The translators of the King James Bible were scholars of the highest caliber. Many of them were among the very top scholars of England and Europe. As a body they were masters not only of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, but also of the cognate or associate languages that are necessary for research into ancient documents relative to the Bible. These include Persian, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Chaldee. Many of the KJV translators were men of unusual piety, as well, and were bold in their denunciation of “popery.”
John Rainolds (or Reynolds) (1549-1607), the leader of the Puritan party at Hampton Court, was president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He had become a Fellow of Corpus Christi at age 17 and a Greek lecturer at age 23. McClure observes: “It is stated that ‘his memory was little less than miraculous.’ He could readily turn to any material passage, in every leaf, page, column and paragraph of the numerous and voluminous works he had read. He came to be styled ‘the very treasury of erudition;’ and was spoken of as ‘a living library, and a third university.'” “This Dr. Reynolds was party to a most curious episode. He had been an ardent Roman Catholic, and he had a brother who was an equally ardent Protestant. They argued with each other so earnestly that each convinced the other; the Roman Catholic became a Protestant, and the Protestant became a Roman Catholic” (Ian Paisley, My Plea for the Old Sword). John Rainolds’ Catholic brother, William, taught divinity and Hebrew at the English College at Rheims and probably assisted Gregory Martin in the translation of the Rheims-Douay Catholic Bible that was published in 1610 (Opfell, p. 56).
Rainolds not only became a Protestant, he became one of England’s greatest champions for Protestantism. “About the year 1578, John Hart, a popish zealot, challenged all the learned men in the nation to a public debate. At the solicitation of one of Queen Elizabeth’s privy counsellors, Mr. Reynolds encountered him. After several combats, the Romish champion owned himself driven from the field. An account of the conferences, subscribed by both parties, was published, and widely circulated. This added greatly to the reputation of Mr. Reynolds, who soon after took his degrees in divinity, and was appointed by the queen to be Royal Professor of Divinity in the University. At that time, the celebrated Cardinal Bellarmine, the Goliath of the Philistines at Rome, was professor of theology in the English Seminary at that city. As fast as he delivered his popish doctrine, it was taken down in writing, and regularly sent to Dr. Reynolds; who, from time to time, publicly confuted it at Oxford. Thus Bellarmine’s books were answered, even before they were printed” (McClure, Translators Revived).
In 1586 “Sir Francis Walsingham founded a temporary lectureship to confute ‘popish tenets’ and secured Rainolds’ appointment to those lectures” (Opfell, p. 58). At the height of the popularity of Shakespearean productions, Rainolds wrote a book against stage plays. His warning was plain and very much to the point: “They meditate how they may inflame a tender youth with love, entice him to dalliance, to whoredom, to incest, inure their minds and bodies to uncomely, dissolute, railing, boasting, knavish, foolish, brainsick, drunken conceits, words and gestures” (Rainolds, “The Overthrow of Stage Plays,” cited from Paine, The Men Behind the KJV, p. 24).
Rainolds warned that it was unlawful for men to wear women’s clothing on the stage and cited Deuteronomy 22:5.
Though he died before the translation was complete, Rainolds worked at it during his last sickness as long as his strength permitted. “During his decline, the company to which he belonged met regularly every week in his chamber, to compare and perfect what they had done in their private studies. His days were thought to be shortened by too intense application to study.” When urged to cease his labors he nobly replied that “for the sake of life, he would not lose the very end of living!” As he was dying, a rumor was spread by some Roman Catholics that he had renounced Protestantism. Replying the day before he expired, he wrote the following: “These are to testify to all the world, that I die in the possession of that faith which I have taught all my life, both in my preachings and in my writings, with an assured hope of my salvation, only by the merits of Christ my Saviour.”