merits).

    I've read about half the book, and he comes down hard on dynamic equivalency versions.
     
  3. John of Japan

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    Give us a review when you're done, please. I hadn't heard about this book yet.
     
  4. Rippon

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    Wow! He now thinks the NIV is an insipid and lifeless translation. He has gone over the edge these days. He really disliked the NIV in his book :The Word of God In English,but he didn't take it that far then.

    In all my criticism of the ESV I have never,and would never, say those things about it.

    In his book :TWOGIE, he makes frequent factual errors and uncalled for denigration of the NIV,NLT etc. Most of his wrath comes down on the NIV,I guess because it has continued to be the best-selling English Bible version internationally for close to 30 years. He's desperate to knock it out and bring the ESV into the top three.

    If he is as sloppy in his new book,it will not bring him any new fans. Perhaps he has improved his accuracy,but that snip from his Preface is not an encouraging sign.
     
  5. nodak

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    I'm not KJVO and use a wide variety of translations.

    And from the time it first came out, I also found the NIV insipid and lifeless.

    Matter of taste.
     
  6. thomas15

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    I have TWOGIE and it is the first and last work by Ryken I will ever own or read. I don't think I could say it better than Rippon.

     
  7. franklinmonroe

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    The first two chapters (together less than 20 pages) are a sketch of early English Bibles.

    Chapter One covers Wycliffe & Tyndale: the most interesting comments here to me was that Ryken suggests that the KJV basically owes 3 things to Wycliffe (the first vision of an English translation, the purpose of translation as being "spiritual and evengelical", and the first aim of translation should be "clear and undertandable" English); while from Tyndale 3 additional principles of translation (that it be from original languages, that it be essentially literal, and that the readers are expected to rise to "standard formal English").

    Chapter Two briefly covers the next five Bibles leading to the KJV (Coverdale through Geneva, no Taverner or Douai-Reims). Nothing really new here.

    Chapter Three is entitled "The Making of the King James Bible" (just 11 pages). A story most here on the BB are familiar with (the Hampton Court account, the process, and publication). Ryken lists 4 "surprises" in the appointment of translators: they were "chosen soley on the basis of their scholarly ability", not chosen for religious or political reasons, but were all churchmen (except one), and they were only modestly paid. The 'second' reason is really just the flip-side of the 'first', while the 'third' reason nearly negates the 'first' & 'fourth'. If they were already clerics in the employ of the church/state, why would we expect them to paid a lot more? Who exactly is supposed to be surprised by this?

    Chapter Four completes Part One (of four parts in this book). He covers the product itself: the KJV is a synthesis and refinement of earlier translations, suitable for public use, and an literal, accurate translation (despite a few archaisms). Ryken really begins to build his case for the superiority of the Tyndale-KJV tradition here, giving two verses as examples of how the KJV is actually more accurate than some select modern translations. There is only a brief two-paragraph explaination of Greek texts (Recieved Text, Majority Text, and an undetermined modern text).

    At the end of each chapter Ryken includes suggestions for "further reading" which include such books as: Bobrick's Wide As The Waters, Moynahan's God's Bestseller, Bruce's History of the English Bible, McGrath's In The Beginning, Brake's Visual History of the English Bible, Nicolson's God's Secretaries are the ones I've read & own; and a few others like Daniell's The Bible In English.
     
    #7 franklinmonroe, Feb 27, 2011
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  8. Rippon

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    I disagree,and so do Tyndale experts. William Tyndale put things in a colloquial form --in everyday language. If that plowboy and other common laymen were to understand --then it did rise to standard formal English in the first quater of the 16th century.


    Only the general committee of review were paid regularly by a private sponsor.

    The folks of 1611 England didn't speak the way the KJV read. It was made to be old-fashioned even then. A lot of expressions in the KJV were out-of-date by 1611.

    It sounds as if readers would stick with the above books,instead of Ryken's they would be in good shape.
     
  9. franklinmonroe

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    Here's what Ryken says about the "plowboy" statement (p.25): "The reference to the plowboy has been extravagantly misinterpreted. It is not a comment on Tydale's preferred English style but rather a statement about (a) how widely Tyndale wanted the Bible distributed across English social strata and (b) the large quanity of the Bible that Tyndale wanted people to know..."
    Ryken does not deny that (Preface): "the real case agaist the KJV for regular use today is the archaism of the language." Later he says (p.62): "... the archaic language of the KJV is so acute for people unfamiliar with it that it is easy to conclude that it cannot be an accurate rendering of the original biblical text." I don't want to get ahead of where I am in the review so far but I'll say now that Ryken actually claims later in the book that it is precisely some of the archaisms that contribute to the KJV's majesty and eloquence, and makes it more memorable.
     
    #9 franklinmonroe, Feb 28, 2011
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  10. franklinmonroe

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    PART TWO of Ryken's book is about the KJV in history.

    Chapter Five covers the KJV's influence on subsequent Bible translation. He begins by stating that the KJV had 3 impacts on Bible translation: "its mere presence", its intimidation of other translation projects to either to be completely abandoned (potentially), or to intentionally stear well away from the KJV text. He then makes this claim --
    "There are three modern translations that are indisputably in the procession of the the King James Bible. They are the Revised Standard Version of 1952, the New King James Bible of 1983, and the English Standard Version of 2001." ​
    He justifies his conclusion from the preface material of these translations. He says the others are "doubtful candidates." That, I would have to think, would include the RV, ASV, NASB, NRSV and perhaps others (like the MKJV, Third Millinium, KJV3 by Green, Webster's, etc.) The three criteria he finds common with the KJV in the prefaces of the RSV, NKJV, and ESV are: continuity with "mainstream" English Bible versions, essentially literal translation, and the style of the KJV.
     
    #10 franklinmonroe, Feb 28, 2011
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  11. franklinmonroe

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    A fact confirmed in another book I am concurrently reading. I had considered doing a separate thread for Gordon Campbell's Bible: The Story of the King James Version (2010) but I think I will just add some comments to this thread for contrast and comparison. For example, Campbell writes about the 'general meeting' (a revision committee of 6 to 12 members, some coming from each company as declared in Rule 10) on page 61 (my italics) --
    "The Stationer's Company contributed to the project by paying each of the revisers 30 shillings a week, which was a generous rate." ​

    Again, Campbell backs you up (this being a point not raised at all by Ryken) --
    "In several respects, however, the language was archaic when the KJV was published, and that points to the background of the translators as well as the histrory of the translation."​
    Other topics that have surfaced already in Campbell's book but unmentioned in Ryken's book (so far) are the canon, the Apocrypha, and inspiration of the Scriptures. Admittedly, Campbell's book is 275 pages (plus generous Appendix) while Ryken's is shorter at 233.
     
    #11 franklinmonroe, Mar 1, 2011
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  12. franklinmonroe

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    Completion of PART TWO of Ryken's book --

    Chapter Six covers the influence of the KJV on language, education and religion. One demonstratable way to show the KJV's impact on language is by the frequency of it being quoted at length and short idioms made familiar. He makes the case for the KJV as being a large influence in non-western countries (but mostly British colonies) where English education was provided (often by missionary agencies). Besides in sermons, the exposure of the KJV in religious settings also includes the texts inclusion in prayer books, on sacred decorative art and church building inscriptions, etc.

    Chapter Seven is the impact the KJV has had in our western culture. Here he includes examples from court system, political discourse, music (hymns primarily) and fine art.
     
  13. franklinmonroe

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    Of course, frequently Ryken and Campbell agree. For example, Ryken (p.56) --
    "By modern standards the KJV is too heavily puncuated; the explanation is that the King James translators had in mind the oral reading and hearing of their translation, so they used puncuation to guide oral reading."

    And Campbell comments similarly (p.80) --
    "In the seventeenth century the Bible was more oftenheard than read, and it is clear that the translators had the practice of reading aloud in mind. Part of the evidence for this is puncuation, which tends to be rhetorical rather than grammatical, ..."
     
  14. franklinmonroe

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    PART THREE of Ryken's book covers the KJV as a literary masterpeice.

    In Chapter Eight he forms the criteria of literature as opposed to ordinary informative writing. Basically, there are three: literature is characterized by genres (like poetry and narrative); literature present human experience in concrete language; literature is expressed with style (such as rhetorical devises anf figuerative language). The original language text has these qualities (Hebrew being particularly concrete). In part, he attributes the exalted style to words like lo, behold, and verily. He asserts that the KJV translators did not intentionally set out to make great literature, however their cultural context contributed to a literary Bible.

    Chater Nine touches specifically on the prose of the KJV. He claims the literary quality of the KJV is due to its blended vocabulary (mostly simple Anglo-Saxon but also "exalted" words), and its rhythm (cadence). This particularly noticable when the KJV is read and heard aloud.

    Chapter Ten covers the poetic effects of the KJV. Of course, the Bible is over one-third poetry, and Ryken extends his treatment beyond poetic books to figuerative language wherever it is found in the Bible. "Partly what strikes modern readers as elegance in the King James Bible is its archaic quality..." (p.151).

    Chapter 11 is a compilation of quotes by literary figures (authors, scholars) speaking their acclaim for the elegance and beauty of the KJV.
     
    #14 franklinmonroe, Mar 5, 2011
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  15. franklinmonroe

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    PART FOUR is the literary influence of the KJV (which is clearly where Ryken wanted to go with this book)

    Chapter 12 speaks generally of how the Bible can enter literature as either an actual source or by way of allusions, echoes, or just a "presence".

    Chapter 13 covers the 17th century influence of the KJV, mainly in Milton, Herbert, and Bunyan works. There is also about 3 pages covering the 18th century Enlightenment authors.

    I'm really enjoying the Campbell book much more.
     
  16. franklinmonroe

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    One example of a quote from this chapter is apparently by George Bernard Shaw (p.163) --
    "In these instances [of bible distribution] the Bible means the translation authorized by King James the First. ...The translation was extraordinarily done because the to the translators what they were translating was... the word of God divinely revealed through His chosen and expressly inspired scribes. In this conviction they carried out their work with boundless reverence and care and achieved a beautifully artistic result."
    Ryken's book is replete with quotes attesting to the literary excellence of the KJV. "Unmatchable" (Chrsitpher Fry). "All-supreme" (Eudora Welty). Each chapter also begins with a quotation; this one from Stephen Cox (p.159) --
    "... This translation [KJV] ...has exerted a stronger influence on the English language and literature than any other book. It is, indeed, the only English version of the Bible that enjoys any literary influence."
    But Campbell unwittingly contrasts that the KJV does not enjoy unanimous admiration in literary regard. Apparently, John Husbands' 1731 book of poetry (which focused on biblical Hebrew samples) announced that the beauty of Hebrew literature is barely appreciated "under all the disadvantage of an old prose translation." (p.143) Campbell notes that Matthew Pilkington wrote in Remarks upon Several Passages of Scripture (1759) about "improprieties, obscurities and inconsistencies" in English of the Old Testament. Also, Anthony Purver in the intoduction and appedices of his own translation (aka The 'Quaker' Bible, 1764) attests that the KJV was scarcely intelligible to his generation and the KJV had "obsolete words and uncouth ungrammatical expressions".
     
    #16 franklinmonroe, Mar 7, 2011
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  17. franklinmonroe

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    Makes me wonder: What does Ryken think about many of the revisions that Parris and Blayney made? (He doesn't mention any revisions to the KJV.) Was the KJV even more superior before they got hold of it? According to Campbell for examples, Parris is responsible for the change of "fourscore" to the less elegant word "eightieth" in 1 Kings 6:1; and Blayney downgraded the exalted 1611 original text in Mark 6:7 from "he calleth" to "he called".
     
    #17 franklinmonroe, Mar 7, 2011
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  18. franklinmonroe

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    PART FOUR, the literary influence of the KJV concluded (and the end of my book review in toto).

    Chapter 14 covers the 19th century by selecting 'representative' authors and their works: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Cooleridge, Nathiel Hawthorne, Melville (especially Moby Dick), Alfred Lord Tennyson.

    In Chapter 15 Ryken surveys the Modern era, touching such authors as Virginia Wolf, James Joyce, Hemingway, Steinbeck, T.S. Eliot, and some poets (most notably Robert Frost).

    In his Afterword he concludes --
    "...I propose that we should celebrate a victory, lament a loss, and resolve to hold on to what is excellent."

    Overall, I did not enjoy Ryken's Legacy of the King James Bible nearly as much as Campbell's Story of the King James Version. Ryken writes a decidedly American book, while Campbell (a Brit) includes much more of an English-speaking community perspective. Ryken is almost half concerned with literature and the literary aspects of the KJV, while Campbell's interests are more broad (touching on the artwork and prefatory material in the AV1611, the original translators and later editors, printed editions and history, even the KJVO issue).
     
    #18 franklinmonroe, Mar 16, 2011
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