By David Norton
A background of the English Bible as Literature (revised and condensed from the author's acclaimed historical past of the Bible as Literature CUP, 1993) explores years of non secular and literary principles. At its center is the tale of the way the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed within the whole diversity of literature." It experiences the Bible translators, writers comparable to Milton and Bunyan who contributed a lot to our experience of the Bible, and a desirable variety of critics and commentators.
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Do Tyndale’s apparently aesthetic terms, ‘well-favouredly’, and ‘grace and sweetness, sense and pure understanding’, go beyond an idea of linguistic correspondence and deliberately invoke a literary sense? What would once have seemed the obvious answer, that they do, now becomes doubtful. ‘Grace and sweetness, sense and pure understanding’ consists entirely of words that in Tyndale have theological weight. ‘Wellfavouredly’, preceding them, does however give them some aesthetic weight, since he uses ‘well-favoured’ with connotations of beauty, as in ‘Rachel was beautiful and well-favoured’ (Gen.
Most signiﬁcant is that he calls the Bible not ‘Scripture’ or ‘writing’ but ‘doctrine’. The one linguistic matter he gives consideration to here is variety of vocabulary, an issue he links with the use of a variety of sources because he sees both as relating to truth. In eﬀect, he portrays translation as a hit or miss process: more translations will produce more hits, and a range of synonyms will prevent the truth from being limited by single words. He writes: sure I am that there cometh more knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures by their sundry translations than by all the glosses of our sophistical doctors.
So his aborted ﬁrst edition () was substantially annotated. The emphasis on feeling coupled with the emphasis on the pith could also have led Tyndale to conceive of paraphrase as the appropriate way of presenting the Scriptures to the people, but again the concern with studying the meaning led him to reject this option. His objection to ‘idle disputers and brawlers about vain words’ (above, p. ) was to the medieval schoolmen who had, he believed, lost all feel for the meaning of Scripture.
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