“It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work.”1
The unique skills possessed by those who translated the King James Bible were at their apex during this time. The translators were all learned biblical scholars and linguists. It would be difficult today to gather 50 scholars with the knowledge of ancient languages possessed by these men.
Lancelot Andrewes was typical of those selected. He had command of 15 languages. Considered one of the most learned men in England, he was also a spiritual leader. He was royal chaplain to Queen Elizabeth and to King James. His sermons left listeners wanting more. In fact, King James slept with Andrewes’s sermons under his pillow.
A few translators were atypical because they were not associated with a university. Richard Brett was one such translator. Though he attended Oxford and mastered such languages as Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic, he spent most of his life as a rector, husband, and father in the small English village of Quainton—except for the few years he worked on the King James translation.
William Tyndale desired to put the Bible in the hands of the common people. Speaking to the clergy of his day, he said, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost!”2 Tyndale achieved his goal, but in 1536 he was strangled, then burned at the stake as a heretic.
Nevertheless, much of Tyndale’s translation survived in the King James Bible, and his hope that the common people could study the Bible in English came to pass, as seen in the life of Joseph Smith, a young farm boy.