King James I of England died in peace on March 5, 1625, at the age of 59, having caused the creation of the most popular text in all of human history.
James Charles Stuart was born at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, on June 19, 1566. His father was murdered before he was one year old and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, after a short spell on the Scottish throne was forced to abdicate to her son, James. She spent the next 19 years imprisoned in London by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, before being executed in February of 1587. So King James was raised without mother or father at hand.
James became King James VI of Scotland when he was 13 months old, with John Knox preaching at his coronation. However he was then placed under four tutors who disciplined his mind and life. James excelled in his studies, spoke many languages and was highly learned in many subjects.
James began to rule Scotland at age 19 and took Anne of Denmark for his Queen a few years later. Thus followed a happy marriage, producing nine children. James wrote poetry to his beloved bride.
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James believed that his monarchy was a divine appointment, subscribing to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and the monarch’s duty to reign according to God’s law and the public good.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, James ascended to the English throne and united Scotland, England and Ireland for the first time, forming Great Britain, which is the title he liked to use.
There were several attempts on the King’s life, most notably that of Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes who, in 1605, attempted to blow up Parliament while the king was to be there. The plot was discovered and all conspirators executed, and the English celebrate Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 each year. James was no friend to Catholicism, strongly delineating the errors of Roman doctrine and spurning them. Yet he treated Romanist subjects fairly.
It was during the reign of this “wisest fool in Christendom”, as he is called by some historians, that this Scottish-born king of England granted permission for an ‘Authorised’ version of the Bible.
In 1604, at the Hampton Court Conference, the Puritan, Dr John Reynolds (or Rainolds) broached the subject. The king was not happy with the Geneva Version which had been the “Bible of the people” for about half a century.
Thus it was that 54 men were nominated for the task … although we only know of 47 who actually took part – and in 1611 the “Authorised Version”, or “King James Version” was printed, and this has remained a firm favourite with millions of Christians for almost 400 years.
The men chosen to create the new Bible translation were the best linguists and scholars in the world. They were top of their field and brilliant men. Much of their work on the King James Bible formed the basis for our linguistic studies of today. The creation of this great text had a profound influence on English literature from then on.
Yet the translation and translators are not without criticism. Among the translators was “Richard Thomson, the fat-bellied Arminian who, they said, went to bed drunk each night…” (The Men Behind the KJV, by G. Paine, page 155). “Ah, yes,” says Donald Prout, “there are some curious moments in church history!”
There are two historical views of King James I of England. His detractors, such as Anthony Weldon and Francis Osborne, spoke scandalously of him after his death, when he could not defend his reputation. Despite the obvious bigotry and racial prejudice among the writings the claims have been given credence by many.
It has been said that to have the name of King James I on the frontispiece of the Scriptures is ‘a blasphemous joke’. This was the king who persecuted Puritans and Presbyterians, was a “notable exponent of the Divine Right of Kings,” and caused thousands of Christians to leave England seeking religious liberty. “He created the most openly homosexual and drunken court in England’s long history!” … was “headstrong and haughty” … “at odds with nearly everyone during his reign” … “never popular or highly respected”…
Other records of King James I show him to be a devoted husband and a god-fearing man, motivated by the highest ideals. His book, Basilicon Doron (the Kingly Gift), written to instruct his son who would succeed him, gives the following instructions:
“Diligently read his word, & earnestly … pray for the right understanding thereof. Search the scriptures saith Christ for they will bear testimony of me. The whole Scriptures saith Paul are profitable to teach, to improve, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect unto all good works.” “The whole Scripture contayneth but two things: a command and a prohibition. Obey in both… The worship of God is wholy grounded upon the Scripture, quickened by faith.”
When knowledge of that book got out the people demanded to have copies and it became a popular text in English, Welsh, Latin, French, Swedish and German for the following 50 years.
James Disraeli declared that James “had formed the most elevated conception of the virtues and duties of a monarch”.
James was an excellent writer and is regarded by some as the leading literary figure of his day, with his writings being among the most important and influential British writings of their period.
Despite the great achievements attributed to King James, he was no stranger to pain and grief. He endured poor health with various physical handicaps, especially in his legs and with an enlarged tongue. He suffered many falls, accidents and injuries. His diseases are listed as “crippling arthritis, abdominal colic, gout, inability to sleep, weak/spasmic limbs, nausea, frequent diarrhoea, and kidney pain“. His pain was so great that the king at times became delirious.
James also suffered from depression following the loss of his beloved wife Queen Anne in 1619. She was preceded in death by their eldest son, Prince Henry in 1612. The King was no stranger to pain and sorrow.
However, at the time of his death, James ruled over a nation that had enjoyed internal and international peace. He died peacefully and handed the throne to an adult son. There was indeed great grace upon his reign.
As a side-note to the KJV Bible the name “James” was inserted into the New Testament, in place of anyone among Jesus’ generation named Jacob. Jesus’ disciple and Jesus’ brother were not known as James, but as Jacob. The inclusion of the name James was a personal concession to the King.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com