KING JAMES BIBLE VERSUS GENEVA BIBLE
The attack on the King James Bible comes in many forms chiefly with the proliferation of a multitude of modern versions that altered the Holy Bible in thousands of places. Then a more subtle form comes from the resurrection of the older English versions that God has bypassed in church history leaving them on the shelves in the annals of history. Of late, the promotion of the Geneva Bible comes into focus with the aim of replacing the King James Bible. It is the same strategy employed to deceive readers into thinking that going back to the originals is better and in this case, the original English version that the Puritans used. Below is a discussion taken from the Which Version Club to clear the myth that The Geneva Bible is the correct English Bible to be used by English speaking Christians.
I need to write a short article on this, but for now let me very briefly clear up yet another MYTH…
To wit, the MYTH that the Puritans continued to use the Geneva Bible after the KJB was produced and in fact had to be almost coerced into using the KJB.
This is PURE MYTH.
In fact, it was the PURITANS who REQUESTED the translation of the KJB to begin with. Without the Puritans REQUESTING the KJB, there would never have BEEN a KJB.
Moreover, a great many of the KJB translators were themselves PURITANS, and contrary to our modern day myth-makers from established religious and orthodox seminaries, the Puritans adopted the KJB with virtual IMMEDIACY.
All one must do to confirm this is READ the quotations of such men as John Bunyan (who stated that he believed the Authorised Version to be the EXACT REPLICA of the autographs), John Owen, Richard Baxter, Thomas Boston, Thomas Brooks, Stephen Charnock, Thomas Goodwin, George Swinnock, and MANY others, and it will be discovered that these men ALL lived within a generation of the publication of the KJB, and that these men ALL used the KJB, NOT the Geneva Bible.
As I said, when time allows I’m going to write a short article demonstrating all of this, but for now don’t be fooled by the MYTH that the Puritans stuck to the Geneva Bible after the KJB came out, because it just ain’t so.
Ah, a MYTH it is indeed! Scott is right on when he states that it was the Puritans that requested a new Bible be produced. I’ve debated this several times in the past and wrote a short article on the Pilgrims and the Geneva Bible. Following is an excerpt from the article. I believe it applies to this current thread.
“As you can see, it appears everyone is adamant that the Bible of the early Pilgrims was the Geneva Bible and “certainly not the King’s of England’s Bible!”. Perhaps the record should be set straight as to whose Bible this was. It was certainly not the King of England’s Bible. For far too long this rhetoric has been spouted. King James had nothing to do with the translation of this Bible nor did he even come up with the idea to produce a new translation. Here are the historical facts of the matter as laid down by Samuel Bagster in the wonderful book, “An Historical Account of the English Versions of the Scriptures” (published – 1841).
Soon after James I ascended the throne on March 24, 1603 a petition in the name of more than 1,000 ministers was brought before the King. The petition, called the “Millenary Petition”, was separated into 4 headings; 1) Things connected with the Church service; 2) Church ministers; 3) Church living and maintenance; and 4) Church discipline. Promptly, a letter was written in answer of these matters and sent to the King by the University of Oxford. Because of this James I decided to bring the matter to a public conference. Delegates representing the Anglicans and those of the petitioners were invited to the palace of Hampton Court the following January. The delegates representing the 1,000 ministers were Dr. John Reynolds, Dr. Thomas Sparke of Oxford, Mr. Chadderton and Mr. Knewstubbs from Cambridge. At the conference Dr. Reynolds took on the role as chief speaker and brought before the King a request “for a New Translation of the Bible” on the second day.
Prior to this day there is no historical record that the King had entertained such a notion as a new Bible translation. Dr. Reynolds’ suggestion (which was really the suggestion of the 1,000 petitioners) found favor in the King’s eyes and James I heard Reynolds and the others concerning the matter. During the conference, the Anglican delegates, led by Archbishop Bancroft, opposed the idea of a new translation. Despite Bancroft’s efforts King James I gave permission to Dr. Reynolds and the delegates with him to proceed with the process of rendering a new translation of the Bible into the English language. “The method proposed by the king was this; that the version should be made by some of the most learned men in both the Universities, that it should then be reviewed by the bishops and other of the most learned ecclesiastics, that it should then be laid before the Privy Council, and last of all be ratified by Royal authority, so that in the whole Anglican establishment this translation so made should be used, and no other (Bagster, “An Historical Account of the English Versions of the Scriptures”, p. 149).”
For long King James I has been blamed for the removal of the notes found in the Geneva Bible. This is not an entirely true statement and the facts have been misrepresented as have most `facts’ that are reported by the other side. While the King didn’t necessarily agree with some of the notes there is absolutely no indication that he planned to force the translators to remove them. If anyone can produce information to the contrary I would be delighted to have it. Interestingly enough, the idea to have the notes removed entirely came from Archbishop Bancroft and not Dr. Reynolds, King James I or any of the petitioners. So, the next time you hear or read the lie that King James I wanted a new Bible because he didn’t like the notes or that he was responsible for their removal you can present the facts. As I stated earlier, James I didn’t like some of the notes but it wasn’t until after Bancroft suggested that they be withheld from the new translation that James I commented on them.” (taken from Pilgrims and the Geneva Bible by Martin A. Shue)
Side-note: Scott, you may find it laughable but in one certain discussion group I was told that not a single one of the KJB translators was “a Puritan”. I presented him with a list of names as long as my arm and he responded by saying that since I didn’t know these men personally I couldn’t say “for sure” what their beliefs were. I offered many references of what many men had stated about these translators but he ignored all the evidence and continued to insist that none of the translators were Puritans.
Sure. Here is the exact quote by Bunyan —
“As Mr. Bunyan was upon the road near Cambridge, there overtakes him a scholar that had observed him a preacher, and said to him, How dare you preach, seeing you have not the original, being not a scholar?
Then said Mr. Bunyan, Have you the original? Yes, said the scholar. Nay, but, said Mr. Bunyan, have you the very self-same original copies that were written by the penmen of the scriptures, prophets and apostles? No, said the scholar, but we have the true copies of those originals. How do you know that? said Mr. Bunyan. How? said the scholar. Why, we believe what we have is a true copy of the original.
Then, said Mr. Bunyan, SO DO I BELIEVE OUR ENGLISH BIBLE IS A TRUE COPY OF THE ORIGINAL. Then away rid the scholar.” The Struggler, Works of John Bunyan
The term “ENGLISH BIBLE” in those day ALWAYS without exception referred to the Authorised Version.
Moreover, it can easily be demonstrated that Bunyan used the AV, for with only a handful of exceptions, he quoted the AV in ALL his writings. In fact, of the handful (or less) times that he quoted from the Geneva, the context usually indicates that he was quoting from memory, as even his editor noted on one or two occasions.
Consider how prolific Bunyan was in his writings, meaning that there were literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of quotations made by him in all his writings, the fact that almost every single one of these quotations came from the AV is enough to prove that Bunyan and the other Puritans of his day employed the AV, not the Geneva.
It also proves that Bunyan was not coerced into using the AV, for the fact that he quoted the Geneva in a few cases demonstrates that he was not in the least bit intimidated about quoting whichever Bible he wanted to quote.
It is significant that John Bunyan, John Owen, et. al., all quoted from the AV.
Some notes on Puritan use of the KJB which I have extracted from my book.
1. Various translators of the King James Bible were moderate Puritans, including Thomas Harrison, Laurence Chaderton, Samuel Ward, John Reynolds, Miles Smith and George Abbot. The fact that George Abbot became the next Archbishop of Canterbury shows how much King James favoured moderate Puritanism. Miles Smith wrote the address to the reader in the front of the King James Bible specifically appealing to the Puritan mind.
2. The representatives from England who went to the Synod of Dort, 1620, included Dr Samuel Ward, who praised the KJB.
3. The 1638 Edition of Cambridge was edited by two of the original translators, John Bois and Samuel Ward, and two other learned men, Joseph Mede and J. Goad. Joseph Mede was a Cambridge Puritan and the notable influence on John Milton.
4. Oliver Cromwell went to Samuel Ward’s college at Cambridge and when Cromwell ruled England, King James Bibles (not Geneva Versions) were printed by his authority. “When in 1616 Cromwell went up to Cambridge it was to Sidney Sussex, a college … Its master, the [Puritan] Samuel Ward, was one of the translators of King James’s Bible, the book which Cromwell was to turn to so often for ideas, ammunition and arguments to fortify his opinions; and to which the eloquence and forcefulness of his language owed so much.” (Young, P., 1975, Oliver Cromwell and His Times, Severn House Publishers, London, Great Britain, page 14). His biographers have pointed out that it was “The `Authorised Version’ of James I., from which Cromwell appears always to quote”.
5. William Prynne used the KJB.
6. John Milton used the KJB.
7. John Canne was given authority for seven years from 1653 to print Bibles with his notes.
8. Brian Walton believed, “the English translation of the Bible”, as John Selden (1584-1654) recorded, “is the best translation in the world and renders the sense of the original best.” Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) wrote, “the last translation of the Bible, which no doubt was done by those learned men in the best English, agreeth perfectly with the common speech of our country”. And Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605-1675) recorded, “the Bible in English; which was yet agreed to be the best of any translation in the world”.
The Geneva Version was rejected by King James, who believed it to be corrupt and deficient, and therefore entertained the suggestion that a new translation of the Bible should be made. The King James Bible is similar to the Geneva Version in many respects, which shows how much the translators really did esteem it; nevertheless, there are some differences which must be brought to general attention.
1. The text of the Geneva, while close to the King James Bible, shows some variations in selection from Textus Receptus material.
2. The translation of the Geneva, while close to King James Bible, shows some differences in rendering of ideas.
3. That unlike the King James Bible, the helps, marginal material and other matters were biased toward a particular interpretation, because it was accomplished in the predominantly Calvinist republic of Geneva.
This is not to say that the Geneva Version was badly done, or unusable; merely, that revision was necessary, as the King James Bible translators themselves admitted. In 1911, Hoare, author of “Our English Bible”, wrote, “England might have remained up to this day distracted by the conflicting claims of rival versions of the Scripture, and we might even now be calling out, in the spirit of the Corinthian converts of St Paul, `I am of Tyndale,’ `I am of Coverdale,’ `I am of Geneva.'”
But the moderate Puritans saw the value of the King James Bible, and though some support persisted for the Geneva Version (e.g. by certain English Presbyterians), the decade of the 1650s saw the death of the Geneva Version, under the very rule of the Puritans. The Cambridge Printers in 1656, for example, were printing the King James Bible by the conferred privilege of Oliver Cromwell.
Those modern detractors make out as if the Puritans were altogether about to dethrone the King James Bible, and reinstate the Geneva, when in fact we find that the Puritans made deliberate decisions (in the Providence of God) to uphold the King James Bible.
For more information on the deficiencies of the Geneva Bible, please read Brother Will Kinney’s article on this topic.
For more information on the Geneva Bible issue, please also read Dr. Hinton’s article below: