Traditionally loved and accepted by all Christians, the King James Version was the first version of Scripture authorized by the Protestant church. Commissioned by England’s King James I, three panels of scholars drew upon the work of early translators and versions of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available at that time. Purpose in translation was “to deliver God’s book unto God’s people in a tongue which they can understand.” Timeless treasure.
In 1603 James I, already king of Scotland, ascended to the throne of England. He was presented with a petition containing grievances of the Puritan party. A conference was called at Hampton Court in 1604 to hear the complaints. At this conference Dr. John Reynolds, an Oxford scholar and Puritan leader, raised the subject of the imperfections of available Bibles. King James became interested in the idea of a new translation completed by university scholars, reviewed by bishops, and ratified by King James himself. James was displeased with the Geneva Bible, which he felt undermined the theory of divine right of kings and contained marginal notes that made it unacceptable to church leaders.
King James appointed 6 panels of translators (about 50 men) to revise and translate assigned portions of the Old Testament, Apocrypha (which was at the time included in all Bibles), and the New Testament. The completed work was reviewed by a group of 12, consisting of 2 men from each panel, after which the work was sent to bishops and leading churchmen for approval. Among the translators were some of the finest scholars of the day. The revisers/translators, while not paid for their efforts, were granted free room and board.
The Bishops’ Bible was used as the basis for this revision/translation, but it was also examined in the light of Hebrew and Greek documents, as well as compared with all other contemporary translations in various European languages. The work began in 1607, and in 1611 the new Bible was published. The Authorized Version — commonly referred to in America as the King James Version (KJV) — was dedicated to King James.
The AV was printed three times during the year of initial publication. The early editions contained a significant number of misprints and variations in wording and spelling. During the course of time the spelling in the earlier editions was modified, the chapter summaries were reduced, and the marginal references expanded. Revisions were made in 1613, 1629, and 1638, but it was the revisions made at Cambridge in 1762 and at Oxford in 1769 that modernized its spelling so that it may be read with relative ease in our day.
Trustworthy: It was developed by a committee of scholars and it represented a majority point of view. The scholars were able to build on the labors of many generations of Bible translators, and the revisers were able to draw from the recent growth in literary standards in the English language. The result was a work of excellent English prose.
But far greater than the literary significance has been the religious significance of this translation. The KJV has been the standard translation for millions for several hundred years. Despite its merits, however, the KJV would not remain unchallenged forever. Not only did the English language continue to develop, but early manuscripts of the Bible were discovered that have led to great improvement of the Biblical texts, especially in the Greek New Testament.