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The Bible: Authorized King James Version One of the more influential versions of the Bible with extensive commentary.

Preface

BIBLES are, by their very nature, partisan. As that plural suggests, there are many bibles, even in English, and each is the product of a particular interest group—whether religious, commercial, or, increasingly nowadays, both. This edition is no exception. The editors of this World's Classics version have chosen for their text the 1611, King James translation—also more familiarly called ‘the Authorized Version’—not because of any presumed impartiality, but because historically it has had greater influence on the development of the cultures and literatures of the English-speaking world than any other translation of the Bible.1 This edition reproduces the New Pica Royal text, including the Apocrypha, printed and published by Oxford University Press in 1966. As the Introduction should make clear, however, that version itself represents not merely a particular historical compromise, but has a quite specific and polemical bias of its own.

Nor can the present editors be themselves exempted from this general rule. Though this edition, unlike almost every other on the market, is not sponsored by a particular religious group, the mere fact that we have chosen to use a translation that is, in places, more than four hundred years old, indicates an initial historical bias to our approach. Bias is not confined to the choice of text. As the Introduction, Notes, and the rest of the critical apparatus should make very plain, we have throughout been interested in showing not merely how this particular translation came into being, but also how it relates to the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions from which it was made. We have also written our comments taking into account post-Enlightenment, modern, naturalistic (as opposed to supernaturalistic) knowledge and thinking about the Bible. Such a modern historical approach highlights another quality of this edition. So far from being the rock of ages in a sea of flux, as some devout Christian readers of the Bible have maintained in the past, it should be clear to any impartial reader of this edition that the history of biblical interpretation is one of continuous and, at times, quite startling change. The eighteenth-century shift from typological to narrative reading of the scriptures, for example, represents a far more fundamental interpretative shift than any changes that have occurred in the production or interpretation of Shakespeare's plays over the same period. To Jews, long used to a tradition of midrashic commentary, this fluidity comes as no surprise; to those with a stronger belief in the stability of scripture—even that appropriated from another religion—it may seem strange. The fact remains, however, that one reason for the Bible's continuing attraction to a wide range of readers—to painters, philosophers, poets, playwrights, songwriters and writers of all descriptions, as well as to religious practitioners—is the amazing dynamism of the text itself, and its continued capacity to present itself in a new light to every generation. In an important sense, this edition is a celebration of that historical, transformative dynamic aspect of the Bible.

Interwoven with that dynamic of transformative change is the whole cultural and literary tradition of the English-speaking peoples. In so far as such an aim can be encompassed within a few hundred pages of notes, we set out to show at least a little of that ever-changing relationship between the Book, and other books—suggesting, wherever possible, where other writers have taken their points of departure from the Bible, and, just as important, how our view of the Bible has been modified by other writers. If to claim that this edition is a cultural history would be hubris, our intention is at least to point in that direction. The new seventeenth-century Protestant insistence on searching the scriptures led to both the Puritan rhetoric of the Civil War and John Milton's Paradise Lost. The Bible has been central to the rhetoric of Protestant and Catholic alike in Ireland and among the Irish, from Swift and Sterne to Joyce and Beckett. We recall also the place of the Bible in the new democracy of America, as well as in the visionary Australian landscapes of Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot. Nor have we confined ourselves exclusively to the English literary tradition. Among others, Dante, Kierkegaard, and Thomas Mann, for instance, are too important to be omitted. In celebrating the enduring vitality, dynamism and influence of one 400-year-old translation of a loose and, to some extent, accidental collection of ancient writings translated from Near Eastern texts, we are also celebrating the continuing vitality of the interlinked but marvellously diverse cultures of the English-speaking world, and beyond. If in the beginning was the word, then continually has that word been in the world transforming it and being transformed by that world through other words and continually shall it be in transformed worlds and words to come. This edition is but one version of that ongoing word.

ROBERT CARROLL

STEPHEN PRICKETT

University of Glasgow 1996

Notes:

1 This edition reproduces the New Pica Royal text, including the Apocrypha, printed and published by Oxford University Press in 1966.

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