How The King James Was Written
Here’s something not many people realize: Roughly half of the English translations of the Bible have been done in the last century, and most of those were done in the last three decades.
That explosion of translations has been made possible primarily because of the advent of computers, but a growing interest in rendering the Bible in contemporary language is also a factor. Prior to 1900 of course, the King James Version (KJV) was easily the most popular version in existence. While the “Olde English” of the KJV seems hopelessly outdated to most readers today, it was born in part out of the same desire to read the Bible in what was then modern English.
Another reason the KJV was translated: the most popular English versions in existence prior to it rendered certain passages in ways King James deemed seditious, or at a minimum not supportive of the crown. The King wanted a new version which cast his role as monarch in a more favorable light.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has delivered a fascinating article on how the King James Version was produced, naming the major translators, and offering a glimpse into their methods.
Also in the article is a section on the influence of William Tyndale’s translation on the KJV, as well as passing references to the other translations then available, such as the Great Bible, the Geneva (Shakespeare’s favorite) and an all too brief comment about Myles Coverdale, a Bishop of Exeter and Tyndale’s protégé, who produced a complete English Bible on his own after Tyndale was martyred.
All in all, it’s fascinating reading. And it’s well worth remembering that English speaking Americans owe their freedom of religion today not only to the founding fathers, but also to a few heroes of the faith who gave their lives in that cause nearly 250 years before the U.S.A. existed.