These were men crying for reformation. The word reformation implies that the church to be reformed was deformed or malformed. What was in need of reformation? What was wrong? Some things seemed obvious, but average people had no way of proving or disproving their suspicions. If they did speak up their lives would be endangered by the very institution that claimed to speak for the God of love. The terror that plagued the hearts and minds at the very mention of the word heretic kept them silent, for the end of everyone who was given the title was the same--burning at the stake.
There was one that would not keep silent. His keen mind had been honed in the finest schools of 15th century England. William Tyndale was a graduate of Oxford and Cambridge, a Greek scholar. He was a man moved by compassion for the plight of the people of England. He despised the tyranny of the papal Church, showing his contempt by referring to its priesthood as scribes and Pharisees.
"Moreover, because the kingdom of heaven, which is the scripture and word of God, may be so locked up, that he which readeth or heareth it, cannot understand it: as Christ testifieth how the Scribes and the Pharisees had so shut it up (Matt 23) and had taken away the key of knowledge (Luke 11) that their Jews which thought themselves within, were yet so locked out, and are to this day that they can understand no sentence of the scripture unto salvation, though they can rehearse the texts everywhere and dispute thereof as subtly as the popish doctors of dunce's dark learning, which with their sophistry, served us, as the Pharisees did the Jews…" (Tyndale's New Testament, Preface 1534)
Furthermore, he accused them of altering the scriptures to suit their own purpose.
"I thought it my duty (most dear reader) to warn thee before and to show thee the right way in, and to give thee the true key to open it withal, and to arm thee against false prophets and malicious hypocrites whose perpetual study is to leavn the scripture with glosses, and there to lock it up where it should save thy soul, and to make us shoot at a wrong mark, to put our trust in those things that profit their bellies only and slay our souls." (Ibid, Preface)
Later John Foxe wrote:
"Master Tyndale considered this only, or most chiefly, to be the cause of all mischief in the Church, that the Scriptures of God were hidden from the people's eyes; for so long the abominable doings and idolatries maintained by the pharisaical clergy could not be espied; and therefore all their labor was with might and main to keep it down, so that either it should not be read at all, or if it were, they would darken the right sense with the mist of their sophistry, and so entangle those who rebuked or despised their abominations; wresting the Scripture unto their own purpose, contrary unto the meaning of the text, they would so delude the unlearned lay people, that though thou felt in thy heart, and wert sure that all were false that they said, yet couldst thou not solve their subtle riddles." (Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Chapter 12).
Tyndale's assessment of the problem was that the scriptures were hidden from the eyes of the people. As a result, the people could not solve the priest’s subtle riddles. The clergy covered up their abominations and idolatries by hiding the scriptures from the people's eyes and darkening the right sense of the scriptures by their fallacious arguments. This went well beyond mere verbal deceit to tampering with the scriptural text.
Tyndale set himself to solve this problem by producing the world’s first English New Testament, translated from the original Greek into the common vernacular of the people. In doing so, he exposed what we call the great ecclesiastical conspiracy that was at the heart of all the abuses. The church had something to protect and protect it they did, and in their usual manner they began to plot the death of the heretic.
Michael Scheifler tells of the general sense of ill will toward Tyndale by those of the papal church, and why.
"Sir Thomas More, had this to say about Tyndale- he calls him 'a beast', as one of the 'hell-hounds that the devil hath in his kennel', discharging a 'filthy foam of blasphemies out of his brutish beastly mouth'...
"So what had Tyndale done in his translation that was so heretical? According to David Daniell, Tyndale had translated the Greek word for 'elder' as 'elder' instead of 'priest', he had translated the Greek word for 'congregation' as 'congregation' instead of 'church', the Greek word for 'repentance' as 'repentance' instead of 'penance' etc. Why were such differences important to the church? The Roman Church has priests, not elders. A congregation implies a locally autonomous group of believers guided by the Holy Spirit and not a hierarchical unified church subject to a Pope. The Roman Church is built on penance and indulgences to the priest and Church, not repentance to, and forgiveness from God. In trying to faithfully render the Greek into English, Tyndale's translation exposed the errors of the church to the people which quickly brought the wrath of the church down on him." (Michael Scheifler, William Tyndale - Heretical Blasphemer?)
Even the casual reader of history will discover that there was in fact an attempt by the Church of Rome to adulterate the scriptures. An attempt to replace the Greek and Hebrew text with Latin to keep the true meaning of the scriptures from the people, concealing them in a dead language that only scholars knew. It was a conspiracy conceived in hell.
Let us digress for a moment.
By 600 AD Latin was the only language allowed for scripture. The scriptures were thus subject to Papal interpretation and were most certainly altered to suit the church’s ecclesiastical paradigm. This explains the hatred for the Hebrew and Greek texts, since the original texts exposed their façade.
Albert Gilmore explains,
"The languages of the early Bibles, Hebrew and Greek, were no longer of interest. So marked did this lack of interest become that when, after the Renaissance, Cardinal Ximenes published his Polyglot edition with the Latin Vulgate between the Greek and Hebrew versions of the Old Testament, he stated in his preface that it was 'like Jesus between two thieves" (Gilmore, The Bible: Beacon Light of History, Boston: Associated Authors, 1935, p. 170).
Tyndale was right. They were wresting the scriptures unto their own purposes. How far had the church fallen from its original norm? Suffice it to say that it was nothing like its founder (Jesus) intended. Amazingly enough, the Bible itself was the primary tool for deception. By the adulteration and misrepresentation of the scriptures, ambitious men justified their jobs in a system ruled by despotic pontiff kings and their hireling bishops. This is no less than a conspiracy that continues to this very day.
The following questions may help us see the depth of this conspiracy.
How did the Greek word Ekklesia, meaning a called out assembly, come to be translated church, a word that is neither Greek or English but is of doubtful Latin or perhaps Scottish origin and implies temple worship? Some believe it to be of pagan origin. Regardless, what is a word that is neither Greek nor English doing in a Greek to English translation?
Why did the Greek words presbytery (the elderly), apostle (envoy or sent one), and deacon (servant) remain untranslated into their Anglicized form? Why was the Greek word presbuteros (older or elderly) translated priest? Why indeed! There is little doubt that these words remained untranslated so the clergy could redefine them, interpreting them with the strongest institutional and hierarchical connotations. Was this mere ignorance, or a means of creating a ruling class of super saints? It is clear to us that down through the years the scriptures have been subjected to papal tampering. There even remains evidence that some of the early manuscripts were altered.
"But almost all authorities on the text agree that they preserve a better text than the standardized 5th century one, which shows clear signs of having been edited." (Erdmans Handbook to the Bible, pp. 73)
It is also clear that this tampering was to promote and justify a system of church government ordered after the government of "the kings of the Gentiles," which Christ had strictly prohibited, saying, "But you shall not be so." (See Luke 22:25-26). Whatever happened to the servanthood that Jesus and the early Church modeled? How did these servants of the first century give way to the pontiff kings of the fourth and fifth centuries? Had Christ’s declaration, "But you shall not be so," been forgotten?
The early believers followed the Lord's example and instructions on this all-important matter, and they viewed servanthood as the highest vocation. But by the close of the first century, the subtle signs of the rise of the bishops began, ever so cunningly, to corrupt the simplicity of the faith and to defile the example of the lowly Christ. As absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, so the corruption began. Like a dead corpse rotting away, in time the Church bore only a vague resemblance to what was once living and vibrant.
In the third century, the wound worsened by the full marriage of this apostate church to paganism. This new "Christianity" became the imperial religion of the Roman Empire. It was there at Constantinople that the very first Christian temples were constructed. They were merely christianized pagan temples. The priesthood was fashioned after a mixture of the Old Testament and pagan priesthoods. Finally, Rome had done it. If they could not add Christ to the pantheon, they would bring the pantheon to Christianity. The Romans had long since tried to further unite their empire by uniting all its gods in one temple, the pantheon. There the worship of the Son was mixed with the worship of the sun, so much so that a third century mosaic from a tomb found under Saint Peter’s in Rome depicted Christ as the sun god in his chariot. It was not until the fifth century that the worshipers in Rome stopped bowing to the sun before entering Saint Peter's basilica.
"Pope Leo 1, in the middle of the fifth century, rebuked worshippers who turned around to bow to the sun before entering St Peters basilica." (Erdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, pg. 131)
The deception reigned unchecked for 925 years, until William Tyndale challenged this religious institution with the light of the truth. He revealed part of the conspiracy that had enslaved the family of God in this twisted, abnormal thing, which the pharisaical clergy called the church.
Although he revealed some of the conspiracy, changing history forever, it none the less remains. The light sent it scurrying into the shadows only to return in a more subtle, congenial form, an anglicized form. It now smiled as it placed the dagger between the forth and the fifth rib. A tame beast is still a beast, and though defanged and declawed, it can still cripple and maim.
After Tyndale was martyred for his efforts, and all but two of his Bibles destroyed, several important events occurred. First, Henry VIII evicted the Catholic Church from England because the Pope refused to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon and sanction his illicit relationship with Anne Boleyn. The break with Rome came in 1534, when Parliament passed the Supremacy Act, making Henry head of the Church of England. Henry was somewhat sympathetic to Luther's views, which opened England as never before to Protestant influences, including translating, printing and importing Protestant Bibles. Some men, such as Coverdale, were inspired to continue in the spirit of Tyndale's work. There was also the Geneva Bible, which effected great changes throughout Europe. In the tradition of Tyndale, these Bibles no longer promoted the divine right of kings and ruling bishops, but instead recognized the priesthood of all believers. To kings and bishops who exercised absolute authority over the masses, this was intolerable. More than anything else, this set the stage for the translation of a new Bible. The king's new Bible was translated to solidify the station of both king and bishops, preserving and advancing a system of Church government that stood in antithesis to Christ's example and teachings and continues to do so until this very day.
We believe in the inspiration and accuracy of the koine Greek texts of the New Testament. However the translations that have followed are not as reliable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is ecclesiastical ambition. Historically, this love letter from God that we call the Bible was shaped into a scepter of power in the hands of popes, kings and would-be kings to further consolidate their power over the masses. Undoubtedly this very ambition has tainted the translations from Jerome onward. This reached new heights at a time when bishops sought the approval of kings to authorize translations that had been purposefully skewed toward their ecclesiastical paradigm.
It is ludicrous to many that the Protestant Church could be guilty of carrying on any of the traditions of the Catholic Church that it so loudly objected to. To some, the idea of an ongoing conspiracy is even more unbelievable, because they already possess the unadulterated truth. They hold it in their hands, professing that it is the ultimate authority, the only true Bible, the authorized Bible, the King James Bible. Authorized by whom? No less than King James himself! King James did his part in preserving the conspiracy.
An understanding of the political climate of the early 16th century is crucial if we are to comprehend the motives and logic behind the king's new translation. King James was a staunch advocate of the divine right of kings, as facilitated by puppet bishops. This was the Anglican answer to papal succession, in which active resistance to pope or king was considered a sin worthy of eternal damnation. In his Basilicon Doron, in the second sonnet entitled "The Argument of the Book" (written to his son), we catch a glimpse of James' exaggerated appraisal of kingship.
"GOD gives not Kings the style of Gods in vain,
For on his throne his Scepter do they sway:
And as their subjects out [sic] them to obey,
So Kings should fear and serve their god again."
Using similar language, in his first address to the Parliament, James defended his doctrine of the divine right of kings. He did not mince words regarding his intention to be an absolute monarch over England. He presented the following logic as grounds for his supremacy.
"The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth, for kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth and set upon God’s throne, but even by God himself they are called gods."
True to his words, James dissolved Parliament and for ten years thereafter he ruled England without it.
Considering James' overstated view of kingship and his disregard for the parliamentarian style of leadership, it is understandable that he would also have apprehensions regarding Presbyterianism. This style of church government was developed by Calvin in Geneva, and had no place for kings or bishops.
In his excellent book entitled In the Beginning, Alister McGrath tells of a particular event that took place in Scotland, which shaped James' views on this matter.
"His views on this matter were shaped to no small extent by some unpleasant experiences with Scottish presbyteries, particularly under Andrew Melville, a Scottish Presbyterian who had taught at Geneva Academy, and formed a close personal relationship with Calvin's protégé, Theodore Beza. At a heated encounter between the king and senior churchmen at Falkland Place in October 1596, Melville had physically taken hold of James and accused him of being "God's silly vassal." Melville pointedly declared that while they would support James as king in public, in private they all knew perfectly well that Christ was the true king of Scotland, and his kingdom was the Kirk - a kingdom in which James was a mere member, not a lord or head. James was shaken by this physical and verbal assault, not the least because it suggested that Melville and his allies posed a significant threat to the Scottish throne." (In The Beginning - pg. 140)
James also developed a dislike for the Geneva Bible, which was widely read and promoted by the Puritans. At that time it was in fact the most popular Bible in England. James' disdain for the Geneva Bible was not so much due to the translation itself but primarily because of its marginal notes that promoted the notion that all believers comprised the New Testament priesthood and that they, not the king, were God's anointed.
The Geneva Bible notes on Psalms 105:14-15 read,
Psalm 105:14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reprove kings for their sakes;
(g) That is, the king of Egypt and the king of Gerar, (Ge 12:17,20:3)
Psalm 105:15 [Saying], Touch not mine anointed (h), and do my prophets (i) no harm.
(h) Those whom I have sanctified to be my people.
(i) Meaning, the old fathers, to whom God showed himself plainly, and who set forth his word.
The anointed that should not be touched were not kings. In fact, God reproved kings for their sake. The anointed consists of all those whom God has sanctified to be His people, not a king or a special breed of ruling ministers. The Geneva Bible notes on Luke 22:24 reads,
Luke 22:24 8 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
(8) The pastors are not called to rule but to serve.
Gary DeMar comments further.
"In 1620 the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth with their Bibles and a conviction derived from those Bibles of establishing a new nation. The Bible was not the King James Version. When James I became king of England in 1603, there were two translations of the Bible in use; the Geneva Bible was the most popular, and the Bishops' Bible was used for reading in churches.
"King James disapproved of the Geneva Bible because of its Calvinistic leanings. He also frowned on what he considered to be seditious marginal notes on key political texts. A marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders, and a note for 2 Chronicles 15:16 said that King Asa should have had his mother executed and not merely deposed for the crime of worshipping an idol. The King James Version of the Bible grew out of the king's distaste for these brief but potent doctrinal commentaries. He considered the marginal notes to be a political threat to his kingdom.
"At a conference at Hampton Court in 1604 with bishops and theologians, the king listened to a suggestion by the Puritan scholar John Reynolds that a new translation of the Bible was needed. Because of his distaste for the Geneva Bible, James was eager for a new translation. 'I profess,' he said, 'I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst.'" (Gary DeMar, The Geneva Bible: The Forgotten Translation)
This helps us to better understand why the Geneva Bible was so despised by King James. It is not an overstatement to say that much of James' conduct as king of England was reactionary, done to counter an unacceptable turn toward egalitarianism. There is little doubt in our minds but that a clandestine scheme lay at the heart of James' decision to translate his new Bible.
After James came to England and was crowned king, a bishop by the name of Richard Bancroft, soon to become archbishop, sought to save the church and the nation of England from the puritan "false prophets." Bancroft was aware of James' exalted view of kingship and used that knowledge to promote his own agenda. In presenting the Puritans as a threat to the crown, Bancroft solicited the king's help in suppressing this greatest threat to his position and power and in so doing made himself the highest authority in the Church of England, second only to the King himself. There can be little doubt but that the true motive behind Bancroft's intrigue was a desire to preserve the power of the unbiblical bishoprick.
Alister McGrath explains Bancroft's strategy.
"Bancroft's strategy for coping with James was simple. He would persuade James that the monarchy was dependent upon the episcopacy. Without bishops there was no future for the monarchy in England." (In The Beginning - page 152)
This political cunning played a significant role in the decision to translate a new Bible, an Authorized Version that would make all other versions unauthorized. From all appearances, the new translation was a calculated initial step toward ridding England of the despised Geneva Bible and its marginal notes. This new Bible would preserve and promote the divine right of kings and bishops to rule. Bishop Bancroft was placed in charge of the translation. This move was akin to a CEO entrusting the company finances to a known embezzler! There is little doubt that Bancroft stacked the translation panel with a goodly number of translators who shared his views.
Mr. McGrath explains,
"A further point that helped win Bancroft over to the new translation was that he was able to secure for himself a leading personal role in selecting the translators, and then in limiting their freedom. Bancroft had realized that it was better to create a new official translation that he could influence than to have to contend with the authorization of the Geneva Bible. It was decidedly the lesser of two evils. He was in a position to exercise considerable influence over the new bible, by laying rules of translation that would insure that it would be sympathetic to the position and sensitivities of the established church of England. And finally he would be in a position to review the final text of the translation, in case it needed any judicious changes before publication…" (In The Beginning - page 164)
Determined to ensure that the translation process was prudently guided, Bancroft limited the freedom of the translators by drafting fifteen rules of translation, which were approved by King James.
Two of these rules are of special importance.
1.) "The ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, was to be followed and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit."
3.) "The old Ecclesiastical words to be kept, vis. The word Church not to be translated Congregation &c."
The Bishops Bible was a revision of the Great Bible, which was expressly translated in hopes of replacing the Geneva Bible. Archbishop Matthew Parker commissioned this revision. A company of bishops did the translating - thus the name "The Bishops Bible." Archbishop Parker faced considerable opposition from the Puritans for his insistence upon the use of robes and his writings that held to the old line.
Ironically the Bishops Bible, which until that time had been ineffective in accomplishing its original purpose of replacing the Geneva Bible, would now, in the hands of another ambitious bishop, be used to that very end. In order to preserve their precious power base, King James and Bishop Bancroft took a giant step backwards in order to negate the Tyndale, Coverdale, and Geneva Bibles.
Rule number three was clearly designed to insure that Tyndale’s translation of the Greek word ekklesia as congregation instead of church would not be used in the King’s new Bible. Tyndale had translated the Greek word ekklesia as congregation, and revealed his contempt for the word Church by using the word churches in Acts 19:37 to refer to heathen temples. Could he have been trying to tell us something?
Clearly, an accurate translation was not the objective of Bancroft and his team. As if that were not enough, when the translation was complete, Bancroft took the final draft into his home and further altered it before giving it over to the king to be published.
Alister McGrath explains:
"Having completed their recommendations for revision (of the work of the translators of the king's new Bible), the text was passed on to Miles Smith and Thomas Bilson, who were charged with the adding of the finishing touches. It is not clear whether their role was to review the overall text of the translation, or simply to comment on the specific changes proposed by the editorial committee that had met at Stationers' Hall. Then, in an apparently unscripted development, Richard Bancroft reviewed what had been hitherto regarded as the final version of the text. It would be one of his final acts; Bancroft died on November 2, 1610, and never lived to see the translation over which he had held so much sway (by order of the king). Smith complained loudly to anyone who would listen that Bancroft had introduced fourteen changes in the final text without any consultation. Yet we remain unclear to what those alleged changes might have been." (In The Beginning - page 188)
This is only a sample of the kind of political jockeying that was going on behind the scenes and the ambition that sponsored the translating, editing and publication of the king's new Bible, which could not escape being tainted by such ambition.
King James prohibited his translators from removing the old ecclesiastical words that had taken generations to weave into the text. He had to make a special emphasis in order to keep them, since any honest translator would have translated them out. Bancroft and King James intended to keep them no matter what the translators discovered.
"I am convinced that the King James Translators, laboring under an 'institutional church' mentality, selected the strongest words possible which conveyed the idea that the people must submit to the authority of the clergy. In this way King James could control the people through the Church, of which he was Supreme Ruler." (Dusty Owens - quote taken from "It shall not be so among you" by Norman Park)to top