Some Lesser-Known Editions Of The Bible

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Many years ago I wrote a piece with the above title, in which I invented some, er, lesser-known editions of the Bible. It was reasonably amusing, and one of these days I might resurrect it. But I was young then, and had not done my research. Now I have, and I must say that some of the genuine Bibles far outshine my own paltry juvenilia.

I have been reading Isaac Disraeli’s Curiosities Of Literature, one section of which is entitled “The Bible Prohibited And Improved”. Here are some extracts.

We have had several remarkable attempts to recompose the Bible; Dr. Geddes’s version is aridly literal, and often ludicrous by its vulgarity; as when he translates the Passover as the Skipover, and introduces Constables among the ancient Israelites.

Sebastian Castillon took a very extraordinary liberty with the sacred writings. He fancied he could give the world a more classical version of the Bible, and for this purpose introduces phrases and entire sentences from profane writers into the text of holy writ. His whole style is finically quaint, overloaded with prettinesses, and all the ornaments of false taste. Of the noble simplicity of the Scripture he seems not to have had the remotest conception.

Disraeli is particularly taken by a French priest named Pere Berruyer, who “recomposed the Bible as he would have written a fashionable novel”:

He conceives that [Moses] is too barren in his descriptions, too concise in the events he records, nor is he careful to enrich his history by pleasing reflections and interesting conversation pieces, and hurries on the catastrophes, by which means he omits much entertaining matter.

Berruyer, on the other hand, creates “relishing morsels” which were “devoured eagerly in all the boudoirs of Paris”.

Take a specimen of the style: Joseph combined, with a regularity of features and a brilliant complexion, an air of the noblest dignity; all which contributed to render him one of the most amiable men in Egypt. The wife of Potiphar declares her passion, and pressed him to answer her. It never entered her mind that the advances of a woman of her rank could ever be rejected. Joseph at first only replied to all her wishes by his cold embarrassments. She would not yet give him up. In vain he flies from her; she was too passionate to waste even the moments of his astonishment. In this manner the patriarchs are made to speak in the tone of the tenderest lovers; Judith is a Parisian coquette, Holofernes is rude as a German baron; and their dialogues are tedious with all the reciprocal politesse of metaphysical French lovers! This good father had caught the language of the beau monde, but with such perfect simplicity that, in employing it on sacred history, he was not aware of the ludicrous style in which he was writing.

Perhaps, in this godless age, we should set to work on The Dabbler’s Bible.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

6 thoughts on “Some Lesser-Known Editions Of The Bible

    September 23, 2011 at 11:17

    I think it’s a foregone conclusion that we’d put Malty in charge of the Dabbler’s book of revelations

      September 23, 2011 at 15:45

      Unfortunately worm, I have a prior engagement on that night, I nominate in my place John Prescott who, when asked nicely, can do a passable flood, fire and pestilence.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:10

    Who are we getting to do the Book of Job?

    And form an orderly queue for the Song of Solomon…………….

    September 23, 2011 at 13:23

    Nige will obviously have to do the Garden of Eden nature scenes. JG can do the Fall.

    September 23, 2011 at 19:27

    Père Bennuyer is magnificent. Modernity, I fear, has much for which it should atone. As an example I offer this, from The Bible in Cockney by one Mike Coles. Being what Mr. (Rev.?) Coles would term a four-by-two, I am unable to give chapter nor indeed verse.

    One evening, Jesus said to his chinas, “Let’s go to the other side of this ‘ere lake.”
    So they left all the people, and the disciples got into the nanny and set orf. There were quite a few other nannies there too.
    And then, would you Adam and Eve it, a huge wind started to blow up, and the waves got so bloomin’ big that they began to spill into the nanny. It got to the stage where the nanny was almost gonna fill up with fisherman’s.
    Despite all this, Jesus was at the back of the nanny ‘aving a feather, lying there with his loaf on a pillow. The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, we’re about to die. Don’t you care?”
    Jesus got up from his little feather and shouted at the wind, “Oi, be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Oi, be still!” The wind suddenly died dahn, and it became really calm. Jesus then said to his chinas, “What is it with you lot? Why were you all so frightened? Do you still not have faith?”
    But the disciples were in a right ol’ two and eight.

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