The Expository Files

Who Was King James?

An interesting article appeared recently in "Christian History Magazine" by Elesha Coffman, Assistant Editor of Christian History magazine. The article simply gives some history concerning the life and character of King James of England, who authorized scholars to translate a new English language version of the Bible. This version has been the most widely used version among English speaking people for several centuries and has proven itself reliable, though not perfect. The most serious objection to it usually made has to do more with archaic language than mistranslation, though these can be found as well.

The magazine article reports on a January 12, 1604 meeting over which King James presided over at his estate at Hampton Court. The gathering included English bishops and the leaders of the Puritan movement. The Puritans were calling for church reforms, and one of their was the need for a new Bible translation. King James, a student of theology himself, promptly approved. "I have never yet seen a Bible well-translated," he said. Work began in 1607, and the first copy appeared in print in 1611. Yes, at one time even the KJV was "one of them modern translations."

Although often called the "Authorized Version," the translation was only authorized by its own title page. The authority is of man,  not God, that this is the Bible that "is to be read in the churches." Not everyone liked this, mistrusting the "newfangled" version. And there were complaints about some of its inconsistencies. But it must be admitted that it was a big improvement over the earlier Bishops' and Geneva Bibles.

The article asks: "But just how honorable was James?" The answer is given: "Not very." King James liked the bishops, and was enraged by the Puritan's request to be freed from their authority. He would often interpret laws to favor the bishops, and they, in turn, would ignore his faults, including drunkeness and very likely homosexuality.

At any rate, there are some interesting insights into the man. In Biblical history, we find God using not only imperfect men and women, but sometimes wicked unbelievers to advance His purpose, including Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Judas and Pilate to name a few.

By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 7.2; February 2000