One of the more interesting HR myths I have seen crop up again and again is the intimation that modern English bibles transliterate the Greek Iakobos (Jacob) as James because King James, who directed the completion of the 1611 King James Bible, wanted to insert his name into the Holy Scriptures.
His purported motives vary as the myth is retold; sometimes he is just an egomaniac, at other times he is devilishly erasing the Jewish “Ya’akov” in order to de-Judaize the New Testament.
Of course, this myth is easily disprovable. Just have a look at any English Bible that predates the King James. Wycliffe’s Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Tyndale’s Bible–it doesn’t matter. In each, the Patriarch is Iacob in both Testaments (or Jacob if the spelling has been modernized), and the Apostle is always Iames (or James), a convention that English bibles have followed ever since.
Interestingly, James’s Greek name is different than the Patriarch’s. Isaac’s son is always called Iakob; James is Iakobos. During the ascendancy of Latin as the language of church-dom, Iakobos morphed into Iakomus. As Latin disintegrated into the various Romance languages, the “k” was sometimes changed, as in the Italian Giacomo, or dropped, as in French, leaving Gemmes. In English, it became Iames, and then James.
So by a long string of curious linguistic freak accidents, Ya’akov became James. But it certainly had nothing to do with the King, who was named after the Apostle, rather than the other way around.