Libraries & Culture 36.3 (2001) 477-478
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The Bible as Book:
The Reformation. Edited by Orlaith O'Sullivan
The Bible as Book: The Reformation. Edited by Orlaith O'Sullivan. London: British Library, and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2000. x, 181 pp. $55.00. ISBN 1-58456-025-8.
Third in the Bible as Book series, this volume contains essays exploring the interrelationship between the Bible and the Reformation. The collection originated at the Hampton Court, Hereford, conference in 1997. The subjects include discussions of people (Tyndale, Joye, Luther, Knox), the Vulgate, use of visuals, translation practices, and others.
All scholars in their own right, the twelve essayists present a profusion of facts that readers of this book will be able to mine and refer to for many years. [End Page 476] Though not a history of the Reformation per se or of the Bibles of that era, the areas covered in these chapters will enrich the reader's understanding of that period of history in areas often overlooked in other works.
As with any multi-author book, certain chapters will appeal to any reader and reviewer more than others. Also, the various authors cannot but exhibit their distinctive styles, making some essays easier to read and comprehend than others. Yet for the most part, readers will find the material readily understandable. Not unexpectedly, details, even though necessary to the argument, will bog some down, and in rare instances the cumbersome style may do the same. Yet the rewards will outweigh any effort that may be necessary to make the most of the information contained in this book.
This review can only mention some of the things that were highlights to this reviewer. O'Sullivan's introduction is a must. Read it first, for it summarizes for the reader the main points of each chapter and the findings of the conference: "Reformers relied on the Vulgate, and quoted inaccurately in any case; the Bible was deliberately appropriated to ends which were other than theological; Luther's theology was later developed in ways he never intended; Bible illustrations were not often consciously employed to convey theological messages, and the same pictures thought to sum up the Protestant cause were also used in Catholic texts" (6).
After reading the introduction, the reader may choose to read first the chapters that particularly interest him or her. Some chapters and matters that particularly informed and interested this reviewer included the following: how James Joye was motivated to translate some Old Testament books (in tandem and in dispute with Tyndale) because he wanted the common people to know the Bible; how Knox seldom quoted the Bible with scholarly precision but instead wielded it as a sharp sword in combat for the souls of people; how Antwerp rather than Cologne or Marburg might have been the place of the publication of the 1535 Coverdale Bible; how sixteenth-century Genevan Bibles in their small and affordable size and with their summaries, marginal notes, maps, division into verses, cross-references, tables, and brief concordances (veritable study Bibles) provided for the laity especially, a controlled and "complete do-it-yourself kit for church life and worship" (121); and references in several chapters as to how illustrations were used in German and English Bibles for political and theological propagandizing.
This is an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and others interested in this subject. One could wish there had been some way to have placed the thirty-five illustrations separately on the pages to which they relate rather than altogether and awkwardly after page 38.
Charles C. Ryrie, retired,
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas