Read over two years after I picked this up on a snowy day at Borders in Stockton.
This took me two years to read. But it wasn’t because it was laborious. Far from it. In fact, soon after opening this book in January 2006, I realised that I was in the presence of a truly great work of non-fiction and that this was a book which needed careful scrutiny.
Daniell has written a fascinating book which charts the beginnings of the Bible from the very first Old English glosses on the Vulgate all the way through to The Message and other modern paraphrases.
Along the way, he fills the pages with a wealth of historical detail which serves to place the development of the Bible firmly in context. He ventures out on threads that deal with printing, music, novels, politics, art and a host of other forms of media to illustrate just how deeply the Bible has had an impact on English speaking culture.
If there’s one fault (although its inclusion would push the book way over a thousand pages), it’s that the discussion is centred firmly on Europe and North America. The massive impact of the Bible via the British Empire, for example, is barely mentioned. Although I think this is disappointing, its the only disappointment I had.
And he writes in a very accessible style. I often found myself laughing aloud because of his dry wit in places. Despite the homely style, the book is immaculately researched with very detailed notes and some lovely illustrations.
A masterpiece, and no book I’ve encountered in 2007 could be more fitting to round off a great year of reading.
The importance of the Bible in the culture of the world should not need to be spelled out.
These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. [extract from John 15 as translated by Tyndale, first published posthumously in 1537]
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb