I’ve posted this before, but we have new members all the time who have not read it so I will be posting this on a quarterly basis. I will be adding to this over time, so stay tuned. The following was compiled from Wikipedia and other Internet resources.
The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King’s Printer, Robert Barker, the first edition included schedules unique to the Church of England; for example, a lectionary for morning and evening prayer. This was the third such official translation into English; the first having been the Great Bible commissioned by the Church of England in the reign of King Henry VIII, and the second having been the Bishop’s Bible of 1568. In January 1604, King James I of England convened the Hampton Court Conference where a new English version was conceived in response to the perceived problems of the earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within the Church of England.
James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy. The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from the Textus Receptus (Received Text) series of the Greek texts. The Old Testament was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek Septuagint (LXX), except for 2 Esdras, which was translated from the Latin Vulgate.
While the Authorized Version was meant to replace the Bishops’ Bible as the official version for readings in the Church of England, it was apparently (unlike the Great Bible) never specifically “authorized,” although it is commonly known as the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom. However, the King’s Printer issued no further editions of the Bishops’ Bible; so necessarily the Authorized Version supplanted it as the standard lectern Bible in parish church use in England. In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version replaced the text of the Great Bible — for Epistle and Gospel readings — and as such was “authorized” by Act of Parliament. In the United States, the Authorized Version is known as the King James Version. The earliest appearance in print of the phrase “authorized version”, to mean this particular version of the bible, was published in 1824. The phrase “King James version” first appeared in print in 1884.
By the first half of the 18th century, the Authorized Version was effectively unchallenged as the English translation used in Anglican and Protestant churches. Over the course of the 18th century, the Authorized Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate as the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars.
The followers of John Wycliffe undertook the first complete English translations of the Christian scriptures in the 15th century. These translations were banned in 1409 due to their association with the Lollards. The Wycliffe Bible pre-dated the printing press but was circulated very widely in manuscript form, often inscribed with a date earlier than 1409 to avoid the legal ban. As the text translated in the various versions of the Wycliffe Bible was the Latin Vulgate, and as it contained no heterodox readings, there was in practice no way by which the ecclesiastical authorities could distinguish the banned version; and consequently many Catholic commentators of the 15th and 16th centuries (such as Thomas More) took these manuscript English bibles to represent an anonymous earlier orthodox translation.
William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English in 1525.
In 1525, William Tyndale, an English contemporary of Martin Luther, undertook a translation of the New Testament. Tyndale’s translation was the first printed Bible in English. Over the next ten years, Tyndale revised his New Testament in the light of rapidly advancing biblical scholarship, and embarked on a translation of the Old Testament. Despite some controversial translation choices, the merits of Tyndale’s work and prose style made his translation the ultimate basis for all subsequent renditions into Early Modern English. With these translations lightly edited and adapted by Myles Coverdale, in 1539, Tyndale’s New Testament and his incomplete work on the Old Testament became the basis for the Great Bible. This was the first “authorized version” issued by the Church of England during the reign of King Henry VIII. When Mary I succeeded to the throne in 1553, she returned the Church of England to the communion of the Roman Catholic faith and many English religious reformers fled the country, some establishing an English-speaking colony at Geneva. Under the leadership of John Calvin, Geneva became the chief international centre of Reformed Protestantism and Latin biblical scholarship.
These English expatriates undertook a translation that became known as the Geneva Bible. This translation, dated to 1560, was a revision of Tyndale’s Bible and the Great Bible on the basis of the original languages Soon after Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558, the flaws of both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible (namely, that the Geneva Bible did not “conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy”) became painfully apparent. In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishops’ Bible, a revision of the Great Bible in the light of the Geneva version. While officially approved, this new version failed to displace the Geneva translation as the most popular English Bible of the age – in part because the full Bible was only printed in lectern editions of prodigious size and at a cost of several pounds. Accordingly, Elizabethan lay people overwhelmingly read the Bible in the Geneva Version – small editions were available at a relatively low cost. At the same time, there was a substantial clandestine importation of the rival Douay-Rheims New Testament of 1582, undertaken by exiled Roman Catholics. This translation, though still derived from Tyndale, claimed to represent the text of the Latin Vulgate.