James Charles Stuart (1566-1625) assumed Scotland’s throne as James VI at 13 months of age when his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate the throne due to suspected involvement in the murder of her husband, James’ father. Upon the 1603 death of Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, he ascended the throne of England and Ireland as James I. James was the first to rule over all three realms simultaneously.
James was one of the most learned and erudite monarchs ever. He spoke fluent Greek, Latin, French, English, and his native Scots tongue as well as being trained in Spanish and Italian. King James said that he learned to speak Latin before he could speak Scots. As a result of his linguistic talents, King James typically did not use translators when dealing with foreign heads of state. His fluent knowledge of Greek and Latin enabled him to recognize for himself imperfections in the existing English translations of the Bible.
James survived many intrigues and assassination attempts. He struggled with Parliament repeatedly over finances. Under James, American colonization began at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. It was the first permanent English settlement in America, so James was the founding monarch of the American colonies.
James and Anne of Denmark had seven children, two stillbirths, and three miscarriages. Only three children survived childhood. James instilled in his second son Charles (1600-1649) belief in the divine right of kings and contempt for Parliament. Charles succeeded his father as king and was beheaded in Cromwell’s rebellion.
In January 1604, King James commissioned a new English translation of the Bible. A scholar and author himself, he was dissatisfied with existing English versions because of translation defects identified by Puritan scholars. Plus, he and Church of England prelates objected to some of the anti-monarchy notes of the Geneva Bible.
James instructed translators to conform to the ecclesiology and episcopal structure of the Church of England. Fifty-four Hebrew and Greek scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster worked on the project. The King’s printer released the first copies in May 1611.
The New World is Volume 2 of Sir Winston Churchill’s 4-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples. In it Churchill (1874-1965) identified the King James Bible as the most important link that connects English speakers. He viewed the KJV as James’ greatest achievement. Of the translation project he said,
“The scholars who produced this masterpiece [King James Bible] are mostly unknown and unremembered. But they forged an enduring link, literary and religious, between the English-speaking people of the world.”
(From Churchill’s The New World, 1956.)
Charlton Heston (1923-2008) played Moses in the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments. In connection with his movie role of Moses, Heston studied the King James Bible. This is what he said about it in his autobiography 50 years later.
“The King James translation has been described as ‘the monument of English prose’ as well as ‘the only great work of art ever created by a committee’. Both statements are true. Fifty four scholars worked seven years to produce the work from its extant texts in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English. Such an undertaking can be expected to produce great scholarship, but hardly writing as spare and sublime as the King James.
The authors of several boring translations that have followed over the last fifty years mumble that the KJV is “difficult” filled with long words. Have a look at the difficult long words that begin the Old Testament, and end the Gospels: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep.’ and ‘Now, of the other things which Jesus did, if they should be written every one, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’ Shakespeare aside, there’s no comparable writing in the language, as has been observed by wiser men than I.
Over the past several centuries it’s been the single book in most households, an enormous force in shaping the development of the English language. Carried around the world by missionaries, it provided the base by which English is about to become the lingua franca of the world in the next century. Exploring it during this shoot [Ten Commandments] was one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my life.”
(From Heston’s In the Arena: An Autobiography, 1997, pp. 554-555.)
Even Richard Dawkins, a rabid atheist and evangelist for evolutionism, said this about the King James Bible in January 2010:
“You can’t appreciate English literature unless you are to some extent steeped in the King James Bible…People don’t know that proverbial phrases which make echoes in their minds come from this Bible. We are a Christian culture, we come from a Christian culture, and not to know the King James Bible, is to be in some small way, barbarian.”
(From Richard Dawkins lends his support to The King James Bible Trust. This site has a Jan 2010 video with Dawkins making a case for the King James Bible as a primary cultural resource.)
The Bible known today as the King James Bible is not the original 1611 version. Revisions occurred in 1629, 1638, 1760. Major 1769 revisions standardized spelling, punctuation, and word usage, and corrected accumulated misprints. The revised text of 1769 constitutes today’s KJV.
The King James Bible is currently the #2 Bible in dollar sales and #3 in copies sold. KJV is no longer the most readable translation available. But its longevity, resonant cadence, and societal influence is unmatched. It continues to clearly proclaim the truth.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the eighth and concluding installment in the Story of the King James Bible series celebrating its 400th Anniversary.
Read the prequels:
1. King James Bible – The King with videos
2. King James Bible – Impact
3. King James Bible – Influence
4. King James Bible – John Wycliffe
5. King James Bible – Royal Ceremony
6. King James Bible – William Tyndale
7. King James Bible – Bible Wars
©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)
Tuesday December 27, 2011 A.D.
Read my November 2011 newspaper column:
Marco Polo’s Dragons.
The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting. (Psalms 119:160)