Richard Bancroft and the King James Bible

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY), April 24, 2017 | Go to article overview

Richard Bancroft and the King James Bible


The Coffin of Archbishop Bancroft and the King James Bible By Paul V.M. Flesher Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England, is the center of the worldwide Anglican Church - the third-largest Christian organization in the world.

But since the Anglican Church also is the official Church of England, there is a business office - a residence called Lambeth Palace - across the Thames River from London's Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Next to Lambeth Palace is an old medieval church known as "St. Mary at Lambeth," where for centuries the archbishops of Canterbury and their families worshipped when they were in London.

It was announced this past Easter weekend that the missing remains of five archbishops had been discovered in a crypt beneath the church. One of these archbishops was Richard Bancroft, who was archbishop from 1604 to his death in 1610. He was the "chief overseer" of the King James Bible.

The St. Mary's crypt was discovered during renovations to the church that have been carried out since 2015. The crypt was not disturbed, but a remote camera on a pole was stuck into the tomb through a hole in the wall. Bancroft's coffin was not alone, but accompanied by 30 other lead coffins, several of which contained the remains of later archbishops.

Bancroft was perhaps the most important figure in the creation of the King James Bible. To begin with, James became king of England in 1603, after being born the king of Scotland. He was raised and educated within the Calvinist Scottish church.

At this time, the Church of England was undergoing difficult and protracted internal debates between the traditional churchmen and the Puritans.

The Puritans were heavily influenced by Calvinism, like England's new king. They hoped he would be an ally in their attempts to reform the Church of England and petitioned him, as the church's head, to institute key changes.

James convened the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604 to address their concerns. It was not a success for the Puritans. Bancroft, who was then bishop of London, was widely known as a fierce opponent of the Puritans. He helped persuade the king to reject the Puritan calls for church reform.

But James shared one desire with the Puritans, which he granted. That was their request for a new, "authorized" translation of the Bible. But, even as he acceded to their request, he added a twist: James put the anti-Puritan Bancroft in charge of the project. …

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