The King James Version (KJV), also known as the King James Bible (KJB) or simply the Authorized Version (AV), is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, was commissioned in 1603 and completed as well as published in 1611 under the sponsorship of James VI and I. The books of the King James Version include the 39 books of the Old Testament, an intertestamental section containing 14 books of the Apocrypha, and the 27 books of the New Testament. Noted for its “majesty of style”, the King James Version has been described as one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in the shaping of the English-speaking world.
It was first printed by John Norton & Robert Barker, both the King’s Printer, and was the third translation into English approved by the English Church authorities: The first had been the Great Bible, commissioned in the reign of King Henry VIII (1535), and the second had been the Bishops’ Bible, commissioned in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1568). In Geneva, Switzerland the first generation of Protestant Reformers had produced the Geneva Bible of 1560 from the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures, which was influential in the writing of the Authorized King James Version.
In January 1604, King James convened the Hampton Court Conference, where a new English version was conceived in response to the problems of the earlier translations perceived by the Puritans, a faction of the Church of England.
James gave the translators instructions intended to ensure that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of, and reflect the episcopal structure of, the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy. The translation was done by 6 panels of translators (47 men in all, most of whom were leading biblical scholars in England) who had the work divided up between them: the Old Testament was entrusted to three panels, the New Testament to two, and the Apocrypha to one. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin. In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorized Version replaced the text of the Great Bible for Epistle and Gospel readings (but not for the Psalter, which substantially retained Coverdale’s Great Bible version), and as such was authorized by Act of Parliament.
By the first half of the 18th century, the Authorized Version had become effectively unchallenged as the English translation used in Anglican and English Protestant churches, except for the Psalms and some short passages in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Over the course of the 18th century, the Authorized Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate as the standard version of scripture for English-speaking scholars. With the development of stereotype printing at the beginning of the 19th century, this version of the Bible became the most widely printed book in history, almost all such printings presenting the standard text of 1769 extensively re-edited by Benjamin Blayney at Oxford, and nearly always omitting the books of the Apocrypha. Today the unqualified title “King James Version” usually indicates this Oxford standard text.