The making of the King James Bible

Four hundred years after it was first published, Pauline Croft considers the genesis of the "most important book in the English language"

An engraving of the frontispiece to the first edition of the King James Bible. Published in 1611, the Bible was soon to become required reading across the English-speaking world. (Culture Club/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the March 2011 edition of BBC History Magazine

From the opening salvo of Genesis (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) to the closing words of Revelation (“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen”), one book has had a greater impact on the English-speaking world than any other. That book contains such well-used phrases as “Let there be light,” “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and “A multitude of sins”. It’s routinely plagiarised by the media – “Is David Cameron hiding his light under a bushel?” demanded a British newspaper recently. It even turned up in a lyric by Irving Berlin, who declared: “Get thee behind me, Satan”.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now