History of the King James Bible
The Price Paid for the Bible in English
Anyone who studies the history of the English Bible will have a deeper appreciation for the Bibles we have today. It is a fascinating story of smuggling, intrigue, murder and sacrifice. Men gave up personal prestige to become fugitives- hunted men working on translations of an illegal book which, when smuggled into the hands of the people, would save their nation. Their cause was giving men Bibles in a language they could read for themselves, and they were firmly convinced the cause was worth dying for.
By their own blood, they changed the course of the English-speaking world.
Part I: The Middle Ages - Darkness Over the Land
John Wycliffe is known as the "Morning Star of the Reformation." The light of his life work shined in a time when a great darkness covered Europe. In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine ended the Roman massacres of Christians and made Christianity the "official" religion of the Roman Empire, which included the lands around the Mediterranean and most of Europe. In the centuries that followed, the Church was relatively free from persecution, and instead began to be a powerful political force. An elaborate hierarchy was created, with one man at the top- the Pope.
For the next millenium, the unified Catholic Church grew and did many wonderful things. Gradually, however, corruption and false teaching permeated the Church clergy. Darkness came over Europe, and the time period is often called the "Dark Ages." Probably the greatest cause of this darkness was that the light of God’s Word had been taken from the people. The first century Christians had used Koine Greek to spread God’s Word because it was the Universal language of the entire Roman empire. Even the Old Testament Scriptures were translated out of the original Hebrew into Greek (called the Septuagint) so that all could read them. But everything changed as the Roman Empire broke apart and Koine Greek faded in popularity, eventually becoming a language no longer spoken by common people.
Rather than translating God’s Word into everyday languages that everyone used (the "vernacular"), the Church clergy thought it would be best to keep the Scriptures in what became the scholarly languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In part, they had good intentions, because they wanted to preserve the Bible from error in being copied and translated. But the evil result was that most people were denied the right to read the Bible for themselves! Very few could afford the education necessary to learn the scholarly languages, and therefore they were dependant on the pope, priests, and other clergy to tell them what God’s Word said.
Many in the clergy began perverting the Scriptures for their own selfish purposes, and since they had no Bibles of their own, the people believed them. They taught salvation was earned by works rather than through faith alone, and that the works included the purchase of "indulgences." By selling indulgences to the people, the clergy sought to make themselves rich by taking advantage of the people. They were abusing their position of responsibility as bearers of God’s Word. They also taught transubstantiation- that the bread and wine of communion literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus. The clergy even supported military crusades to Israel in which innocent people were murdered in the name of Christianity.
Without the light of God’s Word shining through the clergy and among the people, there was darkness across all of Europe.