King James Only?

Co-written with David Pope

From the very beginning, the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy has been at the forefront of our teaching ministry. As vital as this doctrine is, it sometimes becomes necessary to clarify what it does (and does not) truly mean. For some well-meaning Christians, innerancy is defined as a being a particular translation, namely, the King James version.

One of the more divisive teachings in the Church today is the debate over Bible Translations. Some of a more liberal theological view would tell us that as all translations are influenced by the thoughts and prejudices of the translators, that no Bible is completely accurate. This view is generally articulated as a statement along the line of, “The Bible contains the Word of God”. Needless to say, we reject this notion in light of Scriptures such as 2 Timothy 3:16, which tells us that “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” The word “inspiration” literally means “God breathed.” Although our modern versions may not carry the same weight as the originals, we firmly trust that a just God has seen to it that we accurately have His Word today.

At the opposite extreme, there is a school of thought that advances the theory that the King James translation of 1611 is the only reliable translation of God’s Word. This school is by no means uniform in belief; King James advocates vary from those that simply prefer the Jacobean language, to those that have textual criticisms of more modern translations to those that believe that the King James Bible was directly inspired utterance, and that those that do not use it are in eternal danger. While we in no way, shape, or form would discourage the choice of any literal translation over any other (and actually agree with some of the textual criticisms of the KJV), we cordially beg to differ with those that hold that the KJV is the only inspired Word of God, and it is to this group that the following thoughts are addressed:

1) If the KJV is the only inspired Word of God, which one of the several revisions is the inspired one? There have been several revisions of the Authorized Version since 1611, the most recent in 1769. The 1769 version is the one in print today.

2) If you say the 1611 version, then you must accept the Apocrypha as inspired, as the Translators were tasked with these writings, as well.

3) The Translators certainly were not aware they were creating a directly inspired work. Further, the original manuscripts, for the 1611 version that were sent to the printer exactly resembled English court documents of the era.

4) The italicized text does not appear in the original Greek and Hebrew, and any student of God’s Word is well aware of the solemn warning in the Book of Revelation 22:18-19 against adding to or removing from God’s Word.

5) The directions to the Translators are very specific, even to the point of requiring use of traditional ecclesiastical words like church instead of the more correct congregation.

6) King James intended the KJV to be a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, not a new work, and this is seen in the Epistle from the Translators that procedes the 1611 version.

7) The New Testament is prophesied of in the Old Testament; God never does anything without telling his servants the Prophets (Amos 3:7). The question the KJO advocate must answer is, something this important must have some prophecy predicting it. Where is this prophecy in any of the 66 Books of the Bible?

8) Biblical inerrancy does not and has never been understood by anyone that subscribes to the teaching to include or imply inerrant translations; inerrancy instead means that the original source documents are without error.

9) The KJV was translated in English. To teach that this is the only inspired Word of God is a subtly racist teaching, in light of Gal. 3:28.

10) Many King James Only advocates are to some extent or other anti-Catholic. It is now a fairly well-settled fact that the Translators at least in part referred to the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible, a translation produced by English Catholics.

Once again, let us make ourselves clear: We are not, in any way trying to demean the King James Bible. We believe that every Bible student’s library should begin with the KJV. For nearly 500 years, this venerable translation has stood the test of time. It has a dignity about it that the newer translations simply do not posess. Plus, practically all Bible study tools (concordances, lexicons, etc.) are designed for use with the KJV.

The arguments used to support the King James Only position are often based on revisionist history and sensationalistic conspiracy theories. When properly understood, Bible versions such as the New American Standard, New International, Amplified and New Living translations can greatly enhance your personal Bible study. They do tend to be more readable than the KJV, and sometimes (but not always) offer more accurate translations of the original texts. For those wishing to study this topic further, see James White’s excellent book The King James Only Controversy.

We will close with some wise words from Josh McDowell: “No one manuscript or translation is inspired, only the originals. However, for all intents and purposes, they are virtually inspired since, with today’s great number of manuscripts available for scrutiny, the science of textual criticism can render us an accurate representation. Therefore, we can be assured that when we read the Bible we are reading the inspired Word of God.” (1)

1-McDowell, Josh. A Ready Defense. Page 177,Here’s Life Publishers Inc.San Bernidino,California,1990)

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