Monday, September 11, 2006

The King's Book, a Story of the KJV

The King's Book, by Louise Vernon
(Herald Press, 1980), pb, 128 pp.

This is another of Mrs. Vernon’s historical novels (you can see reviews of other of her novels here- Tyndale, Luther, Erasmus, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, ). This book focuses on the translation of the King James Version in 1611. As usual in Vernon novels, the story centers on the adventures of a young boy. The boy in this novel, Nathaniel Culver, is the son of one of the translators. Nat watches the intrigue surrounding the work, the work of secret Catholic priests and their persecution, etc.

This story was more exciting and intriguing than some of the other Vernon novels we have read. However, the history (and even theology) is dubious and questionable. Much is made of Bacon being the final editor of the King James Version, a point which is not verified but shows up in various places including conspiracy theories of various sorts. It is also suggested, though slightly downplayed at the end of the book, that Bacon was actually the illegitimate child of Queen Elizabeth. This is again is without historical basis. Why this was necessary, beneficial or even appropriate in a children’s book is entirely unclear to me. Then, Mrs. Vernon seems to attempt to make some points on the power of words. However, what she is aiming at is never quite clear. At one point she introduces a Hebrew scholar who is a proponent of cabala, hidden teachings about symbolic meanings in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Whatever Mrs. Vernon believes the story gives a positive impression of this esoteric teaching. Why introduce our children to this? Also the story points out some moral inconsistencies in translators and other characters. This could be appropriate to make the point that all are fallen. However, the story seems to minimize sin by equating gross wrongs and lesser failures. Further she appropriately points out the wrong of persecuting Catholics in England. However, the story seems to suggest that any sort of worship would be fine, downplaying the significant difference between Protestants and Catholics even in 1611.

My boys enjoyed the action, but I had to do a good bit of editing to get through it. I would not recommend this book. If you want to learn about the production of the King James Version there are better ways. I find myself wondering why this book, for example, is included in reading lists in such prestigious places as Veritas Press and others. I would be interested in an answer to this question if anyone has one. This is one reason I began these reviews, to give parents one family’s assessment of books as we seek good books for our children.


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Heather said...

I read at least one of the Vernon books as a child and have accumulated several more now that I am an adult. But I haven't read them yet cuz I was saving them for my son when he was older.
Thanks so your review. I had no idea that her book on the KJV presented such problems.


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