Guest / Limited Access /

The King James version of the Bible was a failure—at least when measured against the purposes of King James himself. According to Alister McGrath, James wanted to "destroy, discredit, or displace" the most popular Bible of his time because it promoted anti-monarchist sentiments. The Geneva Bible, as it was called, also betrayed the translators' hatred for hierarchical forms of church life, and James knew he needed England's bishops to stabilize his rule.

In one of history's great ironies, however, the rise of the King James Version would seriously undermine both kings and bishops and lay the foundation for modern constitutional democracies. Without your KJV, historically speaking, you probably wouldn't have your vote.

Two books published earlier this year tell the story of how the Bible came to be "Englished." Alister McGrath's In the Beginning (Oxford) focuses more narrowly on the King James Version, including rare bits of documentation on the translators' work, the specifics of the printing, and the archaic English retained from earlier versions. Benson Bobrick's less detailed but more entertaining Wide as the Waters (Simon & Schuster) tells the story of how translators liberated God's Word from clerical control, beginning in the 14th century.

When she lay dying in March 1603, England's Queen Elizabeth named her cousin, James VI of Scotland, as her successor. As he traveled south to claim the English crown, James was met by Puritan ministers who presented him with a petition bearing over a thousand signatures, demanding that he purge the Church of England of unbiblical practices ("human rites and ceremonies") and address their detailed concerns either in writing or in a "conference of the learned."

He granted them a ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Tags:
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
The Reluctant Romans
At Douai in Flanders, Catholic scholars translated the Bible into English as an alternative to the Bible of the heretics.
RecommendedDoes Protestantism Need to Die?
Subscriber Access Only Does Protestantism Need to Die?
Or to recover its riches? Two Protestant luminaries look at the legacy of the Reformation, 500 years later.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickThe Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
The Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.
Christianity Today
A Translation Fit For A King
hide thisOctober 22 October 22

In the Magazine

October 22, 2001

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.