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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 spiritual and literary rules. At its middle is the tale of the way the King James Bible went from being mocked as English writing to being "unsurpassed within the whole variety of literature." It stories the Bible translators, writers corresponding to Milton and Bunyan who contributed quite a bit to our experience of the Bible, and a desirable diversity of critics and commentators.

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Extra resources for A History of the English Bible as Literature (2000) (A History of the Bible as Literature)

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It belonged with ‘faith’ and ‘truth’. More’s insistence on a translator’s responsibility to his own language must have moved Tyndale towards a more conscious awareness of his use of English, and Tyndale’s Answer shows signs of this. 24 However, this care is essentially for the clarity and naturalness of the language, something that would now be recognised as a literary virtue. To take one example, he accepts More’s comments on his rendering of John : , ‘in the beginning was that word, and that word was with God and God was that word’, that he should have used ‘the’, not ‘that’, and that ‘God was that word’ is not the appropriate word order for English, even though it is the Greek and Latin order.

If this is a response to the instruction we may infer that some of the Bishops, like those who had tried for a revision in , wished to Latinise the English, producing thereby some of the traditional grandeur and mystery of biblical language. Many of the Bishops were still close to Roman Catholicism in spirit, but any tendencies they had towards a re-Latinising of the English Bible were to be overshadowed by the Roman Catholic translation. Cranmer’s preface is retained, but preceding it is a preface by the organiser of the work, Archbishop Matthew Parker (–), which shows some subtle changes in attitude to the proper use of the Bible.

An anecdote, normally told to illustrate clerical ignorance, well illustrates this. About the time Tyndale was working, ‘a certain boorish English priest’ was discovered to be mis-reciting in the Mass, ‘quod in ore mumpsimus’. 23 Whether or not this proves anything about clerical ignorance, it is true to people’s attitudes to the familiar, if incomprehended, sound of their religious formulae. The old priest’s adherence to ‘mumpsimus’ was more than mere conservatism: to have changed ‘mumpsimus’ to ‘sumpsimus’ would have been, for him, to undermine the accepted magic of his religious devotion without enlightening him in any real way.

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