and royal willfulness leads to a Puritan exodus,
driving them across the sea into a wilderness
James would be branded, among other things, "the wisest fool in Christendom"
Queen Elizabeth I, had ruled England for 44 years until she passed away in 1603. Her reign was distinguished by its long period of cultural, political, and economic stability. She had successfully re-established the Protestant reforms initiated by her Father, Henry VIII, and her half brother Edward VI. Her half sister, Mary I (Bloody Mary) had ruthlessly undone those reforms and sought to reestablish Catholicism in the English realm, but after Mary's brief reign, Elizabeth took the throne, and reinstated the reforms. She sought to establish a new unity between the Puritan, Protestant (Anglican), and Catholic factions of English Christianity.
Her actions did not sit well with the Vicar of Christ, and in 1570 Pope Pius V was spoiling for revenge, declaring Elizabeth illegitimate (her place on the throne) and excommunicated her, officially terminating the communion between Rome and the Anglican church. Though Anglicanism was considered perhaps the weakest of the weak sisters of the Reformation movement. It nonetheless constitutes the way of the English, standing resolutely apart from Rome (see - Anglican roots).
Still, Elizabeth never married and had no children. When she died, it brought an end to the House of Tudor, and forced a transfer of the English crown. At this time, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were individual sovereign states with their own parliaments, judiciaries, and laws.
In August 1560, while Elizabeth was still on the throne, the Parliament of Scotland had adopted the Scots Confession as the religious creed of the Scottish Kingdom separate from the Church of England. John Knox was a Scotsman and a Catholic priest up until he began to study with John Calvin in Geneva. It was Knox who brought reformed teachings back to Scotland, and through his efforts, the Presbyterian church of Scotland was founded, having its roots in Calvinism.
Mary Queen of Scots was seen as a rival by Elizabeth, who was jealous that Mary had given birth to an heir, while she remained unmarried, and childless. Elizabeth had Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned and eventually beheaded in 1586. However, before her misfortunes, the Queen of Scots had indeed given birth to a son, James Stuart, or James VI, King of Scotland, who assumed the throne of Scotland just after his first birthday. As it happened, the child king (born 1566) was also the great, great grandson of "Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland," and as such, in line to accede to the rule of all three thrones. By the time Elizabeth died in 1603, he was grown, and ready.
After the death of Elizabeth, James rose to the unification of all three thrones in the 'Union of the Crowns'. Once seated on the English throne, he became known as James I, and the House of Stuart took it's place, following in succession the House of Tudor. He based himself in England, the largest of the realms, where he ordained himself the "King of Great Britain and Ireland," and advocated for a single parliament, which would politically unite England and Scotland.
But in the dark alleyways of London, treachery is always afoot -- just ask Holms. In 1605, on the eve of the state opening of the second session of James' first English Parliament, a dissident Catholic named Fawkes, was discovered in the cellars of the parliament buildings. He was hiding in a pile of wood next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was intending to blow up Parliament House the next day as King James, along with his family would be in attendance. With Fawkes' plans foiled, the reign of James the First would live on, and English Protestantism would continue to more or less prosper under his authority.
EARLY ENGLISH LANGUAGE BIBLES
The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible would not be the first English language translation of the Holy Scriptures. Actually, the first was produced by an English clergyman of the Catholic church named John Wycliffe, a notorious ecclesiastical pyromaniac known to assert such heresies as that the Bible alone contained everything necessary for salvation, but that it needed to be in a form, a vernacular, that people could read. He taught that salvation did not depend on the church's additional demands of prayers to saints, fasting, pilgrimages, indulgences, individual confession, or the Mass.
Wycliffe began his translation work in 1381, using the Latin Vulgate as his sole source. He started with the New Testament Christian scriptures, while his student, Nicholas Hereford, started on the Old Testament. After finishing the New Testament, Wycliffe then finished the Old Testament which Hereford had started. There were no printing presses at this time, and every page had to be laboriously hand written, and copied. Later, the entire work would be revised by John Purvey.
Being copied from the Vulgate, the Wycliff Bible conformed to Catholic orthodoxy by including in the testaments, works which would later be rejected from the Biblical canon and downgraded to the status of apocrypha by most Protestants (that is to say, not considered inspired). Wycliffe's work was never authorized, and was vehemently condemned by the church. He was convicted of heresy, posthumously, and 43 years after his death, the church ordered that his remains be dug up and burned, along with his writings. Remarkably, some 250 manuscripts of the Wycliffe Bible remain in existence. (see - church suppression of the Bible )
the Catholic church, given that the trained clergy were the only ones allowed to read the scriptures, and even they often needed the expressed permission of a bishop. With permission, they were allowed to read the Latin Vulgate version, and so it stood to reason that these would be the ones most likely to notice flaws and contradictions in church doctrine. Yet, in spite of great personal risk, Tyndale single-mindedly pursued his ambition to translate the Bible into common English vernacular. Where Wycliffe had only used the Latin Vulgate as the source, Tyndale, inspired by the Dutch scholar, Erasmus (see - Desiderius Erasmus), was determined to provide the English people with a superior translation based on the original Greek and Hebrew texts (see - William Tyndale).
However, it didn't take long before he realized that he could not continue in this undertaking while there existed the mortal danger of being found out. He packed up and left England, taking advantage of the relative safety afforded by the Lutheran reformers found in Hamburg, and later in Wittenberg, Germany. He completed the English translation of the New Testament while in Wittenberg, and it was published in 1526 using newfangled printing presses at a shop in Worms, Germany. These editions were then smuggled into England, hidden in bales of cotton, sacks of flour, and barrels containing various imported commodities.
Ironically, King Henry VIII would have a change of heart almost immediately after the execution of William Tyndale, and charged his new Anglican church with producing a Bible in the English language. This became known as the "Great Bible," and was the first officially authorized English language Bible. Obviously the Great Bible wasn't authorized by the Roman Catholic church, but by this time Henry didn't care, he was going his own way as the head of the Anglican Church. While inventing the new Church of England, in opposition to Rome, Henry had promised the people an English Bible, from which the clergy would be required to read passages aloud to their congregations during services, and a copy of which would be made available to common people for reading. These mandates all flew in the face of Roman Catholic directives.
The Great Bible was introduced in 1539, and was based largely on the work of William Tyndale. However, Tyndale's translations were first heavily edited, by order of Henry VIII, by learned church scholars, including Catholics, who objected to some passages for a lack of conformity with established church doctrine and traditions. Corrections were made, because as everyone knows, you don't change doctrine, you change the scriptures upon which the doctrines are based. Coverdale had taken up the task of completing the Old Testament translation, but he had used only the Latin Vulgate, rather than original Hebrew texts as Tyndale had done, and so his share of the work has been considered somewhat inferior. Nevertheless, Henry VIII managed to gift the English people with a fine act of royal benevolence, which might be considered Tyndale's ultimate vindication.
Mary I was the elder daughter of Henry VIII, and an unwavering Catholic. She ascended to the throne in 1553, and was brutally determined to restore England to full communion with Rome. Many English religious reformers were forced to flee the country, in fear of 'Bloody Mary's' wrath. Some established an English-speaking colony at Geneva under the protection of John Calvin.
These English expatriates undertook a translation work that became known as the Geneva Bible. This translation, dated to 1560, and was a revision of Tyndale's Bible, and the Great Bible, both of which were drawn from the original languages. However, Mary didn't have a long reign, and when Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558 she set out to undo her half-sister's Catholic revival efforts.
Elizabeth was the determined Protestant restorationist, though by this time the flaws of both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible were becoming painfully apparent to the clergy. Namely, that the Geneva Bible did not "conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy." What that meant was that words were sufficiently twisted in the Latin Vulgate to allow for the imposition of an ordained clergy. That's how an ordained clergy was allowed to develop in the first place. However, when translations were drawn from original texts, those ecclesiological underpinnings disappeared. Those were among the passages that the clergymen insisted, needed to be "fixed." Again, as we all know, we change scripture to conform with church teachings, rather than changing the teachings to conform with scripture.
In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishops' Bible, a revision of the Great Bible, in competition with the Geneva version. While officially approved by the Anglican church under Elizabeth's reign, this new version failed to displace the Geneva translation as the most popular English Bible of the day, in part because this version was only printed in lectern editions of large size and large cost. Accordingly, the lay people of the Elizabethan era overwhelmingly turned to the Geneva version, where small editions were available at a relatively low cost.
At the same time, exiled Catholics in France who had fled England for fear of vindictive Elizabethan Protestant reforms, had produced a rival translation, the Douay–Rheims New Testament of 1582. This version was being smuggled into England in substantial numbers in order to compete with the Protestant Bibles. This translation claimed to represent the Roman Catholic approved English language text of the Latin Vulgate, though in fact, much of it was also drawn from Tyndale's translational work.
In 1601 King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where proposals were put forward for a new translation of the Bible into English. Two years later, he would ascend to the throne of England as James I.
KING JAMES I AUTHORIZES A NEW VERSION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE BIBLE
Attempting to ease the growing friction between King James and the Puritans, a leading Puritan spokesman, Dr. John Reynolds, made the proposal in 1604 that a new English Bible be issued in honor of the new King. James had never liked the Geneva Bible, because it contained marginal notes that encouraged disobedience to divinely ordained royal supremacy, and it denigrated bishops and their hierarchy, so he agreed to the proposal. He also saw such a project as an opportunity to bring some degree of unity between the Presbyterian Church of Scotland which was founded in Calvinism, the Anglican Church of England, and the troublesome Puritans.
In June of 1604 the work began by assembling 54 scholars, though only
47 would remain all the way to the end of the seven year project. They were divided into six committees, each taking a section of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. They were permitted to consult other earlier translations, but the focus was on using the original biblical languages as translational sources. To that end, they were also permitted under the strict guidelines to reference the Masoretic texts (Hebrew Old Testament) and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures translated by Jewish scribes).
The King gave the translators certain editorial instructions as was his royal prerogative. For instance, he instructed that the new version must conform to the established ecclesiology of the Church of England. Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in such a way as to conform with current Anglican understanding. For example, long accepted ecclesiastical words such as the word "church" were to be retained and not translated (accurately) as "congregation," or "community." The new translation must also reflect the ecclesiastical structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy, as well as maintaining the traditions of 'divine right rulers'. (see - Nones / ecclesia)
The committees worked on their assigned sections separately and the drafts produced by each committee were then compared and revised for harmony with each other. The translators sought accuracy, beauty, power, and faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew texts. What they produced had such beauty in cadence, and rhythm (as it was meant for reading aloud), as well as the power of its majestic dignity of expression, that it quickly replaced all other English translations as the most popular. It was originally printed in 1611, and has been celebrated as the most influential book in the world, in terms of distribution, far exceeding Mao's Little Red Book. In terms of literature, it is recognized as the most important book of the English language, a point often argued fruitlessly by Shakespearean devotees.
The English Puritan movement had begun during the reign of Elizabeth, but had grown in strength and influence by the time of the reign of King James. The nagging Puritans sought to further the ongoing reformation of the Anglican church which hadn't gone far enough in eliminating the influence of Roman Catholicism. They believed they could promote the national interest of England under a Protestant confession that would be in strict conformity with the Bible and reformed theology.
As James was installed on the English throne in 1603, he was presented with a petition signed by a thousand Puritan ministers, meant to test his open-mindedness to greater reform within the Anglican church. They were aware of his criticisms concerning the demands of the Puritans, but thought his objections were aimed perhaps at the more extreme elements of the Puritan movement, and believed that the king might be more agreeable to more moderate requests for reform.
Known as the Millenary Petition, it merely called for a number of simple reforms to remove ceremonies perceived as Roman Catholic popish, including;
1. The use of the sign of the cross in baptism (which Puritans saw as superstitious);
2. The rite of confirmation (which Puritans criticized because it was not found in the Bible);
3. The performance of baptism by midwives (which Puritans argued was based on a superstitious belief that infants who died without being baptized could not go to heaven);
4. The exchanging of rings during the marriage ceremony (again seen as unscriptural and superstitious);
5. The ceremonious bowing at the Name of Jesus during worship (again seen as superstitious);
6. The requirement that clergy wear surplice (an article of vestment) as it wasn't mentioned in the Bible;
7. The custom of clergy living in the church building.
However the petition went a little too far by also including a call for an end to church episcopacy (hierarchy of clergy), and replacing it with a Presbyterian form of church governance. The Presbyterian form of governance amounted to a flattening of the pyramid, so to speak, whereby the church is governed by a body, or assembly of elders, known as presbyters. James saw this proposal to replace the bishops with presbyteries as an attempt to diminish his supreme authority in the church. A few simple reforms were agreed to, but James who had studied theology, and enjoyed debating theological particulars, denied most of the reforms and remained largely irritated by the constant, critical complaints of the Puritans.
FRACTURES OPEN UP AMONG THE PURITANS
The Puritans were united in their belief that the Church of England had not moved far enough away from its Catholic roots, and its reforms needed to go further. However, the Puritans were not a monolithic united front, and were divided amongst themselves on numerous levels. In particular, some insisted on remaining in the Anglican church to pursue reform from within. The more radical extremists of the Puritans felt the church was too corrupt, beyond repair, insisting instead that the only alternative was to separate from it. However, as the church and the monarchy were essentially one and the same, to separate from the church would be considered an act of treason, and they would be making themselves into outlaws. The stubborn King James however, would not be moved by their theological appeals.
In 1607 and 1608, a group of separatists from Yorkshire left the persecution they were enduring in England and moved to the Netherlands, a region long known for religious toleration. They joined up with another group of separatists, and in 1609 they got permission to settle in the city of Leyden. Here they found the freedom of religion they were looking for, but over time, life in Holland became almost as insufferable as what they had left behind in England. They found their children were adapting to Dutch culture as children are prone to do, much to the alarm of the adults. Also, as immigrants, the pilgrims were limited to only harsh and difficult industrial jobs which kept them away from advancing the Gospel, or participating in the great debates of theology which they found so inspiring in this age of reformation.
In 1619, after living in Holland for 12 years, these separatists sought out investors in England who would be willing to finance their journey to the New World. The group finally shook hands with the Plymouth Company who agreed to extend necessary financing for the trip to North America in order to establish a permanent colony. In return, the colony would compensate the company by providing commodities, such as fur, timber, and fish, to bring back to England.
In September of 1620, the determined little group of pilgrims set out for North America on a rented cargo ship called the Mayflower and by November landed off the coast of what is now known as Massachusetts. Here they established Plymouth Colony, the first attempt at a permanent colony in the region that came to be known as 'New England'. This event marked the beginning of what would come to be known as the Great Puritan Migration.
The congregation began to consider the almost unthinkable option of emigrating to the Americas. However, the numerous questions they were forced to anguish over - seemed almost insurmountable. The danger of an ocean crossing was an extremely intimidating obstacle, and many doubted they would even have the strength to survive it. On arrival, they would be without food or shelter. They would be susceptible to disease and attacks by unfriendly native Americans. Many pointed out the poor state of their finances and questioned how they could possibly raise the money to finance such an adventure.
There were established colonies in America, such as the Jamestown colony in Virginia, but to go there would also require the permission of the king, and it was unlikely to be granted. Everyone was familiar with the story of Roanoke and other disasters for colonists intruding into Indian lands. Some pointed out the tremendous difficulties they faced simply in coming to Holland, a 'civilized' country, how much harder would it be to make it in the wilderness of America? Even so, in spite of all the fears and concerns, it was decided that the group would put their trust in God. They would go.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were the most extreme believers of the Puritan sect. They wanted complete separation from the corrupt Anglican church, which meant leaving England as outlaws. Most of them came to New England from prosperous middle-class families, unlike the poor, single, male immigrants who dominated settlements to other regions of North America, such as Virginia, most of whom were poorly educated. These pilgrims had skills, and they could read. They came to America to live righteous, spiritual lives, not seeking to get rich, and they didn’t let just anyone join their movement. The Puritans had actually left stable economic lives behind, even in the stifling, repressive culture of 17th century Europe for an unknown land where they hoped to build a "city upon a hill."
In 1625, King Charles I ascended to the throne of England, and the religious landscape of the realm became even worse than under his father James. Charles had a Catholic wife, and he favored the pageantry and other elements of Catholicism that the Puritans found so offensive. King Charles I gave the 'Great Migration' the kick in the pants it needed when he dissolved Parliament in 1629 and began the Eleven Years’ Tyranny. In 1630 he named William Laud, a pro-Catholic, anti-Puritan, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was British hostility and persecution under the years of the king's "personal rule" that gave the Puritan migration the motivation it needed to leave everything behind, and take their chances in the wilderness across the sea.
King Charles I, son and hier to James I
By this time, though, the Puritans knew the Plymouth Colony experiment had worked, and the decision to make the crossing, and join the community was less daunting. The Great Migration began to push-off in earnest by 1630 when John Winthrop led a fleet of 11 ships to Massachusetts, bringing 800 Puritans with him. Then 20,000 more would follow over the next 10 years.
The story of James and the Puritans might even be called the "Tale of Two Majesties." The monarchs that ruled Great Britain were kings of a sort that governed their subjects with an insufferable contemptuous arrogance that drove men of good conscience to seek out dreadfully high-risk alternatives to the oppressive dictates of so-called "divine right rulers." This was especially true in such principled matters as religious liberty, where men became desperately determined to throw off the shackles of state mandated religious practice, in search of spiritual freedom.
Such men sought how best to serve, and understand a better King, an incorruptible, Heavenly King, and try to live their lives according to their best understanding of His righteous words. To defy a worldly King in favor of the other was always a terrible and courageous election.
It might also be said that all the successes, heart-breaks, and tears, of this Great Migration of Pilgrims are metaphorically written in the margins of the King James Authorized Version of the Holy Bible.
King James I authorizes a new English language Bible
see - William Tyndale
Fast forward about a hundred and fifty years to 1525, and we find William Tyndale, a contemporary of Martin Luther. The reformation movement was well underway, inspiring a spirit of ecclesiastical rebellion that was sweeping across continental Europe. Christian clergymen and scholars were throwing off the yoke of Roman Catholicism. Tyndale took to himself a personal mission to translate the scriptures into English. Like Wycliffe, he was also an English clergyman of
William Tyndale 1494 - 1536
He continued with revisions, while also beginning a translation of the Old Testament based on the Hebrew Scriptures, a work he was unable to finish. It was completed later by Myles Coverdale. Tyndale was arrested in the Netherlands in 1535, and charged with heresy and treason against the English crown. He was formally removed from the priesthood and burned at the stake in 1536.
God bless... Amen. Hallelujah.
the King Kong James version