The History of the English Bible Part 13:King James Bible of 1611

KJV 1611 title page

Elizabeth I died and King James I took throne in 1603. The Puritans gave a petition of 1000 signatures to King James stating grievances against the Church of England. The Hampton Court Conference occurred in 1604 to discuss these issues. King James had no special love for the Puritans due to some political problems he had had with them, but he also was not pleased with some of the notes in the Geneva bible and so he honored their request for a new authorized bible with no marginal notes.

Some of the notes he had a problem with were Exodus 1:19 talking about the midwives lying to pharaoh, “Their disobedience in this was lawful, but their deception is evil.”(Geneva Bible notes Exodus 1:19) James felt this was telling people it was okay to disobey the king. The notes on 2 Kings 9:33 Talking about throwing Jezebel down form the tower, “This he did by the moving of the Spirit of God, that her blood would be shed, who had shed the blood of innocents, to be a spectacle and example of God’s judgment for all tyrants.” (Geneva Bible notes 2 Kings 9:33) James felt this was promoting violence against royalty. So the idea of having a bible that removed these notes was a good idea to King James.

The rules for translation set by the king and the conference were that it would be produced by university scholars,reviewed by the bishops, ratified by the king, and it would contain no marginal notes. the translator’s stated their goal was to “make out of many good translations, one principal one.” They used the Bishop bible as the basis but they examined all the English versions, the original languages and several foreign versions such as Luther’s Germany version, French versions and Latin versions. They also looked at the Septuagint (Greek OT), The Targum (Aramic OT) and The Syriac Peshitta.

There were 54 men appointed by the king to translate although only 44 were listed. They were divided into 6 panels, 2 in Oxford, 2 in Cambridge, and 2 in Westminster. Once the panels were done translating, the manuscripts were reviewed by committees of 2 people from each panel for a total of twelve reviewers. To prevent language from becoming to stilted they decided that different words could be used for the same Greek or Hebrew words. This was later revised but some still remains in the KJV today. Words that needed to be included to make the English understandable but were not in original languages were to be noted by italics. Biblical names were to correspond to common names but did not have to be standardized such as Elijah in the OT and Elias in NT. Congregational words were to be retained such as church and baptism. There were to be no marginal notes unless they were required to explain Greek or Hebrew words. They also chose to maintain  chapter and verse separations and add headings. The last stipulation was that specialists could be called for assistance in their field of expertise. This is why the language of the KJV is so beautiful and poetically flowing. They were not afraid to ask Literary experts to help.

With only about 25 manuscripts to use they set to work and completed the translation in about 5 years. They did include the apocrypha but separated it from the canonical books by placing it between the OT and NT. The KJV went through several revisions to modernize language spellings and fix printer errors. In 1769 Dr. Benjamin Blayney, regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford revised the AV with modifications to weights, measures, and coins. It is estimated that the Oxford standard edition as it is known today is different in 75,000 places from the original KJV 1611. Most of these are changes in spellings and measures. This Oxford standard edition is what you have in your hands today.

John 3:16 KJV 1611

For God so loued ye world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life.

John 3:16 KJV OSE

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Lord’s Prayer KJV 1611 Matthew 6:9-13

After this maner therefore pray yee: Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdome come. Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heauen. Giue vs this day our daily bread. And forgiue vs our debts, as we forgiue our debters. And lead vs not into temptation, but deliuer vs from euill: For thine is the kingdome, and the power, and the glory, for euer, Amen.

Lord’s Prayer KJV OSE Matthew 6:9-13

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

KJV of 1611 (Click to enlarge)

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One Response to The History of the English Bible Part 13:King James Bible of 1611

  1. Thanks for your history of the KJV. The KJV has had an immense influence on the history of the world. Many people, however, do not realize just how much the Oxford Edition of today differs from the original editions that rolled off the printing press. Given that the translation from the Hebrew Old Testament was made so long ago, the translators’ knowledge of the Hebrew was actually very good.

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