History of English Bible Translation 15 The 1611 King James Version

History of the English Bible - chapter 15 

1611 The King James Bible

Bible History Timeline KJVWith the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Prince James VI of Scotland English Bible Historybecame King James I of England. The Protestant clergy approached the new King in 1604 and announced their desire for a new translation to replace the Bishop's Bible first printed in 1568. They knew that the Geneva Version had won the hearts of the people because of its excellent scholarship, accuracy, and exhaustive commentary. However, they did not want the controversial marginal notes (proclaiming the Pope an Anti-Christ, etc.) Essentially, the leaders of the church desired a Bible for the people, with scriptural references only for word clarification or cross-references.

This "translation to end all translations" (for a long while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The great revision of the Bishop's Bible had begun.

The revisers were governed by 15 rules, the gist of a few of them being:

  • The Bishops' Bible shall be followed and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit;
  • The old ecclesiastical words – “church”, “bishop” - shall be retained;
  • The chapter divisions shall not be changed, unless very necessary;
  • No marginal notes at all, except explanation of Hebrew and Greek words which cannot be briefly and fitly expressed in the text;
  • Whenever the Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, the Great Bible, or the Geneva agrees better with the text than the Bishops' Bible, they are to be used.
  • The Rheims-Douay version is not mentioned but was apparently used as a reference.

Starting just one year after the huge 1611 pulpit-size King James Bibles were printed and chained to every church pulpit in England; printing then began on the earliest normal-size printings of the King James Bible. These were produced so individuals could have their own personal copy of the Bible.

Slow Acceptance by the People

The Anglican Church's King James Bible took decades to overcome the more popular Protestant Church's Geneva Bible. One of the greatest ironies of history, is that many Protestant Christian churches today embrace the King James Bible exclusively as the "only" legitimate English language translation… yet it is not even a Protestant translation! It was printed to compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible, by authorities who throughout most of history were hostile to Protestants… and killed them. While many Protestants are quick to assign the full blame of persecution to the Roman Catholic Church, it should be noted that even after England broke from Roman Catholicism in the 1500's, the Church of England (The Anglican Church) continued to persecute Protestants throughout the 1600's. One famous example of this is John Bunyan, who while in prison for the crime of preaching the Gospel, wrote one of Christian history's greatest books, Pilgrim's Progress. Throughout the 1600's, as the Puritans and the Pilgrims fled the religious persecution of England to cross the Atlantic and start a new free nation in America, they took with them their precious Geneva Bible, and rejected the King's Bible. America was founded upon the Geneva Bible, not the King James Bible.

Modern Day Curiosities of the KJV

Protestants today are largely unaware of their own history, and unaware of the Geneva Bible which is textually 95% the same as the King James Version, but 50 years older than the King James Version, and not influenced by the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament. Nevertheless, the King James Bible turned out to be an excellent and accurate translation, and it became the most printed book in the history of the world, and the only book with one billion copies in print. In fact, for over 250 years until the appearance of the English Revised Version of 1881-1885, the King James Version reigned without much of a rival.

King James Version KJV Bible Leaf