The Influence of An Anglican Archbishop on the KJV


by Rick Norris

The Church of England was established as a State Church under the King of England, Henry VIII, following the Pope's refusal to grant Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon to facilitate a marriage to Anne Boleyn (1533).

Thus, the King of England became the Head of the Church of England, a split off of the Church of Rome. Next in the chain of command was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Diocesan bishops were under the Archbishop. Under King James I, the English Bishops were "Erastian"--that is, they accepted the State as being over the Church and its affairs -- which meant the King was sovereign over both.

King James I had Archbishop Richard Bancroft oversee the translating of the KJV, which was published in 1611.

In their preface to the King James Version, the Translators referred to Bancroft as the "chief overseer and task-master under his Majesty, to whom were not only we, but also our whole Church, much bound." Thus, Archbishop Bancroft was known for his determination to make everyone conform to the views of the State Church, the Church of England. He harassed and persecuted the Puritans and other Non-conformists, including Baptists.

In an 1852 booklet, Baptists stated: "Bishop Bancroft, to whom the king confided very much in the actual execution of the work [KJV], was one of the most bigoted and bloody sectarians in the civilized world" (THE BIBLE QUESTION, p. 38).

Albert Peel wrote that Bancroft was described by Andrew Melville as "the capital enemy of all the Reformed Churches in Europe" (TRACTS, p. x).

Alexander McClure noted that Bancroft "was the ruling spirit in that infamous tribunal, the High Commission Court, a sort of British Inquisition" (KJV TRANSLATORS REVIVED, p. 217).

Daniel Neal reported: "Bancroft was a divine of a rough temper, a perfect creature of the prerogative, and a declared enemy of the religious and civil liberties of his country" (HISTORY OF THE PURITANS, p. 240).

It was Archbishop Bancroft that approved or made the rules for the translation of the KJV. By his establishment of the rules and overseeing of the actual translation, Bancroft had great influence on the KJV. Bancoft's chaplain, Leonard Hutten, was one of the translators. Several bishops who were in agreement with many of Bancroft's views and were directly under his chain of command were also translators.

In spite of his great influence and authority over the translation, the finished work of the KJV translators did not satisfy Bancroft. This proud Archbishop had to make some changes in the translation before it was even published. Paine noted that Miles Smith, final Editor of the KJV with Thomas Bilson, "protested that after he and Bilson had finished, Bishop Bancroft made fourteen more changes" (MEN BEHIND THE KJV, p. 128).

Henry Jessey, a Baptist pastor in the early 1600's, complained about the KJV for its bent favoring "episcopacy," and said that Bancroft, "who was supervisor of the present translation, altered it in fourteen places to make it speak the language of prelacy" (Williams, Common English Version, p. 53). "Prelacy" refers to a system of church government by Prelates such as Archbishops and Bishops set over more than one local church.

Were these fourteen changes directly inspired or approved by God? Are they the "verbally inspired Word of God, preserved through all ages since the Apostles?" One reason to question these fourteen changes is that the changes were certainly made to support episcoplian church government views of the Church of England. The changes were also in violation of some of the translation rules for the KJV. In addition, expressed opposition by some of the KJV translators to these changes indicate that these changes were viewed wrong by these translators.