Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The King James Version of the Bible

In 1604 King James of England authorized a new translation of the Bible. There were two main competing Bibles at the time, the Geneva Bible and the Bishop's Bible. The Geneva Bible was a good translation, but had many notes which were against monarchy. The Bible also did not support the idea of ordained clergy which was how the Church of England was organized.
Queen Elizabeth authorized the Bishop's Bible in response to the Geneva Bible, to provide a translation which would support the monarchy and ordained clergy.  The translation was not a very compelling one and this helped keep the Geneva Bible popular, although the Bishop's Bible was the official version.
King James organized a committee of 47 translators to produce the new translation, all of which were members of the Church of England. King James wanted to keep many of the same translations of the Geneva translation and the committee was encouraged to seek inspiration from the other translations as well as the original texts. The translators did not translate the passages word-for-word but used italics to indicate if a word was implied and not in the original text. They also used words which were slightly archaic, which was supposed to help the text have an uncommon and holy feel about it.
The translators worked in groups to translate different parts of the Bible and the Apocrypha. When a group got to the point where they were discussing the different translator's version, they would speak the passage aloud for all to hear, so that the sound of the translation would be an important part of the text. King James dictated that there would be no notes, to avoid the accidental inclusion of anti-monarch and ordained clergy notes which had made their way into the Geneva text.
The Bible translation did not have a name at first and was eventually known as the Authorized Version.  In 1611, the translation was finished and printed by Robert Barker, who would subcontract the rights to print the Bible to other London printers after demand got too high for him to meet by himself. This resulted in decades-long disputes between the printers.  The printers all had their own variations of spellings of various words and their own punctuation and sometimes a different word here and there. In 1769 Oxford produced a standard version of the text, which is identical to most versions in print today.

The King James Version of the Bible helped codify the English language. The King James Bible is the most popular version of the Bible, with an estimated one billion copies printed. Before the King James Bible, most churches did not have a Bible because they could not afford one.