15 September 2011

How to Keep People From Reading the Bible

"Will you still go on to imagine that all the poetry is printed as prose; while all the long paragraphs of prose are broken up into short verses, so that they resemble the little passages set out for parsing or analysis in an examination paper? This device, as you know, was first invented by the exiled translators who published the Geneva Bible (as it is called) in 1557; and for pulpit use, for handiness of reference, for 'waling a portion,' it has its obvious advantages: but it is, after all and at the best, a very primitive device: and, for my part, I consider it the deadliest invention of all for robbing the book of outward resemblance to literature and converting it to the aspect of a gazetteer—a biblion a-biblion, as Charles Lamb puts it...Have we done? By no means. Having effected all this, let us pepper the result over with italics and numerals, print it in double columns, with a marginal gutter on either side, each gutter pouring down an inky flow of references and cross references. Then, and not till then, is the outward disguise complete—so far as you are concerned."

-From On the Art of Reading by Arthur Quiller-Couch


I. A. M. said...

Very interesting -- I have a KJV edition of "The Bible, designed to be read as living literature," which seems to have followed most of the recommendations in Quiller-Couch's playbook to make the Bible more readable and more like a "regular book." Devotionally, I still usually use editions that are more like the kind Q-C criticizes. How about you?

Rick said...

When I'm teaching or studying I like to have an edition with all the notes and columns, etc. When I'm just reading the Bible though, I like to use an edition written in paragraphs with as little obtrusiveness as possible from notes and other things. I like to use the NEB for this sometimes, though the translation isn't great. When I'm reading the OT, I use the JPS Tanakh translation which reads well, and I would very much like to get my hands on a Jerusalem Bible as it is one of the only translations that consistently uses "Yahweh" instead of "LORD" throughout the OT.