Some Study Notes on the History of KJV.

I have found that I keep coming back to the sequence of events leading up to the publishing of the first King James Bible, or as we normally say it - King James Version (KJV).

I have put down some of the facts as I have come across them, but I have no doubt that they are far from complete.

However, they help to make the point that our English Bibles have "evolved" (and are continuing to evolve) rather than come through some spontaneous birth. As we look backward, we can only see Bibles that men have produced that are only partially accurate, and far from perfect - for all sorts of reasons.

While many improvements have been made over the years, I look forward to the day when I can hold in my hand, an English Bible that is as accurate as man (with God's inspiration) can make it.

Prior to 600 ADEnglish not spoken
600 AD to 1382English the language of the common people for many centuries. Nobles spoke French, the clergy Latin. A few books of the Bible translated into English, and all from the Latin Vulgate. None widely available.
c.1382John Wycliffe BibleFirst translation into English, but from the Latin Vulgate. It was - all 80 books - hand written
1525William Tyndale BibleIncomplete OT translated from the Hebrew and the NT from Erasmu's third edition Greek. Started some corrections like "congregation" instead of "church", and "elder" instead of "priest".
1534Best revision of Tyndale's Bible.
1535The Coverdale BibleNo Hebrew or Greek used, but did use many other books. First complete Bible printed in the English language.
1535The Matthew BibleUsed Tyndale's NT and Coverdale's OT. Added about 2000 notes.
1539The Great BibleBasically the Matthew Bible without the notes, and written on large sheets of paper - hence "Great" Bible. They were chained up in every church.
1560The Geneva BibleA translation from Hebrew and Greek.
First English Bible with verse divisions.
First Bible to America - via the Pilgrims.
Very popular with the lower classes - but rejected by clergy, because it was too Calvinistic [salvation by grace].
First translation done by a committee.
1568The Bishop's BibleBased on the Great Bible. I get the impression that the Bishops were trying to write their own job description back into the Bible. It was not a good translation, and did nothing to draw people away from the Geneva Bible.
1610The Rheims Douai BibleFrom the Latin Vulgate and especially for Catholics.
1611The King James BibleProduced by King James and under his imposed conditions.
It was to be based on the Bishop's Bible, and was to retain all the ecclesiastical words. It also tried to draw the best from the Matthew, Geneva, Rheims-Douai, the Great Bible, and especially the English (but not the accuracy) of the Tyndale Bible. Besides the current translations, they also used the less than perfect Stephanus Text of 1550, and the current Hebrew.

The above history is very brief, but it does show that many men have made attempts to get the original Scripture into the English language.

The process of doing this is not easy.

To give some idea of the complexities, let me quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1965, Page 3-581.

"Translation of the Bible is fraught with special problems, in addition to those present in the translation of any literary classic.

It requires the knowledge of not one but two major languages, Hebrew and Greek, and an awareness of the distinctiveness of Aramaic alongside Hebrew. To render biblical terms appositely into another language, the translator ought to be able to presuppose the presence in that language of the technical terms for the myriad theological, liturgical and mystical concepts throughout the Old and the New testaments.  On the other hand, such technical terms cannot appear in a language until it possesses and absorbs a translation of the Scriptures.

 [Please read that last line again.  It encapsulates the problem big-time. He is saying that you cannot translate the Scriptures until the people can talk about what is in the Scriptures.]

There is therefore a continuous reciprocity between the history of biblical translations and the history of language.

[Today the English language is refined and very usable. However, the understanding of what the original Scriptures are trying to tell us is so far behind, that no accurate translation is possible. The translators of today usually believe in the Trinity (which the original Bible does not support), do not keep the Friday night to Saturday night Sabbath, and do not keep the Holy Days of Lev 23, so it is impossible for them to make an accurate translation. We now have the language, but we do not - in my view - have the men who are immersed enough in obeying God's law (see the Big Ten) to be able to make a reasonable translation.]

 In addition, few books contain the variety of literary forms present within the Bible. [Please see Appendix 6 in the Companion Bible.] If the translator ignores the unique patterns of Hebrew poetry or of Hebrew  historiography or prophetic denunciation, he will falsify the meaning of the text. Each portion of the Bible contains special pitfalls for the translator, and the history of biblical translations is filled with the sometimes comic pictures of scholars falling into these pitfalls."

And the KJV is no exception. It breaks the rules many, many times.

In summary. No English translation of the original Bible is entirely accurate.  That is why we prefer to take the overview and look for themes. That way - we believe - there is less chance of getting caught in Satan's traps -  planted by men with "good" intentions no doubt, but still a corruption of the original.

When you look at how the English Bibles of today have been handed down to us over the centuries, the many "possible" early texts to start from, and the many different translation men have arrived at, there is just no way that we can claim the every single word of our English Bibles is "God inspired".

Yet - the majority of people do that today.


My guess is that they want to be able to use the words of "men" to overrule the words of God.

We have been told (Deut 8:3, Mat 4:4) to live by the words that come from God's mouth - the words of instruction spoken by God. However, men don't want to do that, so by claiming every verse in the Bible has equal weight, they can use the words written by men to overrule the words spoken by God.

The classic example is how Sunday keepers use the words/actions of lesser men to "get around" the clear instructions from God - the fourth Commandment.

Yes - there is truth in today's English Bibles, but to complicate things, it is mixed up with the errors of men. We have to carefully extract the truth, NOT assume that it is all truth.

Bob Orchard Oct 2014

While this information is made freely available (Mat 10:8b) , and can be printed out, it is done with the understanding that there will only be fair and honest use of the material, and that it will be copied in full with no alterations.

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