Church History (3 Myths about the King James Version) 2
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Church History (3 Myths about the King James Version)
More importantly, the pilgrims who made their way into this new world. were not fleeing from James, they were sent, they were chartered, they were allowed to come. In many ways did James begin by allowing dissenters to leave. It is kind of separating the two squabbles. You go to the other side of the Atlantic, and when you are there, as long as you send trade back, well, then you’ll be allowed to worship in whatever church you happen to build. Back here, it’s Anglicanism.
So, when James is sitting there at the Hampton Court conference, and he has not even been crowned yet, in spite of that, he is already dealing with the Anglican vs Puritan fight. What he is dealing with is not a love of Anglicanism and a hatred of Puritanism. Point of fact, James had been King of Scotland and Scotland was thoroughly reformed. As a result, it tossed out many of the liturgical and ecclesiastical practices that were endorsed and used in England.
Rather, what James does is he sides with the established church. He realizes he can’t allow the dissenters to overturn everything that had only lately been established and protected. So, one of James’ famous quotes during this Hampton Court conference is “NO BISHOP, NO KING”, which interprets, “no Anglicanism, no King”. But you see, any politician would say the same, then and now.
I will not overthrow everything that is established. Reforms are to be done in a piecemeal and slow process, and you must follow the leadership. He’s not going to allow the tail to wag the dog. So James does shut them down, he silences them in a way. But the way in which he silences them is in their complaining about worship.
So, when the myth says that King James opposed puritanism, and therefore, lobbied or rallied for a Bible that eventually became known as the King James Bible or the Authorized Bible, that wasn’t an oppositional move to puritanism. In fact, it was the opposite. James said, look, I’m not going to get into this squabble about worship and actually makes fun of the puritans at the conference. But it is, in fact, a puritan who suggests that a way forward, a way to get off the subject of worship would be to translate a new Bible.
You see, both sides; Anglicanism with the Bishop’s Bible and the Puritans or the reformed folks with the Geneva Bible had actually brought in the word of God, as you might say, a set piece in their fight. This is our Bible, that’s their bible, we will not use their Bible kind of thing.
Hence, when James hears that he can put them all to work translating a new Bible, he says, AHA! this would actually work, this would actually be a good task since you both share a commitment to the Scriptures. In fact, one of the key features of the King James Bible shows this. The fact that in its 1611 printing, it has no notes. Just a title page and the Bible. James specified that they were not going to use theological notes that were so common in other protestant Bibles.
So, you see the Bible for King James was not a point of sticking it to the Puritans but rather, of trying to get them to accommodate and have commonality and common ground with their Anglican opposition.
Probably what’s behind this myth are some half-remembered truths about the Wickliffe Bible being scorned and oppressed or that Tyndale was executed for the translation of His Bible. That’s about a century earlier for Tyndale and far earlier than that when we go back to the story of Wickliffe. This is not the story of the King James Bible though. No Bibles were taken out of their hands. Point of fact, long after the KJV was printed and established as the choice for English speakers, the other translations were still published; the Geneva Bible translation and so on. so what James is trying to do is not ruin Puritanism, but reform them and get them on to a more positive vision for the church of England.