KJV Timeline

The Translation Of The 1611 King James Bible also known As "The Authorised Version"

Since 1525, when William Tyndale produced the first printed translation of the New Testament in English, there had been a steady flow of Bible translations. The official Great Bible of 1539, with a preface picturing Henry VIII, was intended for reading aloud in churches and it re-used much of Tyndale's work. In 1557 the Geneva (Calvinist) New Testament in English was published, followed in 1560 by the complete Geneva Bible.  This was superseded in England in 1568 by the official Bishops' Bible, although the Geneva Bible was still widely used. Then in 1601, there was a new initiative in Scotland.

  • 1601 - 16 May, a meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place in the Parish Church of Burntisland, Fife, attended by King James VI of Scotland. It was at this meeting that the proposal to have a new translation of the Bible was first discussed. 
  • 1603 - James VI of Scotland became James I, King of England
  • 1604 - The Hampton Court Conference on the future of the church; at this conference it was decided to commission a new translation of the Bible in an effort to provide a new translation which would be acceptable to everyone.

James I and Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury, drew up instructions for the translators which would ensure that the new version would conform to the theology of the Church of England.

Six Companies of Translators were established:

  • The Second Cambridge Company, directed by John Duport (rector of Fulham, then precentor of St Paul's, Master of Jesus College, finally prebendary of Ely) translated:
    The Apocrypha
  • The Second Oxford Company, directed by Thomas Ravis (Dean of Christ Church then Bishop of Gloucester then London) translated:
    The Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Revelation
  • The Second Westminster Company, directed by William Barlow (prebendary of Westminster, when Lancelot Andrewes was Dean, then Dean of Chester, Bishop of Rochester then Lincoln) translated:
    the New Testament Epistles
  • 1608 - the various sections were finished
  • 1610 - Meeting to discuss the translation at the Stationers Hall, City of London.

Building on the advances in Hebrew and Greek scholarship, together with the insights of previous translators, the translation teams produced a remarkably rich and resonant version, which was to serve for public readings in churches as well as private devotional reading. The Bishop of Gloucester, Miles Smith, wrote the Preface, which acknowledged the new translation's debt to its predecessors, but set out the hope that "out of many good ones" there would now be "one principal good one" used by everyone.

  • 1611 - The King James Bible was published, despite considerable problems printing it.
  • 1620 - The Pilgrim Fathers set sail to America, taking the English Bible with them. This was an immensely important step in the diffusion of the bible world-wide, which was further enhanced by its use during the expansion of British influence across the world with the East India Company, the establishment of colonies in Africa, and the discovery of Australia and New Zealand.

Further Reading

A detailed account of the Bible in English by Christopher Mulvey can be found here.

Learn about the genesis of the 1611 translation with this article from the British Library.

Read "Taking Liberties" - The Struggle for freedom and rights

The City of London Bush Theatre Museums, Libraries, Archives - London The Scottish Bible Society The Bible Society