In January 1604, James of England held the Hampton Court Conference near London. At this conference, James responded to demands of the Puritans that included reforms to church government and changes in The Book of Common Prayer. The king rejected many of the Puritans’ demands but agreed to one that had a powerful effect on religious practice as well as English literature and speech for centuries to come: a new translation of the Bible. James approved a committee of 54 scholars for the translation task, but the finished work was that of only 47 of these scholars. They worked in six groups at three locations-Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge-with each group assigned a section of the text.
The labor took seven years to complete, and the new translation was published in 1611. The scholars worked with both existing English translations and texts available in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. The result was a translation that became the standard Bible in English for nearly three centuries. It quickly became the most popular book in English. Although later translators had access to more accurate texts as well as a better understanding of Greek and Hebrew, the King James Version of the Bible is a masterpiece of the English language of the time-the language of great English writers such as Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and John Donne. Its grandeur and simplicity had an influence on English prose and poetic style for many years to come.