Who were the
King James Version

The Translators Revived

by Alexander McClure, 1858


We do not know much about the men who translated the King James Bible--the word of God for the English-speaking people.  Perhaps this is fitting lest too much honor should be bestowed upon man.  However, given the current controversy over our beloved Authorized Version I believe it good and profitable to learn more about these men of God.  Some defender of modern Bible perversions will immaturely accuse us of "worshipping the translators".  But what saith the scriptures?

Romans 13:7  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

It is good and profitable to remember our fathers in the faith and the contributions they made for our good. Let's turn off the hell-i-vision and get some knowledge. It is good to look into the "olde things".

Will you ask for the old paths?  When you find profitable things there, will you take heed to them?  Unlike folks of today, the men of King James' time were true divines and scholars.  I perceive that those who held bachelor's degrees could out-think practically all of the doctors of today.  We'd think their doctor's were geniuses. The King James Bible translators were men who regularly debated in Latin and Greek, one had read the entire Bible in Hebrew by the time he was six, and on and on.  But even more importantly, they were godly men devoted to spiritual pursuits.  They believed that they were translating the very words of God--they were sanctified witnesses that took their sacred duties seriously. As it states in the Translators to the Reader--

Again, they came or were thought to come to the work, not exercendi causa (as one saith) but exercitati, that is, learned, not to learn:

Nowadays you've got "I-barely-know-Greek translators" who have their feet in everything from  hell-i-vision to sodomy.

The King James Version translators took the baton passed on to them by devout men and martyrs who translated before them. Men like John Wiclif, aka "The Morning Star of the Reformation" who was the first to translate the entire Bible into English. Although he only had the Latin Vulgate to work with, you can see his influence on Tyndale's translation and ultimately our Authorized Version. Like Martin Luther, Dr. Wiclif was a member of the Romish religion when he was awakened to the truth through the reading of the scriptures. He spoke out vehemently against the Romish rites and practices which at that time had a stranglehold on the land. His followers were called Lollards and they went out like circuit preachers spreading the doctrine of Christ. Dr. Wiclif wrote tracts and spoke out against error. He was severely persecuted by the Romish religion while alive and was banished from Oxford and his professorship by order of the king. Nevertheless, the Lord delivered him out of Romish hands many times and allowed him to continue his translation work. In 1428, about 44 years after his death, Pope Martin V commanded Dr. Wiclif's bones to be dug up and burned as an arch heretick.

William Tyndale who translated from the Textus Receptus line, was strangled and burned at the stake for translating the Bible. Time fails me here to speak of John Rogers, Myles Coverdale and others who labored AND DIED that we might have the word of God in our hands. The Authorized Version is a Book forged in blood, sweat and tears. Treasure it. The King James translators said this of the cumulative nature of their work--

"Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one...but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one..."

Please do not be deceived into thinking that the King James Bible is only an amalgamation of previous translations. These scholars consulted the original languages and related languages.

"Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see."

During the days of the translators, the Roman Catholic institution repeatedly proved herself a great enemy to the translation of the Authorized [1] Version. The KJV translators note this fact in both the "Epistle Dedicatory" and the "Translators to the Reader", both of which were included with the publication of the Authorized Version. The Roman religion has a long history of persecuting, imprisoning, torturing, murdering and killing the faithful saints who would not bow down to the papacy and its blasphemous doctrines, but to Christ and his word alone. Those faithful saints did not accept deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection.

The following accounts of the King James translators are taken from, The Translators Revived by Alexander McClure published in 1858.  I do not agree with all of Mr. McClure's historical commentary.  In fact, I strongly disagree with his assessment of His Majestie King James VI & I whom Mr. McClure makes out to be worse than a heathen.  One way this bias manifests itself is in Mr. McClure's caustic and erroneous comments about Dr. Richard Bancroft, one of the translators close to the King:

"...considering the control exercised by this towering prelate, and the fact that the great majority of the Translators were of his way of thinking, it is quite surprising that the work is not deeply tinged with their sentiments.  On the whole, it is certainly very far from being a sectarian version, like nearly all which have since been attemped in English. It is said that Bancroft altered fourteen places, so as to make them speak in phrase to suit him...Two of those alleged alterations are quite preposterous.  To have the glorious word "bishopric" occur at least once in the volume, the office is conferred, in the first chapter of Acts, on Judas Iscariot!  'His bishopric let another take.'"

Here Mr. McClure shows his ignorance of earlier Bible versions, which I just happen to have a copy of in the English Hexapla.  The scripture in question is Acts 1:20 where the King James translators selected the word, "bishopricke".  This translation was not unique to the King James Bible.  In fact the word "bishopricke" was used in Wiclif's translation which was produced over 200 years before the King James Bible was ever thought about!  Remember that the King James Bible came out in 1611.  Look at the readings in these earlier translations--

Translation Year 
Wiclif 1380 and it is writun in the book of salmes, the abitacioun of hem be made desert: and be there noon that dwelle in it, and another take his bischopriche,
Tyndale 1534 It is written in the boke of Psalmes: His habitacion be voyde, and no man be dwellinge therin: and his bisshoprychke let another take.
Cranmer 1539 For it is wrytten in the boke of Psalmes: hys habitacyon be voyde, and no man be dwellinge therin: and his Bisshoprycke let another take.
King James 1611 For it is written in the booke of Psalmes, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: And his Bishopricke let another take.
Geneva 1557 For it is written in the boke of Psalmes, Let his habitation be voyde, and no man dwel therin: And let another take his charge.

The only dissenting Bible in this group is the Geneva, a Puritan Bible.  It was wrong for Mr. McClure to intimate that Dr. Bancroft arbitrarily added the word "bishoprick" for sectarian reasons. 


People have written this webmaster saying that the King James translators mis-translated certain items to placate the King.  As we see in the above example, this simply is not true.  Perhaps Mr. McClure's Puritanical bias has clouded his sense of objectivity (upon reading Translators Revived this Puritanical bias is easily seen).  The Puritans and King James were not the closest of friends. In looking at the historical record, it seems that the Puritans were a rather intrusive and pushy lot. For instance, King James' Booke of Sportes (as it is commonly known) was written in response to the Puritan practice of barring their fellowcitizens from lawful recreations on Sundays. Puritan Oliver Cromwell and other insurgents ordered the execution of King Charles I, King James' son and successor. Most curiously, even today, Puritans by-and-large seem to have maintained a certain king of hatred for King James. I've interacted with them myself and read their writings concerning King James (and and noted their fondness for Oliver Cromwell and taking up arms to fight the government which is an unbiblical stance).

When looking at the Epistle Dedicatory, the translators identify two chief calumniators--

...if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God's holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil...

Historians provide a useful service, but they are not always right, they are not always honest, and they do have their own personal biases--even when they try to sound objective. In today's world, revisionist historians are actually changing the history books--we must be careful to prove all things to see if they are true or not. Examining primary source documentation--when possible--is a good practice. [Note: When reading anyone's writings (including my own), "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (Thessalonians 5:21).]

All of this said, I believe Mr. McClure's narrative on the qualifications of the translators offers us some insight on these little known men.  There are so few sources available on the King James Bible translators that I find myself at the mercy of Mr. McClure for this season. It is commonly reported that there were 54 translators selected to the translation but only 47 actually participated in the work. Mr. McClure's book chronicles a number between the two figures. As you read the translator's rules, you will see that other principal, learned men of the kingdom were also invited to make their comments on the work at hand.

The King James Bible translators were a collection of principal men and scholars. They approached this translation with reverence and, according to the Translators to the Reader, they did not trust in the arm of flesh but him that hath the key of David.

Please note that Translators Revived has not been published in its entirety herein.

(a little background information)

The following was excerpted from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorized_King_James_Version--

James' instructions included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the [B]iblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible...It is for this reason that the flyleaf of most printings of the Authorized Version observes that the text had been "translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty's special command."

The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, although 54 were originally approved. All were members of the Church of England and all except Sir Henry Savile were clergy. The scholars worked in six committees, two based in each of the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and Westminster. The committees included scholars with Puritan sympathies, as well as High Churchmen. Forty unbound copies of the 1602 edition of the Bishops' Bible were specially printed so that the agreed changes of each committee could be recorded in the margins. The committees worked on certain parts separately and the drafts produced by each committee were then compared and revised for harmony with each other. The scholars were not paid directly for their translation work, instead a circular letter was sent to bishops encouraging them to consider the translators for appointment to well paid livings as these fell vacant. Several were supported by the various colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, while others were promoted to bishoprics, deaneries and prebends through royal patronage.

The committees started work towards the end of 1604. King James I of England, on 22 July 1604, sent a letter to Archbishop Bancroft asking him to contact all English churchmen requesting that they make donations to his project.

"Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. Whereas we have appointed certain learned men, to the number of 4 and 50, for the translating of the Bible, and in this number, divers of them have either no ecclesiastical preferment at all, or else so very small, as the same is far unmeet for men of their deserts and yet we in ourself in any convenient time cannot well remedy it, therefor we do hereby require you, that presently you write in our name as well to the Archbishop of York, as to the rest of the bishops of the province of Cant.[erbury] signifying unto them, that we do well, and straitly charge everyone of them ... that (all excuses set apart) when we prebend or parsonage ... shall next upon any occasion happen to be void ... we may commend for the same some such of the learned men, as we shall think fit to be preferred unto it ... Given unto our signet at our palace of West.[minister] on 2 and 20 July , in the 2nd year of our reign of England, France, and of Ireland, and of Scotland xxxvii."

They had all completed their sections by 1608, the Apocrypha committee finishing first. From January 1609, a General Committee of Review met at Stationers' Hall, London to review the completed marked texts from each of the six committees. The General Committee included John Bois, Andrew Downes and John Harmar, and others known only by their initials, including "AL" (who may be Arthur Lake), and were paid for their attendance by the Stationers' Company. John Bois prepared a note of their deliberations (in Latin)--which has partly survived in two later transcripts. Also surviving is a bound-together set of marked-up corrections to one of the forty Bishops' Bibles - covering the Old Testament and Gospels, and also a manuscript translation of the text of the Epistles, excepting those verses where no change was being recommended to the readings in the Bishops' Bible...


I.    The First Westminister Company--translated the historical books, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Second Book of Kings.

II.    The Cambridge Company--translated Chronicles to the end of the Song of Songs.

III.    The Oxford Company--translated beginning of Isaiah to the end of the Old Testament.

IV.    The Second Oxford Company--translated the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of St. John the Divine.

V.    The Fifth Company of Translators at Westminster--translated all of the Epistles of the New Testament


VI.    The Sixth Company of Translators at Cambridge translated the apocryphal books. The King James translators did not consider the Apocrypha to be scripture and neither did King James--see, Alexander McClure on the Apocryphal committee and Why the Apocrypha is not is the Bible.

  • Dr. John Duport, Dr. William Brainthwaite, Dr. Jeremiah Radcliffe
  • Dr. Samuel Ward
  • Dr. Andrew Downes, John Bois
  • Dr. John Ward, Dr. John Aglionby, Dr. Leonard Hutten
  • Dr. Thomas Bilson, Dr. Richard Bancroft

* * * Important Links * * *

[1]"Authorised" is the British spelling of Authorized. In Great Britain, the Authorized King James Bible has been long-known as the Authorised Version.