Publication of the King James Bible Part 1

About the history of the King James Version of the Bible, how it was published, the controversy surrounding it, the Word of God for the common person to read.


WHEN: 1611

HOW: The King James Version of the Bible was called by Thomas Babington Macaulay "a book which if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power."

King James himself, however, had very little to do with the translation that bears his name.

Translation of the Bible into English had been going on since the 14th century. The 1st was completed in 1380 and named for John Wycliffe. It was taken from the Vulgate, itself a Latin translation of the Hebrew and Greek sources. William Tyndale made a translation of the New Testament, based on Latin, Greek, and German versions, in 1525. Miles Cover-dale brought out the 1st complete English Bible in 1535-1536, based largely on Tyndale. The Great Bible of 1539-1541 was Coverdale's revision of his earlier translation. The Geneva Bible of 1560 had a Calvinist leaning. The Bishops' Bible of 1568 was basically a revision of the Great Bible. And English Catholics relied on the Rheims-Douay Bible of 1582 (N.T.) and 1610 (O.T.).

The very notion of translating the Bible out of its original tongues was a controversial one. Tyndale himself had to flee England because of his work and was burned to death in Belgium in 1536. Major doctrinal questions were involved: Should average citizens have the right to read the Bible in their own language in their homes, or should the Bible be read only in the original by churchmen? Was the Bible a Catholic document or a Protestant one? What was the Word of God?

These great religious questions still raged when James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne in 1603, upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. James had ruled in Scotland for 36 years, having been put on that throne at the age of one, upon the abdication of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. As a boy he had been scholarly, and had actually translated some Psalms. As a man he was a strong ruler, but given to craft and trickery. His personal life, however, was held in some doubt. When he assumed the English throne at the age of 37, it was commonly said that King Elizabeth had been succeeded by Queen James.

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