The King James Bible is 400 years old.

In 1603 James V of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I to the English throne to become James I of England.   Encouraged by James’ strict Calvinist upbringing, English Puritans petitioned him at the Hampton Court conference to make changes in the doctrine of the Church of England to conform to the Gospel revealed in Tyndale’s Bible translation. Tyndale found no mention in Scripture of a hierarchy of Church clerics–bishops, priests, deacons–or formal rituals in the faith.

They did not realize that the King’s experience as a young prince in the hands of fiercely fundamentalist Scots had more embittered than enlightened him, and he staunchly embraced the concept of the divine right of kings.  Since the monarch was believed to be chosen by God, he was therefore not only supreme leader of the Church but the final authority on doctrine.  No other interpretation of Scripture was valid.

The Puritans’ plea thrust James into a rage, shouting, “You are aiming at Scots’ presbytery!  That agrees as much with Monarchy as God and the Devil! Then Jack and Tom, Will and Dick, shall censure me and my Council.”  He turned to his Bishops.  “My Lords, if once you are out and they are in, I know what would become of my supremacy, for no Bishop, no King!”

Although James found error in all versions of the Bible, he considered the “worst” to be the Geneva Bible the Pilgrims used .  In marginal notes it  questioned the meaning of some verses suggesting the  monarch’s supremacy in religious matters.  James readily agreed to authorize a new authentic translation written by the world’s most learned scholars divided into groups which checked each others’ work.

The King James Authorized Version was published seven years later in 1611. It has been not only a major literary and cultural influence in English history but a primary source of profound wisdom and revelation of the human condition for many peoples of the world these 400 years.