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Francis Bacon and the King James Bible

by Mather Walker


In the English-speaking world there are two supreme masterpieces of literature.  Both, oddly enough, were first published within twelve years of each other in the then relatively small (by today’s standards) city of London, England.  The King James Authorized Version of the Bible (KJAV) was published in 1611, and the first folio edition of the Collected Works of William Shakespeare (FF) was published in 1623.  Odder still the facts known about the authors of both of these works present ‘irreconcilable differences’ with the works they supposedly authored.

Six groups, comprised of some 54 translators, produced the KJAV.  Most of these people had no literary aspirations, and have left no written works.  Those who have exhibit no outstanding literary quality in their works.  In addition, the inability of a committee to produce anything of outstanding quality is proverbial.  As for the Shakespeare works, the reputed author, William Shakspere of Stratford on Avon, is the most unlikely candidate imaginable.  He had illiterate parents, illiterate children, and judging by the crabbed and incomplete six signatures he left behind was more than likely illiterate himself.

The solution to the ‘irreconcilable difference’ problem of the authorship of the ‘Shakespeare’ works is that Francis Bacon was the actual author.  As far back as 1598, the year the ‘Shakespeare’ name first appeared on one of the plays, Joseph Hall and John Marston had works in print showing they recognized Francis Bacon as the actual author of these works. Subsequently various people, adding to what was begun by Hall and Marston, have amassed an imposing body of evidence for Bacon’s authorship.  The  articles on the present site ( alone are more than sufficient to demonstrate that Bacon was the actual author of the ‘Shakespeare’ works.

The problem with the authorship of the KJAV may have the same solution. William T. Smedley in his 1905 book, The Mystery of Francis Bacon, first put forth the theory that Bacon rewrote the translator’s manuscripts to produce the literary masterpiece that is the KJAV.  At a time when books from the Elizabethan and Stuart era were much more affordable than they are now Smedley amassed a very fine library, and having become intimately acquainted with the material in his library, noticed some odd features in these publications. He began to suspect that one man was behind the publication of many of these works, and he identified this man as Francis Bacon.  Smedley said Bacon marked the books he published with special printer’s devices. For example, the device below on the “To the Christian Reader” at the beginning of the KJAV can also be found at the beginning of Bacon’s 1620 Great Instauration, and at the beginning of the Shakespeare First Folio:


Here is the beginning of Bacon’s 1620 “Great Instauration”:

The 1611 KJAV was printed in a large Folio edition, and the printer was Robert Barker, the King’s printer.  Beginning in 1612 the KJAV was printed in smaller quarto editions, and still smaller Octavo editions.  Smedley showed the following title page from the 1612 Octavo edition of the KJAV.  This edition was printed for John Speed, who has been granted a patent by King James to print the genealogies in the English bibles, and Smedley observed that the device at the top of the page was printed from the identical block, which was used on the title page of the first edition of the 1593 ‘Shakespeare’ “Venus and Adonis”, and that the device at the bottom was a variant of the light “A”, dark “A” device that appeared in the First Folio of the Shakespeare works.   

The idea that Bacon rewrote the translator’s manuscripts, far-fetched as it might seem on the surface, has additional support. Smedley said that, “Although not one of the translators has left any literary work which would justify the belief that he was capable of writing the more beautiful portions of the Bible, fortunately Bacon has left an example which would rather add luster to than decrease the high standard of the Bible if it were incorporated in it.  As to the truth of this statement the reader must judge from the following prayer, which was written after his fall, and which was described by Addison as resembling the devotions of an angel rather than a man:” Here is an excerpt from the prayer:

            “Remember, O Lord, how Thy servant hath walked before Thee; remember
            What I have first sought, and what [hath] been principal in mine intentions.
            I have loved Thy assemblies; I have mourned for the divisions of Thy
            Church; I have delighted in the brightness of Thy sanctuary.

            This vine, which Thy right hand hath planted in this nation, I have ever
            Prayed unto Thee that it might have the first and latter rain, and that it
            Might stretch her branches to the seas and the floods….

            “Remember (O Lord) how thy servant walked before thee:  remember what
            I have first sought, and what hath been principal in mine intentions.  I have
            Loved thy assemblies, I have mourned for the divisions of thy Church.  I
            Have delighted in the brightness of thy sanctuary.  This vine which thy right
            Hand hath planted in the this nation, I have ever prayed unto thee that it
            Might have the first and the latter rain; and that it might stretch her branches
            to the seas and to the floods.  The state and bread of the poor and oppressed
            have been precious in mine eyes.  I have hated all cruelty, and hardness of
            heart: I have (though in a despised weed) procured the good of all men.
            If any have been mine enemies, I thought not of them; neither hath the sun
            Almost set upon my displeasure; but I have been as a dove, free from
            superfluity of maliciousness.  Thy creatures have been my books, but thy
            Scriptures much more.  I have sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens,
            but I have found thee in thy temples.”  
There are a number of bits of evidence of lesser weight that tend to support Smedley’s claim.  For example, if Bacon wrote the ‘Shakespeare’ works, and rewrote the translator’s manuscripts to produce the KJAV his mind would have certainly been filled with the Bible when he sat down to write The Tempest in 1611.  It is interesting therefore that Stephen Marx in his 2000 book; SHAKESPEARE AND THE BIBLE, demonstrated The Tempest is permeated with reflections from the Bible.  He shows the darkness and chaos at the beginning of The Tempest is a creation myth paralleling that in the book of Genesis in the Bible; that Prospero personifying God parallels the divine providence portrayed in the Bible; that the wandering of the King’s party on the island parallels the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness; and even that the masque at the end of the play with the apocalyptic vision parallels the apocalypse at the end of the Bible.  Another example of evidence of lesser weight is the phrase from the above prayer where Bacon says, “Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more.” This could be merely an allusion to Bacon’s habit of reading the Scripture, except he often fashioned phrases with double meanings.  In view of this it could also be read as saying that the KJAV was his book.  It might be significant also that just as was the case with the First Folio, the manuscript from which the KJAV was printed has never been found.  The late Penn Leary’s book, “The Oak Island Enigma” presented evidence connecting Francis Bacon to whatever is buried at Oak Island.  Although whatever is buried there has never been recovered, a core drill brought up a manuscript fragment from a chest located some 153 feet below the surface.
Since Bacon used the ‘Shakespeare’ pseudonym, the peculiarity in the KJAV of the construction of Psalm 46 can be accepted as evidence that Bacon marked it to show his involvement.  The 46th word from the beginning is ‘shake’ and the 46th word from the end is ‘spear’.  In previous translations of the Bible these words had been placed differently in relation to the beginning and ending of the Psalm, and ‘shake’ had earlier been written ‘shoke’.  It is evident there was more than coincidence involved, and if this was not coincidence it means that Bacon went to the trouble of arranging the text to identify his involvement with the rewriting of the KJAV.  The ‘46’ connected to this establishes the certainly of the absence of coincidence. The ‘46’ seems to be a reference to the number of translators still alive when the KJAV was completed, and also to the fact that that Bacon’s ‘mask’ William Shakspere of Stratford on Avon was 46 years old at that time.  No doubt, this detail was added to rule out the possibility that the anomaly was coincidence. 
It should be remembered in connection with the question of whether in the KJAV Bacon rewrote the translator’s manuscripts to produce a masterpiece of literature that this is the same thing he had been doing with his Shakespeare plays for over twenty years.  Rewriting source material produced almost all of these great masterpieces of literature.  Compare Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with his source Arthur Brooke’s “Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet”, or King Lear with its source “The Chronicle History of King Leir”, or Macbeth with the source material from Holinshed’s Chronicles, or Antony and Cleopatra with its source in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, and so on and so on.

Two works of Francis Bacon were published posthumously, The New Atlantis, and the Sylva Sylvarum. The New Atlantis was designed to link Bacon to the FF, specifically to The Tempest (see my essay A New Light on the New Atlantis).  The Sylva Sylvarum was designed to link Bacon to the KJAV.  Examine the title page from the KJAV below, and compare this with the Sylva Sylvarum title page below it.  Both have an oval at the top enclosing the Hebrew name of Jehovah.  Both have a peculiar drawing of a small angelic figure with a large head and tiny wings.  In the KJAV New Testament this is at the bottom.  In the Sylva Sylvarum there are two of these peculiar little angelic figures at the top, one on each side of the Jehovah oval.  Is it coincidence that both title pages have two important features in common, or was the Sylva Sylvarum designed to shown Bacon’s connection to the King James Bible?  Also the order of the subject matter dealt with in the Sylva Sylvarum (i.e. liquids, air, light, solid bodies, animals, man, and so on), follows the same order as the creation in Genesis (the deep exists in the beginning like a vast body of water, the spirit of God moves over it like air above the ocean, God says let there be light and there is light, then solid matter is created, then animals, then man, etc.).   



William Smedley exhibited remarkable insight into Bacon mind and objectives.  There is evidence to support his contention that Bacon rewrote the translator’s manuscripts to produce the supreme literary masterpiece of the KJAV.  As to how persuasive this evidence is, I leave this to the reader’s judgment.  Smedley said that, “…there was only one writer of the period [Francis Bacon] who was capable of turning the phrases with that matchless style which is the great charm of the Shakespeare plays.  Whoever that stylist was, it was to him that James handed over the manuscripts, which he received from the translators.  That man made havoc of much of the translation, but he produced a result which, on its literary merits, is without equal.”  Although the other evidence is striking, when all things are considered this seems the strongest evidence for Smedley’s claim that Francis Bacon was responsible for the literary masterpiece that is the King James Bible.




See The Bacon-Shakespeare Essays of Mather Walker






















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