12. The King James

When Queen Elizabeth I died, Prince James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. The Protestant clergy requested a new translation to replace the Bishop's Bible. They knew that the Geneva Version had won the hearts of the people because of its excellent scholarship, accuracy, and exhaustive commentary, but they did not want the controversial marginal notes (proclaiming the Pope as Anti-Christ, etc.) Essentially, the leaders of the church desired a Bible for the people, with scriptural references only for word clarification or cross-references.

This "translation to end all translations" was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration:
  • The Tyndale New Testament,
  • The Coverdale Bible,
  • The Matthews Bible,
  • The Great Bible,
  • The Geneva Bible,
  • and even the Rheims New Testament.
From 1605 to 1606 the scholars engaged in private research.

From 1607 to 1609 the work was assembled.

In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit Bibles, known today as "The 1611 King James Bible," came off the printing press. Starting just one year later, printing began on the earliest normal-sized King James Bibles. These were produced so individuals could have their own personal copy of the Bible.

The King James ended up being 95% the same as the Geneva (which was 90% Tyndale’s) with influence by the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament. Nevertheless, the King James Bible became the most printed book in the history of the world, and the only book with one billion copies in print. In fact, for over 250 years the King James Version reigned without much of a rival.

One little-known fact, is that for the past 200 years, all King James Bibles published in America are actually the 1769 Baskerville spelling and wording revision of the 1611. The publishers add the original “1611” preface without any mention of this revision so as to not hurt sales. Most Americans would simply not be able to read the 1611 version due to the different spellings.

The first Bible printed in America was done in the native Algonquin Indian Language by John Eliot in 1663. The first English language Bible to be printed in America by Robert Aitken in 1782 was a King James Version.