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Book Club #7: In The Beginning by Alister McGrath


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In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture by Alister McGrath



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August 1: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by John Krackauer

September 1: Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction by John Fea

October 1: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Initially I found this book to be a fascinating discussion of a topic that I didn't know all that much about (although I at least knew more than Jim Bob Duggar!). On the surface it seemed to be a well-researched book and while I would have liked footnotes, I realized that it was intended for the general public not scholarly readers. But towards the end of the book I started noticing McGrath's biases. There were a couple of places that really stood out for me.

p. 229

The next major section of material in the NT are the letters, referred to by the older English word epistles in documents dealing with the KJB. These letters provide teaching concerning both Christian beliefs and behavior, as important today as they were when they were first written. Some of the false teachings that arose in the early period of the Church's history are in circulation once more, and these letters provide important resources for defending the integrity of the Christian faith today.

For someone who is writing a history of the KJB and not a theological work, he really shouldn't be making claims about the reliability of the teachings found in the non-canonical gospels. They all should be treated as equally valid historical texts that tell us about the different sects of Christianity that existed during that time frame.

p. 242

It must be made clear immediately that this* does not call into question the general reliability of the KJB. The issue concerns minor textual variations. Not a single teaching of the Christian faith is affected by these variations, nor is any major historical aspect of the gospel narratives or early Christianity affected.

*[i.e. the fact that since the KJB was translated from the Textus Receptus older Greek versions of the NT, such as the Codex Alexandrinus, have been discovered]

While McGrath may want to believe that the differences between the Codex Alexandrinus and the Textus Receptus are only minor textual variations, they can be construed as fairly important. On the next page (243) he discusses the addition of "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in the earth." to 1 John 5:7-8. My understanding of this verse is that it helps support the idea of the trinity, which undoubtedly is teaching of the Christian faith.

Here are a couple of links to reviews of the book. The comment from the first one is rather telling.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/se ... reducation "...Alister McGrath's history of the King James Bible, which seems to be aimed at American evangelical undergraduates who need to be told who James Boswell was, but only delicately introduced to the idea that this is not the best translation available. "

http://www.tyndale.org/TSJ/21/norton.html (this discusses a few of the factual errors in the book)

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Well first off, I have to say I'm surprised to learn that the KJB was not just dictated directly by God?! :D

I am not quite done the book, but I really enjoyed learning some of the history of bible translation and the reformation, which I don't know that much about. It has seemed to me, right from the start, that the author must be a "protestant" Christian who is a fan of the KJB.

Sometimes I get the feeling that the book is written like a high school essay. Every chapter starts the same way--a little introductory story, and then "but to understand why this happened, we first need to look at the factors leading up to it." It's slightly repetitive and doesn't feel like the most polished read.

Will post more once I've finished in a few days.

Bethella--thanks for the link to the review that points out factual errors.

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