The driving force behind the publication of the King James Version of the Bible was a man named James (known as James VI while ruling Scotland and James I while ruling neighboring England). James was the ruler of Scotland from July 24, 1567 to 1625, and the ruler of England from March 24, 1603 to 1625.
The only child of Mary Queen of Scots and her husband, Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley), James was born in Edinburgh and proclaimed king at the age of one year old when his cruel and ruthless mother was forced to abdicate.
During many turbulent years, James was kept in isolation and in safety at Stirling Castle where his godly tutor, George Buchanan, gave him an excellent education, especially in the languages of Greek and Latin. James would prove to be a capable scholar and a great lover of books.
Assuming his own active rule in 1578, James sought to strengthen the monarchy’s power in Scotland. In this endeavor he was successful despite opposition from Presbyterians. James then entered into an alliance with England in 1586 and married Anne of Denmark (her father was king) three years later. Together they would have eight children, three of whom survived into adulthood. It was a happy and successful marriage. James was loving and loyal to Anne in an era when kings notoriously kept mistresses at government expense.
When Elizabeth I died in 1603, James succeeded her on the English throne because of his mother’s descent from Henry VII. As James traveled to London to be crowned, he was handed the “Millenary Petition” (with a thousand signatures), an appeal by English Puritans for concessions to be made to their consciences within the Church of England. To discuss their grievances James called a conference at Hampton Court in January, 1604.
At the Hampton Court Conference, in three meetings over three days, significant religious decisions were made, but the concerns of the Puritans received only minimal attention. Turning his attention to Scotland, James pressed for the establishment of an episcopacy (a church ruled by bishops) in that land and saw it introduced in 1610. Said James, “If you aim at a Scottish presbytery, it agreeth as well with monarchy, as God and the devil…No bishop, no King!”
One positive result of Hampton Court Conference was the decision to prepare a new translation of the Bible which would eventually be published in 1611.
Though James intended to be lenient to Roman Catholics, he failed to make leniency an official government policy. As a result, a group of Catholics plotted to kill the king when he visited Parliament in the unsuccessful “gunpowder plot” of November 5, 1605. England celebrates this historical event in the form of Guy Fawkes Day.
In 1618 James offended both the Scottish Calvinists and the English Puritans over the issue of the Book of Sports, which approved lawful sport on the Sabbath. It was during his reign that English and Scottish Protestants developed the settlement of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
Among James’s writings, which included treatises on the divine right of kings and on witchcraft, were several works on biblical themes (for example, on the Lord’s Prayer and Revelation 20). James was succeeded by his son, Charles I (P. Toon, Who’s Who in Church History).
With this brief summary of James I in mind, one particular issue of abiding concern is whether or not the king was a homosexual. Much has been made about this matter by his religious enemies, such as the Catholic Church, by his political enemies in Scotland who sought to discredit the monarch, and by the homosexual community today who finds homosexual behavior in many great figures of history including Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, and the biblical heroes David and Jonathan. The rumor also serves the purpose today of discrediting the King James Version of the Bible by the critics of Christianity.
The first charge of homosexuality against James I came twenty five years after his death when he was in no position to defend himself. Those who knew the king defended him and the slanderous rumor died down, only to resurface again with renewed force in modern times.
Very succinctly, the evidence for homosexual behavior in James I does not exist. What does exist is behavior that, to our modern ears, sounds suspicious. For example, it is true that men slept in his bed at night but this was not unusual for that time period, especially after four assassination attempts and two kidnappings. Henry VIII slept with four body guards each night. It is true that James I kissed men on the check, as the French and Arabs do today, and that he called men by tender names in his letters. But again, this was not unusual behavior for that time period.
Evidence exonerating James I against being a homosexual can be summarized.
First, James I never admitted to being a homosexual.
Second, the king never flaunted inappropriate behavior, nor was he ever found in a compromising situation with Esme Stewart, Robert Carr, or George Villiers, his alleged lovers.
Third, there is no record of anyone accusing the king of being a homosexual during his lifetime. Only after he was gone was he assassinated afresh with a thousand lies.
Fourth, contemporaries complemented the king on the chasteness of his life. Compliments of the king’s morality even came from the Puritans who opposed him on many religious matters. The Puritans had openly preached against Mary, Queen of Scots for her adulteries so they would not have hesitated to speak against the king if he engaged in homosexual activity.
Fifth, the political enemies of the king, such as the English barrister Sir Edward Coke, wrote many unkind things against James I, but never accused him of buggery, as the British call sodomy.
Finally, in the books he authored, James I wrote about how to be a good king. Writing to his son Henry the Prince, in Basilikon Doron (Royal Gift), James I counseled him to never forgive four transgressors: the person engaged in witchcraft, the person who has committed a murder, someone who has committed incest, and the homosexual. Homosexuals do not condemn in others what they condone in themselves. King James I considered homosexuality to be a crime against nature, which is precisely what the Bible teaches it to be.
The reputation of King James I should be defended if for no other reason than his tarnished reputation has become a reason to reject the Word of God. Why should anyone want to read a book from such a disreputable character? So a rumor is perpetuated and a good man is slandered. Unfortunately, some Christians pass on this rumor. But it should stop and a good word should be said about a man who was loved by his subjects, ruled wisely, gave prosperity to his people, and gave the world one of the greatest pieces of literature in the English language, the King James Version of the Bible.