How Did We Get The King James Bible?
LEARNING THE STORY BEHIND THE KJV Many people prefer the King James Bible to any other version, and for many different reasons. If you were to take a poll, I would guess less than half of
LEARNING THE STORY BEHIND THE KJV
Many people prefer the King James Bible to any other version, and for many different reasons. If you were to take a poll, I would guess less than half of them actually know the story behind its creation.
However, it is a story that the church should learn, and know well. It is an important facet of history that happened in a time only shortly following the execution of any who would translate the Word into the “common language”.
Hampton Court Conference
What was to become the King James Bible was first commissioned in 1604 just outside of London, during the Conference at Hampton Court. It was finally printed, first as a folio, in 1611. Its creation was actually a culmination of faith as well as politics, but God’s Word will stand!
The World Was A Different Place
It’s hard for us to even fathom what life must have been like in the year 1604 in England. Not only did life move at a speed that would be unthinkable to our generation, there was also no need for campaigns in the political realm. Monarchs were crowned, they would rule, and it affected everything in the nation.
As the rule of Queen Elizabeth came to a close, the Puritans had hoped that King James the 1st, who was appointed after her, would be a great force behind their desire or Reformation’s work to continue. After all, he had previously been raised as a Presbyterian in Scotland, where he was also King James the 4th, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.
King James’ Role
In Scotland, James knew many like the Puritans, and he didn’t care for them at all. While he did not necessarily agree with them, he knew that it would not bode well for him as King to turn a blind eye to their plight. They may have been few in number, but they were very serious about their cause, highly educated and very motivated as well. However, more so than that, they truly believed that their personal convictions were righteous and not to be ignored.
Catholic Ties Not Acceptable
The Puritans believed that the Reformation in England simply did not accomplish as much as it should have. In fact, they saw the remaining Catholic elements and although they were loyal to England, they wanted a great deal more distance from those elements and from Rome itself. The Papists, on the other hand, were so loyal to England that they wanted the Roman fold back, 100%, as it had been.
James carefully considered all of this and had a great desire for unity between both the state and the church. However, he realized this diversity had to be taken into account. There was simply no getting around it, as it would have been political suicide on either side of the aisle.
The New Testament As A Model
Hoping to advance what they truly believed to be the New Testament’s idea for the administration of the church, namely being under the administration of elders, the Presbyterians wanted bishops done away with.
Another group, known as Separatists (later, the American Pilgrims) wanted the state to have no power over the church’s affairs whatsoever. At the time of King James the 1st, they were not exactly a force to be considered, but their ideas were catching on at a steady pace.
Parliament, however, was power hungry for more, and was represented by a particularly powerful Puritan number.
Bishops and the Church of England
The Bishops and other high powers in the Church were also known as the “Prayer Book”. They were genuinely elite, held a great deal of power, were staunchly privileged and were incredibly wealthy. The recognized the Puritan uprising as more than a college debate. They knew that if the Puritan’s ideas were to become accepted, they had a great deal to lose.
Interruption Before Coronation
Even before he could fully make his way to London for his coronation, King James was interrupted during his journey south from Edinburgh. A number of Puritans had been delegated to present a petition to James, also known by the term “Millenary Petition”. It was sign by more than one thousand clergy.
In attempting to air their grievances with the church, however, they were careful to make sure their loyalty to the crown was not shaken. Some of their most dire objections included wearing liturgical clothing, use of wedding rings as well as the sign of the cross. It’s interesting to note that there was no reference to the desire for a new translation of Scripture.
It was this Petition that led to James issuing a proclamation that there would be a meeting at Hampton Court Palace in October of 1603.
The Tone of the Conference
Along with King James in attendance, there was also his Council of advisors, as well as bishops and deans. Dr. John Reynolds, who was at that time Corpus Christi College head, was one of only four people who represented the Puritans and their case.
King James opened the conference and made it clear that the state church policy would not be evaluated. He cited the security that came from the Church’s structure and drew a stark difference between that and the Presbyterian Church he had known while in Scotland.
The Puritans were only allowed to attend, beginning on the second day, where John Reynolds, on behalf of the Puritans, immediately questioned church government. His fatal mistake in standing for his cause seemed to sit most in the wording he chose while addressing the conference. Without having knowledge of the King’s address on the first day, since they were not in attendance, Reynolds asked the simple question, “Why shouldn’t the bishops govern jointly with a presbyterie of their brethren, the pastors and ministers of the Church?”.
As the King exploded in response, making his disdain for the Presbyterie very well known, he spewed forth what would become his very motto: “No bishop, no King!”
The Case For A New Bible Translation
However much the King and Reynolds did not see eye to eye, Reynolds was still able to plead the case for a new Bible translation. The most important reason, he cited, was that previous versions were not only corrupt, but were not true to the original documents.
By this time, the Geneva Bible was by far the most popular, and James despised it greatly. More so than the translation’s quality, he was adamant against the marginal notes, which he deemed both revolutionary and heretical. The notes are very anti-Catholic, with no apologies offered.
The Work Begins
King James decided there should be a new Bible translation, and it was to be a true and accurate representation of the originals. To do this, he chose fifty of the best scholars of language to be found in the whole nation and laid a groundwork of rules that said they should be carefully checked and rechecked.
Because he wanted his new Bible to outweigh the popularity of any before it, he demanded that it be in the most readable form possible, the English language, and that familiar terms be used while writing it.
However, he was abundantly vehement that there be no notes, whatsoever, of a biased nature to be included, as there had been in the Geneva Bible. The only notes he allowed would be for the explaining of Greek or Hebrew words.
Imagine The Impact of the Achievement
It must have seemed ludicrous at the time, that influential scholars undertook this writing meant primarily for a public that was, for the most part, illiterate. It was actually meant more to be read out loud than studied in private.
It has been said that it was ridiculous, the way the King James Version of the Bible came into being: as a purely political agenda, based on the studies of language scholars and approved by bishops.
However, we must keep in mind that vast number of people – more than 40 in all – that penned the original Bible texts. They came from different backgrounds, some of them writing hundreds of years apart. They had different professional backgrounds as well, some of them even being royalty. How could they write the Bible?
We believe it was accomplished in 1611 as it had been hundreds of years before, by the original authors.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!