What is the history of the King James Bible?
The original Old Testament writings were in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Jerome (5th century) translated the Bible into Latin, called the Vulgate, which has become the official Roman Catholic Bible. The Council of Trent in 1546 met to consider doctrines and published a list of books, which were to be considered canonical, that is, to be included in the Bible.
This list included the 39 books of the Old Testament, plus 7 Apochraphal books, plus the New Testament 27. The Jews, however, do not accept the 7 Apochrapha as canonical. The Jewish Bible is limited to the Old Testament.
The Greek translation of these books is known as the Septuagint which is the oldest known translation of any large literary work and most widely used translation of any ancient writing. It is thought to have originated toward the end of the 3rd century BC or the beginning of the 2nd century BC. The earliest reference to this work dates around 132 BC. This translation is much older than the Masoretic translations of the first five centuries AD.
Since the Bible was hand written in the centuries prior to the invention of the printing press, few copies were available. The Latin translation (Vulgate) was the most common. Reformers such as Luther and Tyndale translated portions of the Latin Bible into the common language of the people; Luther into German and Tyndale into English. Wycliffe translated the Bible into the English language in about 1400 AD. While Luther was opening a closed Bible to the people of Germany, Tyndale was impelled by the Spirit of God to do the same for England. Wycliffe's Bible had been translated from the Latin text, which contained many errors. It had never been printed, and the cost of manuscript copies was so great that few but wealthy men or nobles could procure it. Furthermore, being strictly proscribed by the church, it had had a comparatively narrow circulation.
In 1516, a year before the appearance of Luther's theses, Erasmus published his Greek and Latin version of the New Testament. Now for the first time the word of God was printed in the original tongue. In this work many errors of former versions were corrected, and the sense was more clearly rendered. It led many among the educated classes to a better knowledge of the truth, and gave a new impetus to the work of reform. But the common people were still, to a great extent, kept from God's word. Tyndale was to complete the work of Wycliffe in giving the Bible to his countrymen.