Was King James a Homosexual?
The accusation that King James I, who authorized the King James Bible, was a homosexual has often been made, but we need to be cautious about accepting it.
Actually, since he fathered eight children, he couldn’t have been much of a homosexual! He wrote love letters to his wife and obviously enjoyed her most intimate company. He referred to her as “our dearest bedfellow” (Gustavus Paine, The Men Behind the King James Version, p. 4). When John Rainolds questioned the phrase in the Anglican marriage service, “with my body I thee worship,” King James replied: “... if you had a good wife yourself, you would think that all the honor and worship you could do to her would be well bestowed” (Ibid.).
In a book that the king wrote for his son Henry (entitled Basilikon Doron, or A King’s Gift), he made the following statements about the importance of sexual purity:
“But the principal blessing [is] in your marrying of a godly and virtuous wife … being flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. … Marriage is the greatest earthly felicity” (p. 43).
“Keep your body clean and unpolluted while you give it to your wife whom to only it belongs for how can you justly crave to be joined with a Virgin if your body be polluted?” (p. 44).
“When you are married, keep inviolably your promise made to God in your marriage” (p. 45).
“Abstain from the filthy vice of adultery; remember only what solemn promise ye made to God at your marriage” (p. 54).
The king wrote plainly against the sin of homosexuality.
“Especially eschew to be effeminate” (Basilikon Doron, p. 46).
“There are some horrible crimes that ye are bound in conscience never to forgive: such as witchcraft, willful murder, incest, and sodomy” (p. 48).
The charge of homosexuality was made by the king’s enemies and only after his death. Stephen Coston’s book King James the VI of Scotland and the I of England Unjustly Accused? (St. Petersburg, FL: Konigswort, 1996) makes the case that the charge was slanderous and untrue. The charge was first made by Anthony Weldon, who had been expelled from his office by James for political reasons and had sworn that he would have his day of vengeance. Weldon not only hated James, he hated the entire Scottish race. Historian Maurice Lee, Jr., warned, “Historians can and should ignore the venomous caricature of the king’s person and behavior drawn by Anthony Weldon” (Great Britain’s Solomon: James VI & I in His Three Kingdoms, 1990, pp. 309-310). See also David Wilson, King James VI & I (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956) and Christopher Durston, James I (London: Routledge, 1993).
It is also important to understand that King James lived in an age in which intimate but non-sexual relationships between males was common. While at Cambridge, William Sancroft, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, had such a relationship with his roommate Arthur Bonnest. “They lived together, read together and slept together.” When Bonnest contracted TB and had to leave the school, the two continued to correspond. Bonnest wrote: “Thou art oftener in my thoughts than ever; thou art nearer me than when I embraced them. Thou sayest thou lovest me; good, well repeat it again and again.” Adam Nicholson, who records this from Sancroft’s personal correspondence, observes: “The age was at ease with unbridled but apparently quite unsexual love between men” (God’s Secretaries, p. 132).
While we do not believe that King James was a homosexual, we do not defend his character very far. He was a persecutor of Baptists and other separatists who refused to submit to the state church. In fact, the last two men burned alive in England for their faith were burned during the reign of James, and many others died in cruel prison cells for no crime other than following the Bible according to the dictates of their own conscience. During King James’ reign, many -- including Baptists, Puritans, Protestant separatists such as the Pilgrims, and Quakers -- fled to America and elsewhere to seek religious liberty.
The bottom line is that the character of King James I has no relevance to the King James Bible itself. Though he set the project in motion and there is evidence that he maintained an interest in keeping it moving along, he had no role in the translation. He did not even finance the project.
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