This year – in case you’ve not already noticed – is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. And the KJV’s 400th anniversary follows closely on the heels of the 400th anniversary of Baptists, celebrated a mere two years ago.
So, was there a connection between Baptists and King James I those four centuries ago?
Indeed. And the connection may surprise most Baptists today.
In brief, the story goes like this: Baptists were birthed advocating separation of church and state, a heretical concept that enraged King James. Before Baptists appeared, the King thought he had put together an excellent plan for preventing heresy and ensuring church/state union. The plan was called the Authorized Bible (later known as the King James Bible). By controlling the Bible that his subjects used, the King could control his subjects.
The upstart Baptists, however, proved to be a burr on the seat of the King’s throne. One year after the Authorized (King James) Bible debuted, Baptist co-founder Thomas Helwys, a vocal advocate of the separation of church and state, openly scolded James. Here’s what Helwys (partially) said (the illustration herein):
“The King is a mortal man, and not God, therefore he hath no power over the mortal soul of his subjects to make laws and ordinances for then and to set spiritual Lords over them.”
For his treason, Helwys was cast into Newgate Prison (the Alcatraz of that day), where King James held him until Helwys died about four years later, becoming a Baptist martyr for his unwavering commitment to the separation of church and state.
James’ hatred for Baptists continued, and he sought to “harrow out of England” the troublesome heretics. Although never fully realized, his crusade against Baptists did result in severe persecution of the sect throughout England.
Ironically, the Bible that was intended by a hater of Baptists to be a weapon against heretics such as Baptists – is today considered, by some Baptists, as the only true translation of scripture.