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Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible & the Revolution it Inspired

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  309 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
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 catalyst of English Bible translation, to the committee of scholars who collaborated on the King Jame ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 11th 2001 by Simon & Schuster
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B. Hawk
Jan 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biblical-studies
At its most basic, this book is a flawed popular history of the translation of the Bible into English in the early modern period. This is apparent foremost from the often-simplistic nature of the accounts that Bobrick presents—including treating historical sources at face value, rather than presenting the complexities of writers’ perspectives—an aspect that proves problematic for the book as a whole.

Furthermore, behind this history is Bobrick’s own agenda to present the Protestant translators of
Alisha Trenalone
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I lingered over the beginning of the book, but after I got into the flow of the historical narrative, it went pretty quickly. Anyone who is interested in history and language may enjoy this.
I had a rudimentary knowledge of Henry VIII and William Tyndale, but this book expanded greatly on my knowledge of them and their context. Also, there were so many other key players of whom I knew virtually nothing other than their names (or at least, had forgotten since high school).

I think the thing that i
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because of its misled defenders in the "King James Only" movement, the Authorized Version of the English Bible is often dismissed by mainstream evangelicals for being archaic, based on unreliable manuscripts or (an even lower blow) corrupted by the sexually deviant monarch who oversaw its translation. Benson Bobricks' Wide as the Waters is a good corrective to the legends surrounding the King James Bible. Yes, the vernacular of the KJV can be idiosyncratic. Yes, its translators did not have acce ...more
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an absolutely amazing book! It tells of the efforts to bring forth an English Bible and the effects of such. It is fascinating on many levels…historical, religious, political. I was amazed at how threatened the Catholic church was and the lengths they went to to prevent its publication...the sheer number of people tortured and burned to death is astounding. I was interested to see how Henry VIII played into the story. Lastly, it was fascinating to read about how the King James Version f ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Benson Bobrick reviews the lives and contributions of various translators of the Bible, with the focus on the 50 scholars who produced the King James Bible. This unusual collection of classical scholars helped to put the English Bible in the hands of "the plowboy in the field," especially one in 1820 in upstate New York.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely interesting. Hard to get through though. The author does a good job of tying time periods and countries together to give you a good picture about how the Bible came into our hands. It was revolutionary!
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was like custom made Carolyn crack. Biographies of Bible translations, history of the protestant reformation, and British/American political theory -- all in one excellently written volume!!
I found this book to be truly fascinating. It was extremely detailed in places, making it slow reading, but the subject matter was fascinating to me and the author's conclusions struck a chord. A lot of people died for the right to read the Bible in English.
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Beautifully written passages that I like to reread just for the sheer pleasure of enjoying them all over again.
Paul Callister
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Never underestimate the power of reading or a book. England became what it was in large part because of the evolution of a reading culture "of conscience" around the Bible.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this although it was slow going, keeping track of all the people with similar names. The book covers about 300 years of British history, how the Church was changing and how translating the Bible into native languages influenced governments (including the American Revolution). I just found it mind-boggling that so many people were branded heretics and burned at the stake for disagreeing over things like whether to stand or kneel to receive communion! The fact that people could read the ...more
This is a good start, but to get the info on the Bible's history you must read hundreds of pages of political and religious history.

I realize that they are all interconnected, but there is way too much political detail and not enough Bible detail. Not enough detail is given on Erasmus or his Greek translation.

And Westcott and Hort are not mentioned at all !! How's that for BIble history?
Dennis Goshorn
"Before the advent of the vernacular Bible, which was made available to the general public by printing, most people did not know what the Bible actually said. Thereafter, they could read it for themselves and decide, for themselves, what it meant. Their free discussions about the authority of the Church and state fostered concepts of constitutional government in England, which in turn were the indispensable prerequisites for the American colonial revolt. Without the vernacular Bible—the English ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author proves his point that the English Bible inspired the people, both English and American, to revolt against the establishment.

The English bible caused, "Pandora's box(to) open, and no power could put back the thoughts on religion that took hold of the minds of men...In short, the English Bible, with all that followed in its train, had sanctioned the right and capacity of the people to think for themselves." (pp. 268 & 269)
"(The King James Version) was perilous for the established p
I chose to read this, because I recommended God's Secretaries (which is more or less on the same subject) to a friend, and discovered in making the recommendation that this book was better reviewed by Library Journal. I read God's Secretaries in 2006 and I intended to just skim this after getting it from the library, for comparison. Bobrick's very readable style hooked me from the first pages. There are lots of books on the topic; I'd recommend starting with this.
It covers more ground than God'
Lucas Johnson
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The crowning achievement of English civilization was the result of a revolution, not merely the inspiration for one. So many deeds were performed to bring the day forth that its story cannot be told. England brought the Kingdom of Christ much closer by its production. The English Bible is imperishable. I praise the King of the World, now and always.
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it because it was eminently readable, and at the heart of it there is a fairly interesting premise, i.e. that you can trace a fairly straight line between Wycliffe and the American Revolution/democratic government, although I think his view of what Thomas Cromwell was up to is based upon working backwards. Here we have the Glorious Revolution, so therefore Cromwell must have been about limiting the power of the monarchy through Acts of Parliament. It is also sloppily edited, with several ...more
This book provides an overview of history, religion, and literary criticism through revealing the story of the creation of the King James Bible. Translation of Bible into English took centuries to complete. This book traces the various translations that were done and that were used to compile the King James Bible. (It also traces the fate of some of the attempts to revise the King James Version.) The book provides descriptions of the distinctive contributions of various translators who took part ...more
Lauren Albert
Each section of Wide as the Waters focuses on one central figure in the development of the English vernacular bible. Bobrick discusses among others, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale and Henry VIII. It's important to note that the book isn't about just the King James Bible or the group of men who created it but about the whole issue of vernacular biblical texts. Should lay people be even able to read the Bible directly? Don't they need interpreters to make sure they aren't led astray? So in essence, ...more
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books ever written.

Bobrick's thesis - giving common people access to the Scriptures was the catalyst for the English revolution and modern democracy. Gripping and erudite.

I sometimes go get the book and re-read a passage...not always to remind myself of WHAT he says, but to enjoy again the WAY that he says it...his word choice and turn of phrase. The book is beautifully written. One difficulty I have in getting through the book is that I read sentences and paragraphs over and o
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a quick and readable history of the English Bible, from Wycliffe in the 14th century through King Henry and the English Reformations to King James and his commission to 54 scholars of Cambridge and Oxford to have a standard Holy Bible, the KJV. William Tyndale is recounted for his passion for the English translation. He was martyred for his efforts. By the 17th century there were millions of Bibles in Britain and the literacy rate was one of the highest in the world.
One thing new to
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so glad a persisted in finding and reading this book. This book is a history of the English Bible from the OT times through the founding of America, focusing mostly on the refirmation and the English revolution. It follows not just the religious history, but also the political history that shaped and was shaped by the Bible. It was interesting to study English history in the context of how it relates to religion. My favorite part was the comparisons of different translations of the Bible. T ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Admittedly, this is not the easiest of reads. You get more than your fill of English and Reformation history, but in the process, I feel that he does a good job of helping you feel what it really was like and what conditions were existing in which Tyndale and Coverdale and Wycliffe, and Luther, were dealing with as they moved their Bible translations forward.

In places, it did get a little tedious with more detail than I cared for, but overall, I liked the book as this is my second time through.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The history of the translation of the Bible into KJV is fascinating reading. The decisions that drove the translations of passages and whole books and the personalities involved, including King James. I was astounded at the breadth of education these men had . Few of us would survive at a medieval university. The impact the Bible has had on civilization is astounding. I appreciated this miraculous book even more after reading this. 3 stars was only because there was a lot of facts that were not ...more
Oct 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend recommended this to me and wow! I really, really enjoyed it. It is more or less what the title describes, and a good one at that. The writing is excellent, the richness of research astounding. The only reason I'm withholding a star is that it's occasionally dense and seems to get bogged down in names and events and (perhaps too much) detail in the last third of the book. It's not a light read - it takes longer to get through than you'd expect - but a very valuable read for folks interes ...more
May 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. I will say that my opinion of Sir Thomas Moore was somewhat negatively altered as a result of the book. But the faith of the men sacrificed the make the bible available in English for anyone literate to read is inspiring. It is a story of faith and courage. It was also enlightening to see the evolution of the bible into the King James Version. To anyone interested in the historical context and evolution of the bible and/or the English language I would str ...more
Apr 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had always wondered exactly how the Bible came to be. 'Wide as the Waters' does an excellent job of describing the historic events, the heroic acts by martyrs and scholars, and the religious sentiment that combined to bring us the English version of the King James Bible. This is a must read for anyone who believes as I do that the Bible contains God's inspired word. It is a bit dry at times, but learning about Wycliffe, Tynsdale, and others who struggled to bring the Bible into the working man ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not much for detailed history and the first chapters of this book contain a lot of that. I am sure that others will appreciate it for its true value. I prefer the conclusions drawn from the history. In his final chapter, Bobrick draws conclusions from the history, and amazing conclusions they are. Some might find their ideas about faith and democracy challenged. I found mine confirmed. Anyone who thinks that religion only has negative impacts on freedom will be surprised by this book.
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: started
The story of the English bible is fascinating. Reading this book has given me a better understanding of the Reformation and the political situation in England during the 1500 and 1600's. I'm amazed at how thoroughly intertwined religion and state were which makes me understand a little more why our constitution upholds the separation of church and state. I'm not quite half way through this book, and am enjoying it very much.
Leif Erik
Dec 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: religion and philogy nerds.
Shelves: religion
Yeah, another one of my religious history books. Get over it pagan. This one was between good and ok. It's in the same vein as "God's Secretaries", but more wide ranging. I think Bobrick was contracted to provide 300 pgs of text as there was a lot of filler about the KJV translatien companies and comparisons of various earlier biblical manuscripts. A lot of the controveries cited seemed of the same kind of arguements the scholastics had about the relationship between angels and pinheads.
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Benson Bobrick earned his doctorate from Columbia University and is the author of several critically acclaimed works. In 2002, he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He and his wife, Hilary, live in Vermont.
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