Fall 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

358:398 The English Bible

01  CAC   MW 5:00-6:20 PM   14767   FULTON/ RENDSBURG   SC-206

Arguably the most influential event in the history of English culture was the translation and printing of the Bible in English in Renaissance England. This was the birth of the modern English Bible, largely as we know it, but it was not an easy one. The process of modernization started in the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII when the pioneering translator William Tyndale was burned at the stake, and when pressures from Henry’s divorce favored misreadings of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The English Renaissance Bible culminated with the King James Bible, the most dominant translation in any major vernacular. As one scholar has written of the English appropriation of the Bible, the ancient Hebrew text was “molded” to conform to the English framework, “rendered in terms that made sense to people at that time.” This history of molding and misreadings profoundly shaped the English Bible. This co-taught course is a close study of this history, with attention to the traditions of interpretation that shaped the English Bible, and the still burning questions of scholars concerning the original sources.

Our journey will start with some historical background, including the composition and canonization of the Bible (both Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament), the translation of the Bible into Latin (since it informs the Bible in England up to the Reformation), and the production of medieval manuscripts in the British Isles.

We then will move to the specifically English contribution during the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Early Modern Period. The King James Version (KJV) holds pride of place, but we also will explain why the Puritans brought with them aboard the Mayflower not the KJV, but rather the earlier Geneva Bible, and why and how Shakespeare read the same Geneva Bible. Most of all, this second part of the course will delve still more deeply into the English Bible, using the King James Version with some reference to modern translations and interpretive problems.