When James I became King of England in 1603, having a Bible version dedicated
to him was the farthest thing from his mind. But being a good administrator, when the Puritans presented him
with a list of
grievances they had against the Church of England, James decided to convene a conference to try to work out
the differences. No real decisions of lasting worth were made at that conference except one: To create
a new version of the English Bible.
King James, who was a Bible scholar in his own right, set down the rules for this new Bible.
There were to be no
marginal notes except those that gave alternate translations to Hebrew and Greek words.
Words that did
not exist in the original translation, but were added to make the English read right, were printed
differently from the rest of the text — typically in
Hebrew and Greek words could be translated based on their context and usage. Many earlier Bible versions
always translated the same Hebrew or Greek word the same way; this would sometimes result
in a translation that was 'stilted' and hard to read.
Fifty scholars donated their time to this project. They worked in six individual groups, each translating
a different section of the Bible. Their work was reviewed by a 'master committee' of 12 men. The final
compiled translation was then submitted to a group of bishops from the Church of England for their approval. And finally
in 1610, this new Bible was submitted to the King for his sanction. (Geez. Could they have made it any more complicated?
Actually, going through all these steps assured that the final result would be a Bible that was scholarly,
yet reflected the best attributes of the English language. The process certainly succeeded.)
In 1611 the first copies of the new "Authorized Version" were released.
Like every new Bible version before, it had to deal with people hesitant to give up their older versions.
But it quickly overcame these trials, and within 25 years it had replaced the Geneva Translation as the
version most used in Churches and for private study. And because of its excellence, the King James Version would become
the only English Bible for almost three centuries.
Use the Menu on the left to read the full story, or
to view actual pages from the 1611 King James Bible.