History of the King James Bible: 411th Year of the Authorized Version?

Bill Petro
7 min readMay 2, 2022

Four hundred eleven years ago marked the publishing, at the request of the Anglican clergy, of what would become the Authorized Version of the Bible to wide acclaim.

But there are three problems with that statement.

While it is true that the King James Bible was published in 1611 and eventually became the most influential Bible in the English-speaking world — if not the most printed book of all time:

  1. It was not requested by the Anglican clergy, at least not by the conformist Episcopalian ministers.
  2. Nor did it subsequently become officially Authorized by the King.
  3. Finally, those who initially requested it, the Puritans, refused to read it but used the English language Geneva Bible instead.

The details of how the King James Bible came to be are a bit different. And while May 2 is the date that the publication is celebrated, the actual printing date is not known with certainty.

Origin of the King James Bible

It was the heyday of William Shakespeare and good manners. The Tudor dynasty ended with the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Following this, the Scottish King James VI, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was brought to the throne as James I of England. As James made his way from Scotland to London, the Puritans intercepted him to present to him the Millenary Petition in 1603, signed by 1,000 Puritan ministers (1,000 = millenary, representing some 10% of all English clergy).

They requested some modest changes to the Church of England. James ignored almost all of their requests. One that interested him and which he believed would ultimately placate the Puritans was their request to create a new English translation of the Bible.

Who were the Puritans, and from where did they come?

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

To answer that requires royal history from one of the most colorful periods of England. You’ll recall that Henry VIII of England was married six times…

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com