Four hundred years after its first appearance in print, the King James Bible is considered a monument of English-speaking culture. This version of the Bible has shaped the religious experience, language, thoughts, beliefs, and expressions of generations of readers throughout the world.

Yet the King James Bible was itself shaped by a century of scholarship and controversy. Long before 1604, when King James I of England ordered a new Bible translation, scholars had struggled to bring the text of the Bible into common English. The story of the King James Bible is that of the process of transforming multiple translations into what the King James Version translators called "one principal good one." It is also the story of religious and political strife and the eventual ascendancy of a single translation—the King James Bible—in the religious and cultural life of Britain, the United States, and beyond. Finally, it is the story of the King James Version's impact on the literary output of four centuries of English-speaking authors and orators, whose thoughts, speech, and writings were shaped by the distinct cadences and style of the King James Bible.