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The King James Version: A Brief History

The year King James ascended to the throne of Great Britten, he was petitioned by the Puritans to make changes in the Church of England. They wanted the church to be closer in doctrine to the Reformed Church of Geneva or the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland. This prompted King James to call together a committee of four puritans and fourteen representatives of the Church of England, which included bishops, clergymen, and professors. They gathered together at Hampton Court for an ecclesiastical conference in January 1604.

Out of desperation during the ecclesiastical conference, Dr. John Reynolds, the Puritan president of Corpus Christi College, suddenly petitioned King James to authorize a new translation of the Bible because he felt that the Bibles authorized by King Henry VIII and King Edward VI were inadequate translations and should be revised. It was probably a knee-jerk reaction because of failing to sway the king to his Puritan way of thinking. The puritans were actually quite content with their Geneva Bible. [1] After that conference, the King decided that the Church of England should maintain its current doctrine and should have a new translation of the Bible.

King James said he,

"Could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst. I wish some special pains were taken for an uniform translation, which should be done by the best learned men in both Universities, then reviewed by the Bishops, presented to the Privy Council, lastly ratified by the Royal authority, to be read in the whole Church, and none other." [2]

The King’s Resolution:

"That a translation be made of the whole Bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek; and this to be set out and printed, without any marginal notes, and only to be used in all churches of England in time of divine service." [3]

The reason that he hated the Geneva Bible so much was not due to it’s translation, which was excellent, but due to the Calvinistic marginal notes that were often philosophically against the monarchy. This is why the Bishops Bible and the Great Bible were the Bibles of choice for the Church of England. This prompted King James to pursue a new version of the Bible.

A group of fifty-four men were nominated for the task of translation and revision of the current version of the Bishops Bible, but only forty-seven were known to have taken part in the work of translation. Four years were spent on the preliminary translations for the new Bible and nine months of review and revision. The completed work was finally authorized and issued in 1611.

The King James Version, or Authorized Version, as it came to be called in Great Britten, went through several editions and revisions. Two prominent editions were that of 1629, which was the first ever printed at Cambridge, and the 1638 edition, also from Cambridge, utilized two of the original translators who assisted with this edition, John Bois and Samuel Ward. The most important editions were the 1762 Cambridge revision by Thomas Paris, and the 1769 Oxford revision by Benjamin Blayney. [4]

The King James Version translation was based mainly on the Bishops Bible, but the translators also used the Tyndale, Matthews, Coverdale, Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. Most of the translations paralleled the original work of Tyndale. Since many of the translators were skilled in both Hebrew and Greek, they could also refer to the Masoretic text (original Hebrew Old Testament) and the Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures) during their work. The Dead Sea Scrolls (Hebrew Old Testament) had not been discovered yet. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls prompted modern scholars to create new translations.

The new translations lack the eloquence and passion of the King James Version. Another problem I have with the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they were from a sect of Judaism called the Essenes. Unlike the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Essenes formed their own communities, rejecting people from other sects. They shared their possessions in a communal manner, and observed strict interpretations of the law, and were also mostly celibate. I prefer the original Masoretic text with the Septuagint, which the King James Version was translated from.

The King James version has been the Bible of choice for over 250 years and it is still the most popular version. The King James Version is and will always be the best, most eloquent and powerful English language translation of the Bible of all time.


[1] "A History Of The Authorized Version," The Puritan Board, last modified April 12, 2008,

[2] "King James Bible,", accessed July 25, 2018,

[3] Laurence M. Vance, "Brief History of the King James Bible by Dr. Laurence M. Vance," Dial-the-Truth Ministries a Christian Resource and Tract Ministry, accessed July 25, 2018,

[4] Laurence M. Vance, "Brief History of the King James Bible by Dr. Laurence M. Vance," Dial-the-Truth Ministries a Christian Resource and Tract Ministry, accessed July 25, 2018,

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