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BOOK REVIEWS 341 The Bible and the People. ByLori Anne Ferrell. New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 2008. ISBN97-0-300-11424-9. Pp.xiii + 273. $32.50. Once, in an earlier life long before the Internet, I accepted the challenge of compiling an annotated bibliography of histories of the Bible in English. When the project was completed, I had written descriptions of more than 300 separate works located in about twenty libraries throughout the Midwest. Not surprisingly, a significant number of those I found used the historiographic assumptions of the English Reformation. Some had been published around 1911 to commemorate the tricentennial of the King James / Authorized Version (KJ / AV). Fiftyyears later, in 1961,there was another wave of similar energy. Very few authors walked through examples of the Biblein English prior to the KJ/ AV,and even fewer risked their scholarly reputation on nontraditional paths and directions. Maybe five of those 300, primarily coming out of an old-school Irish-Catholic (everythingEnglish -be-damned!) perspective, tried to use the same mean-spirited tools against the KJ/ AV,but these attempts were swamped by the huge polemic tidal wave. That overpowering scholarly stasis was to be expected. Reformation-based Christianity held that the Bible was, in fact, an eternally static text whose origins might havebeen confusing but whose ultimate expression in English surfaced rather miraculously through the hands of the translators approved at Hampton Court. The 300 or so works I found were more hagiographies of the English Bible in the broadest sense of that term; glorious but semi-legendary narratives not of saintly people but of a saintly text. History has noted that the KJ / AV quickly became a hyper-jealous textual "god" to whom many hundreds of authors and church leaders bowed down in worship. That strength also illuminated its tragic weakness. Few of the texts in that compilation either acknowledged or took seriously the growing challenges to that hagiographic mythos. The scholarship of such researchers as Julius Wellhausen, Ivan Engnell, Walter Ong, and even Alan Dundes did provide glimpses of an alternative history, but that hyper-jealous "god" refused to surrender its place of honor quietly. The new millennium changed all that. The first study that broke the annoying polemic mindset was compiled by Christopher de Hamel, Librarian at the Parker Library,Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in his masterful 2001 study, TheBook. A History of the Bible. De Hamel first described any given extant manuscript-or printed Bible-and then wrapped a narrative around that individual example, taking care to describe how the various human cultures used the Bible in their respective languages as books. De Hamel, then, was the first to let the books, themselves, tell their own stories. Professor Lori Anne Ferrell'swork, TheBible and the People, fits into that same scholarly paradigm. She, too, lets the books tell their own stories by first starting with bibliographic evidence and then determining how that specific text was imbedded in a human cultural milieu. It is,however, far shorter and far more casual a read than de Hamel's earlier definitive text. 342 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE She organizes her work with an Introduction, eight chapters and a conclusion. Her notes and illustrations, while not extensive, are quite impressive. In her Introduction, Ferrell describes what prompted all this scholarly effort in the first place. She was asked to be the Visiting Curator on an exhibit of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance biblical texts sponsored by the Huntington Library in California. Here is how she described that effort in an e-mail to me (dated December 24,2008): The Huntington show ran from September 2004 through January 2005 in the Boone Galleryofthe Huntington. That gallery isten rooms, which I filled with 174 separate items. Only four were borrowed: photos of the dead sea scrolls from the Claremont School of Theology (who hold the only full set of second-generation photos in the world); a movie poster of the Ten Commandments (from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences); a Scofield Reference Bible (held, of all places, at the DC San Diego Law School) and a copy of the American revised edition of the Bible (which also happened to be a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 341-343
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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