(Pictured above are three of my personal bibles mentioned in this blog post. Click photo to enlarge)
Surely you have at least cracked open a King James Bible and read a few lines out of it? The beautiful old Elizabethan English can be captivating, making some feel that this version is THE one true, prefect English translation of the Bible. Or maybe for them, it is the fact that they believe it is the only correct translation of the Bible, in spite of the Elizabethan English. For other people, the old, outdated English can be a serious blockade to their ability to understand what they are reading. This can be very hard to overcome for some people. Sometimes, nearly impossible.
The original KJV translation bibles came out in 1611 AD. It has held strong for 400+ years! Since then, newer, more modern translations have come out. Some good, some not so good. Some are just plain corrupt, such as the New World Translation, customized and used by the Jehova’s Witnesses. This article will focus more on the more sound, modern translations vs the King James Version. I am going to approach this article from a very simple, laymen level approach. There are hundreds of names and dates I could throw out there, speaking of ancient biblical translators, manuscripts, dead sea scrolls, Codex Sinaiticus, Constantine, etc. I want to keep this article easy to read for everybody.
To get right to the main point, here is the crux of the great debate. There are many Christians out there who hold to the belief that the King James Version of the Bible is THE ONLY true translation. We call them “King James Onlyists”. They proclaim that the KJV is the only true Word of God, and ALL other translations are “new age”, or just plain “of the devil”. I nearly fell into this trap myself, just a couple of years ago. I was nearly convinced the KJV was the only Word of God. But then I studied the subject for a couple of years, weighing all arguments. Before I tell you what I found, let me first tell you this fact. I love the King James Version. I am in no way against it. I am only against the belief that it is the only true translation. I own several bibles that are KJV, including a facsimile of the original 1611 version, which is QUITE different than today’s KJV. That brings me to my first point.
The “KJV only” Christian will tell you the KJV is the only true Bible. To that, I would ask them this question: Which version of the KJV is the only true translation? You see, there have been plenty of updates and changes made since the first KJV Bibles came out in 1611. So, which version is perfect? In fact, the original KJV Bibles included the Apocrypha. What is that you ask? The Apocrypha is the name given to the 15 additional books that are not part of the true canon of Scripture. You will find these extra books in the Catholic bibles, but not in any normal Protestant Christian bibles. These books include 1st and 2nd Maccabee, Tobit, Judith, Prayer of Manasseh, and more. They are not inspired, and they are inconsistent with canonized scripture, which we have in our standard Bibles. Aside from the original 1611 KJV having the Apocrypha included between the OT and the NT, there were many other updates and changes made of the years. So, which version of the KJV is the perfect one?
I have another question. How about all those Christians in China, India, Russia, Germany, France, Mexico? They have no KJV bibles. None. Are we so chauvinistic as English speakers, that we think God has given us the ONLY true Word of God? Many in the KJV Only crowd believe that you cannot even be saved without reading or hearing the KJV scriptures. I guess every Christian in the aforementioned countries are not true Christians? It seems they need to ALL learn English, then learn how to read and understand old Elizabethan English on top of that, just to be saved. Give me a break.
The truth is, most of the KJV Onlyists are a bit on the wacky side. Most are very well-meaning, I have no doubt. But that does not mean they are not a bit wacky, and totally immune from logic. Logic does not seem to affect their stance. Ask them about the Chinese Christians. Do Chinese bibles not count as bibles? (there is no Chinese KJV) They also tend to think that because the KJV Bible is referred to as the “Authorized Version”, that is has some added weight because of that. It was authorized by KIng James, not by some nameless panel of judges that have some authority to declare a translation “authorized” of God. The KJV Onlists also fall into the trap of grading all other translations by the KJV, without applying the same textual criticism to the KJV which they apply to all other translations. To them, by default, the KJV is the “God standard”. There is no truth or reality in this thought process.
What other translations are good? This is something that itself can be debated, but I am going to throw out a few translation names that are well-known as being solid. There are many new translations out there, and most of them exist because of publishers wanting to make money, just to be honest. We do NOT need another translation! Personally, I read the NAS (NASB) “New American Standard Bible” It commonly known for being the most accurate. Many serious Bible scholars and pastors use this translation. I also like the NKJV, ESV, and RSV. I do not advocate the NIV for various reasons. Although it does read very smoothly, and it does teach the essential doctrines, it is too far from a literal translation. It translates “thought for thought”, rather that “word for word”. I like literal. As a side note, The NKJV version was translated from the same manuscripts as the KJV. (The Textus Receptus, or “received text”) Other manuscrips were found after the 1611 KJV came out, and these manuscripts date back even further that the T.R. Some say they are corrupted, but when pressed for evidence of this, they only have speculation and accusation.
Many “KJV only” advocates would be quick to point to Gail Riplinger’s teachings on KJV Onlism. She wrote a book called “New Age Bible Versions”, which is very popular among KJV only advocates. If you care to hear her in a radio debate, and be completely exposed as a bit wacky, dishonest, and just wrong, then please see this radio debate against theologian James White on YouTube. James White pretty easily dismantles her entire argument, and her book. Here below is a link to part one of the video. Follow to the next parts after this if you choose. Each part is about 10 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVXjw4jd61M
James White, I believe, is the leading authority on Biblical manuscripts and the history and process of the creation of our Bibles. If you wish to dive in a bit deeper, and hear a 2.5 hour debate between him and KJV Only adherent Steven Anderson, this this following link with take you to the full length video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJrptikLjq8. Judge for yourselves, but again, when James White applies some common sense to the whole issue, it really makes the “KJV Only” belief seem a bit silly. Again, I want to specify that neither Mr. White or I stand against the KJV Bible! It is a fine translation, but it is NOT the standard. In fact, the Geneva Bible preceded it, and when the KJV came out in 1611 (by order of King James), the KJV was not immediately welcomed by all. What about the 1,000’s of saints before 1611? What about all those who stood strong in the faith through persecution and burning at the stake? These steadfast saints did not have the KJV. It didn’t exist. So…did the true Word of God not exist then? Of course it did, in various forms and volumes throughout the ages.
I hope this blog causes some of you to look deeper into this issue, if it has ever been something you were interested in or concerned about. I know this article can bring some serious fire toward myself, but I am going to continue writing about topics that I feel are worthy of discussion. (Eventually, that would be the entire Bible) Feel free to leave a comment, whether you are for or against my stance on this. I’m happy to respond to all. But please, if you are a KJV onlyist, and you want to blast me, listen to the full 2.5 hour debate first. It may answer many of your questions. It may even change your mind.
Until next time……Maranatha!