Publication of the King James Bible Part 2

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


WHEN: 1611

Shortly after Elizabeth's death on March 24, 1603, James was accepted as the new monarch by custom, although he had not yet been confirmed by Parliament. England, and particularly London, was in the grips of the plague, and, allegedly to avoid the Black Death, James and his retinue began a series of lengthy--and expensive--"progresses" around his new realm. While James indulged himself in feasts, hunting, and watching theatrical performances, major questions of state went unresolved. Perhaps because he would have to meet with the Parliament in a few months to ask for more money, and so (in the view of Christopher Anderson) wanted at least to show his good intentions, James stopped at Hampton Court in early 1604 "for the hearing, and for the determining, [of] things pretending to be amiss in the Church."

At that conference, held January 14, 16, and 18, the suggestion was made by the Puritan scholar from Oxford, John Rainolds, that another English translation of the Bible ought to be made. Opposition was immediately voiced by the Bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, who complained, "If every man's humor were followed, there would be no end of translating."

Nevertheless, James liked the idea. Geddes MacGregor thinks that James may have seen a new English translation as his own personal monument, much as Versailles was the monument of Louis XIV. Perhaps the production of a new Bible translation would act as a safety valve for seething religious turmoil. And James was well known to be in disapproval of the Geneva Bible, which, in a marginal note, questioned the divine right of Kings.

According to an account written by the King's chaplain Patrick Galloway (and corrected in the King's own handwriting), James then ordered "that a translation be made of the whole Bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek; and this be set and printed, without marginal notes, and only [exclusively] to be used in all Churches of England in time of divine service."

On July 22, 1604, King James and Bishop Bancroft worked out a set of 14 instructions to the translators, which were circulated among them 9 days later, on July 31. The instructions were designed to ensure that, despite the variety of views among the translators, the forth-coming work would be a Protestant Bible; that it would be largely a revision of the popular Bishops' Bible; that Bible names be "retained as near as may be" to the original; and that when the translators had completed work on their assigned sections, they should "all meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand." This last instruction is the reason why the King James Version is often referred to as the most successful work ever done by a committee.

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