30th May 2011

Happy Anniversary, KJV!

The fifth of a series

“For whosoeuer shall call vpon the Name of the Lord, shall be saued. How then shall they call on him in whom they haue not beleeued? and how shal they beleeue in him, of whom they haue not heard? and how shall they heare without a Preacher?”
Romans 10:13-14 (original KJV of 1611)

Even as Tyndale was suffering his final imprisonment in Belgium, England had a new king, Henry VIII. Henry set out to defend the Catholic faith against the Protestant heresies sweeping Europe, and was awarded the Papal title of “Defender of the Faith.” But then he found that his queen was not giving him the son he needed for succession.

Catherine of Aragon was sister to Emperor Charles V, who held sway over Europe—and the Pope. If the Pope granted Henry his divorce, Charles promised action against the Pope. After eight years Henry, growing tired of waiting, broke with the Catholic Church and began his own catholic church, with himself as its head.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, is thought to have pointed out that a Latin Bible pointed to Rome, whereas an English Bible…. The politics influenced Henry to authorise a new translation, though Cranmer probably paid all costs. The task fell to Myles Coverdale, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, not so much a scholar or translator, more as an editor of other translators. Hence in 11 months the Coverdale Bible was completed in haste. In his “Dedication to Kynge Henry the Eyght”, he writes (I have put into modern spelling what follows:) that his “specyall translacyon” would be helpful until Tyndale’s scholarly version, or others more skilful than himself, should be made available. He writes: “and sure I am, that there cometh more knowledge and understanding of the scripture by various translations.” Thus Henry’s eyes were opened, not for religious reasons, but political. It should be noted that publication was delayed, with a new title page required, to accommodate Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour.

This Bible, although sanctioned, was never authorised. But here for the first time was the English Bible permitted to be read in public without peril. We today can have little understanding what that meant. We are permitted to read Scripture without let or hindrance; there is no penalty for us. Indeed the penalty we suffer in this age is one of ignorance of the Bible. Today so few read or study this Maker’s Handbook; and that means, as noted above, so few have access to salvation, having not read about it. And we pay the price of such ignorance in our personal lives and in our society.

Most merciful Father, thank you for your control of events, making it expedient for King Henry to make the Bible available in English. Thus the desire by his subjects to read your Scriptures in their own tongue began to be fulfilled, according to the time of your will. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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