Many years ago, I heard someone say that the KJV came about because King James I wanted a version of the Bible that supported him getting a divorce. Nowadays, I can't help but wonder how true this is. Thus, I'm asking for the historical reasons the KJV came about.

  • Check out the forward/dedication of the original KJV (kjvbibles.com/kjpreface.htm). Remember that it is always best to listen to the creators of the work when trying to guess their purpose; instead of listening to contemporary "scholars" who like to lace every historical figure with dark motives. – Ian May 9 '16 at 15:20

Since one of the reasons for the English Reformation by King Henry VIII which lead to the creation of the Church of England was divorce, I doubt King James I would have needed a new translation.

From Wikipedia, it sounds like the main reasons for the commissioning of the KJV 70 years after the reformation were around translation errors believed to be in the existing English translations.

The newly crowned King James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England.

It sounds to me like what you had heard may have just been history getting crossed.

  • 6
    King James was never divorced, so it's even less likely that he commissioned the KJV to excuse it. – DJClayworth Aug 29 '11 at 17:21
  • @DJClayworth I suspected that since I didn't see anything about him divorcing, but couldn't find anything that specifically said he didn't. Thanks! – a_hardin Aug 29 '11 at 17:28
  • My understanding: The Puritans wanted changes; King James wanted to avoid controversial changes but needed a Bible that would be more popular with the people while avoiding the Geneva Bible's footnotes. – Bit Chaser Nov 25 '18 at 0:28

To begin with, that statement is logically flawed as the Bible does not condone divorce — KJV or not.

As far as your actual question, according to Wikipedia it seems like a new English version was proposed "[...] in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England."

PS: There also seem to be a recent documentary on the subject, which I've been meaning to see. It seems to be available on Netflix.

  • I noticed that on Netflix while browsing last night. Now that Starman has me interested in the history of the KJV, I may have to watch it. :P – a_hardin Aug 29 '11 at 2:28
  • At the beginning of the year, there were a number of documentaries on BBC Radio 4. The couple I listened to were interesting in providing cultural context. Some might still be available on the BBC website. – TRiG Aug 31 '11 at 0:42
  • BYU also sponsored a 3-part documentary about it. byutv.org/show/123d4a82-3d47-488e-beda-2496a5a1ff2c – user23 Nov 21 '11 at 4:26
  • The King James Bible was written in order to provide scriptural support for the Church of England's doctrine, which differed from that of the Protestants. Also Roman Catholicisms were excluded from the notes. Divorce for specific reasons was allowed under the new doctrine, and the Bible confirmed this. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 13:05
  • In England the Puritans pushed for a change to the Bible, but they were not heeded. They moved to the Continent to worship. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 14:06

The most popular Bible being used prior to the KJV was the Geneva Bible. Unfortunately for the crown, this Bible also contained footnotes of an opposing political nature. Thus the KJV was commissioned with the directive for minimal footnotes. The 1611 text is actually quite similar to the Geneva Bible.

  • like what? What are the samples of footnotes? – user4951 Jul 3 '13 at 13:26
  • The Geneva Bible was a Protestant Bible written in Geneva by an English Oxford scholar influenced by many learned exiles. It was popular with Protestants in Europe, and was probably carried to the USA with the Mayflower. The only Bibles authorized in England at that time were the Vulgate under Queen Mary, and the Great Bible and the Bishop's Bible, under Elizabeth and Henry, both forerunners of the AV KJV. The Geneva Bible (1560) was the Bible of the people and often quoted by Clergy. In 1644, it was finally driven out of the Church. I have a copy. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 14:03

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