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Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired [Paperback]

By Benson Bobrick (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   392
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.42" Width: 5.52" Height: 0.82"
Weight:   0.79 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 2002
Publisher   Penguin (Non-Classics)
ISBN  0142000590  
EAN  9780142000595  
UPC  051488014003  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Next to the Bible itself, the English Bible was-and is-the most influential book ever published. The most famous of all English Bibles, the King James Version was the culmination of centuries of work by various translators, from John Wycliffe, the fourteenth-century initiator of English Bible translation, to the committee of scholars who collaborated on the King James translation. Wide as the Waters examines the life and work of Wycliffe and recounts the tribulations of his successors, including William Tyndale, who was martyred, Miles Coverdale, and others who came to bitter ends, as well as the fifty-four scholars from Oxford and Cambridge who crafted the King James Version of the Bible. Historian Benson Bobrick traces this story through the tumultuous reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I, a time of fierce contest between Catholics and Protestants in England. Once people were free to interpret the word of God, they began to question the authority of their inherited institutions, both religious and secular. This led to reformation within the Church, and to the rise of constitutional government in England and the end of the divine right of kings. Wide as the Waters is a story about a crucial epoch in the development of Christianity, about the English language and society, and about a book that changed the course of history.

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More About Benson Bobrick

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Benson Bobrick is the author of several acclaimed works, including Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired. In 2002 he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in Vermont.

Benson Bobrick currently resides in the state of Vermont. Benson Bobrick was born in 1947.

Benson Bobrick has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Simon & Schuster America Collection

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > England > General   [12141  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > Europe > England   [324  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General   [8439  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > History > World > General   [35342  similar products]
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6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts   [1730  similar products]
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General   [6817  similar products]
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History   [2546  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Thorough and Riveting Account of the English Bible  Dec 6, 2007
Couldn't ask for a better primer on the history of the English Bible and the key contributors to its development through the King James. Until I read this, I had no idea of the sacrifice, the political and social impacts and the precarious development of this most cherished publication. Wycliffe, Coverdale, Tyndale, More, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I, the politics of court and canon law all play intiguing roles. If you want to really know why you have in your hands one of the greatest works of literature in history, this book is a very moving read and will keep your interest up.
fascinating and informative  Aug 18, 2007
Although the author writes from the Protestant perspective the book is written in an easy to read, flowing style that it keeps you turning pages. I learned so much from this book that it will remain on my bookshelf as a reference. I very much enjoyed reading this book, although I have some reservations about some of his conclusions. Whatever faults I found with the book were overshadowed by the sheer scope of his research into the personalities and achievements of the translators on the Bible.
How little I knew  Jan 13, 2007
My knowlege of history is spotty. Bobrick made it clear that I had known little of English history.

"Wide as the waters" is dense with facts. While readable, it does appear as if it were a draft into which Bobrick had packed all the facts but not gone back for a final rewrite with enhanced readibility in mind.

Bobrick does make clear the abuse of religous authority, arguments of tradition versus Scripture, the power of the English monarch, the extent of intolerance of what might seem nowadays small religous differences and the problems of Biblical translation. "Wide as the Waters" conveys the excitement of a time when courageous men risked their lives to speak freely and when the "common" people got access to the Bible. I hadn't heard of the Lollards before, who, like Cathar perfects in France, also chose a simple, dangerous life.

One learns of the responsbilities of proofreading, particularly so when it comes with a Bible, with the story of the "Wicked Bible". One wonders, if instead of omitting "not" in the seventh commandment, what would have become of the printer if "no" had been omitted in the first commandment in Exodus 20:3. As it was, the printer was fined and later sent to debtor's prison where he died 12 years after the "Wicked Bible" was released. Don't rush out looking for a copy of the "Wicked Bible": all copies were reportedly recalled.

Other than a reminder of my ignorance of large pockets of history, what I will most bring away from this book is the knowledge of the people who risked suffering and their lives to pave the way for the freedoms we take for granted today.

The memory of people like the Lollards (and the Cathars before them) is still subject to considerable misrepresentation to this day. I, for one, am most thankful that their sacrifices are well-documented. We must still, however, be on the alert for those who would try to reduce our religous freedoms. One step for us to not be midled is to turn to the historical record and consider the vested interests of the sources of the histories we read. Wikipedia notes, I believe correctly, that "The Lollards stated that the Catholic Church had been corrupted by temporal matters and that its claim to be the true church was not justified by its heredity." This may explain in large part why the Catholic Church labelled them heretics, a position still found in the "Catholic Encyclopedia". (For those interested in the Cathars, there are many books available which represent them fairly: Stephen O' Shea's "The Perfect Heresy" is an excellent introduction. Rene Weis's exceptional, detailed "The Yellow Cross" is closely based on historical records. The Cathars, like the Lollards are them, decried corrupt practices found in the Roman Catholic Church and were similarly then labelled as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church.)

Bobrick is to be commended to bringing the historical events and issues in England surrounding the Bible to our attention. Were it not for reputable historians like Bobrick, we might be misled by the work of propagandists.
popularizing v being wrong, very wrong  Jan 9, 2007
With one massive exception, my problems with this book are more generic than particular. The popularized history certainly has a place on library shelves, but I will generally leave such a book on its shelf for reasons shortly to become obvious. I certainly should have left this book on the shelf, unread.

Sadly, Bobrick avoids none of the pitfalls of the genre - un-attributed quotes, passive voice, disportionately detailed digressions into radically random nooks and crannies of history dictated by his sources (which remain un-cited,) not by the importance of a sub-topic to his over-view. Passive voice is the norm for such a book - "it can be seen," "it is suggested" - because the author doesn't want to take the time to sort out his sources, so he simply tosses in an insight without bothering to say who sees or who suggests. While I find this intellectually bankrupt, I do realize that footnotes are not attractive to a main-stream audience. Still, it's hard for me to believe that a main-stream audience would choose to have important distinctions glossed over, even if, at first blush, they may seem to be minor points. Bobrik's details, where they do appear, suggest no principle of inclusion but that of the arbitrary. If we must hear what Wycliffe ate at Oxford, we should also hear about the theological nuances in his translation of Genesis. Surely the latter is more important than the former in a book on the English Bible. But Bobrick evidently found the info on food, so he includes it, not bothering to read up on the more significant topic of Wycliffe's insertion of the word "nouyt" (nothing) into the first line of the first creation story.

Even crucial sub-topics receive cursory attention only. For all that he spews out half a chapter and more on the reign of Queen Elizabeth -- a corner-stone figure in any study of English history/theology -- his information never advances beyond the Blue Badge school of scholarship. In his bibliography, Bobrick cites only two studies of the much-studied monarch: Joseph M Levine's popularized life from the 1960s and the work of that prolific popularizer of accomplished females, Alison Weir.

So what do we call a text that is a popularization of a popularization? A meta-pop? Well, Bobrick never met a pop he didn't like.

OK, now for that massive exception. As with the details about Oxford meals, Bobrick tosses in bits and pieces of medieval and early Renaissance factoids. This, in context, is fine. Who can object to reading about the screech owl that gainsayed a pope? But, since they are off the topic of his summary, these factoids obviously receive little scrutiny from the author. (Yes, passive, as in "these items are passively conveyed to the reader.") Sometimes Bobrick's tidbits are simply popular history having one more unthinking iteration. And sometimes they are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

On page 67, Bobrick identifies - literally parenthetically - Christine de Pizan as "the author of Le Roman de la Rose." This is so wrong as to be criminal. Not only was Christine de Pizan not the author, she spent much of her career condemning the text, both in the famous querelle de la Rose -- an early version of a pamphlet war, in which she sided with the Chancellor of the University of Paris in condemning the wildly popular work of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun -- but also in her own oeuvre (such as The Book of the Duke of True Lovers and the famous Book of the City of Ladies.) The average undergrad English or history major knows that de Lorris and de Meun authored the text and that Christine de Pizan famously objected to it. If Bobrick's general knowledge of the period (and this is precisely the period of his topic) allows him to make such an error, I'm forced to regard all his other asides with the gravest suspicion. Yeah, sure, I know that Christine de Pizan didn't write the R de R, even though it's not my field. But what about the other stuff that Bobrick tosses out, other things also not in my field? Now that I know he can make a whopper of an error -- trust me, this is no nit being picked -- must I take the time to google every statement? Well, yes, if I want to file any of this away as knowledge. And what else could I do with it? Bobrick doesn't know enough about Englishing the Bible for his opinions to matter, so we are left with learning stuff from his bits and pieces. But the bits and pieces, as witnessed above, can be wrong.

That's the real sin of his error, casting doubt over everything else.

Popularizing should not mean mis-stating.

For a more trustworthy book on the topic by a scholar in the field, see In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister McGrath.
Wide as the waters  Feb 23, 2006
I found this an interesting book. It presented a historical comment on the history of the bible and it use and misuse by various people.

It (the bible) can be used as a foundation for required 'checks and balances' in churches and society. Sadly, in many circumstances, it is ignored in both.

A good historical read and an insight into the determination and faith of those people who brought the bible to where it is today.


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