What Is the King James Version of the Holy Bible?

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The King James version of the Bible is the product of a translation of scripture commissioned by James I, King of England, in 1604. Completed in 1611, the King James version of the Bible was initially unpopular with members of the Church of England. By the mid-1600s, however, the King James version replaced its predecessors and became the Bible of use across the English-speaking world.

When James I, then James VI of Scotland, assumed the throne as King of England following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, two competing translations of the Bible existed due to a long and contentious history of the monarchy switching hands between Protestant and anti-Protestant rulers. Published by a small group of Calvinists in 1560, the Geneva Bible, was a favorite of King James. Puritan groups widely used the Geneva Bible. However, to the displeasure of James I, it contained overt anti-royal margin notes.

The more pro-royal Bible in existence at the time was the Bishops’ Bible, translated in 1568 by a group of bishops and emblazoned with an image of Queen Elizabeth herself. Upon taking reign of England, James commissioned a group of 54 scholars from a wide variety of religious backgrounds to create a new biblical translation that would solve the anti-royal problem of the Geneva Bible. James gave the scholars multiple rules to guide their work, including no contentious notes in the margins and no language inaccessible to common people.