Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

The Queen James Bible

Queen James BibleLast week, a new adaptation of the King James Bible titled the Queen James Bible attracted considerable  media attention. A statement on the Bible’s website notes “The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality.” Its editors have changed 8 verses: Genesis 19:5, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 1:7, amending each to remove anti-gay language.

One of the claims made on the Queen James Bible website is that James I, the royal sponsor of the King James Bible, was called “Queen James” during his lifetime due to his public affection for other men. While James did have many male favorites, including Robert Carr and George Villiers, his sexual preferences remain ambiguous. There is no historical evidence that James was referred to as “Queen James” by contemporaries, although one epigram noted “Rex fuit Elizabeth, nunc est regina Jacobus” (Elizabeth was King, now James is Queen). However, the epigram is apocryphal. Furthermore, whether the epigram is a comment on his sexuality, or the difference in governing style between James and his forceful cousin, remains unclear.  James and his wife, Anne of Denmark, had 7 children, although only 3 of them reached adulthood. In addition, Anne suffered several miscarriages. Within a few years of his marriage, James also became romantically linked to Lady Anne Murray, a Scottish noblewoman.

Whatever James’ sexual orientation may have been, the King James Bible is one of the definitive achievements of his reign, and its legacy continues to inspire Bible translation and interpretation today.

Amy Arden assisted in the development and production of the Manifold Greatness website and Family Guide. She is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

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