Home > Apologetics, KJV Apologetics > Erasmus, King James, and His Translators

Erasmus, King James, and His Translators

By David H. Sorenson

Erasmus

WHAT ABOUT ERASMUS, KING JAMES, AND HIS TRANSLATORS?

Many Fundamentalist proponents of the critical text have already heard most of the charges of apostasy filed against various textual editors thereof. Their reaction more often than not is to ignore the evidence and rather respond by attacking key figures related to the Received Text. There are several, standard, diversionary tactics used by advocates of the critical text position when charged with irregularities in its lineage. The first option is to bring up Desiderius Erasmus. When faced with charges against various editors of the critical text, the retort often is, “Well, what about Erasmus? Was he not a Roman Catholic?” Another standard response is “Well, what about King James I? Was he not a bawdy fellow and even a homosexual?” And then, they ask, “What about the King James translators? Were not they a group of profane men? Moreover, were not King James and his translators all Anglicans?”

The rationale therefore is, if there are problems with those connected with the critical text, there (allegedly) are also problems with those connected with the Received Text and its famous translation, the King James Version. Their mutual problems therefore cancel each other out. Thus, the apostasy of the critical text is of no importance because the lineage of the Received Text is just as bad. However, that logic is faulty. First, as we will demonstrate, the charges against Erasmus, King James, and the King James translators are empty. Second, even if they had some merit, they do not begin to measure up to the utter apostasy connected with the critical text. Let us therefore examine each of the allegations against key figures of the Received Text.

Desiderius Erasmus

It should be recalled that Desiderius Erasmus was the Renaissance humanist who first published the Received Text in 1516. [1] This was prior to the beginning of the Reformation in 1517 when Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Regarding the origins of the Reformation, it has been said by Catholic enemies thereof that “Erasmus laid the eggs and Luther hatched the chickens.” Other Catholic enemies of both Erasmus and Luther charged that “Erasmus is the father of Luther.” [2] These charges were based upon the fact that Luther was influenced in no small measure by Erasmus’s publication of his Greek New Testament in 1516. In that year, there was no Reformation nor were there yet any official Protestants.

From Erasmus’s 1516 edition of his Greek New Testament came another four editions, all of the Received Text. After the death of Eras-mus, Robert Stephanus continued to publish and edit the Received Text from Paris. After Stephanus’s death, Theodore Beza published nine or ten editions of the Greek New Testament. And, the King James trans-lators worked primarily from Beza’s fifth edition of 1598. There is no question that Desiderius Erasmus played a key role in the transmission of the Received Text. Thus, he is the primary figure that critics seek to disparage by saying he was a Catholic.

Erasmus the Scholar

Let us therefore briefly examine the life of Erasmus. Desiderius Erasmus grew up in fifteenth-century central Europe. Apart from the Waldenses in the valleys of the Alps and other remote separatist groups, there were very few other forms of Christianity than the Roman Catholic Church in that part of the world. (Even Wycliffe and Tyndale had been nominal Catholics.) The Reformation had not yet begun. There were no Protestant churches in central Europe or England at this time. Therefore, to charge Erasmus with being a Catholic is somewhat of a hollow charge. Though he was a clergyman in the Catholic Church, there is no record that he ever presided over any parish. Rather, he traveled across Europe throughout most of his career as a scholar. He was more or less an “independent Catholic.” In his day, he was considered the foremost scholar of classical Greek and Latin literature. The course of his travels took him from Holland to France, England, and Switzerland.

Over the years, Erasmus became intimately acquainted with biblical manuscripts available throughout Europe, particularly of the New Test-ament. Because the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, it is evident as Erasmus began to search the Scriptures, they had a profound effect upon his life. By the time of his death, the theology of Erasmus had shifted closer to that of the Ana-baptists than that of Rome. This will shortly be documented.

As noted above, in 1516, Erasmus published from Basel, Switzer-land, his Greek New Testament which he called the Novum Instru-mentum. In English that means the “New Instrument. [3] Contrary to popular misconception, Erasmus had more than a handful of manu-scripts at his disposal. Preserved Smith, the noted expert on the life of Erasmus, comments, “For the first edition Erasmus had before him ten manuscripts, four of which he found in England, and five at Basle. . . . The last codex was lent him by John Reuchlin . . . (and) appeared to Erasmus so old that it might have come from the apostolic age.” [4] He was aware of Vaticanus in the Vatican Library and had a friend by the name of Bombasius research that for him (165). He, however, rejected the characteristic variants of Vaticanus which distinguishes itself from the Received Text. (These variants are what would become the disting-uishing characteristics of the critical text more than 350 years later.)

Erasmus’s Shift in Theology

The more Erasmus became involved in the study and editing of the New Testament, the more his theology and convictions began to change. He came to reject the typical Roman Catholic interpretation of Matt. 16:18 establishing papal primacy. He began to vehemently attack the abuses and scandals of the Roman Catholic clergy, particularly as they violated their vows of celibacy. He even attacked celibacy as fallacious (171).

Critics of Erasmus have been quick to point out that he dedicated his first edition of his Greek New Testament to Pope Leo X. However, there is more to that than meets the eye. The long established Catholic position was that the Latin Vulgate was the official church Bible. There was a hostility toward anything that threatened that primacy. Erasmus knew that and he knew the opposition his Greek text would receive. Therefore, without the pope even knowing it, he dedicated it to him and at the same time had his friend in Rome, Bombasius, obtain formal approval of his publication because it had been dedicated to the pope. Thus, when the Catholic establishment in central Europe began to vehemently attack his work, Erasmus produced the approval of the pope. Erasmus was not a separatist, but he was shrewd.

After having done an end run around the Catholic establishment in central Europe, he was accused by powerful elements of the church of being even more dangerous than Luther (174). Contrary to conventional Catholic dogma of the day forbidding laymen from the reading of the Scriptures, Erasmus rather invited all men to read the Bible. This drew great wrath upon him from French Catholic authorities (180). It was such deviation from Rome’s dogma which prompted Catholics across Europe to soon utter the proverb, “Erasmus laid the eggs and Luther hatched the chickens” (209). In other words, Erasmus was the root of the Protestant Reformation. Though Erasmus had no personal influence upon Luther, his writings certainly did, especially his Greek Testament and his commentaries. Ironically, because Erasmus never officially left the Catholic Church, he soon came to be attacked by Luther and other of the Reformers. The attacks accordingly developed into a war of words between Erasmus and the Reformers.

Erasmus thus became an enigma. He slowly but surely shifted away from Catholic theology, but stopped short of joining with Luther. He attacked the Roman Catholic Church, but never officially left it. Part of this confusion is to be found in the personal temperament of Erasmus. Whereas Luther had the temperament to stand and thunder, “Here I stand, I can do no other,” Erasmus was more timorous. He was not an open fighter. His battling was through his pen. Whereas Luther eventually was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, Erasmus tried to reform it from within. [5] Whereas Luther became a “come-outer,” Erasmus remained a “stay-inner.” He would have been better served to follow Luther’s example. However, he did not. He thus became a target from both sides. The establishment of the Catholic Church detested him. Most of the Reformers were suspicious of him as well.

Erasmus the Evangelical

Reading some of the quotations of Erasmus in his later years is insightful. They reveal a man who had shifted from conventional Roman Catholic theology to one much closer to a biblical position. For example, he wrote: “Therefore if you will dedicate yourself wholly to the study of the Scriptures, if you will meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, you will not be afraid of the terror of the night or of the day, but you will be fortified and trained against every onslaught of enemies.” [6]

Elsewhere, he wrote, “Christ Jesus . . . is the true light, alone shattering the night of earthly folly, the Splendor of paternal glory, who as he was made redemption and justification for us reborn in him, so also was made Wisdom (as Paul testifies): ‘We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness; but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ “ [7] The question may therefore be asked, does that sound more like a Fundamentalist sermon or a Roman Catholic homily? The quotations illustrate the shift of the convictions of Erasmus.

Erasmus and the Anabaptists

However, what is most amazing is that in Erasmus’s later years, he came very close to becoming an Anabaptist. Though he never joined with them, his theology became somewhat parallel with theirs. Friesen shows that by 1530, his name had come to be associated with the Anabaptists whom the Catholics and many Protestants considered to be the arch-heretics of the sixteenth century.[8] One church historian, Walter Koehler, has gone so far as to assert that Erasmus “was the spiritual father of the Anabaptists” (22). Another historian, Leonhard von Muralt, credits Erasmus with having “prepared the way for Anabaptism and provided material for the construction of their teachings” (22). Friends of Erasmus thus warned him that he was moving dangerously close to an Anabaptist position (36).

Perhaps more than anything else, Erasmus began to advocate baptism by immersion after conversion. Though this was called an Anabaptist heresy by the Catholics and Protestants, it was simply Bible teaching. The third edition of his Greek New Testament of 1522 differed from the second only in its introductory notes. There, Erasmus advocated that Christian youth be taught biblical instruction first – before they were baptized. He even advocated re-baptism for those already sprinkled as infants (45). Moreover, he came to believe that baptism was to be by immersion. In his annotations (i.e., commentary or notes) on Matthew 28, Erasmus wrote, “After you have taught them these things, and they believe what you have taught them, have repented their previous lives, and are ready to embrace the doctrine of the gospel (in their life), thenimmerse them in water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (51, emphasis mine).

That teaching concerning baptism is perilously close to, if not synonymous with, Fundamental Baptist theology. It certainly was Ana-baptist doctrine. Balthasar Hubmaier was an early Anabaptist leader. He essentially quoted Erasmus’s statement above to establish his own point regarding baptism by immersion in his book of 1526 entitled Old and New Believers on Baptism. After having quoted the above-mentioned statement by Erasmus, Hubmaier noted, “Here Erasmus publicly points out that baptism was instituted by Christ for those instructed in the faith and not for young children” (53). In his annotations (i.e., commentary or notes) on Matt. 28:18-20, Erasmus also went on to write, “The Apostles are commanded that they teach first and baptize later.”

Erasmus in Summary

Erasmus is a fascinating character in the lineage of the Received Text of the New Testament. His Greek New Testament, without doubt, was the catalyst which sparked the Reformation. He was a Catholic at the beginning of the Reformation. However, as he continued to search the Scriptures, he increasingly became less and less Catholic in his position. By the time he died in 1536, he had virtually become an Anabaptist in his theology. To his demerit, he never officially left the Catholic Church. However, when he died, it was not in the arms of Rome. Rather, in 1534, he returned to Basel, Switzerland, and two years later died in the midst of his Protestant friends, “without relations of any sort, so far as known with the Roman Catholic Church.” [9]

To try and deflect attention from the apostasy of the critical text by pointing out that Erasmus was a Catholic reveals a lack of knowledge of who he was, what he did, and what he believed. Like virtually all of the Reformers, Erasmus originally was a Catholic.  However, unlike the rest of the Reformers, he never formally left the Catholic Church. His crusade was with his pen. Accordingly, his own writings show that he changed to a position that even the persecuted Anabaptists used to support their theology. The Catholic establishment became a fierce opponent to him by the time of his death. Though not a separatist, by the time he had published the third edition of his Greek New Testament, the charge of Roman Catholic apostasy can no longer be applied to Eras-mus.

[1] The term humanist in the context of the Renaissance had an entirely different sense from the modern use. Its Renaissance meaning was of one who was a scholar and learned in the humanities. That is, he was expert in classical literature and classical languages such as Greek and Latin.

[2] Preserved Smith, Erasmus, 209.

[3] Ephraim Emerton, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899), 200.

[4] Smith, Erasmus: A Study of His Life, 163.

[5] It should be noted that Luther as well hoped to stay within the Catholic Church and work reform from the inside. Events so conspired that he did not. However, Erasmus was able to get away with that.

[6] Matthew Spinka, Advocates of Reform: From Wyclif to Erasmus(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), 304.

[7] Ibid., 309.

[8] Abraham Friesen, Erasmus, the Anabaptists, and the Great Commission(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 21.

[9] Edward Hills, The King James Version Defended (Des Moines, Iowa: Christian Research Press, 1956), 194.

King James I of England

The charge then is advanced by adversaries of the King James Version that King James I of England was a bawdy fellow and even a homosexual. However, these charges as well collapse upon further investigation.

James Stuart of Scotland became King James VI of Scotland and eventually went on to become King James I of England. In 1604, shortly after becoming king of all of England, King James, as titular head of the Church of England, “authorized” a new version of the Bible. This of course has come to be known ever since as the King James Version. Thus, those unsympathetic to the King James Version have been quick to point out alleged character flaws associated with James Stuart. At the outset, it should be noted that we are dealing with the King James Version and not the “Saint James Version.” James Stuart was aman and certainly had idiosyncrasies and flaws as do all men. He at times did not conduct himself with all the social graces one might expect from a king. And, he like all men had his foibles. But as will be documented below, in the main, James was a godly man who loved the Lord and tried to set an example for his family and his nation.

James’s Bitter Enemies

King James I of England reigned at a time when vicious winds of political strife were rampant. England was in the throes of casting out the last vestiges and influences of the Roman Catholic Church. There also were bitter internal politics of longstanding adversarial parties. King James therefore had bitter enemies, both religious as well as political. Some of these dedicated themselves to tarnishing the reputat-ion of James Stuart in any fashion possible.

Several of his bitter enemies were quick to point out his personal quirks andfaux pas of social graces. However, the most serious alle-gation brought forth (after he was dead) was that he was a homosexual. This allegation was picked up and published in the Moody Monthly in its July/August 1985 edition. [10]These charges have never been proved. As will be noted below, they originated from an embittered political enemy of James who vowed vengeance against him. His charges are analogous to the tactics of the modern political operatives in attacking their foes. Other more recent publications also have insinuated that King James was less than a godly person. [11] However, before refuting these charges, let us present a brief overview of the man James Stuart. Understanding something about him personally will in itself go a long way to negate such politically motivated allegations.

James the Bible Student

James Stuart grew up in Scotland of royal descent. Through the political intrigue of that era, he became an orphan, brought up by tutors. As a lad, he was personally tutored by Peter Young who had studied at Geneva under Theodore Beza, John Calvin’s successor. Therefore, from an early age Young trained the youthful James in Calvinistic theology. [12] The young prince thus developed a love of theology and the things of God. Not surprisingly, he also developed a deep aversion to the Roman Catholic Church. He was described as having a “keen intelligence, and a very powerful memory, for he knows a great part of the Bible by heart. He cites not only chapters, but even the verses in a perfectly mar-vellous way” (25). He is recorded as attending sermons “almost daily, on Sunday both morning and afternoon, (and) on Wednesday and Friday in the morning” (72).

James the Married Man

After becoming King James VI of Scotland, James married Princess Anne of Denmark on Nov. 23, 1589. Though their marriage would later become distant, his courtship and early marriage were those of romance. He was deeply in love with his young bride (85, 91). (Strange affections are these for a homosexual.) Lest there be any doubt of his infatuation with his wife, he wrote poems and sonnets describing her. In the poem below written by James about Anne, he imagines that three goddesses joined hands at her birth to bestow their graces upon her.

How oft you see me have an heavie hart,
Remember then sweete doctour, on your art,
That blessed houre when first was brought to light
Our earthlie Juno and our gratious Queene.
Three Goddesses how soone they hade her seene
Contended who protect her shoulde by right,
But being as Goddesses of equal might
And as of female sexe like stiffe in will
It was agreed by sacred Phoebus skill
To joyne there powers to blesse that blessed wight.
Then, happie Monarch sprung of Ferguse race [i.e., James]
That talkes with wise Minerve when pleaseth thee
And when thou list some Princlie sports to see
Thy chaste Diana rides with thee in chase.
Then when to bed thou gladlie does repaire
Clasps in thine arms thy Cytherea faire 
[James’s term for his bride][13] 
(emphasis mine).

The question thus begs, is this the poem of a homosexual? Another historian wrote, “He remained infatuated with his bride, whose praises he sang in sonnets and other verse. Her beauty, he wrote, has caused his love.” [14]

James the Godly Father

The marriage union of James and Anne in time produced Prince Henry and Prince Charles. The latter would later succeed him upon the throne of England. When little Prince Henry (who died a premature death) was only four years of age, his father, King James, wrote a book to him entitled Basilikon Doron. The title is Greek and simply means “a king’s gift.” The intent was to be a gift of advice and instruction for his son. After the death of Prince Henry, James’s advice was thence directed to Prince Charles. Let us therefore consider some excerpts from James’s own pen to his sons.

“But the principal blessing [is] in your marrying of a godly and virtuous wife . . . being flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. . . . Marriage is the greatest earthly felicity. . . . Without the blessing of God you cannot look for a happy marriage.” [15]

“Keep your body clean and unpolluted while you give it to your wife whom to only it belongs for how can you justly crave to be joined with a Virgin if your body be polluted” (44)?

“Marriage is one of the greatest actions that a man does all his time. . . . When you are married, keep inviolably your promise made to God in your marriage” (45).

“Especially eschew to be effeminate” (46).

“Therefore first of all things, learn to know and love that God whom to ye have a double obligation” (47).

“The whole scripture is dictated by God’s spirit” (47).

“As ye are a good Christian, so ye may be a good king, . . . establishing good laws among your people: the other, by your behavior in your own person with your servants” (48).

“There are some horrible crimes that ye are bound in conscience never to forgive: such as witchcraft, willful murder, incest, andsodomy” (48, emphasis mine).

“Abstain from the filthy vice of adultery; remember only what solemn promise ye made to God at your marriage” (54).

“Holiness being the first and most requisite quality of a Christian (as proceeding from true fear and knowledge of God)” (55).

In these quotations from James to his son, notice the emphasis upon moral purity, fidelity, and personal holiness. His loyalty to God is apparent. Notice also how that he described sodomy as a horrible crime. Is this consonant with one living a homosexual lifestyle?

In the Basilikon Doron, he also wrote this poem to his son, the heir apparent, regarding ruling as a king.

God gives not Kings the style of gods in vain,
For on his throne his scepter do they sway:
And as their subjects ought them to obey,
So Kings should fear and serve their God again.
If then ye would enjoy a happy reign
Observe the statutes of your heavenly King,
And from his law, make all your Laws to spring,
Since his Lieutenant here ye should remain.
Reward the just, be steadfast and true, and plain
Repress the proud, maintaining aye the right,
Walk always so, as ever in his sight,
Who guards the godly, plaguing the profane
And so ye shall in princely virtues shine
Resembling right your mighty king divine. [16]

On other occasions, James wrote his correspondence gracing it with godly comments. Listed below are examples of such.

“I never with God’s grace shall do anything in private which I may not without shame proclaim upon the tops of houses.” [17]

“I must needs say with our Savior” (28).

Referring to the death of his wife, he wrote, “God hath called  her to his mercy” (29).

Writing to the Earl of Somerset, he wished that “God moves your heart to take the right course” (29).

The devout character of King James should be evident from his personal and familial writings.

Sir Henry Wotton was a contemporary of King James. In com-menting upon James’s reign in Scotland, Wotton makes this comment about James’s moral character. “An admirable quality is his chastity which he has preserved without blemish, unlike his predecessors who disturbed the kingdom by leaving many bastards.” [18]

James the Theologian

The clergy of the Church of England, however, were the most profuse in their praise of their new king. After ascending the throne of England in 1603, Wilson writes, “They cast a halo of holiness about him and discovered his celestial proximity to the Deity. Astounded by his knowledge and grasp of theology, they declared that he spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that God had bestowed upon him far more than upon ordinary mortals the power to interpret Scripture.” [19] There certainly is hyperbole and overstatement here. However, the point is that the clergy of the Church of England were profoundly impressed with the godly character of their new king. Wilson goes on to comment that there was no more “familiar sight at court than that of the King at dinner discussing theology with three or four of his churchmen, bishops, deans and royal chaplains.” [20]

The godly interests of James Stuart are also evident in that he even made his own personal translations of the Book of Psalms as well as of the Book of Revelation. This had nothing to do with the King James Version, but it indicates the depth of education as well as the spiritual interests of this unusual ruler.

James’s Political Enemies

The charge that King James was a homosexual emanated from an old political enemy of the king, Sir Anthony Weldon, Clerk of the Green Cloth in the royal court. Moreover, his family for generations had provided officers for the royal household. However, Weldon was expel-led from the court by James in about 1625 for political reasons. Weldon subsequently “swore he would have his day of vengeance.” [21] Curiously, Weldon never confronted the king but waited twenty-five years later to hint that James had effeminate interest in men. Moreover, he also waited until James’s son, Charles I, had been executed in 1649. As we will note in the next section, Weldon not only came to hate James, but also had a racial hatred of the Scottish race from which James sprang.

Another enemy of James was one Guy Fawkes. Under the direction of Jesuit operatives, Fawkes even tried to bomb James and the entire English parliament with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder. There should be no question that James had both political and religious enemies.

It was Weldon who, after the death of James and Charles, wrote about the Scottish race: “Fornication they hold but a pastime, wherein man’s ability is approved. . . . At adultery, they shake their heads. . . . Murder they wink at; and blasphemy they laugh at.” He also wrote, “Their flesh naturally abhors cleanness. Their breath commly [sic] stinks of pottage; their linen of p…; their hands of pigs t…. . . . To be chained in marriage with one of them, were to be tied to a dead carcass, and cast into a stinking ditch. . . . I do wonder that . . . King James should be born in so stinking a town as Edinburgh in lousy Scotland” (218).

The bigotry and hatred of Weldon are self-evident. Lest there be any doubt about his objectivity, here is how Weldon described James’s person: “His tongue [was] too large for his mouth, which ever made him speak full in the mouth, and made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink, which came out into the cup of each side of his mouth. . . . That [weakness in his legs] made him ever leaning on other men’s shoulders. . . . He would never change his clothes until worn out to very rags. . . . (He was) the wisest fool in Christendom” (219)

It should be apparent that Sir Weldon was no impartial observer. Though King James was never known for his social graces and was somewhat gangling in his appearance, it is evident that Weldon had a visceral hatred of him. Yet, Sir Anthony Weldon is the primary source of the allegation that James was a homosexual.

James’s Enemies Discredited

Maurice Lee, Jr., a historian published by the University of Illinois Press, says, “Historians can and should ignore the venomous caricature of the king’s person and behavior drawn by Anthony Weldon.” [22] Another historian, Christopher Durston, writes regarding Weldon’s book: “This poisonous piece of literary revenge was to do profound and lasting damage to James’s reputation, as it became the prime source for many subsequent historical assessments whose authors failed to make sufficient allowance for its obvious bias.” [23]

There were several others who hinted that James was a homo-sexual. However, upon examination, in each case, they turn out to be avowed political enemies of James and likely fed upon each other’s gossip. Much could and has been written on this matter. However, Ste-phen Coston quotes a historian who lived much closer to these charges as “despicable and libelous, . . . full of lies, mistakes, and nonsense.” [24]

James in Summary

It should be noted that no one in the seventeenth century, not even his bitter enemies, ever openly accused James of buggery (the British term for homosexuality). Rather, they circulated hints through gossip. Even after he was dead and his son had been executed, the enemies of the Stuart dynasty did not directly make that charge. The reason is apparent. Those close enough to have known him knew better. When this gossip is traced to its source, a handful of disgruntled courtiers and political enemies are at the core, long after his death.

To the contrary, there are numerous contemporaries of James who paint the opposite picture. However, to make a judgment based upon gossip (howbeit historical) emanating from bitter enemies is no case at all. Proving a negative is difficult. Because someone alleges another to have failed morally does not establish the fact. Though vengeful enemies did spread gossip about James, there has never been any hard evidence by either contemporary or by modern historians to prove him a homosexual.

Rather, all the evidence points in the opposite direction. He was a married man who had children. He has a voluminous record of others attesting to his moral character.  His own writings reveal a man with a godly predisposition. Moreover, he explicitly warned his sons against the evils of homosexuality. The proven facts are that James Stuart was a devout man who loved the Lord and His Word.

Did James have foibles and idiosyncrasies? Indeed he did. Was he gifted with social graces? No. However, there have been few monarchs in the annals of history who were more versed in Scripture, devout in their worship, knowledgeable of biblical theology, and morally upright than James I of England. There likely is not coincidence that God prov-identially allowed the most famous English version of the Bible to have been authorized at his hand.[25]

[10] Karen Ann Wojan, “The Real King James” and Leslie Keylock, “The Bible That Bears His Name,” Moody Monthly, July/August 1985, 87-89.

[11] John C. Mincy, “The Making of the King James Version,” in From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, ed. J. B. Williams (Greenville, S.C.: Ambassador-Emerald International, 1999), 130.

[12] David Wilson, King James VI & I (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), 24.

[13] Ibid., 94.

[14] Stephen Coston, King James Unjustly Accused? (St. Petersburg, Fla.: Konigswort, 1996), 41.

[15] Ibid., 43.

[16] Wilson, King James VI & I, 134.

[17] Coston, King James Unjustly Accused, 28.

[18] Wilson, King James VI & I, 137.

[19] Ibid., 170.

[20] Ibid., 197.

[21] Coston, King James Unjustly Accused, xxx.

[22] Maurice Lee Jr., Great Britain’s Solomon: James VI & I In his Three Kingdoms (Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 309-310.

[23] Christopher Durston, James I (London: Routledge, 1993), 2.

[24] Coston, King James Unjustly Accused, 233.

[25] It is interesting to note that the translator of the Spanish Bible, Cassiodoro de Reina, was also accused of being a homosexual. Accordingly, he was forced to flee from England to Germany where he finished his translation work. The Reina Spanish Bible (based upon the Received Text) was first published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1569. This translation was later revised by Valera in 1602 and came to be known as the Reina Valera Version.

Some ten years after fleeing England, English courts exonerated him of the charge of homosexuality. In the early 1970s, researchers were going through records of the King of Spain in Simancas, Spain, for the years 1563 and 1564. There they found an entry for a sum of money to be paid to a Spanish spy (operating in England) named Francisco de Abrio. This payment was for Abrio’s part in accusing Reina of being a homosexual. Although it is now obvious that the charge against Reina was false, the stigma is still attached to his name.

It would appear that the enemies of Cassiodoro de Reina and James Stuart used the same tactic to discredit their foe. What is ironic is that both of these men were instru-mental (though in differing ways) in the translation of the Received Text into their vernacular languages. Gordon Kinder, Cassiodoro de Reina, Spanish Reformer of the Sixteenth Century (London: Tamesis Books, 1975)

The King James Translators

Another charge filed against the King James Version is that the translators thereof were a group of profane men. However, this is a specious charge. To the contrary, the fifty-four translators appointed to produce the Authorized Version were godly men. [26] They were divided into three groups: seventeen were to work at Westminster Abbey, fifteen at Cambridge University, and fifteen at the University of Oxford. At each place, the groups were further divided by two so that there were six companies of translators.

There probably has never been assembled at one time a greater group of English-speaking scholars of biblical languages. These men were head and shoulders higher in their expertise of Greek and Hebrew than any other body of English translators before or since. God’s pro-vidential preparation is thus apparent. All of the translators held divinity degrees and thirty-nine of the forty-seven held doctor of divinity de-grees. They all were either pastors, preachers, or professors in theo-logical colleges.

A number of books and articles have been written providing biographical sketches of these forty-seven men. However, the work of Alexander McClure, written in 1858, is the most comprehensive. [27] Let us look at a sampling of comments about a number of these men. All quotations will be taken from McClure’s book. [28]

Dr. John Reynolds

Dr. John Reynolds originally was a Catholic until he was converted to Christ by his brother. He went on to become a leader of the Puritan movement within the Church of England. He became a “vigorous champion of the Reformation.” From the time of his conversion, he was a “most able and successful preacher of God’s Word.” He also was described as being “the very treasury of erudition” and had the reput-ation of being “a living library, and a third university.” It was Reynolds who appealed to King James at the Hampton Court Conference for a new English translation of the Bible which in turn became the King James Version (93-103).

Dr. Lancelot Andrews

Dr. Lancelot Andrews was the chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, the dean of Westminster, and eventually the bishop of Chichester. He was a powerful preacher. Under his preaching, many Roman Catholics were converted to Christ. He was called the “star of the preachers.” More-over, many a younger preacher sought to imitate his style of preaching and used his sermons. He is described as having spent many hours each day in private and family Bible study. He had the reputation of being a “right godly man” and a “prodigious student.” It was said of him, “The world wanted learning to know how learned this man was.” At his fun-eral, Dr. Buckeridge said that Dr. Andrews was conversant in fifteen languages (60-67).

Hadrian Saravia

Dr. Hadrian Saravia, though Belgian by birth, later came to Eng-land. During his long ministry, he was (1) a pastor in Flanders and Hol-land, (2) a missionary to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and (3) an evangelist. He was also appointed prebendary of Gloucester, Canter-bury, and Westminster. [29] He was said to be educated in all kinds of literature and in several languages, particularly in Hebrew (71-74).

Dr. Richard Clarke

Dr. Richard Clarke was vicar of Minster and Monkton in Thanet. He was described as a “learned clergyman and eminent preacher” (74).

Professor Edward Lively

Professor Edward Lively was noted as “one of the best linguists in the world.” He also was a fellow of Trinity College at Cambridge University and the King’s Professor of Hebrew. He also was an author of a Latin exposition of five of the minor prophets. He was described as being a man of great respect and one of the greatest Hebraists of that era (79-80).

Dr. John Richardson

Dr. John Richardson, among other things, was the King’s Professor of Divinity and a fellow of Emmanuel College. He was noted as “a most excellent linguist.” He is remembered as a “wise and faithful, as well as learned, Translator of the Book of God” (80-82).

Dr. Lawrence Chaderton

Dr. Lawrence Chaderton was described as a “staunch Puritan,” godly, learned, and full of moderation. He also had a reputation of being a “pious Protestant,” who after being converted from Catholicism turned his back on Rome. He was familiar in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and was “thoroughly skilled in them.” When appointed to the translation committee, he was described as being “the most grave, learned, and modest of the aggrieved sort” to represent the Puritan faction of the committee. He also was noted as an excellent preacher (82-89).

Rev. Francis Dillingham

Rev. Francis Dillingham was the parson of Dean in Bedfordshire. He was described as the great “Grecian” on the committee and was noted as an excellent linguist. He later published a Manual of the Christian Faith taken from early church fathers noting the errors of Rome (89-90).

Dr. Thomas Holland

Dr. Thomas Holland in time became the King’s Professor of Divinity. He was described as “a solid preacher, a most noted disputant, and a most learned divine.” He was noted as “another Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures.” When his translation work on the King James Version was complete, it is recorded that he “spent most of his time in meditation and prayer.” At the hour of his death, he exclaimed, “Come, oh come, Lord Jesus; I desire to be dissolved and be with thee” (103-105).

Dr. Miles Smith

Dr. Miles Smith eventually became bishop of Gloucester. He was reputed to have high attainments in both classical and Oriental learning. As a bishop, he is noted as behaving with the “utmost meekness and benevolence.” He was expert in the Greek and Latin fathers, as well as in the Chaldee, Syria, and Arabic languages. He was reputed to be as familiar in these as in his native tongue. He was noted as a great scholar and a strict Calvinist (108-110).

Dr. Richard Brett

Dr. Richard Brett was rector of Quainton in Buckinghamshire. He was revered for his piety. He also was skilled in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Arabic, and Ethiopian. He was noted as a “most vigilant pastor, a diligent preacher of God”s Word . . . a faithful friend, and a good neighbor” (110-11).

Dr. George Abbot

Dr. George Abbot was a Calvinist who eventually became bishop of Litchfield in Coventry. He was described as an excellent preacher. He was eulogized as a grave man and unimpeachable in his morals (116-123).

Dr. Richard Eedes

Dr. Richard Eedes was at one time chaplain to both Queen Eliz-abeth and King James and eventually became dean of Worcester. He was described as “a pious man and a grace to the pulpit” (124-25).

Dr. Giles Thomson

Dr. Giles Thomson was also a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth and eventually rector of Herefordshire and then bishop of Gloucester. He was described as a man of piety and learning (125-26).

Dr. William Brainthwaite

Dr. William Brainthwaite was an academic who spent most of his life at Cambridge University eventually becoming the Master of Gonvil and Caius College. He was noted as being “learned, reverend, and worshipful” (145).

Rev. John Bois

Rev. John Bois occupied a number of pastoral assignments in the Church of England as well as at Cambridge University. He was reputed to be able to read the Bible in Hebrew when he was five years old. When he was six, he could write Hebrew characters elegantly. He was a major contributor to the Cambridge company of translators. It was said that he was so familiar with the Greek Testament that he could at any time turn to any word it contained. He also wrote voluminous commentaries on the Gospels and Acts. When he died on the Lord’s day, it was said, “He went unto his rest on the day of rest; a man of peace, to the God of peace” (153-160).

Dr. John Aglionby

Dr. John Aglionby was a chaplain to King James and eventually became the principal of St. Edmund’s Hall at the University of Oxford. He is described as being deeply read in the early church fathers, an “excellent linguist,” and an “elegant and instructive preacher” (160-61).

These are brief biographical sketches of some of the godly scholars appointed to translate the King James Version. It should be evident that the charge they were profane men is ridiculous. Nevertheless, such foolish reports continue to bounce around the land. [30] To the contrary, it is apparent for any who can read that the forty-seven men appointed to be translators of the King James Version were renowned not only as scholars but as men of God as well. Some were thorough-going Angl-icans, some were Calvinists, some were Puritans, and one may have been Arminian in his theology. But they all were fervent Bible believers and stood squarely upon the cardinal, orthodox doctrines of historic New Testament Christianity.

King James and His Translators as Anglicans

Another foolish charge made by unlearned critics is, “Why be hard on Westcott and Hort? Were not they Anglicans like King James and his translators?” However, to compare the Anglican Church at the end of the sixteenth century with the Anglican Church at the end of the nine-teenth century is no equation. Though the Church of England in 1600 may have been unscriptural in its episcopal form of church polity, views on baptism, and an incipient lack of evangelistic fervor, it was solid on the fundamentals of the faith. Its ministers in that day were Bible be-lievers and preached the gospel.

The Church of England at the end of the nineteenth century still was wrong in its polity and views on baptism, but it had become completely apostate concerning the fundamentals of the faith. Though orthodox on paper, the Anglican Church by the twentieth century had loosed its moorings, effectively departing from the faith once delivered to the saints. It had become intoxicated with the liquor of German Rationalism and therefore died spiritually. Westcott and Hort clearly exhibited this in their writings.

Summary

The charges that Erasmus was a Catholic are hollow. The more he studied the Scriptures, the farther he moved from Rome in his position. By life’s end, though never officially breaking with Rome, his assoc-iations were with Protestants; and he even espoused Anabaptist prin-ciples. The charges that King James I of England was a bawdy man and even a homosexual are unfounded. To the contrary, James Stuart was in many ways a devout man, married with children, and deeply inter-ested in the things of God. Though unpolished and often lacking in social graces, there is no evidence of moral failure in his life. Such allegations have their root in bitter political enemies who vowed ven-geance against him. The translators of the King James Version were demonstrably godly men with a degree of erudition never seen since in a body of translators. Moreover, the Anglican Church of 1600 was orthodox in its working as well as official theology. These charges are specious and without foundation.

[26] Records indicate that there were fifty-four men appointed, but only forty-seven actually worked on the translation. Also, some died during the seven years of translational work.

[27] It should be noted that McClure’s work was done long before there was any question regarding the character of the translators.

[28] Alexander McClure, The Translators Revisited (original publisher unknown, 1858; reprint, Litchfield, Mich.: Maranatha Bible Society, n.d. (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[29] A prebendary was a rank of an honorary canon (i.e., degree) in the Church of England.

[30] In researching the various translators, this author found that only one of the forty-seven translators may have been guilty of occasional intemperance in his use of table wine. That is the closest this author has come to finding fault with this august body of men. [1]

[1] This is from chapter 10 of the book Touch Not The Unclean Thing: The Text Issue and Separation, ISBN 0-9711384-0-0, Copyright ©2001 David H. Sorenson, used with permission. Available from Northstar Baptist Ministries, 1820 West Morgan Street, Deluth, MN 55811-1878 and from Amazon.com. Dr. Sorenson is the author of the Understanding the Bible commentary.

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  1. March 30, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    THE KING JAMES MYTH—BY STEVE FINNELL

    The translation myth perpetuated by King James only advocates, as well as others, is that fifteen hundred years after the apostle John wrote the last book of the New Testament God authorized King James to write the only trustworthy English version of the Bible. Is the 1611 King James version the only version God has approved? [King James only advocates do not read the original 1611 King James Version. The King James Bible found in most bookstores is actually the 1769 King James Version.]

    Is the true gospel plan of salvation found only in the so-called 1611 King James Version ? No, it is not.

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting. (KJV)

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)

    John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (The Living Bible-Paraphrased)

    Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (KJV)

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (NASB)

    Mark 16:16 Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe will be condemned. (The Living Bible-Paraphrased)

    Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (KJV)

    Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (NASB)

    Romans 10:9 For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord, and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (The Living Bible-Paraphrased)

    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (KJV)

    Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NASB)

    Acts 2:38 And Peter replied, “Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; then you shall also receive the gift, the Holy Spirit. (The Living Bible-Paraphrased)

    These three translations all have the same gospel message, they all have the same terms for pardon. THE TERMS FOR PARDON: Believe, confess, repent, and be immersed in water.

    There are over sixty English translation that teach God’s terms for pardon.

    Note: The irony of the 1611 King James only advocates is that they do not even believe their own translation. Most of them deny that water baptism is essential in order to be saved.

    The remaining question is what Scripture teaches that the 1611 King James version was the only translation approved by God?

    Posted by Steve Finnell at 9:47 AM
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    • March 31, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Steve. Thank you for replying. In that I detest long drawn out spitting spats that NEVER END WELL, I’ll answer you and be done with this thread.

      Actually there is enough to get a person saved in these sub par vatican versions- or in the Catholic church for that matter- I’m not disputing that. The problem at hand is corrupted DOCUMENTATION underwriting these “bibles” which are arguably “good” translations but from the WRONG MANUSCRIPTS.

      Modernists claim the Alexandrian manuscript family [from which all new translations originate] is more reliable than the Antiochan family [from which we got the King James Bible] because they are older. Sadly, most Christians don’t know the facts and so they have bought into this ruse without stopping to realize how ridiculous it really is. Let me illustrate.

      Suppose we hand copy the New World Translation (version used by JWs which is based on the Alexandrian mss) and a King James Bible (based on the Antiochan mss). After each is copied, the NWT will be locked in a vault while the KJV is circulated around the world. After a period of time, the KJV becomes tattered and torn requiring us to hand-print another copy, which again gets circulated, tattered and torn until we make yet another copy. Now imagine this cycle of printing, circulating, destruction, replacement, repeating itself over and over and over during the course of the next several hundred years, until one day scholars discover that original uncirculated NWT. After testing the documents these experts determine the NWT to be older than the most recent copy of the King James Bible and as such they must be more reliable.

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