Gunpowder and Your KJV Bible
While the U.S. has its Fourth of July, complete with fireworks and revelry, England also has November 5 and it appears their celebration outdoes ours. All over the country “bonfire societies” field multiple parades complete with massive firework displays. One example in the news recently was a small town of 16,000 called Lewes, which hosts some 60,000 visitors who joined the festivities.
So, what is so special about November 5? It’s Guy Fawkes Day!
Those who know the history of the holiday, know the significance of the “gunpowder plot” that got Fawkes and some of his buddies executed. But, if Fawkes had succeeded in igniting the fuse to 36 barrels of gunpowder, you and I might have a very different Bible to read today.
The year was 1605, just 6 years before the publication of the King James Bible that became the standard English scriptures for some 400 years. King James had been petitioned by the Puritans to authorize the translation of a “new and completely accurate” English Bible. He immediately commissioned over 50 scholars from Oxford and Cambridge to begin the work. The men chosen were the most learned of their day not only in linguistics but biblical theology. Many of them were fluent in up to 14 languages.
All this was happening in the middle of a pitched battle between the leaders of the Reformation and the Vatican. And the Bible was the prize in that war. For over 100 years the Reformers had fought to print the Bible in the language of the people. The Vatican had commissioned the Jesuits and the Dominicans with the task of destroying those Bibles. Politics had become one of the battlefields with the rulers of England alternating between Protestant and Catholic.
At this point, King James was Protestant and almost literally had a bull’s eye on his back. Jesuit agents cooked the “gunpowder plot” to tunnel under the Parliament building and set off a massive explosive while it was in session. Their hope was to kill King James and as many of the Members of Parliament as possible.
Guy Fawkes was enlisted by the pope to carry out the plan. He and about half-a-dozen other men started the tunnel and eventually positioned 36 barrels of gunpowder in place. In their attempt to carry out their plan, they met one problem after another so that, looking back, the Lord was surely toying with their little plan. During the digging, they hit an unexpected wall underground. But a cellar was discovered that gave them the required access. Next, Parliament delayed meeting for several months and the powder got wet and had to be replaced. Finally one of the men wrote a letter warning a Catholic friend to stay away from the building on a certain date. The letter ended up in the hands of the king who discovered the scheme just hours before the targeted meeting.
November 5 was legislated a national day of thanksgiving for deliverance from “papists.” Today, it is celebrated as a fun festival with few recognizing the continued dangers of Roman Catholicism. But had the pope not lost that battle, you and I might be reading a Roman Catholic Bible, if we were even allowed to possess one.
But the story of the war waged by the Vatican to stop God’s word for the common people is not over. Today gunpowder is not the weapon of choice, it is ecumenism and polluted bibles. David W. Daniels explains many fascinating details of this 500-year war and the present state of hostilities, in his book, Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?, available from Chick Publications.