In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister E McGrath

(New York: Hachette UK, 2001), 352


  • He was inspired to write the book because he was born in 1953 when Elizabeth was coronated and every child born in Britain that year was given a copy of the KJV (ix)


  • most influential, along with Shakespeare
  • Tudor and Jacobean England

Chapter 1: Unknown to the Ancients: The New Technology

  • Collapse of feudalism and rise of a new merchant class
  • Gutenberg's printing press
  • John Wycliffe advocates for translating the Bible into English

Chapter 2: The Rise of English as a National Language

  • French and Latin were the languages of the English elite. Translation of the Bible into English was seen as a pointless debasement: direct knowledge of the biblical text itself was seen as too dangerous to permit to the laity, and English was regarded as not sophisticated enough to cope. with the great themes of the Bible
  • The Fifteenth century saw the dawn of English nationalism, spurred along by greater adoption of a national language

Chapter 3: The Great Tumult: The Reformation

  • Luther started writing in German rather than Latin to appeal to a more popular audience. And he translated the Bible into German: if the Bible were available in the vernacular, all could read it and judge the teachings of the Church for themselves (52)
  • Two underlying ideas of Luther (55):
    • The Church had lost sight of the basic teaching that salvation is a gift form God, not earned as a reward
    • The key to reform and renewal was to put the Bible into the hands of the laity
  • Erasmus re-translated the Vulgate from the original Greek, correcting errors he found (57)
  • Henry VIII's reformation in England prepared the way for an English translation

Chapter 4: The First Printed English Bibles

  • William Tyndale admired Luther's German translation and resolved to do the same in English; he is now widely acknowledged as the most formative influence on the text of the King James Bible (67)
  • Tyndale's 1526 New Testament was smuggled into England and created great pressure for an English Bible, which was banned under the Constitutions of Oxford (73)
  • Miles Coverdale produced the first full Bible in English in 1535 (89); more of a compilation of others' translations than a fresh translation, which rose and fell with the favor of Anne Boleyn (90)
  • Next came Richard Grafton's "Matthew's Bible", but "England was simply not ready for such strong Protestant meat" in its footnote (93)
  • Coverdale slightly revised Matthew's Bible to make it acceptable to churchmen, and it became the "Great Bible" (94)

Chapter 5: Explaining the "Hard Places": The Geneva Bible

  • The Geneva Bible (1560) was the main Bible the KJV had to displace: it was a translation of the full Bible (including Apocrypha) with radical Protestant notes associated with Geneva at the time (99)

Chapter 6: A Puritan King? The Accession of King James

  • Elizabeth put forward compromises to appease both Catholics and Protestants, but these were unpopular with the emerging Puritans, radical Protestants who objected to the use of vestments and the Prayer Book (133); gradually the tension between Catholics and Protestants was replaced with the tension between Anglicanism and Puritanism (134)
  • James VI ascended as a critic of Puritanism and the Geneva Bible (141), which undermined a notion of the "divine right of kings" (148)

Chapter 7: The Decision to Translate: The Hampton Court Conference

  • James wanted a united Protestant England against Roman Catholicism, helped by a new translation of the Bible

Chapter 8: Translation: The Englishing of the Bible

  • The Bishop's Bible was the base of the KJV translation

Chapter 9: Production: The Early Printings of the King James Bible

  • KJV was authorized by the king, but privately funded throughout

Chapter 10: Translators and Traitors: The Problems of Bible Translation

  • "The Fourth session of the Council of Trent (1546) produced a detailed canonical list, which included some of the works of the Apocrypha as authentically scriptural, while the Protestant congregations in Switzerland, France, and elsewhere produced lists that deliberately omitted reference to these works, or else indicated that they were of no importance in matters of doctrine." (223)
  • KVJ translators were divided into six companies, each assigned a portion of the Bible. The Second Cambridge Company was responsible for the Prayer of Manasses and the rest of the Apocrypha (218-219)
  • Notes that Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion regards the Apocrypha as not suitable to "establish any doctrine" (225)
  • "The decision to include the Apocrypha was taken by Richard was not particularly controversial at the time; the Geneva Bible had also included it. Yet it was a decision that would become controversial in later years." (226)
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Article III (226)
    • "The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings."
  • Puritans and their nonconformist successors in the eighteenth century wanted the Apocrypha excluded on theological grounds, and missionaries wanted them excluded so that Bibles could be produced as cheaply as possible (227)..."Missionary societies gradually came to view that the Apocrypha would be omitted—primarily for financial, rather than theological reasons" (228)
    • The first to do so in 1826 was the British and Foreign Bible Society, which "gave a major stimulus to the growing trend to publish Bibles without the Apocrypha" (228)
  • The KJV didn't generate much interest initially, with people preferring to stick with the Geneva Bible (278). Acceptance of the KJV coincided with the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the publication of the Book of Common Prayer (1662)
  • "The King James translators seem to have taken the view—which corresponds with the consensus of the day—that an accurate translation is, by and large, a literal and formal translation," such that English has been enhanced by idioms drawn from Hebrew (252)

Chapter 11: The Bible and the Shaping of Modern English

  • The KJV greatly impacted the English language, but style was not apparently an aim of the translators: their primary concern was to provide an accurate translation (254)
  • English displayed willingness to absorb loanwords from other languages, making it a rich medium of expression and facilitating its rise as a global trade language (258); this was influenced by the KJV (259)
  • Discusses various literary elements of the KJV, and concludes: "these points suggest that the King James Bible would actually have been perceived to be slightly old-fashioned and dated even from the first day of its publication." (276)

Chapter 12: Triumph: The Final Acclamation of the King James Bible

  • The first English Bible brought to America was a Geneva Bible, which was favored by Puritans (293)
  • "The lowest common denominator of English-speaking American Protestant Christianity, especially in the nineteenth century, was the King James Version of the Bible." (294)
  • Robert Aitken published the first KJV (without the Apocrypha) in the United States in 1782 (298)
  • "Other translations will doubtless jostle for place in the nation's bookstores in the twenty-first century. Yet the King James Bible retains its place as a literary and religious classic, by which all others continue to be judged." (300)


  • "The glory of the King James Bible was that the English language was raised to new heights by being put to the service of this supreme goal—the rendering in English of the words and deeds of God." (305)
  • Translations eventually require revision, not necessarily because they are defective, but because the target language changes over time (308)
  • "Those who insist that we retain the King James Bible as the only English translation of the Bible actually betray the intentions and goals of those who conceived and translated it—namely, to translate the Bible into living English." (309)

Topic: The Bible, King James Version



file:(~In the Beginning)

Created: 2023-12-02-Sat
Updated: 2024-01-30-Tue