A week in books

John Major? Salt of the earth - a man after my own heart. Mind you, he almost fell flat on his face in 1992. The writing was on the wall, but he fought the good fight and, at the last gasp, he hung on by the skin of his teeth. Labour? Believe me, the scales will fall from people's eyes. The leopard doesn't change its spots ..." And so on, almost ad infinitum. All those shop-worn idioms - and hundreds more - have a single printed source. Conflating US and British usage, the new Oxford World's Classics edition (pounds 9.99) calls it the "Authorised King James Version" of the Bible. Chapter and verse for our cabbie's rant runs as follows: Matthew 5, 13; 1 Samuel 13, 14; Numbers 22, 31; Daniel 5, 5; 1 Timothy 6, 12; 2 Maccabees 7, 9; Job 19, 20; Acts 9, 18; Jeremiah 13, 23.

No doubt the cheap and chunky Oxford Bible - with superbly readable notes by its editors, Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett - will prompt the usual smug hosannas about the Authorised Version's shaping influence on English prose. True enough - except that the blend of translations cooked up by 54 Anglican divines from 1604 to 1611 has congealed into commonplaces at 1,000 crucial points. Returning to the AV can bring to mind that story about the tourist who watched Hamlet at Stratford and complained that it was nothing more than a string of cliches. The breezy evangelicals behind bland new translations often censure AV for its archaic diction. In many places the opposite criticism would make better sense - that the beguiling familiarity of the AV phrasing has rubbed its meaning smooth and frictionless. So why, since proselytising Christians have such a strange and shocking message to convey, do they insist that their user-friendly Bibles read like Cliff Richard lyrics or some speech by the outgoing PM? One example: during the AV's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 41), Jesus commands "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain". Now listen to the pious crewcut linguists of the 1976 Good News Bible: "And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres". Oh, yes.

Carroll and Prickett make a forcible case for the AV on scholarly as well as literary grounds. Yet a devil's advocate could challenge its status without proposing that the ancient Greek and Hebrew should now sound like the Highway Code. The Anglican translators, remember, steered a sly middle course between clear-cut Protestant and Catholic readings. Their resonant style often has no higher aim than to gloss over knotty questions of doctrine. AV, in short, contains far too much bureaucratic fudge.

Worse, it muffles the greatness of the towering genius behind it - William Tyndale. Avid to bring the Bible to "the boy that drives the plough", Tyndale translated the New, and much of the Old, Testament in the 1520s and 1530s. His work underpins all the Tudor Bibles consulted by the AV divines - even the Catholic Reims-Douai version. Only one giant of EngLit truly haunts daily speech: not Shakespeare, but Tyndale. Many of the AV's best-loved texts (such as the Nativity stories) come from Tyndale almost word for word.

And what became of this supreme pioneer of demotic - and democratic - English prose? Persecuted by Henry VIII's bishops, he spent a harassed decade in exile. First the books were burnt - and then the man. After his arrest for heresy in Antwerp, Tyndale was strangled, and went to the stake, in 1536. Discussions of the AV often sink into an orgy of national self-congratulation. So it's now high time (Romans 13, 11) to recall that the English state murdered its architect.

Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral