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Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Flattening Of Langauge Is A Flattening Of Meaning

I wanted to share a quote from the book I am reading entitled, God's Secretaries: The Making Of The King James Bible. I have found this book to be most interesting and am very glad I ran across it on a discounted shelf at Half Price Books. It is interesting because it is not so much consumed with the controversy of the text or the translation but rather provides some valuable insight into the culture from which the King James Bible was given to the English speaking world in 1611. I will probably share some more of my thoughts on the book when I finish it....but for now I thought this quote was interesting. The author has just explained the process that brought about the wording of Luke 1:57. After doing so he compares the wording of that same verse to the New English Bible. He then writes:

"This is about more than mere sonority or the beeswaxed heritage-appeal of antique vocabulary and grammar. The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning. Language which is not taunt with a sense of its own significance, which is apologetic in its desire to be acceptable to a modern consciousness, language in other words which submits to its audience, rather than instructing, informing, moving, challenging and even entertaining them, is no longer a language which can carry the freight the Bible requires. It has, in short, lost all authority. The language of the King James Bible is the language of Hatfield, of patriarchy, of an instructed order, of richness as a form of beauty, of authority as a form of good; the New English Bible is motivated by the opposite, an anxiety not to bore or intimidate. It is driven, in other words, by the desire to please and, in that way, is a form of language which has died."

I thought this was interesting because the author was arguing for the fact that the richness of expression of the King James Bible is an important aspect of the translation. I do not know of anyone who denies the rich language of the King James Bible. Most move on from there and attack it! I suppose it could be that some find the King James Bible intimidating?? Should there not be something a bit intimidating about the words of God!
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