The King James Bible and Walt Whitman, Prof. Chip Dobbs-Allsopp
A three-part series on the making of the King James Bible, and of the remarkable influence this masterpiece of prose translation had on America’s greatest and most original poet, Walt Whitman.
In this telling of the story of the KJB two moments are highlighted, the original work of William Tyndale and the story of the translation and publication of the KJB itself. Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew. Tyndale is the true genius behind the KJB, and his translation technique set the pattern for all later translations into English. Then we shift forward several generations to the time just after James I’s ascension to the English throne, when the famous companies of translators are assembled to publish the KJB in 1611.
The concluding segment of the series jumps forward several centuries and offers a brief look at the influence of the KJB on Walt Whitman (1819-92) and his poetry. An important mode of poetic composition for Whitman is that of collage. He takes up language from a wide array of sources and then molds and shapes and remakes the language until it becomes his own. The KJB was the English Bible of 19th c. America and, not surprisingly, is one of Whitman’s sources of found language.
F. W. “Chip” Dobbs-Allsopp is the James Lenox Librarian and professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. He holds a MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University. Before joining the Princeton faculty in 1999, he taught for five years at Yale. and has been known to enjoy a glass of wine. His research interests include the historical, philological, and literary study of biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature. Dobbs-Allsopp’s most recent book is On Biblical Poetry (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. He loves sailing, poetry, and PCM’s interim pastor, Rev. Leslie Dobbs-Allsopp.
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