Bible: What are we to think of the King James Version (KJV)?
Many dedicated students of God’s Word believe that the KJV, the King James Version of the Bible, is the only reliable English translation. This includes many who fully understand the meaning and importance of studying the Bible “rightly divided.” In other words, they understand that while all the Bible is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us.
I completely accept the authority of the 66 books of the Bible. In all that I say in this document, I in no way wish to undermine the truthfulness and the authority of the sacred Scriptures.
The KJV is my favorite version. As an expression of that, I used that translation exclusively in two books I recently wrote—22 Key Promises You Can Count On and Discovering God’s Rich Blessings in Times of Suffering. Both are available through this website.
Here are some relevant passages of Scripture for our consideration of this subject:
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: [Emphasis added]
I mention this verse first because we all need to be in a learning mode as we approach such an important subject. The goal is certainly not anger and division. My aim is simply to set forth some things I have learned about this subject in over fifty years of studying the Bible.
II Timothy 3:16
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [Emphasis added]
The “all scripture” he refers to is the 66 books of Scripture in the original languages in which they were written. The Apostle Paul is obviously not referring to translations of the Bible that would come many centuries later in other languages than those in which it was originally written. Furthermore, all those many subsequent translations are subject to the possibility of human error. No exceptions!
II Peter 1:20-21
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis added]
Again, the “scripture” he mentions is by no means a reference to ANY translation that came many centuries later, but to the original writings by their authors. And even though we don’t have the autographs, the original writings, we have thousands of copies of it to go by.
Some relevant questions that demand an answer:
- In the preface of the 1611 KJV, didn’t the translators themselves specifically dispel any notion that they were specially guided by God in the making of their translation? Yes, the translators did NOT believe God was inspiring their work and they definitely did not believe that their work was “the final authority” and “perfect.” Therefore, if the translators didn’t believe this, why should anyone believe it today?
- Are you aware that the claims often made about the KJV do not relate to the 1611 edition, but to the 1769 version? The version nearly everyone has today is an edition since the 1611 version. These versions are NOT identical.
- People may play down the importance of academic learning for the study of the Bible, but isn’t even learning to read an academic exercise that is thought to be essential for one’s own personal study of the Bible itself?
- If the translators of the KJV knew the original languages of the Bible well, as you may say they all did, why would anyone think that it is not important for us to learn those languages today? Wouldn’t this be extremely important since the meaning of many of the words in every language change somewhat from generation to generation?
- What did English-speaking people do to read God’s Word before 1611? Was it the 1526 Tyndale Bible, the 1535 Coverdale Bible, the 1537 Matthews Bible, the 1539 Great Bible [The first “Authorized Version”], the 1560 Geneva Bible, or the 1568 Bishops Bible? Were English speaking people unable to read the Word of God in that long time frame before the KJV came into existence?
- If you believe the KJV is an expression of God preserving His Word, what translation(s) was He using to preserve His Word for over the many centuries before the writing of the KJV? Furthermore, exactly where in the Scriptures can we find this idea of “providential preservation” through the King James Version translators of 1611?
- Didn’t our Lord say in Matthew 5:18 that not one jot or tittle [the smallest parts of words in the Hebrew text] would pass away in the Scriptures? Isn’t it true that there are no “jots and tittles” in the KJV or any other translation? Therefore, doesn’t that make it clear that when He made that statement He was speaking of the languages of the original manuscripts?
- If we today only have the KJV as an accurate text, what are people of other languages supposed to do to read the Bible? Must they learn Old English to read and study the Bible?
- Isn’t the purpose of any translation to help people learn the truth about what God has revealed in a manner in which they can understand it? Please note I Corinthians 14:9 on this. “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” [Emphasis added]
- If you ever explain the meaning of certain words in the Old English of the KJV, aren’t you creating your own translation? Wouldn’t such action be a contradiction to your claims regarding the use of other translations?
- Doesn’t the fact that the translators of the KJV placed into the margin alternate manuscript readings prove beyond any doubt that they were not guided by the Holy Spirit as to which one of the readings was correct? Are you aware that F.H.A. Scrivener, in The Authorized Edition of the English Bible, counted 8,422 variant readings in the marginal notes of the KJV?
- Are you aware that the translators of the KJV wrote that having a variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures?
Here is the quote of what they said about that:
“Variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: So diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded.”
How many people realize that there were many minor revisions made within the first few years of its initial publication in 1611? Furthermore, over the next one-and-a-half centuries four major revisions were made. This, of course, means that the KJV we have today is not like the original 1611 edition.
- If you think the KJV translators operated by divine authority putting that translation together, where is there any objective evidence that such authority was given to them?
- If you think the current edition of the KJV is what God has authorized, what happened to the other 14 complete books that are not in our present-day editions of the KJV Bible? The 1611 edition of the KJV had 80, not 66 books as the present day KJV has. [I Esdras, II Esdras, Tobit, Judeth, The Rest of the Book of Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Song of the Three Holy Children, the Story of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, I Maccabees and II Maccabees]
- How do you know the translators of the 1611 KJV did not use dictionaries, concordances and other such tools in putting that translation together?
- Doesn’t understanding the meaning of the following words today in the KJV demand the use of a dictionary? Furthermore, would not one’s understanding of the original languages be helpful in learning the meaning of the following words used in the KJV?
Examples from a long list of others:
Abject in Psalm 35:15
Ague in Leviticus 26:16
Amerce in Deuteronomy 22:19
Anon in Matthew 13:20
Beeves in Leviticus 22:19
Besom in Isaiah 14:23
Bewray in Proverbs 29:24
Blain in Exodus 9:9-10
Bolled in Exodus 9:31
Brigandine in Jeremiah 46:4
Bruit in Jeremiah 10:22
There are MANY other such words in the KJV, but isn’t this sampling enough to prove my point? If you had to take a test giving the meaning of these words, how well would you do? Isn’t our objective to communicate the Word of God in words that can be readily understood?
- Don’t we have a hard enough time bringing people around to understanding the Scriptures rightly divided without throwing this false “KJV only” theory into the mix?
- Some samples of KJV mistranslations are as follows: [E.W. Bullinger has all these and many more in his notes given in the margins of The Companion Bible (a KJV translation)].
“God forbid” = Greek ”me genoito” which means may it never be. The word “God” does not appear in the Greek text. Should we be using God’s name when making exclamations?
Psalm 22:21, Deuteronomy 33:17, etc. What are unicorns? The Hebrew reads “reym” which means “wild bull” or “ox.”
I Corinthians 11:2 – “ordinances” should be “traditions” or “teachings” – Paul does not praise anyone for keeping ordinances! [See Colossians 2:14 – where the true word for “ordinances” is used.]
Ephesians 3:9 – The word “fellowship” is “dispensation” in the majority text.
Ephesians 1:10 – “gather together” is lit. “head up” – i.e. it is not referring to a gathering of saints into one place, but rather to Christ’s headship over the body.
Ephesians 1:13 – “after that ye believed” is lit. “upon believing” i.e. – This is not speaking of something after the fact, or subsequent, but at the moment of faith.
Matthew 28:1 – “sabbath” is plural, “sabbaths” – There were two sabbaths in a row that week because of the feast.
Matthew 7:22, etc. – “devils” is actually “demons” – There is only one devil, but there are many demons.
Romans 5:11 – “atonement” should be translated “reconciliation.”
Acts 12:4 the term “Easter” is from the Greek word PASCHA. In all the 28 other occurrences of this word in the New Testament, it is rendered “Passover.” Acts 12:4 is the lone exception.
19. What about the twenty-two passages where words or phrases have been added to the 1611 KJV text?
Genesis 19:21 – also Ecclesiastes 8:17 – yet he shall find it
Exodus 15:25 – for then Jeremiah 38:16 – Zedekiah
Exodus 21:32 – of silver Luke 1:3 – all
Leviticus 19:34 – unto you I Corinthians 15:41 – glory
Leviticus 20:11 – surely II Corinthians 11:32 – Damascenes
Deuteronomy 5:29 – all Ephesians 6:24 – Amen
Joshua 13:29 – of the children I Timothy 1:4 – godly
I Samuel 18:27 – and went II Timothy 4:8 – all
II Kings 11:10 – of the Lord II Timothy 4:13 – and the books
I Chronicles 7:5 – valiant I Peter 2:1 – all
Ecclesiastes 2:16 – all I John 5:12 – of God
Clearly the original KJV and the modern KJV cannot both be correct. If either one of them is infallible, inerrant, and perfect, then the other must by definition be fallible, errant, and imperfect.
- Does it concern you that there are words in the KJV of the Bible that have no textual basis whatsoever in the Hebrew or the Greek?
“God forbid” Used 24 times No textual support at all
“God save the king” Used 4 times No textual support at all
[I Samuel 10:24; II Samuel 16:16; II Kings 11:12; II Chronicles 23:11]
“To Wit” Used 21 times Most have no textual support.
- Shouldn’t it be our goal to have the Greek and Hebrew words of the Bible translated into modern, native English that is easily understandable to this present generation?
In my studies of “the KJV only” approach to the Bible, there is a vast amount of information available about it. What I have written is only a small portion to refute the position that some have taken. I only ask that you give objective consideration to all I have said, and to do more research on this yourself due to the great importance of knowing and communicating a correct understanding of the Word of God. I put this document together strictly as an attempt to be of help to you in your service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I, by no means, wish to discourage your use of a KJV translation. As I have said, at this time a KJV remains my own choice over all the others. I merely want to make the point that it is only a translation, no more and no less. As with any translation, it has its problems. However, the truth of what is being communicated in any passage can be determined by thorough study, using a variety of aids. The tools for making that determination are available. As with a lot of things in life, we don’t need to take the KJV at face value, falsely assuming it is infallible. The fact is all these printings of the KJV being different, they cannot possibly be as claimed the collective or individual word-for-word, perfect, infallible, inerrant translations of the Word of God.
Please read the following words from the Preface of the Cambridge 1873 King James Version [F.H.A Scrivener, editor, Hendrickson Publishers, John R. Kohlenberger, III]:
There has never been a standard edition to which all printings are conformed. No two early printings of the King James Version were identical – not even the two printings of 1611 – and no two modern settings are identical, either. These differences are due to accidental human error as well as to intentional changes by printers and editors, who sought to eliminate what they judged to be the errors of others and to conform the text to their standards of English usage.
My own personal concern has been the need for a correct translation for our time, not someone or some group’s personal interpretation of the Bible.
As believers and as ambassadors of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to do our best in representing Him accurately. It is my hope and prayer that this document will be another body of information that’ll assist you in the endeavor.