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The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation
Leland Ryken, Wheaton, Illinois. Crossway, 2011
ISBN 978-1-4335-1388-6, 265 pp., paperback $14.99
With the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible last year (2011), scholars in the English-speaking world have written books on the King James Bible and universities have hosted conferences celebrating the translation. What makes Leland Ryken’s book, The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation, particularly important is its twofold emphasis: first on the King James Bible in its original context and its influence on the history of English translations of the Bible; and second its influence in English and American literature. Dr. Ryken is particularly well qualified to speak to these twin emphases, for he has taught English literature at Wheaton College for over four decades, and he has been instrumental in speaking to the issue of translation philosophies in Bible translations—particularly the conflicting essentially-literal and dynamic equivalence philosophies.
Leland Ryken tells the story of the making of the King James Bible by tracing what the translators owed to Wycliffe and Tyndale and then recounting the narrative of King James’ mandate and the work of the translators. Along the way, he describes the translation principles which Tyndale employed and the King James translators later followed. He recounts the historical events of the 1604 Hampton Court conference and the commissioning of the translation, and explains the success of the effort.
When he turns to the influence of the King James Bible in English and American literature, Ryken traces its influence first on language, education, religion and culture (Part Two, “The King James Bible in History”). Next he describes the literary features of the KJB (Part Three, “The King James Bible as a Literary Masterpiece”). Finally, he traces the literary influence of the King James Bible down to the modern era.
This is a particularly valuable and useful book for all those interested in the King James Bible and its influence over four hundred years. Ryken brings to bear his expertise in literature and Bible translation in an eminently-readable “story” that engages the reader throughout. The book is accessible to the layperson with a summary for each chapter and recommendations for further reading. Dr. Ryken’s description of the literary features of the King James Bible is simply the gold standard—penetrating, reflective, and accessible all at once. This book will delight and instruct all who open its pages. Recommended highly.Michael E. Travers, Ph.D.