Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett (eds), The Bible: Authorized King James Version

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pg xiIntroduction

The Bible as a Book

The Bible is the basic book of our civilization. It holds a unique and exclusive status not merely in terms of the religious history of the western world but also in literary history and even in what might be called our collective cultural psyche. Even though we may acknowledge, for instance, that there are many examples of holy books to be found in the various major religions—past and present—it is also true, to a greater degree than we may be consciously prepared to recognize, that the Bible occupies a totally exclusive category. There have been many books that have been reverenced as 'holy' by other religions, including Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and even ancient Egyptian. But for Jews and Christians—the so-called 'people of the book'—that noun can only be in the singular. The 'people of the books' would be a meaningless Babel.

Our English word 'Bible' is derived, via the French word bible, from the late Latin biblia, a feminine singular noun that meant simply 'the book'. In its older Latin form, however, biblia was not understood as the feminine singular, but as the (identical) neuter plural form, which was, in turn, derived from the Greek ta biblia, which meant 'the books'—essentially no more than a collection of individual works. This shift in meaning reflects the changing physical conditions of the books themselves. Before the invention of the codex, or bound manuscript volume, the biblical texts were held as individual scrolls stored together in a wooden chest or cupboard. Under such conditions the question of the precise canon of which works did, or did not constitute the scriptures, or the exact order in which the constituent works should occur, though it might have been a matter of doctrinal debate, was not an immediately practical question. Since, just as today, one would rarely read from more than one section at once, the individual scrolls (representing what we would now call the biblical 'books') could (in theory at least) be assembled in more or less whatever order one chose. With the invention of the codex, however, with its immediate practical advantages of compactness and ease of handling and storage, that flexibility of sequence was lost. From then on the books had to come in a specific order—and it is significant that the process of creating a canon for the Hebrew Bible and for the New Testament pg xii coincides historically with the widespread introduction of the codex form. What began as 'the books' had, literally and physically, become 'the book'.

As was to happen again later with the invention of printing, that change in physical conditions with the production of the codex was to have incalculable consequences for the meaning and reception of the Bible. To begin with, as we have just seen, this loose collection of very different kinds of material composed over a period of almost 500 years—including in the Old Testament, history, prophecy, law, devotional verse, proverbs, and even love poetry and fiction, as well as, in the New Testament, letters from named individuals—all had to be placed in a specific order. Juxtaposition always suggests meaning. The arrangement and sequence now necessary for the construction of the codex revealed that there were, in effect, not one but several Bibles1—and the relationship between the various traditional sequences, or 'canons' is extremely complex. Indeed, it is a moot point whether we can say the Hebrew Bible is actually older than the Christian one—if by the word 'Bible' we wish to imply a particular order of books. The work of creating the Hebrew canon did not really begin until after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ce—by which time certainly some of the New Testament books (Paul's letters, for example) were already in existence. Anyone who doubts the political nature of the creation of these rival canons, Hebrew or Christian, needs only to look in detail to see the reasons why they were found necessary and how the final choices were made.

It is significant that the first known list of Christian books—in effect a putative New Testament—was made by a second-century heretic, Marcion. That we now agree to label him a 'heretic' is, of course, an indication that he was the loser in just one of the many political struggles of the period—as is the fact that all his works were subsequently destroyed. Nevertheless, as is so often the case, we know of the Marcion canon from the attacks that were made upon it: it consisted of one gospel (Luke's) and some of Paul's letters. Marcion also took the quite logical step of dropping the Hebrew scriptures altogether from the Christian canon. It was in response to Marcion that the early Church, led by the redoubtable Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, then had to define orthodoxy by making its own canon and declaring it to be a single, sacred, and unalterable corpus. Persecution has often pg xiii helped to create the illusion of uniformity, and the arrow of time has allowed the mythology of the victors to write the history books.2 In fact the process of canon-formation was accompanied by intense and often acrimonious debate, involving fierce conflict between different Christian communities and traditions, and was only more or less completed by Eusebius after the Council of Nicaea—which had been summoned by the Emperor Constantine probably less with an interest in formulating Christian doctrine and defining heresy than with the political objective of defining the role the Emperor was to play in the new Christian state.3

The Hebrew and Christian Bibles

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the arrangement of the Old Testament as it emerged from various Councils, including finally that of Nicaea, is significantly different from that of the Hebrew Bible, from which all its constituents are taken. The latter is conventionally divided into three sections: the Torah (the five books of Moses corresponding to what Christians have traditionally called the Pentateuch); the Prophets (traditionally subdivided into the 'Former Prophets', or what Christians know as the 'histories' from Joshua to Kings, excluding Ruth, Esther, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah, and the 'Latter Prophets', comprising the books also known as the Prophets in the Christian Bible); and a final grouping known simply as Writings, which includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the five Megilloth (or 'Scrolls': Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), and Daniel, ending with Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles. In contrast, the Christian Old Testament is commonly divided into four sections: the Pentateuch, the Histories (which include Joshua to Kings, with Ruth following Judges, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther); the Poetical Books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs); and the Prophets (including Daniel). The difference implied by this rearrangement reflects the fundamental differences that were now emerging between Christianity and its parent religion.

For Jews, the Torah is the foundational document which defines who they are as a people; the histories from Joshua to the fall of the monarchy are combined with the prophetic texts as historical illustrations of God's promises or threats to his people; while the Writings are a more open-ended group of texts, relating to the practice of the pg xiv Jewish religion after the Babylonian exile. The effect is at once timeless and open.4 The ending of the Torah, for instance, with the death of Moses outside the Promised Land, rather than including the Book of Joshua and the triumphant conquest of Canaan, can be seen as a clear signal as to how all the Hebrew scriptures are to be read. It points not least to the pattern of perpetual exile and questioning of God that has now characterized the Jewish people for thousands of years. The Christian rearrangement of the Hebrew Scriptures to form the Old Testament, on the other hand, is a polemical and even a doctrinal pointer to what is to follow it in the New. All the historical books are now put together, as if to place the history of Israel firmly in the past; the poetical books occupy a kind of timeless space reserved for prayer and meditation; while the prophets come last, pointing to the future and the coming fulfilment in the New Testament. It suggests a dynamic and purposeful sequence, rather than an open quest.

It also means that among the political moves that underlay the formation of the Christian Bible was the emerging idea of the Bible itself as a holy book of a quite new kind. As re-created from the Hebrew scriptures, it encompassed the history of the world from its creation, through the fall and redemption of mankind, to the final judgement. Such completeness permitted no competition. The exclusiveness of the Bible was thus a direct concomitant of the exclusiveness of Christianity. For Irenaeus and those like him there could be no compromise with paganism—and, unlike the first generations of Christians, that meant no compromise either with other Near-Eastern gnostic sects or with Jews. Unity was essential to this formula, not an extra. Yet the mere fact that the unity of this exclusive holy book was composed of such a wide range of apparently miscellaneous parts necessarily meant that right from the first formations of the Christian canon our sense of the Bible has, as we have seen, involved an inherent tension between singularity and pluralism, unity and diversity. The traditional phrase 'the Book of Books', originally meaning simply 'best of books', contained an ambiguity that implied both that its contents somehow contributed to a mysterious and God-given unity greater than its constituent parts, and, at the same time, that it was a book whose God-given significance was so great as to give all other books a tinge of its reflected glory.

pg xvAs a result our culture has become 'biblical' in ways that at first sight seem far removed from the Bible's Hebrew origins or the Eusebian canon. To begin with, we have acquired from it, directly and indirectly, a very particular set of expectations about the world we live in and the way we understand it. Because the Bible takes it for granted that there is a meaning to the whole cycle of human existence and that every event, however trivial it might seem, has a figurative, typological, or, as we would now say, symbolic relation to the whole, we have learned in other areas of our existence to look for narrative, with a pattern of hidden meaning, rather than a mere chronicle of events. This expectation runs very deep in Western society, affecting not merely fiction but biography, history, and, of course, science—that distinctive product of a belief in a rational and stable universe where every part has its meaning in relation to the grand 'story' of the whole. It is a paradox still too rarely appreciated (especially by those puzzled by Newton's obsessive interest in biblical history and prophecy5) that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century probably owed as much to Hebrew mysticism as to Greek rationality.6

Secondly, and following directly from this, our idea of what constitutes a book includes, within itself that notion of unity with diversity. Our concept of narrative assumes the possibility of many parallel stories—sometimes apparently unrelated; we take for granted subplot and main plot; stories within stories; parallel, complementary, and even contradictory stories that may link thematically rather than by direct influence. It is no accident, for instance, that many of the foundational works of English literature: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c.1387), Malory's Morte Darthur (1485), or Spenser's Faerie Queene (1596), for example, are also, in effect, collections of stories relating in various ways to a single common theme. The same kind of structures were used by Boccaccio in Italy and Rabelais in France. Similarly, the frequency of two or more thematically related plots in Elizabethan drama—and most notably in Shakespeare's plays—emphasizes the origins of English drama in the biblical models provided by the medieval Miracle Plays. Again, popular drama had similar origins on the Continent—in Italy, France, and Germany; it was only later that the French court, as ever leading a Francophile Europe, initiated a taste for the more austere and concentrated pre-Christian classical forms.

pg xviAbove all, in whatever European tradition we look, we are accustomed to the idea that a book is, by its very nature, interpretative. This was already true of the Hebrew Bible, but the Christian project of appropriating the Jewish scriptures and presenting itself as the heir to Judaism gave the process a new urgency. Thus, even as the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of the Christian Bible were being translated into Latin, the actual terms of the translation were also being themselves transformed—sometimes with radically new meanings. For example, the existing cultic language of Judaism could be given a new life by making it refer figuratively to events in the New Testament.7 Thus, the Old Testament idea of sacrifice was reapplied in relation to the crucifixion. By identifying Jesus with the sacrificial Passover lamb of Jewish ritual not merely was the idea of sacrifice being given a new focal point and meaning, but in addition a rich vein of figurative pastoral typology was simultaneously being opened up and appropriated from the Hebrew scriptures to link with similar imagery in the New Testament—as the many popular translations of the twenty-third Psalm ('The Lord is my shepherd …') bear witness.

The degree to which one sees Christianity as an appropriation of Judaism depends on the model one uses to describe the parting of the ways between the two religions. Recent scholarship has tended to see early Christianity more in terms of a 'party' or, perhaps more formally, even a sect within Judaism, rather than being an initially new religion.8 Some have even argued that Christianity was, and indeed still is, a particular form of Judaism.9 According to this view, there eventually emerged from a highly pluralistic phase in the first century two dominant 'Judaisms': Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. However much they might vary in the way they interpreted their tenets, we can find in both groups four so-called 'pillars' of belief which constituted in effect a sufficient common core for us to speak of them as belonging essentially to the same religion. These have been identified pg xvii as the ideas of monotheism, election, the Torah, and the Temple.10 Whereas Rabbinic Judaism generally inclined towards a more literalistic view of them, Christianity was to develop an elaborate metaphorical interpretation of all four. Thus Hebrew monotheism was eventually to be expanded into the doctrine of the Trinity; the idea of the election of a 'chosen people' was made to include the whole human race 'called' to the Church; and the body of law and ritual contained in the Torah was reread in terms of the 'spirit' as pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah. Perhaps most significant, however, in the light of later developments, was the idea of the Temple—whence the metaphor of the four pillars was, of course, originally derived. There is clear evidence to suggest that until 70 ce the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, led by the Apostle James, continued, unopposed, to participate in the worship of the Temple, although the prominence given in all four gospels to Jesus's prophecy of its destruction might suggest that they saw it as already doomed. At the same time the imagery of the New Testament hammers home the message that the nascent Church was itself to be seen as the new eschatological Temple of God. Once the Second Temple had been destroyed in 70 ce this metaphorical reading of the Jewish tradition in terms of the Church was so reinforced that Christians felt no need to participate in the efforts of Rabbinic Judaism to rebuild the Temple or to take part in the final Jewish revolt early in the Second Century. Thus we find Irenaeus, for instance, at the end of the second century condemning the Ebionites, a surviving Jewish Christian sect, for still continuing to revere Jerusalem 'as if it were the house of God'.

However we try to make sense of what was evidently a highly pluralistic situation, it is certainly true that many of the books of the Hebrew canon involved prescriptions for Jewish cultic rituals which had little or no relevance to the practices or beliefs of the new Hellenistic Christian communities scattered around the eastern Mediterranean. In some cases their narratives, laws, and even ethical teachings actually seemed to contradict those of the New Testament. Marcion's open dismissal of the Hebrew scriptures was one response, if a blunt one, to the obvious difficulty. For those like Irenaeus and Eusebius who believed the Hebrew writings to be nevertheless divinely inspired, some method had to be found to harmonize them with what was now believed to be their fulfilment. Jewish interpreters had already shown, pg xviii with their allegorizing of the Song of Songs, how texts could be given other meanings apart from their obvious literal one, and this existing tradition was now reinforced and made more easily acceptable by the adoption of similar Greek methods of exegesis. In the first century ce Philo, a Hellenized Jew, foreshadowed the later Christian synthesis of Hebrew and Greek traditions by claiming that not only were the Hebrew scriptures compatible with Greek philosophy, but that in many cases the latter had been influenced by them.11 In so doing he showed how Greek allegorical methods could be used on other Hebrew scriptural books. Soon the general claim that Christianity was the key to understanding the Hebrew scriptures—the message of Philip to the Ethiopian in Acts 8—was supported by an increasingly elaborate system of figurative and allegorical interpretation. Later commentators, such as Origen and Augustine, were to lay the foundations of a system of exegesis so complex and polysemous that by the Middle Ages the literal meaning of even such writings as Paul's letters took second place to figurative meanings. The interpretation of texts was thus not so much an incidental activity of the new religion as an integral part of its foundation and subsequent development. From the recorded sayings of Jesus onwards, Christianity in effect constituted a new critical theory.

Yet just because Christianity began with a special sense that it differed from the world that preceded it, and that its own heritage had now to be thought of differently from the way in which it had been previously understood, the interpretative function of narrative was uniquely central to its development. It is said that the Greek historian Herodotus (c.480–c.425 bce), visiting Thebes in Egypt, gazed in awe at the 300 generations of high priests of the temple recorded on its walls, as he realized that such a list went back for thousands of years before the dawn of Greek history. Recounting this anecdote, the historian J. H. Plumb has argued that it was precisely this sense of the past as a problem that made Herodotus the first real historian—and he contrasts this with the untroubled and uncritical approach of the ancient Chinese chroniclers, for whom there was no threatening earlier civilization, and for whom the succession of one emperor after another for upwards of 5,000 years was simply an extension of time.12 In contrast with the Chinese, the compilers of the New Testament, pg xix like Herodotus, had to approach the past not as a sequence of time but as a problem with a meaning that had to be explained.

This sense of the past as a problem increased rather than diminished in the first few centuries of the Christian era. One reason, perhaps, why Christianity, rather than its many rivals, was able to ride out the destruction of the Roman Empire was that its own literature prefigured models not merely for the destruction of great empires, but for a meaningful pattern to their rise and fall. The biblical world was never a self-sufficient culture isolated from surrounding societies. It had clung rather to a marginal existence at the intersection of the spheres of influence of greater powers, and Jewish political and cultural life had only flowered in the brief intervals between the waning and waxing of the imperial ambitions of others—Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Moreover, if, as some modern biblical historians have claimed, the origins of the Bible do lie in the 'problem' presented to the ancient Hebrews by the older literature and cultures of surrounding Near Eastern peoples,13 then it is also true that this quality of having a multiple, even a 'translated', past which must then be appropriated, was in some sense already present even in Old Testament times. We can see this most clearly in the pre-Patriarchal part of Genesis, which is quite explicit in the way it refers to other peoples and legends, but it is also true that the Bible as a whole is permeated with an awareness of other hostile and inimical cultures that threaten not merely the political existence of Israel, but much more fundamentally, its own unique culture.

The Bible as a Translated Book

This brings us to one of the most important qualities of the Bible—and one that marks it out as being peculiarly different from, say, its great rival in exclusivity, the Qur'an. For Europe the Bible has always been a translated book. More than that: it is a book whose translated, and therefore foreign, status has always been a conspicuous part of our whole civilization's historical identity—in a social, literary, and even religious sense. Almost every line of its text serves to remind us that it is about the people of another time and place who belonged to other kinds of societies from our own and who spoke different languages from ourselves. We have grown so accustomed to this curious pg xx fact that it is worth pausing for a moment to call attention to the obvious. Whatever its degree of borrowing from the Bible and other earlier writings, the Qur'an is mediated to the Islamic world in the same Arabic in which it was written by the prophet Muhammad. A Muslim, whether in Glasgow, Mecca, Samarkand, or Jakarta, is obliged to pray in the original and therefore sacred language dictated to the founder of his faith, it is said, by the Archangel Gabriel for that purpose—and for that reason there must be no tampering with the word of God. Three-quarters of the Christian Bible, by contrast, is acknowledged, even by its most fundamentalist adherents, to be originally the scriptures of another religion and written in a language never spoken by any Christian community.14 Moreover, even that section, originally the Hebrew Bible, was not at any stage a linguistically homogenous whole.

It is only when we contrast these basic assumptions about origins with the doctrine of the verbal stability of the Qur'an that we begin to realize just how great is the gulf separating Christianity and Islam in their unconscious preconceptions about the nature of a text. In spite of a strong fundamentalist tradition in certain parts of evangelical Protestantism, Christianity, by the very appropriative electicism of its origins, has always been at least dimly conscious of its own distance from its sacred writings. In other words, the problem of its own origins has always warranted a theory of reading, a hermeneutic system of interpretation—even if, as in some cases, that appears to be largely in the form of an insistence on the inspired nature of the Authorized Version. In contrast, though English-language versions of the Qur'an are, of course, now available,15 it is nevertheless clearly understood by members of the Islamic community that these are not translations; they do not and cannot carry the force of the original inspired Arabic wording. Moreover, whatever earlier sources or degrees of appropriation modern scholars may detect behind the various Surahs of the Qur'an, there is, officially at least, no countenancing of the idea that the way in which we understand the past might be conditioned by the cultural circumstances of the present. This has, of course, been made easier by the fact that for contingent historical pg xxi reasons, until large-scale migration of Islamic communities to Europe and North America began in this century, it was possible for most of the Islamic world not to feel any problematic or disturbing cultural gap between itself and its sacred texts. Though it had spread outward from the countries of its origin in the Arabian peninsula, unlike Christianity, Islam had never been forced to decamp entirely from its own geographical heartland.

But if the Bible is essentially a book in exile from its original context, we should note that this has always been true of it. As we understand more of its cultural context we are also coming more and more to see how eclectic and diverse are its origins. Though what non-Jews now call the Old Testament was mostly written in Hebrew, substantial parts of the canon are translations or paraphrases from yet other, earlier sacred texts—Canaanite, Mesopotamian, or Egyptian, for instance. Since much of it appears to have originated as a critical and often hostile commentary on those earlier religious writings,16 there is a real sense in which the Bible can be said to owe its very origins to intertextuality. There are, for instance, many well-documented earlier external sources for biblical stories. The Flood narrative of Genesis is remarkably similar to that written in Hurrian, the language of a tribe which seems to have entered the ancient near East from north India around 1600 bce. The name of its hero, Nahmizuli, contains the (vowel-less) Hebrew word for Noah, Nhm, and his ark also comes to rest on Mount Ararat—which, though it is some way from Canaan, happens to have been right in the heart of the ancient Hurrian Empire. But whereas that story ends with the goddess Ishtar pledging a marvellous necklace, 'the Jewels of Heaven', that she will save humanity from the god Enlil's wrath in future, the biblical account ends with the covenant between man and God, with the rainbow as its sign.17

Indeed, the resemblances between some of the early Genesis stories and the Mesopotamian Atrahasis Epic and the Epic of Gilgamesh have led some critics to argue for the existence of a genre of creation-to-flood epics in the ancient Near East.18 Many of the events narrated in Exodus seem to have their origins in Ugaritic and Canaanite material.19 Some biblical terms for household items, including clothing, furniture, and perfumes, are demonstrably Ugaritic in origin. Similarly, there are clear parallels in the use of metaphors between David's pg xxii lament for Jonathan and Ugaritic lyrics: where Psalm 137 reads 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning', an earlier Ugaritic text has 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither'.20 There are also strong Egyptian influences on parts of the Old Testament. Psalm 104, for example, bears a striking similarity to the 'Hymn to Aten', reputedly written by the heretical monotheistic pharaoh, Akhenaten, in about 1345 bce.21 The story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39) first occurs in an Egyptian story called the 'Tale of Two Brothers' dating from at least 1200 bce.22 Even more interesting are stories which seem to bear the marks of at least two external sources. Thus, although the name 'Moses' is an authentic Egyptian one, the story of the baby in a floating reed basket caulked with pitch is also told of King Sargon, who, by the Bible's own dating, lived more than a thousand years earlier than Moses around 2500 bce.23 Pitch, moreover, does not occur in Egypt, but was a common material in Sargon's Mesopotamia.

There had almost certainly been strong Mesopotamian influences in Israel before the Captivity, but more than fifty years of exile in Babylon completed the cultural cross-fertilization. It was in this period too that the Jews in captivity came into close contact with the much older monotheistic religion of the Persians, Zoroastrianism. The post-exilic court of Zerubbabel and his descendants even spoke Aramaic, the common language of the Persian Empire, not Hebrew. There are ironies here that are still the centre of controversy. One biblical scholar, G. B. Caird, has claimed that:

The language of Haran, whence Abraham is said to have come, was Aramaic … Hebrew was the language of Canaan (Isa. 19: 18) and was taken over by Israel from the Canaanites, along with their knowledge of agriculture and the pertinent sacrificial rites … When during the last three centuries bc Hebrew gradually fell into disuse and was supplanted by Aramaic as the vernacular of the Palestinian Jews, this was reversion rather than innovation.24

Certainly by the time Ezra returned to Jerusalem, some eighty years after Zerubbabel and the first wave of exiles, and the bulk of the writings that now compose the Old Testament were either written or put into their present form, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that Hebrew pg xxiii was no longer the normal language of these Jews. When the New Testament came to be written during the first century ce, Hebrew was so unfamiliar to the Palestinian Jews that, even in the synagogues, the Hebrew scriptures had to be read either by means of paraphrases into Aramaic, called Targums, or, in Greek-speaking areas, by the Greek translation called the Septuagint. Indeed, biblical Hebrew seems in many ways to be a language created for an ideological purpose. It is worth noting, however, that this does not make it unique—the same can be said of Shakespeare's History Plays or Milton's Paradise Lost. Moreover, as we shall see, it is not an aberration but actually a recurring characteristic of the Bible that it is written in a language at some remove from that actually spoken by its readers.

Whether or not we are prepared to accept the argument that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are better seen as parallel developments from a common source, rather than in conventional terms of schism and appropriation, it is undoubtedly true that the movement towards reading the Jewish tradition and its scriptures as metaphors of the new universal religion was to have enormously important repercussions on the development of Christianity. It also serves to remind us that there was more to the appropriation of the Jewish scriptures than simply linguistic translation. Indeed, it would in some senses be truer to say that the linguistic translation—which, after all, as we have seen, had already been begun within pre-Christian Judaism with the Septuagint and the Targums—was part of the political translation from Judaism to Christianity that began in the first century ce and continued until at least the fifth century.

If we assume that Jesus and his immediate circle were themselves Aramaic-speakers, we have to note also the fact, so easily passed over, that the written accounts of his life and sayings are themselves, even in their earliest known forms, translations—since the remaining section of our Bible was written in a different language altogether: koiné Greek, a non-literary, low-status form of the language spoken mostly by traders and non-Greeks throughout Asia Minor in the early years of the Christian era. This was a sign of the times, for within only a generation or so the early Christians had lost almost all contact with both Hebrew and Aramaic and were using the Septuagint. Over the next three centuries Latin translations—first the Old Latin and then Jerome's Vulgate—also came into use. Thus, what was in effect the first truly unified monoglot version of the Bible was already itself not merely a translation, but a translation of translations. Nor was this the end of the long process of textual accommodation. The English pg xxiv Authorized Version was, in turn, a political as well as a religious undertaking in which the Protestant appropriation and alteration of the Catholic Vulgate paralleled the earlier Christian appropriation and alteration of the Jewish scriptures.

These origins of the Christian Bible in a tradition of multi-layered and polysemous readings have left it with a very particular, even peculiar, cultural flavour. It is easy to assume, for instance, that the Reformation meant a shift back to a literal reading of the Bible, but figurative readings were in fact to persist well into the nineteenth century—and are by no means extinct today.25 Indeed, the idea of a wholly literal reading itself raises peculiar problems with some biblical books—Jonah or Daniel in the Old Testament, or Revelation, for instance, in the New Testament. More to the point, however, is the fact that just as its openly translated and appropriated quality is more than just part of the 'givenness' of the Bible, but seems to flaunt itself as somehow intrinsic to the way we are expected to read it, so too does a continued sense of it as meaning something more and other than what it appears to say. As has already been suggested, it is possible that the origins of the Hebrew scriptures themselves lie not so much in a particular revelation as in a critical commentary on yet earlier texts or even unwritten traditions of neighbouring societies. A text that, in this sense, gives evidence within itself of the existence of other, prior, texts already also implicitly suggests multi-layered ways of reading. It may also help to account for a curious contradiction in traditional attitudes to the Bible whereby its contents have been seen as at once alien and remote, and, simultaneously, speaking personally to each individual reader.

The Authorized Version

There is an enormous variety of English translations now available to the general reader—some painfully literal, some cautiously archaic, others whose avowed aim is to achieve modernity and contemporaneity even if that means indulging in free paraphrase of the original Hebrew and Greek. The editors of this World's Classics edition have, however, had no hesitation in choosing the version that has had the greatest effect on the development of the English language and its literature since it was first published in 1611: the King James, or pg xxv Authorized, Version. They have, for the same reason, included the Apocrypha—the so called deutero-canonical books from the Vulgate that were omitted from the Protestant Bible at the Reformation because it was felt they were of doubtful origin. Such stories, for instance, as Susannah and the Elders—arguably the first piece of detective fiction—have been so popular with later writers and artists that to leave them out would have unnecessarily mutilated what is probably the world's most longstanding best-seller.

Great as its influence has been, we should remember that this version dates only from the beginning of the seventeenth century, and that its present reputation and status was not immediate or even automatic—indeed, for a long time it was highly unpopular in some quarters.26 Nor is it the Bible of Spenser, Shakespeare, or Donne.27 By the time of James I and VI's accession to the combined throne of England and Scotland in 1603 the variety of translations available was more a reflection of the religious turmoil of the previous century than a sign of progress in scholarship. Most, like Coverdale's version and the officially sanctioned 'Bishops' Bible', still drew heavily on Tyndale's pioneering translation of the whole of the New Testament and parts of the Old,28 in spite of the fact that much of his language was already out of date in the fast-changing state of sixteenth-century English. By the end of the century, however, most private readers were using the so-called 'Geneva' Bible produced by a group of puritan scholars, including John Knox, in Calvin's Geneva. This was no doubt in many cases for ideological reasons, but for many more readers it was essentially a matter of convenience. The Bishops' Bible was a massive tome essentially designed to be read in churches—its authors had not appreciated the exponential growth in private reading and devotions in the generations immediately following the Reformation. The Geneva Bible, in contrast, was simply much easier to read. It was available in octavo form and could easily be held in the hand or even go in a pocket; since it was in Roman rather than in the older Gothic 'black type', it was more legible; finally—and most controversially—it had notes to help in the interpretation of difficult passages.

But in a country that within a generation was to be plunged into pg xxvi civil war, biblical translation was too politically sensitive a matter to be left to chance or convenience. Tyndale had incurred the wrath of the authorities by translating the Latin ecclesia as 'congregation' rather than 'church'—thereby suggesting a much looser, more democratic and self-governing organization in the early Christian communities of the New Testament than the episcopally organized and hierarchical Anglican Church could tolerate. The Geneva Bible had gone much further—especially in view of what was to be the fate of Charles I—by explaining in a note that 1 Chronicles 16:22, 'Touch not mine anointed', did not (as was claimed by the Church of England) justify the special sanctity of kings, but referred to all God's people, the ordinary church members, who should not therefore be harassed by the civil authorities.

For an age when matters of religion and politics were often scarcely distinguishable, a new translation was expedient on both grounds: 'I profess I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English,' declared James at a meeting with his bishops in 1603, 'but I think that of all, that of Geneva is the worst. I wish some special pains were taken for a uniform translation; which should be done by the best learned in both universities, then reviewed by the bishops, presented to the privy council, lastly ratified by royal authority to be read in the whole church and no other.' Bancroft, the bishop of London, was at first suspicious of adding to the existing number of translations, but gave in with the proviso, 'it is fit that no marginal notes be added thereunto'. The king could hardly disagree: 'That caveat is well put in; for in the Genevan translation some notes are partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring of traitorous conceits …'

The ground-rules for the new translation laid down as a result of this debate indicate very clearly what was to be expected of the projected Authorized Version. It was from the start deliberately conceived of not only as a document of political and theological compromise, but as a text that would openly refer to and incorporate previous translations. Among the instructions given to the translators were:

  1. i. The ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the Bishops' Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.

  2. ii. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with other names in the text, to be retained as near as may be, accordingly as they are vulgarly used.

  3. iii. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz. as the word church not to be translated congregation &c.

  4. iv. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath pg xxvii been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place and the analogy of faith.

  5. v. The division of chapters to be altered either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.

  6. vi. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew and Greek words which cannot without some circumlocution so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text…

  7. xiv. These translations to be used when they agree better with the text than the Bishops' Bible, viz. Tindal's, Matthew's, Coverdale's, Whitchurch, Geneva.29

Not merely was it intended that, wherever useful or politically expedient, it should rely heavily on the collective work of earlier translators, this element of consensus and collectivity was reinforced by an elaborate committee structure which ensured that each of the forty-seven appointed translators had his individual work reviewed by the others in his group before the work of each group was then reviewed by all the other groups. Finally, two members from each of the three centres of translation, Cambridge, Oxford, and Westminster, were chosen to review the entire Bible and to prepare the work for publication in London. There was to be no authorization of individual idiosyncrasy. It is sometimes said that 'a camel is a horse designed by a committee'; if so, then the Authorized Version is the ultimate camel.

This explicit commitment both to tradition and consensus left its mark on the text in two very important ways. First, it meant that the new translation was deeply conservative. Perhaps even in part to avoid the earlier association between vernacular translation and blasphemy, in a period when the English language was changing more rapidly than ever before or since, the Bible was set in words that were designed to stress the essential continuity of the Anglican settlement with the past by recalling the phraseology not merely of the familiar Geneva Bible, but of Coverdale and Tyndale—and beyond that even of the Vulgate itself. In the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is a copy of the 1602 Bishops' Bible with extensive marginal annotations of the New Testament in the handwriting of three of the appointed translators. It seems to be the only known survivor of the '40 large churchbibles' sold unbound by Robert Barker, the King's Printer, to the translators pg xxviii of the Authorized Version for use as a basis for their revisions.30 If one compares the text of this Bishops' Bible with that of the Authorized Version line by line and verse by verse, it is striking to see how few are the actual amendments. But this conservatism goes well beyond the original brief of simply retaining where possible the earlier phraseology. Unlike Tyndale, who had translated the koiné Greek of the New Testament into a direct and forceful contemporary vernacular, the language of the new translation was often deliberately archaic and Latinized. Similarly, the variety of styles in the Old Testament writings was flattened and archaized into the form that we have now come to think of instinctively as 'biblical'.

As a result, the language of the Authorized Version forms a curiously and even uniquely self-referential whole31—in many ways, indeed, much more so than the original writings of which it is composed. The seventeenth-century translators believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were dealing with divinely inspired texts, whose events, however alien, were read with immediate reference to themselves and their contemporary situation. This meant that though they were much less prepared to take liberties with the original texts than are modern translators, they were much more prepared to make such innovations as seemed to them appropriate in the English language itself. The Authorized Version is full of new coinages and phrases that have passed into the language—often from literal translations of Hebrew metaphors. They include such phrases as 'the skin of my teeth', 'lick the dust', or 'fell flat on his face'.32 There is a story (perhaps apocryphal) that a group of modern translators wished to find the modern equivalent of the phrase 'fatted calf' from the story of the Prodigal Son. Accordingly they enquired in Smithfield Market, in London, as to what one called a calf that had been specially fattened for eating. The reply was 'fatted calf'—and that the phrase came from the Bible. But, as we have seen, the Authorized Version was not, as is sometimes argued, simply the product of the English language at a peculiarly rich stage of its evolution, but of a deliberate piece of social and linguistic engineering. With its careful distancing from the immediate present it was less liable to go quickly out of date. The translators' willingness to allow ambiguity pg xxix of meaning and, at the verbal level, their minute attention to the music of its words, phrases, and even cadences, meant not merely that the biblical texts were given a new (and arguably quite spurious) unity, but also that the English language received a new stylistic model.

There is here a radical difference between the Authorized Version and the various modern versions like the New English Bible, the Revised Standard, or the Good News Bible. Our twentieth-century knowledge of the biblical world and its background is probably infinitely greater (at least in a scholarly sense) than that of the early seventeenth century. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the many modern translations differ much more from each other and from their predecessors than the Authorized Version did from its immediate forerunner, the Bishops' Bible. Yet though it took several generations,33 the King James translation was eventually to obliterate the earlier versions of the sixteenth century—the Bibles, as has been said, actually used by people like Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Donne—in a way that none of the twentieth-century versions have done to it. It was designed to control the language of salvation, and to occupy the linguistic high ground in such a way as to allow its rivals, whether the puritan Geneva or the Catholic Rheims and Douai Bibles, less verbal space, less legitimacy, less power. As we have seen, it was always part of its brief that it should do so. Though there is some question whether it was in fact ever so 'authorized', that very notion of royal 'authorization' carries with it also the corresponding idea of exclusiveness. At any one time there could only be one such version: just as the Bishops' Bible had replaced the Great Bible, so now the new Authorized King James Version was to replace the Bishops'. Indeed, as was suggested above, there is a real sense in which the story of the Authorized Version is a microcosm of the story of the Bible as a whole. Just as the Bible has appropriated the concept of a book, so, for the English-speaking world, the Authorized Version has appropriated the notion of the Bible. All other versions still exist, as it were, in its shadow. It has shaped, formed, and moulded the language with which the others must speak.

Biblical Interpretation

The greatest problem faced by all biblical translators, from Jerome onwards, is the inevitable distance of the intended reader from such pg xxx an ancient text. It is an indication of the paradox involved that such a statement immediately sounds as if it is flying in the face of two millennia of often highly rhetorical and emotional polemic to the contrary, but any reader who really begins to engage with the biblical text is, in spite of occasional moments of familiarity, inevitably reminded of how essentially alien are the worlds of both the Old and New Testaments. The immense weight of traditional moralistic and devotional rhetoric urging us to see it as pointing directly to ourselves merely serves to illustrate the almost intractable scale of the original problem.

As might be expected, the result has been a polarization of reactions. As we have seen, the Christian appropriation of the Jewish scriptures involved allegorical or figural readings of many of the texts. Often, however, these did not so much replace literal readings as complement them, so that multi-level, or polysemous, readings became the normal method of biblical interpretation. Different schools of thought differed as to the precise number of figural interpretations possible to a given passage. Some Alexandrian authorities detected as many as twelve, but four was by far the most widely accepted number.34 Even this number could itself be arrived at by typological reasoning. Irenaeus, for example, argued for the canonical primacy of the four gospels from the fact that God's world was supplied in fours: as there were 'four zones', and 'four winds', so there four gospels; four levels of interpretation followed easily. According to St John Cassian in the fourth century these were a literal, or historical sense, an allegorical, a tropological (or moral), and an anagogical. Tropological related to the Word, or doctrine conveyed by it, and therefore carried a moral sense; the anagogical concerns eternal things. Cassian takes as his example the figure of Jerusalem. Historically it may be seen as the earthly city; allegorically it stands for the Church; tropologically it represents the souls of all faithful Christians; anagogically it is the heavenly city of God.35

As a later Latin rhyme has it:

  • Littera gesta docet, quid credes allegoria,
  • Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.

(The letter teaches what happened, the allegorical what to believe, The moral what to do, the anagogical toward what to aspire.)36

pg xxxiErich Auerbach has argued that far from being merely a hermeneutic fashion, this new Christian interpretative theory was essential to its becoming a world religion:

Figural interpretation changed the Old Testament from a book of laws and a history of the people of Israel into a series of figures of Christ and the Redemption—so Celtic and Germanic peoples, for example, could accept the Old Testament as part of the universal religion of salvation and a necessary component of the equally magnificent and universal vision of history conveyed to them along with this religion…Its integral, firmly teleological, view of history and the providential order of the world gave it the power to capture the imagination…of the convert nations. Figural interpretation was a fresh beginning and a rebirth of man's creative powers.37

If, as Auerbach also significantly observes, this appropriation was accompanied by a new surge of creative energies, some figural interpretations strike the modern reader as little short of grotesque. A sermon among the spuria of Chrysostom interprets the Massacre of the Innocents by noting that the fact that children of 2 years old and under were murdered while those of 3 presumably were spared is meant to teach us that those who hold the Trinitarian faith will be saved whereas Binitarians and Unitarians will undoubtedly perish.38

Nevertheless, this tradition, exemplified in medieval stained-glass windows and illuminated manuscripts, where the patriarchs or apostles are performing their typological roles in contemporary dress and setting, has been continued with increasing personal emphasis into the post-Reformation world. We are familiar with the corresponding deployment of biblical metaphor and typology not merely in religious and moral polemics but in the parallel contemporary discourses of politics, of trade, medicine, and everyday life. At Ranworth Church, near Norwich, a late-fourteenth-century manuscript shows Jonah, dressed much as a local parson, being swallowed by a great fish from the nearby lake (or Broad) in the river.39 A panel of thirteenth-century stained glass in Canterbury Cathedral shows Jesus raising Jairus's daughter in a curiously perspectived medieval merchant's house. To James I of England, thundering against the filthy habit of smoking, it seemed entirely natural to compare the perverted lusts of smokers to the Children of Israel 'lusting in the wilderness after quails'. To Oliver pg xxxii Cromwell, fighting against Catholics in Ireland, it seemed no less appropriate to justify the brutal obliteration of Catholic society and, if necessary, the massacre of his opponents, by supporting the Protestant Plantation in Ulster with images of the Israelites occupying Canaan appropriated from the Book of Joshua. To the Catholic Gaelic Irish of the same period—and later—it seemed equally obvious to compare their sufferings with 'the children of Israel in Egypt under the oppression of the enemies of God'—a reciprocity of images that has prompted Conor Cruise O'Brien to comment that one could say Ireland was inhabited not really by Protestants and Catholics but by two sets of imaginary Jews.

The construction of such grand narratives, however conflicting, has always been part of biblical interpretation. Yet their creation has never been entirely free from an uneasy consciousness not merely of their alienness, but also of their incompleteness. Christian churches had to append the various collections of early Christian writings, now known as the New Testament, to the Greek translation and canon of the Hebrew Bible in order to produce a grand narrative in the first place. Moreover, it is arguable that every grand narrative detected in the Bible breaks down under critical scrutiny, and that the Bible is, in fact, much more a collection of open-ended stories and narratives, as in the Jewish tradition, than the one grand narrative from creation to consummation imposed upon it by Christianity. Certainly in many ways this fracturing and consequent plurality of possible grand narratives can be seen as equally characteristic of the Bible.

Not surprisingly, this mixture of profound textual ambiguity and a tradition of imperial claims for it has also prompted fierce resistance to the Bible's traditional status as a holy book bearing the revealed word of God. One example must stand for many. In September 1791 the Revolutionary French National Assembly was formally presented by its secretary, the former aristocrat Constantin-François de Volney, with a short monograph entitled Les Ruines, ou méditation sur les révolutions des empires. It concerned the origins of religion and, in particular, of Christianity. According to Volney, not merely all Indo-European and Semitic religion but even astrology as well could be traced back to a common origin in ancient Egypt at least 17,000 years ago. All modern forms of supernatural and revealed religion were, he claimed, in reality nothing more than the misplaced products of primitive nature-worship, time, and the accidents of historical diffusion. Thus the gods of Egypt had been appropriated by the Aryans into their own pantheon before being eventually reduced to a single deity pg xxxiii in Persia in the sixth century bce. This new syncretistic monotheism had in turn been adopted by the Israelites when released from the Babylonian captivity by the Persians, transmitted to the Christians, and thence eventually to Muhammad and the Bedouin tribesmen of the Arabian desert: 'Jews, Christians, Mahometans, howsoever lofty may be your pretensions, you are in your spiritual and immaterial system, only the blundering followers of Zoroaster'.40 Like most Enlightenment thinkers, Volney attributed miracles to the power of imagination, the gods to their origins in the forces of nature, and the regulation of human society to the operation of natural law and self-love.41 Volney supported this argument by a dazzling and curious range of erudition ranging from Hindu cosmology to the esoteric doctrines of the Esenes.42 That, together with its strongly revolutionary and anti-clerical context, was sufficient to account for the book's immediate popularity both inside and outside France. At least three English translations had appeared by the end of the 1790s, and it was still being reprinted by freethinking and radical groups in Britain as late as the 1880s.

If Volney's thesis appears to have lost something of its shock-value today—not least because later biblical scholarship has confirmed much of his evidence—we only need to recall just how devastating in the long term his radical and relativistic historicism was to prove for nineteenth-century Christianity. Though we are more likely to associate the impact of such a methodology in Victorian Britain with later names like those of Feuerbach, Strauss, and Renan,43 this is more because Volney's association with the French Revolution effectively served to discredit his scholarship among the clergy and the world of the Anglican establishment than because his arguments were themselves ineffective. Volney remains a key figure in the history of interpretative theory and, as the number of translations suggests, he had a considerable direct impact on English radicals at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.44 In 1817 Mary pg xxxiv Shelley (1797–1851), the wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was to give the Ruins of Empire final mythopoeic status by putting it on her Monster's reading-list in Frankenstein.

Though there was little in the general thesis of Volney's syncretistic and diffusionist argument that was specifically new and that had not appeared in the writings of other eighteenth-century critics of the Bible, it was perhaps the first time that a polemical work of this kind had caught the popular imagination to this degree. Nor was its refusal to make a clear separation between Christianity and other Near-Eastern religions the most shocking of its conclusions. Worse, perhaps, was its claim that the Bible had antecedents that might extend back over a period of up to 17,000 years. Standard biblical commentaries of the eighteenth century were often in the habit of including not merely the dates before Christ of particular events, but also the date of those events after the Creation of the world—which, as everyone knew, following the famous calculations of Archbishop Ussher, had occurred in 4004 bce.45 Even this implied attack on conventional biblical dating was, however, probably less disturbing for many orthodox Christians than another implicit suggestion of Volney's: that the Old Testament—and in particular the book of Genesis—was not the earliest known written text.

For many contemporary scholars the authority of the Bible was bound up with the belief that Hebrew was the oldest known language—containing at least elements of the original, un-fallen Adamic language where words stood in an essential rather than a contingent and arbitrary relationship to the things they described.46 Thus, even Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), in his great literary study of the Old Testament, The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, published only ten years before, had done no more than sum up conventional wisdom when he took it for granted that Hebrew poetry 'expresses the earliest perceptions, the simplest forms, by which the human soul expressed its thoughts, the most uncorrupted affections that bound and guided it'.47 But Herder had still been a clergyman—however unorthodox a pg xxxv one. The idea that there might be behind Genesis a nexus of yet older literary texts, and that the first book of the Bible, so far from being in every sense the beginning of written human experience, the fount and origin of all history, was in some sense a rewriting or a commentary on those texts, constituted for many as great a challenge to contemporary thought as the sixteenth-century substitution of the Copernican for the Ptolemaic astronomical system, or Darwin's placing of Man within the chain of evolutionary biology. Far from being the foundation document of Christian civilization, laid down by divine fiat, it now seemed possible, to those prepared to consider the iconoclastic arguments of Volney and his successors, that the Bible in some sense had begun as an appropriation of the mythological and historical writings of other earlier civilizations.

Nevertheless, those who believed that the status of the Bible could not survive either the evidence of its syncretistic origins or the historicist critique mounted against it by its more destructive critics were, like so many prophets of its demise, proved wrong. Similarly, reports of the death of Christianity, like those of the death of God, seem on the whole to have been greatly exaggerated. But one effect of the Higher Criticism (or historical criticism of the Bible) and the French Revolution was to drive a wedge between the status of the Bible, and belief in the religion whose holy book it was supposed to be. 'The Jewish poets deserve a better fate', wrote the arch-radical and Deist Tom Paine (1737–1809), 'than that of being bound up, as they are now with the trash that accompanies them, under the abused name of the word of God…'48 Certainly it would have been difficult to predict in 1700, at the height of neoclassicism, that a hundred years later, with the advent of Romanticism, the literary and aesthetic prestige of the Bible would be at a new zenith. Many biblical critics, both then and later, have failed to understand the significance of this, believing that if the historical authority of the Bible was undermined, then any aesthetic authority it might have was only a residual afterglow from its now-exploded religious significance. Yet the peculiar nature of the concept of the holy book as it has evolved within Western civilization has always resisted this kind of compartmentalization. The separation of biblical from literary criticism in fact only dates from the end of the eighteenth century.49 In the 1770s Robert Lowth pg xxxvi (1710–87), the greatest English biblical critic of the century, in massive notes to his New Translation of Isaiah, was still following conventional aesthetics when he described Aristotle's Poetics as 'the Great Code of Criticism';50 twenty years later William Blake (1757–1827) was consciously to echo and challenge Lowth's formulation when he wrote that 'the Old and New Testaments are the Great Code of Art'.51 Ironically, that is not a view that Shelley would have dissented from. The same English radicals, such as Paine, who were avidly reading Volney in the 1790s, even while they were rejecting the ecclesio-political authority claimed for the Bible by the ancien régime, were nevertheless turning to its apocalyptic prophecies in search of an appropriate language of change to describe the permanent transformation they had rightly perceived in the structure of European politics.52 For Blake the new scholarship also offered something more: a way of escaping the repression and mystification often associated with the established notion of a holy book. His own prophetic works (which he printed and coloured himself) are unique among printed books in their refusal to create a single, univocal text. To the despair of modern editors, each copy of each book is subtly different from the next in the position of the words, or the arrangement and colouring of illustrations—thus preventing any one version establishing itself as final or definitive.53 For Blake, the power of the Bible lay not in its unchanging truth, but its dynamism and fluidity. As had so often happened in the past, by offering a new way of reading it Volney and his fellow-critics did not in the end so much destroy the power of the Bible as give it a new lease of life—not least by calling attention to the fact that there had been many such rereadings before.

If the polarization in biblical interpretation begun in the eighteenth century was to reach its crisis in the nineteenth, it also saw the foundations laid for a new cultural and historical understanding of the Bible. In 1748 the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711–76) had published an 'Essay on Miracles' in which he argued that any particular evidence for breaks in the laws of nature, however good, is inferior to the general evidence for those laws themselves and must therefore be discounted. In Germany Barthold Georg Niebuhr (1776–1831) and Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886) similarly insisted that any reconstruction of the past, including that covered by pg xxxvii the Bible, had to be scientific, rational, and humanistic. Whereas Herder, who had written two lives of Jesus, never questioned the New Testament accounts of miracles, for the next generation of historians such literalism was impossible. Stories of miracles, and explanations in terms of divine guidance or purpose, were now dismissed as fiction. Legends and myths of origin, unless they could be supported by evidence either from corroborating documents or, increasingly in the nineteenth century, archaeology, were similarly suspect. So far from guaranteeing the rest of history, biblical stories were to be judged by the same stringent standards as Niebuhr, for instance, was applying to the legends of the founding of Rome. Eighteenth-century biblical critics such as Reimarus (1694–1768), Lessing (1729–81), and Eichhorn (1752–1827), reinterpreted the Bible in terms of the new secular approach—often to the point of scepticism towards all forms of religious experience.

But for many it proved impossible to see the Bible both as the inspired and unchanging Word of God and also as a collection of documents from the past with a long and complex history of translation and interpretation. The Evangelical revival of the early nineteenth century was essentially a lay movement, aimed originally at renovating the semi-moribund spiritual life of the Church of England, and was more interested in fortifying faith than in what seemed to be esoteric historical scholarship. The terms 'conservative evangelical' or, more popularly, 'fundamentalist', were taken to describe those who chose to adhere to the idea that the Bible was inspired by God, a 'rock of ages' whose truth was complete and whose meaning could never alter. This Evangelical position was, of course, not a traditional but essentially a modern one since the older ideas of divine inspiration had stressed the meaning of the typology rather than the exact historicity of the narratives. Nevertheless, in the English-speaking world popular appreciation of the new critical and historical approach to the Bible was slow in coming. On Tuesday 11 April 1848 the Theological Tripos Exam in Cambridge University contained the question 'Give the date of the Deluge'. The correct answer, as any well- prepared candidate would have known, was '2348 bc, or 1656 after the Creation of the world'.54 When, in 1862, the liberal-minded Anglican bishop of Natal, John Colenso, published the first volume of his Critical Examination of the Pentateuch (1862–79), arguing (what is now a critical commonplace) that the first five books of the Bible were not by Moses at pg xxxviii all but dated from post-Exilic times, and were therefore technically 'forgeries', the bishop of Cape Town excommunicated him (he was later reinstated).

Two particular aspects of biblical interpretation dominate the popular nineteenth-century debate: the historicity of Genesis and the life of Jesus. At the same time as controversy had raged over interpretation of the supernatural and miraculous elements of the Bible, another debate had been focused on the accuracy of its time-scale. As we have seen with the case of Volney, geologists and palaeontologists were by no means the first to challenge biblical dating, but a succession of discoveries in the early nineteenth century made it increasingly difficult for any scientifically educated person to hold literally to the time- scheme of Genesis.55 In 1812 Baron Couvier, Europe's foremost anatomist, startled the scientific world by announcing that a pair of jaws over a metre-and-a-half long that had been dug up at Maastricht in 1770 had belonged to an extinct monster of gigantic proportions. The remains of other vast creatures, apparently dating from before the Flood, were coming to light in quarries and chalk pits. In 1822 the wife of Gideon Mantell, a doctor from Lewes in Sussex, drew his attention to some fossilized teeth in a pile of chalk by the roadside. He was a good enough anatomist to realize that they could not have come from any known animal. He traced the local quarry where they had come from and recovered enough of its skeleton to publish, in 1825, a description of the reconstructed animal, which he named, from the similarity of its teeth to those of the modern iguana, an 'iguanadon'. In Oxford, the Professor of Geology, the Revd William Buckland, published an account of another huge skeleton found in a local quarry, which he called simply a 'megalosaurus'. Though the term was not coined until 1841, the great age of dinosaur discovery had begun. For a short while it looked as if biblical literalists like Buckland were right in believing that geology was merely confirming scripture by finding the remains of beasts that had failed to get into Noah's Ark, and so perished in the Flood, but increasingly the geological evidence showed that the strata in which the fossils were discovered were millions, even hundreds of millions of years old. 'Catastrophist' geological theories—such as that of the Flood—were attacked by Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830–3) and Mantell's Wonders of Geology (1838). By the 1840s the stage was set for the confrontation between science pg xxxix and religion—a confrontation that, for many, was to come to a head with the much-publicized, and often stage-managed, clashes between 'science and religion' following the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859).56

Though there had been a Persian biography written in the sixteenth century, the first serious attempt to write a life of Jesus was by Reimarus (1694–1768). Like many of the most successful of such lives, it was written out of dislike rather than admiration.57 Others, both favourable and hostile, quickly followed. We have already mentioned Herder's two versions. Undoubtedly the most influential biographies in Britain were translations of those of David Friedrich Strauss (1808–74) from German, and Ernest Renan (1823–92) from French. Strauss's Life of Jesus, translated into English in 1846, was important both for its historicist approach and because of its translator—a young woman called Mary Ann Evans, who was shortly to be better known to the world by her pen-name, George Eliot. It was the first work of the new German historical scholarship to have a widespread popular readership in a Britain still unused to the idea of a demythologized Bible, and it caused instant scandal and controversy. Though the portrait of Jesus presented was sympathetic, it was wholly human and non- supernatural. Just as the Bible was given no special status, but was a book to be read (in Coleridge's words) 'like any other', so Strauss's Jesus was a man to be understood 'like any other'. For George Eliot, whose early Evangelical faith had been destroyed in 1841 by reading Charles Hennell's Enquiry Concerning the Origins of Christianity (1838), it confirmed her new atheism and led to her next work of translation, The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), which appeared in 1854. Though this was in some ways less immediately shocking than Strauss's book, since it did not focus specifically on the life of its founder, it was altogether broader and more searching in the scope of its challenge to Christianity and commonly held views of the Bible.

For Feuerbach the idea of God was essentially a human projection: an abstraction composed of the highest and noblest sentiments of humanity gathered together and attributed collectively to a single pg xl mythical being. 'God is the highest subjectivity of man abstracted from himself … God is the being who acts in me, with me, through me, upon me, for me, is the principle of my salvation, of my good dispositions and actions, consequently my own good principle and nature.'58 The Bible was therefore to be read as a progressive record of human consciousness, moving from primitive externalizations to the more sophisticated internalization of the New Testament. But this development did not cease with the life and death of Jesus. 'The course of religious development … consists specifically in this, that man abstracts more and more from God, and attributes more and more to himself … What yesterday was still religion is no longer such today; and what today is atheism, tomorrow will be religion.'59

If such a progressive model of religious consciousness sounds evolutionary, it is hardly surprising. Renan's Life of Jesus (1863) replaced the optimistic Hegelianism of Strauss as the model of progress by the more ruthless competition of Darwinism.60 For Renan this appropriation of current scientific models was connected with profound cultural and racial conflicts that still reverberated across nineteenth-century Europe. Jesus himself, a gentle, nature-loving, almost romantic figure, is a Galilean—that is to say, from a fair-haired peasant stock from the north of Palestine whose independent culture and sensibility was very different from the religious legalism and fanaticism of the dark-haired Jews of the south. Renan's sources, most notably Émile Burnouf's The Science of Religions, make clear what Renan only hints at: that Jesus was not really a Jew at all, but a displaced Aryan, whose ethical teachings and life-style inevitably brought him into conflict with the Semitic wiles of the priest-ridden Jews of Jerusalem who were eventually to crucify him.61 Though Renan would doubtless have been horrified by the outcome, such insinuations by Bernouf and others formed part of the intellectual matrix for twentieth-century Nazi propaganda.

Renan's greatest popularizer and supporter in Britain was the poet Matthew Arnold (1822–88), who, in addition to sharing many of Renan's racialist views, was deeply concerned to save what he saw as pg xli the cultural and poetic value of the Bible both from its undesirable 'Semitic' heritage and from the squabbles between anti-religious critics and fundamentalist defenders of the Bible's historical accuracy. 'At the present moment', he wrote in 1875, 'two things about the Christian religion must surely be clear to anyone with eyes in his head. One is, that men cannot do without it; the other is that they cannot do with it as it is.'62 In a series of books, St Paul and Protestantism (1870), Literature and Dogma (1873), and God and the Bible (1875), he argued strongly for a new approach that would recognize the poetic core of truth to the Bible that had been almost lost in the growth of what he called by the German word Aberglaube, or 'extrabelief': that is, the incrustation of miraculous legend, superstition, and fairy-tale that had grown up around the basic moral truths of Christianity and were in danger of strangling it. Any realistic understanding of the Bible had to come to terms with modern developments in both history and science.

On the whole neither Christians nor non-Christians were particularly grateful for Arnold's attempt to produce a wholly rational and humanistic Christianity, but his arguments about the continuing value of the Bible, irrespective of pietistic interpretations, were to prove prophetic—not least because they summarized what many literary critics and poets had been saying throughout the century. Not merely did the life and teachings of Jesus continue to exercise the imaginations of believers and non-believers alike, but even the myths and prophecies of the Old Testament were increasingly valued for what was seen as their poetic and psychological insight into the human condition. To dismiss this (as some did) simply as a literary response, was to beg the question of what 'literary' might mean in relation to the reading and understanding of narrative texts. In his Introduction to the Old Testament, for instance, Eichhorn had dismissed the visions of Ezekiel as 'mere cover-up' and 'poetical fancies', prompting an irritated marginal note from the poet and biblical critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834):

It perplexes me to understand how a Man of Eichhorn's Sense, Learning, and Acquaintance with Psychology could form, or attach belief to, so cold-blooded an hypothesis. That in Ezechiel's (sic) Visions Ideas or Spiritual Entities are presented in visual Symbols, I never doubted; but as little can I doubt, that such symbols did present themselves to Ezekiel in visions—and by a Law pg xlii closely connected with, if not contained in, that by which Sensations are organized into Images and Mental Sounds in our ordinary sleep.63

For Coleridge's German contemporary, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), such a psychological understanding of the conditions both under which the biblical passage was originally written, and under which the modern reader encountered it, was an essential part of biblical interpretation. We owe to him the word 'hermeneutics'—the art of interpretation of meaning in a text. For him, no text could have a fixed meaning unmodified by the motives and viewpoint of its author, its history, cultural context, the language in which it was written, the process of translation, and the cultural and interpretative context in which the reader approaches it. Though Schleiermacher was a theologian, and his new methodology was developed in response to the nineteenth-century crisis of biblical interpretation, he was at pains to stress that hermeneutics applied equally to any written text, and that the scriptures could not be treated differently from any other piece of writing. All reading was for him a hermeneutic act. Once again, the Bible had become the representative book.

Though the twentieth century has seen many diverse theories of biblical interpretation, from literalist to historicist, feminist, and postmodernist, perhaps its most valuable contribution to biblical understanding has come not from critics but from practising artists. An increasingly secularized and pluralistic world has meant no decline—arguably perhaps an increase—in the use of biblical themes by painters, sculptors, and poets. Even more significantly, biblical themes have provided subjects for novelists and dramatists as never before. In the process, qualities of biblical narrative long overlaid by pietistic reverence have been rediscovered. Though a succession of Hollywood epics such as The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, and David and Bathsheba cashed in on the ever-commercial possibilities of combining sex, religion, and violence to the point of making the mythic seem more improbable than any ridicule by eighteenth-century historicists, serious (though less popular) dramatists were seeing quite new qualities of irony in biblical narrative. James Bridie (pen-name of the Scots playwright Osborne Henry Mavor, 1888–1951) brought out some of the innate humour of the Old Testament and Apocrypha in Tobias and the Angel (1930) and Jonah and the Whale (1932), and the Cumberland poet Norman Nicholson (1910–1987), was able to introduce fresh layers of irony by relocating the story of Elijah and Ahab pg xliii in the Lake District in The Old Man of the Mountains (1946).64 A succession of writers, many Jewish, including Norman Mailer, Dan Jacobson, and the critic Harold Bloom, have produced novels on Old Testament themes.

Undoubtedly the greatest biblical novel of the century, however, is Thomas Mann's magnificent epic Joseph and his Brothers, a tetralogy published between 1933 and 1946. Begun in Germany, not least as an act of political defiance to Hitler and the rise of the Nazis, in the 1920s, and completed in exile in California, it treats the story of Jacob and Joseph as one of the emergence of humanity from mythic to historical self- consciousness. Joseph himself is seen as the type of the artist, in the tradition of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets endeavouring both to understand his world and to change it by means of his interpretation of it. Mann's narrative brings out, as no previous retelling has done, the layers, even convolutions, of irony underlying the Genesis story. Nevertheless, his saga is also inescapably twentieth-century, not just in its hermeneutic interpretation of the past (he remains true to the principles of a century-and-a-half of historical scholarship, avoiding both miracles and anachronisms) but also in the way his account impinges on the interpretation of his time. This was a point not lost on the Nazi censors, who moved swiftly against him when they came to power in 1933, forcing Mann into exile first in Switzerland and then the USA. The greatest biblical epic of the century was (correctly) read by its enemies as also being the most powerful comment on contemporary affairs.65

Extremes meet. In so far as conventional pietistic readings of the Bible have stressed its special meaning in the individual personal circumstances of each believer, what they are also stressing, in spite of an accompanying rhetoric of unchanging permanence, is its responsiveness to change. In so far as radicals stress its constant rewriting of history to meet the changing circumstances of different societies, they are also tacitly admitting, in spite of an accompanying rhetoric of its essential primitivism and fluidity of meaning, the Bible's astonishing durability from age to age. What in the end differentiates the Bible from other religious books is not its incorporation of much primitive, legendary, or miraculous material, nor its eclectic and diverse origins, pg xliv but the way in which this material is incorporated. Each layer of appropriation is inevitably accompanied by a new hermeneutic theory. Thus, if we are to accept the postulates of the German historical critics, those shadowy first Hebrew scribes and redactors differed from those of the surrounding tribes not so much in the actual legends they were retelling as in the way those legends were now made to serve the new creed of monotheism. The Church Fathers did not alter the words of the Hebrew Bible to create the Old Testament (those, they were agreed, were divinely inspired); they altered the order of the books to point to the coming of Christ and the ultimate fulfilment of their messianic prophecies in the New. In turn, the Reformers of the sixteenth century did not alter the wording of the Vulgate, they translated it, consigning the deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament to the Apocrypha, and insisting that Paul's Epistles should be read, not typologically, but as theological argumentation. The Higher Critics and the Romantics, whether pro- or anti-Christian, by historicizing the canon opened the way for yet another radical rereading not merely of the text, but also of the idea of the history itself.

An edition of the Bible such as this, designed to be read into the twenty-first century, has, therefore, to take into account not merely the ever-changing history of biblical interpretation, but must also reflect on the nature of the 'history' so revealed. If twentieth-century historians have accepted the premisses of Hume and Niebuhr that 'miracles do not happen', they have learned, after Schleiermacher, to read that statement, too, hermeneutically. The century that discovered quantum mechanics, quarks, charms, and black holes has much less certainty about precisely what are the 'laws of nature' than the eighteenth or nineteenth.66 Einstein's famous statement that not merely have we learned to think that the universe is very queer, but that it is 'much queerer than we think', has found many echoes. The modern historian excludes miracles not because 'they do not happen' but because that is the way in which we have cautiously learned to define 'history'. Thus, what happened to a young girl called Bernadette in the French foothills of the Pyrenees one day in the late nineteenth century when she claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary is not, by definition, 'history'. We do not, and we can never have, the kind of evidence needed to substantiate or disprove her claim. It is pg xlv simply not an event in the public domain of common experience. What is history is the subsequent development of the building, tourist, and hospitality industries, and changes to the transport system in and around the town of Lourdes as a result of her claim. Nor can we even cling to the residual notion that there is a 'historical' truth to events independent of our descriptions of them. 'History' is not some privileged Platonic or absolute idea of the events-in-themselves but is composed of our accounts (almost inevitably, written accounts) of those events. Thus, even in so public and well-documented an 'event' as the Second World War there are endlessly different versions of what happened depending on the standpoint of the narrator and the meaning attached (consciously or unconsciously) to what is being described. While it is clearly demonstrable that some witnesses lie, and others try to tell the truth; that some versions are backed by better evidence than others; and that truth and falsehood in history, as in any other field, have a clear meaning; we must now nevertheless recognize that, far from representing an objective and complete viewpoint, all 'history' consists of narratives written by particular people, with particular opinions and experiences, at particular moments in time—and that includes, of course, this definition of history under discussion here. Similarly, no readers can imagine they approach the Bible (or any other text) from an objective or absolute standpoint. Each can only come to it from a particular standpoint and perspective. Particularity is a condition of knowledge. In that respect 'history' is the word we use to describe a particular kind, or genre, of narrative writing. If our modern, and to us at least, very stringent, rules for its construction differ markedly from those of a Jewish redactor writing after the return from the Babylonian Captivity, that should hardly surprise us. As any study of biblical interpretation reveals, even nineteenth-century 'biblical history' is markedly different from both eighteenth-and twentieth-century versions.

Thus, whether or not the origins of the Bible lie in special divine revelation is, by definition, beyond the competence of historians or textual critics to decide. What we can observe is that it was not just the Bible that was transformed in the process of successive reinter-pretations. The Vulgate, a single, authoritative, monolingual text for the entire Western Church, was the instrument of the new imperial power of the Roman Church. Luther's Reformation translation of the Bible was to change the German language for ever; his commentary on Romans to set the agenda of theological debate for centuries. Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, on which the Authorized pg xlvi Version was to be so closely modelled, did the same if not more for English.

Enlightenment criticism and historicization, together with the Romantic reaction, gave to the Age of Revolution a new vocabulary and rhetoric—even in some cases a new agenda. Each changed reading in the light of new circumstances took as its text an earlier change—in what we are now beginning to realize is a tradition with no visible first point. The Bible is apparently a holy book without an ur-text; instead, there are only endless layers of appropriation. But whereas readers of the past frequently regarded it as the supreme example of God's unchanging message to his people, the modern reader has had to learn to see it as something more of a moving target. If for some that has been sufficient to undermine any authority it may have once possessed, for others it may be an illustration of its continuing dynamism and vitality. It is certainly sufficient to establish its categorical uniqueness.

Notes

1 See e.g. Robert P. Carroll, Wolf in the Sheepfold: The Bible as a Problem for Christianity (SPCK, 1991), 7; and John Romer, Testament (Michael O'Mara Books, 1988), 227. (Place of publication is London unless otherwise stated.)

2 Carroll, Wolf in the Sheepfold, 17, 69.

3 Romer, Testament, 196–7.

4 One of the best descriptions of this difference between the 'feel' of the Old and New Testaments is in Gabriel Josipovici's The Book of God (New Haven: Yale UP, 1988).

5 Among other works by Isaac Newton, see e.g. The Chronology of the Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) or Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and St. John (1733).

6 See E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (Routledge, 1933).

7 See Cornelius Ernst, 'World Religions and Christian Theology', in Multiple Echo: Explorations in Theology (Darton, Longman & Todd, 1979), 34.

8 I am indebted here, and in the rest of this paragaph, to Professor Richard Bauckham's paper 'Christianity within Judaism', delivered to the Scottish-Scandinavian Conference on Growth Points in Biblical Studies, in Glasgow, April 1993.

9 See e.g. G. Boccaccini, Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought 300 bce to 200 ce (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991); E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 bce to 66 ce (SCM Press, 1992); M. Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1991); and J. D. G. Dunn (ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, 70 to 135 ce (Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1993).

10 See J. D. G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity (SCM Press, 1992).

11 See E. R. Goodenough, Introduction to Philo Judaeus (2nd edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), and Henry Chadwick, 'Philo', Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Mediaeval Philosophy, ed. A. H. Armstrong (Cambridge: CUP, 1967), 137–57.

12 J. H. Plumb, The Death of the Past (Macmillan, 1969), 111.

13 See David Damrosch, The Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987).

14 The problem of the Old Testament's relationship to Christianity is, of course, too complex to be so swiftly dismissed. See e.g. John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1980), ch. 2, for a lucid exposition of the 'classical' solutions to this fundamental problem of Christian origins.

15 See e.g. that of Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (1930) (Star Books, 1989), and of Arthur J. Arberry (1955) (Oxford: OUP, 1983).

16 This point is well argued by David Damrosch in The Narrative Covenant.

17 Romer, Testament, 30–2.

18 Ibid. 118–35.

19 F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1973).

20 Romer, Testament, 78–9.

21 Ibid. 51–2.

22 Ibid. 52–3.

23 Ibid. 55.

24 'These facts', he adds, 'ought to have deterred those writers, ancient and modern, who have held that Hebrew was a unique language, specially designed by the Holy Spirit for conveying theological truth.' G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (Duckworth, 1980), 35.

25 See Stephen Prickett (ed.), Reading the Text: Biblical Criticism and Literary Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), chs. 1–4.

26 See David Norton, A History of the Bible as Literature, vol. i (Cambridge: CUP, 1993), p. xiii.

27 On the very complex history of English Bibles see Hugh Pope, English Versions of the Bible, revised by Sebastian Bullough (Herder Book Co., 1952).

28 For a recent account of Tyndale's work see David Daniell, Tyndale's New Testament (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989).

29 Cited by Norman Sykes, 'The Authorized Version of 1611', in The Bible Today (Eyre & Spottiswode, 1955), 141–3.

30 See Edward Craney Jacobs, 'King James's Translators: The Bishops' Bible New Testament Revised', The Library, 6th Ser., 14: 2 (June 1992).

31 For a further discussion of the self-referential qualities of the Bible, see Josipovici, The Book of God.

32 Job 19: 20; Ps. 72: 9; Num. 22: 31. See Norton, A History of the Bible as Literature, 342.

33 Ibid., for the slow acceptance of the Authorized Version.

34 See John Wilkinson, Interpretation and Community (Macmillan, 1963), esp. 119–57.

35 Marjorie Reeves, 'The Bible and Literary Authorship in the Middle Ages', in Prickett (ed.), Reading the Text.

36 A. J. Minnis, Mediaeval Theory of Authorship (London 1984), 34.

37 Erich Auerbach, 'Figura', trans. R. Mannheim, in Auerbach, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature (New York, 1959), 28.

38 'The Reasonableness of Typology', G. W. H. Lampe and K. G. Woollcombe, Essays on Typology (SCM Press, 1957), 31.

39 The 'Sarum Antiphoner'.

40 The Ruins: or a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires, introduction by Charles Bradlaugh (Freethought Publishing Co., 1881), 83.

41 Ibid. 14–15, 93.

42 Ibid. 84–5, 83.

43 David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus [1835] trans. George Eliot (1846); Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity [1841] trans. George Eliot (1854). Ernest Renan, The Life of Jesus (Watts: Thinker's Library, 1935). See Stephen Prickett, 'Romantics to Victorians: From Typology to Symbolism', in id. (ed.), Reading the Text: Biblical Criticism and Literary Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).

44 See e.g. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Gollancz, 1965), 107–8.

45 See e.g. The History of the Old and New Testaments Extracted from the Sacred Scriptures, the Holy Fathers, and Other Ecclesiastical Writers … (4th impression, 1712), 38.

46 See Hans Aarsleff, From Locke to Saussure: Essays on the Study of Intellectual History (University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 58–60. Working from similar biblical premisses, James Parsons argued in The Remains of Japhet (1767) that Irish and Welsh were in fact older than Hebrew, being the remains of 'Japhetan', the original antediluvian language (pp. x–xii).

47 J. G. Herder, The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry (Dessau 1782–3; 3rd edn. Marburg, 1822), trans. James Marsh (Burlington, Vt.: Edward Smith, 1833).

48 The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. P. S. Foner, 2 vols. (New York, 1945), ii. 477.

49 See Stephen Prickett, Words and the Word: Language, Poetics and Biblical Interpretation (Cambridge: CUP, 1986), esp. Introduction, and ch. 5.

50 Robert Lowth, Isaiah: A New Translation, 5th edn., 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1807), vol. i, p. lxxviii.

51 Prickett, Words and the Word, 116–17.

52 See Jon Mee, Dangerous Enthusiasms: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

53 Ibid., ch. 1.

54 W. H. Pinnock, An Analysis of Scripture History (Cambridge, 1848), 17, 248.

55 There is an excellent account of the early years of dinosaur discovery in Adrian Desmond, The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs (Blond & Briggs, 1975), ch. 1.

56 For the contrast between the myths and actual records of the notorious clash between Huxley and Wilberforce at the meeting over Darwin in the Zoological Museum in Oxford, see Stephen Jay Gould, 'Knight Takes Bishop?', in Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (Hutchinson Radius, 1992), 385–401.

57 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, trans. W. Montgomery (Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1954), 4.

58 Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 31.

59 Ibid. 31–2.

60 Schweitzer, The Quest, 75.

61 See Ernest Renan 'The History of the People of Israel', in Studies in Religious History (1893); Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality of Human Races, trans. Adrian Collins (New York, 1915); Émile Burnouf, The Science of Religions, trans. Julie Liebe (1888). See also Frederick E. Faverty, Matthew Arnold the Ethnologist (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1951), 164–72.

62 God and the Bible, The Complete Works of Matthew Arnold, vol. 7, ed. R. H. Super (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1970), 378.

63 Marginal note to Einleitung in das Alte Testament (Leipzig, 1780–3), iii. 188–9.

64 By far the most popular dramatizations, however, were those of Dorothy Sayers' cycle The Man Born to be King, written for BBC radio and broadcast at a time of national crisis, Dec. 1941–Oct. 1942.

65 See Stephen Prickett, Origins of Narrative: The Romantic Appropriation of the Bible (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), ch. 6.

66 Indeed, if we are to accept Rupert Sheldrake's radical science, there are no laws of nature at all, only what he calls 'morphic resonance'. See A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Morphic Resonance (Inner Traditions, USA, 1995).

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