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This article is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

William Tyndale in the Modern World Gerald Hammond

When asked to contribute to P.N. Review's special issue defending the Cranmer Prayer Book and the 1611 Bible, Michael Foot offered the view that if the Authorized Version was good enough for St. Paul then it was good enough for him. Behind the joke lay a shrewd appreciation that the English Bible had become so fixed into our cultural consciousness that we were reluctant to see it as merely a translation and therefore, at best, only a distant approximation to the original Hebrew and Greek. This prejudice was strong enough to overcome the most entrenched scholarly instincts. Even Arden editors of Shakespeare, more scholarly by far than most of us, made the basic mistake of quoting from the Authorized Version to show that a particular word or line was biblically influenced. The editor of The Merchant of Venice, a play written in the mid 1590s, cited the 1611 rendering of Job 38:7 to propose a biblical echo in the lines "There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st /But in his motion like an angel sings." In the Authorized Version the verse reads "The morning stars sang together; the sons of God shouted for joy"; but in the version which Shakespeare used, the Geneva Bible, this is the rendering: "When the stars of the morning praised me together, and all the children of God rejoiced." No singing, so no echo - although we might fantasise that Shakespeare influenced the Bible translators, of which more at the end of this ...


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