Cross Points 1.23.22

Harry Them Out of the Land

It’s January 1604.  King James and his closest advisors (called the Privy Council), along with nine bishops and deans, and four Puritans, are together, keeping warm at The Palace Hampton.  The Puritans have requested this meeting.  They had presented the king with a petition to purify the church as he was on his way from Scotland to London, claiming his throne.  1,000 Puritans signed the petition, so it must be given some attention.  Thought true, the king has made it clear he doesn’t consider their claims valid.

Dr. John Reynolds is the speaker for the Puritan group, he is head of Corpus Christi College.  The new king was raised in Scotland within the Presbyterian church.  This church is ruled by many “elders” or “presbyters,” unlike the Church of England that is ruled by a few Bishops, with the king at the top.  James has had run-ins with the leaders of the Presbyterian church, so he adapts well to being the overseer with fewer church leaders to contend with.  He likes the “English way.”    

“Why shouldn’t the bishops govern jointly with a presbytery of their brethren, the pastors and ministers of the Church?” Reynolds asks.  James does not like hearing that the “presbyters” should be involved, and he responds, “If you aim at a Scots Presbytery, it agrees as well with monarchy as God and the devil!  Then Jack, and Tom, and Will, and Dick shall meet and censure me and my council.”  He does not intend to have his authority questioned. With a smaller group of religious advisors this is more assured.
The king is not finished.  He goes on, “If this is all your party has to say, I will make them conform themselves, or else I will harry them out of the land, or else do worse!”  King James is serious.  He continues to make life hard for the Puritans, so much so that they will flee overseas, first to Holland, then eventually to the New World, creating the colony of Massachusetts.
Were the Puritans a failure in their effort with the king?  It might seem so, but something interesting occurs after the Hampton Conference.  One of the other remarks made by John Reynolds is that a new version of the Bible is needed.  This registers with the king, who does have a keen interest in religion and related scholarly questions.  The Geneva Bible is the most used at the time, and he does not like the margin notes that it contains, because they sometimes refer to “tyrant” (which he takes as a personal affront) and it makes positive remarks about the civil disobedience of midwives with Pharoah in the Exodus story, which he doesn’t like either.  So, James puts together a committee.  He commissions them, requiring that this translation “be set out and printed without any marginal notes.”  They comply.
In fact, this committee is thorough, and their work is well done.  It results in the Authorized Version, which we most often call The King James Version, published in 1611.  It will become the standard of English versions until the mid-to-late 1900’s when several others will start coming out, such as the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, and more recently the English Standard Version, along with others.  These new Bible versions will make tweaks to wording based on new research (which rarely if ever impact doctrinal beliefs) and will offer a more modern version of English compared to the “king’s English” of 1611.  Not surprising, perhaps, when the Puritans flee to America in 1620, they take the Geneva Bible with them, not the KJV.
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