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By Colin D. Standish.

Few people realize that the path to the King James

Bible is stained with blood.

Under the patronage of powerful nobles and at times

support from the king of England, John Wycliff boldly
undertook the first translation of the Bible. This act
would have almost certainly lead him to the stake,
had it not been for their support. It was considered
an act of treason by the church to provide the Word
of God in a language available to the common people.

Beset by physical infirmity and opposed bitterly by

papal relates, Wycliff nevertheless completed his
monumental task.

The Bible that Wycliff translated contained many

errors, for it had been taken from the Latin Vulgate
text prepared in the fifth century by Jerome and used
by the A Roman Catholic Church. Yet it began to
break down barriers and open the light that was
never to be extinguished. Wycliff’s Bible was not
printed since it was translated before the invention of
the printing press. Thus, the cost of manuscripts was
so great that only the wealthy nobility could afford it.

In 1516, using the manuscripts of the Textus

Receptus, Erasmus made a new Greek translation of
the Bible, correcting many of the errors of the Roman
Catholic Latin Vulgate Bible. The opportunity came to
rediscover the Word of God and it was made available
that men might not be slaves to the interpretation of
those who held their spiritual destiny in their hands.
The challenge was taken up by William Tyndale who
vowed to translate this new version into the English
language. He was severely persecuted for his efforts,
fleeing from England to many places in Europe, but
eventually his translation became available. In 1535,
Tyndale was captured in Antwerp, Belgium and a year
and a half later, rendered up his life a martyr. It is
recorded that his final cry before death was ‘Lord,
open the King of England’s eyes.’

Tyndale’s Bible was completed by Bishop Miles

Coverdale and became known as Matthew’s Bible or
the Coverdale Bible. It was licensed by the King of
England himself.

By 1538, a decree was issued requiring that the

clergy should place one Bible in the English language
in a convenient place in every church. Five years
later, however, strong ecclesiastical pressure led to a
parliamentary enactment that once again banned
Tyndale’s translation, and soon the Bible was
removed from the hands of the common people.

During the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary,

hundreds of faithful Protestants, including Thomas
Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and John Rigers,
both editors of the Matthew’s Bible, were burned at
the stake. Later, the flames were to consume Hugh
Latimer and Nicolas Ridley, two other vehement
supporters of the Word of God.

When the new queen, Elizabeth 1, restored

Protestantism, the Bible again was distributed. The
famous Geneva Bible, a revision of the Great Bible
which in turn was a revision of Tyndales’s Bible had
been prepared in 1560 by reformers who had fled to
Geneva during the persecuting reign of Queen Mary.
In many ways it was a fine translation of the Bible,
and as it became available to mor people, significant
numbers rejected the formality of the Church of
England. This in turn lead to persecution of the
Puritans and non-conformists who then emigrated to
the NEW Worlds to exercise religious freedom.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, another

significant Bible was developed by the Bishops of the
Church of England. Presented to the Queen in 1568,
it became known as the BISHOP’S Bible. The Puritan
movement was so strengthened that in 1593, the
British Parliament branded as “disloyal persons” all
who worshipped outside the Church of England. They
were ordered to leave England or suffer death.

Upon the death of Elizabeth 1, 1603, the Scottish

King, James Vl, was chosen as her successor,
becoming James l of Great Britain. The Puritans made
al efforts to convince the new king of the justice of
their cause. During his journey to London to be
crowned king, he was presented with what is referred
to as “Millinery Petition” which addressed numerous
injustices they were experiencing.

On January 14, 1604, the King convened a meeting of

the prelates of the Church of England and four
Puritan leaders led by John Rainolds, a scholar and
president of Corpus Christi College at Oxford
University. Because of the conference, the King
decided that a new, more authentic version of the
Bible would be developed.

The King himself was not a casual student of the

Bible. He was proficient in the classical languages,
had written a paraphrase of the book of Revelation,
and had translated some of the Psalms. He took
great care in choosing the translators, requiring that
those chosen be men “who had taken pains in their
private study of the Scripture.”

Forty-seven men were selected for this monumental

task, including Dr. Rainolds, a Puritan leader. These
godly scholars, who received no pay for their work,
were divided into six companies. One group, made up
of experts in Hebrew, were to translate the Old
Testament, and the other group, experts in Greek,
were to translate the New Testament. For three
years eachhscholar worked privately on the chapters
assigned him and each was required to follow 15
specific rules to guarantee the integrity of
The second stage of development required each
man’s translation to be carefully compared with that
of others in his company. Once the book was
completed to the satisfaction of the company, it was
sent to the other two companies for review and
suggestions. As the Bible unfolded, it was clear that
the influence of Tyndale and Coverdale was great.
Coverdale had long been considered “master of
prose.” Much of the cadence of the King James Bible
can be attributed to the outstanding literary quality
of Bishop Coverdale.

Only when the Bible was completed was the

preliminary translation circulated. Two persons from
each company were chosen for the final revision. As
they worked together, one of the scholars would read
the new translation and the rest would hold another
Bible in another language, such as French, Spanish,
or Italian. If they had any reservations they
discussed the issue. Only after the most searching
final revision was the new translation sent to the

It took approximately nine months for the King James

Bible to be printed by the antiquated methods of the
day. In 1611, it was ready for the public.

There were a number of subsequent, careful revisions

and updating of the language. The first was in 1629,
followed by a further revision carried out at
Cambridge University in 1678.

There were errors in production, one of the most

famous of which was in the original edition – the
elimination of the word “not” from the seventh
commandment. For this, the King’s printer was fined
300 pounds, a huge sum of money in those days.
The eighteenth century saw further revisions and
modernization of the language. In 1762, Dr. Thomas
Paris of Trinity College, Cambridge issued a revision
of the King James Bible. Seven years later at Oxford
University Dr. Benjamin Blaymey released his edition.
The two editions are the basis of the current
authorized version of the Bible. They provided italics
for words that were not in the original language and
dramatically increased the marginal notes to about
65,000, half of which were cross references. No other
Bible in the history of the world has received such
careful and prayerful attention as the King James

Many were persecuted and martyred so that the Bible

could be made available to every human being. How
sad is the indifference which many contemporary
Christians hold the sacred Word of God.

Truly we should be filled with deep gratitude for

those who gave their lives and to those who so
carefully translated the sacred oracles of God.

This article is taken from ‘Final Generation

Magazine, Vol.2, No.4, 1990.’