What Is the King James Bible? Who Was King James?

(Last Updated On: July 7, 2020)
What Is the King James Bible?

Oh, the Renaissance! A time of discovery, art, and science. One of the most influential people of this era was King James. He was known for a few things–namely his love for the monarchy and money. However, perhaps the most well-known part of his legacy is the bible that bears his name. His sponsorship of the King James Bible would have a profound effect on the English language as we know it today. 

Who Was King James? 

Born on June 19, 1566, James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland. He would ascend to the throne of Scotland as James VI at just 13th months of age. And he would rule as King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603 until his death in 1625.

Though the kingdoms of Scotland and England were individual sovereign states, both were ruled by James in union. Thus after 1603 he began to style himself “King of Great Britain and Ireland”. Throughout his reign, he would be a major advocate of a single parliament for England and Scotland.

James came to rule during a time of cultural expansion that took its form in literature, music, fine arts, and science. King James himself was an author of a variety of works, and other notable writers like William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon were also active at the time. But arts aside, his position as a ruler was constantly fraught with parliamentary conflict.

King James believed in “political absolutism”–the idea that the monarchy should have complete rule and authority over any laws or legislation. Critics of the era railed against his irresponsible spending, his reluctance to accept input from parliament, and his attempts to form alliances with enemy countries.

However, 20th century scholars have had softer opinions of King James–praising his efforts to avoid wars. And there is no denying the legacy that he left was huge. Especially with regards to the bible translation project he would commission in 1604.

What Is the King James Bible?

The King James Bible (KJB)–also known as the King James Version (KJV) or the Authorized Version (AV)–was not written by King James. He just provided the funding to see the creation of this new edition, which was just the third English translation of the Christian bible. It was published under the sponsorship of the king in 1611.

The King James Bible includes the 39 books of the Old Testament, an intertestamental section containing 14 books of the Apocrypha, and the 27 books of the New Testament. The translation was done by 47 men in all, many of whom were among the leading theologians in England. As was the case with most translations of the era, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin.

The King James Version is one of the most influential books of all time. It has been praised for its style, and the way it helped progress the English language, even giving us many new idioms and sayings. In some ways, it helped set a standard for English literature. 

The King James Bible would go on to become the most widely printed book in history. And it is still widely used today.

Enjoyed this blast from the past? Dive even deeper with these historical articles.

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