The 400th anniversary of the most published book in history, the King James Bible, will be Monday. This version's importance and influence in Western civilization is without equal, and it still outsells, by far, all other English Bible translations.
Andrew Motion, a British poet laureate, expressed its impact when he said, "The King James Bible is a cornerstone of our culture and our language. Whatever our faith, whatever we believe, we have to recognize the rhetorical power of this book."
When King James I ascended to the throne in 1603, the unity of the British kingdom was threatened by schism in the state church. The divisions were magnified through no fewer than 50 English versions of the Bible.
One version in particular irritated the king to no end.
The Geneva Bible was translated and published by exiled English biblical scholars who had fled to the Protestant sanctuary of Geneva, Switzerland.
Queen Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) persecuted and killed many hundreds of Protestants during her reign from 1553-58 in an effort to force the English Church back into Rome's jurisdiction.
The Geneva Bible included notes in the margins that interpreted Scripture through the prism of the English Puritans, who strongly believed that the king should not be the head of the church.
King James correctly perceived that some of those notes were a threat to his rule and against his belief in the divine right of kings.
For example, a marginal note for Joshua 10:8 states, "... so tyrants take to themselves glorious names, when indeed they be very enemies against God and all justice."
The king stated, "I profess that I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst."
Therefore, he brought together the best and brightest biblical scholars in England to translate and publish a Bible authorized by him.
It was published without marginal notes and was issued with the hope of healing the religious strife threatening to tear Great Britain apart. All of the English churches were instructed to use it in divine service.
The scholars' efforts resulted in a masterpiece. The King James Bible became the one common standard that was used in worship services by denominations of every stripe and color throughout the English-speaking world.
The King James Bible has been and continues to be revered by English-speaking Christians everywhere as the Word of God.
Even outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins admires it.
"Not to know the King James Bible is to be in some small way barbarian," he said.
God has used the King James Bible to bring untold millions to faith in Christ. That Bible has also made an indelible impact on the religion, culture and governments of the English-speaking world and will continue to do so for years to come.
THE REV. DAN WHITE IS THE PASTOR OF NORTH COLUMBIA CHURCH IN APPLING.