The King James Bible by Marsha Brandsdorfer Illustrations of the Bible and its stories are presented on US and international stamps because of its strong influences on religion and literature. The original Bible was written in the language of the ancient world – the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. In the early Middle Ages, most people did not know how to read and needed to rely on the telling of Bible stories by their clergy. Not until the introduction of the Renaissance era were reading and writing seen as a means to personal fulfillment. At this time, individuals no longer wanted to accept the views of the Bible by the clergy. They wanted to be able to interpret and read the Bible for themselves.
However, Biblical translations at that time were more than an academic challenge. It was also illegal and dangerous. The church was concerned about maintaining control over what was taught in the churches throughout England. There was much religious persecution.
Some English translations did come out, and in 1560, the Geneva Bible was released. By 1600, the Geneva Bible had become the Bible of choice of English speaking Protestants. Despite its popular appeal, authorities of the newly established Church of England felt the popular marginal notes provided in this Bible were prejudicial and the church did not like the interpretations they offered. King James was particularly concerned as the Geneva Bible often used the word “tyrant” to refer to kings. It suggested that it is lawful to disobey or deceive kings, and that kings were not to be respected. King James wanted to rid England of the Geneva Bible, but the question was how.
A proposal was made by an archbishop for a new Bible translation. King James directed that the “best learned” at Oxford and Cambridge should begin work on a new translation of the Bible. A new Bible would reinforce the image of the King as the political and spiritual leader of his people. The first printing of the King James Bible, named in the King’s honor was in 1611. It still would take many years before it became the Bible of the English people and recognized as one of the high points of English literary achievements.
The King James Bible has had a significant impact on the development of the English language. It along with the works of William Shakespeare are singled out as being most influential to the English language. However, The King James Bible has since been revised to bring it up to date since the English of 1611 is not the English of today. To read more on the history of the King James Bible and its influences, please see: In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture by Alister McGrath.