More English Translations of the Bible–A Focus on the King James Version

A flood of translations and revisions followed. One popular one was the Geneva Bible of 1560. It became the Bible for the family. It was the first translation which printed each verse as a paragraph and to  put words in italics not represented in the original texts. It was the Bible used by Shakespeare in his later plays, it was the one used by the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, it was brought to Plymouth on the Mayflower, and it was the one Bible with its improved Hebrew and Greek scholarship that was an intermediate step between Tyndale and the King James version.


Because some Bibles were used in churches, while others were used at home and some were favored by Protestants while others were favored by Catholics, there was a need for a Bible that was satisfactory to all. In 1604 King James of England summoned a meeting of representatives of diverse religious groups to discuss the question of religious toleration. At this meeting people raised the possibility of a new translation. The Geneva Bible had a lot of commentary added which represented the views of John Calvin and the Reformation. For this new translation the king said there  were to be no notes of comment except what was essential in translating the text. Over 40 Greek and Hebrew scholars were selected and divided into six working companies, which focused on key books and then allowed all the other companies to review their work. As a result, this new translation was the product of no individual or group, but of the reviewers as a whole. In 1611 the Authorized Version, better known as the King James Version, was published. It immediately displaced earlier Bibles used in the churches and established itself as the translation for English-speaking people around the world.


It became hugely popular for several reasons. First, Greek and Hebrew scholarship had made tremendous strides since the time of Tyndale. Secondly, literary scholarship and learning in general at this time were at a high. It was the time of Elizabethan prose and poetry, the time of Shakespeare. As a result, the words and phrases were written in a classic English style. Another reason for its success was its timing. A good English translation was needed, and the translators were able to profit from both the excellencies and the shortcomings of previous translations. One final reason for its success was the fact that it was the work of not a single individual or party. England had been torn by religious factions, and partisan translations would not solve the problem. The King James Version was noted for its deliberate impartiality in regards to religious opinions.