Many Christians have met King James Onlyists. Maybe you are one yourself.
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KJV Onlyists fall into different categories- some prefer the KJV as a translation, others believe the KJV is the only true English text while others believe the KJV translators were inspired and all modern translations of the Bible are corrupted by Satan. These translations are part of a slippery slope to a version of the Bible the antichrist will use according to this view. According to Riplinger who wrote New Age Bible Versions, within the modern translations (any English translation post KJV), “Documented are the thousands of words, verses, and doctrines by which new versions will prepare the apostate churches of these last days to accept the religion of the Antichrist- even his mark, image, and Lucifer worship.”
The KJV has several strengths. It has impacted countless people globally, it uses very rich English and was produced by fine scholars.
I am not anti KJV. I love the KJV. It is God’s word. I am anti King James Onlyism. I am against the assertion that the KJV translation is perfect and infallible. I am completely against the assertion that modern translations such as the NIV and ESV deny the deity of Christ (just have a look at my previous articles defending these points). God’s original word was infallible, the KJV, is translated by fallible humans not inspired prophets.
A read of the preface to the KJV makes it obvious the translators thought they were translators capable of mistakes and not prophets. It’s much more reasonable to read what the translators thought about the version they produced than someone such as Gail Riplinger who claimed to be revealed such a truth by personal spiritual experience and then proceeded to write a book which took countless scholars who believed in the deity of Christ out of context to make it as if they didn’t. Riplinger claimed in the January/February 1994 The End Times and Victorious Living newsletter, “Each discovery was not the result of effort on my part, but on the directed hand of God- so much that I hesitated even to put my name on the book. Consequently, I used G.A. Riplinger, which signifies to me, God and Riplinger- God as author and Riplinger as Secretary.” If we can show one verse (we will show a lot more than that) where the modern translations are a better translation than the KJV, the whole idea that it is the only true English word of God superior to other translations in all aspects falls apart. Even if 99% of what I say is wrong and 1% is right KJV Onlyism falls apart, as such a KJV Onlyist will need to successfully refute every point I make as well as indicate the original translators of the KJV held their view for they were the ones who produced it.
A position which holds the KJV is the only true word of God and is a perfect translation is a position based off blind faith. It ignores linguistic or textual considerations. It ignores the words of the King James authors themselves. It ignores reason. It ignores truth. It is fallacious circular reasoning. KJV Onlyists regularly commit fallacies of circular reasoning and ad hominem fallacies whereby they dismiss a person’s work based off the person but not because of any evidence directly from their work.
Christ is the Logos, the Word of God, the True Reason, the Perfect Discourse, this is not a title to be given to fallible translators living nearly 1600 years after Christ. As Christians, we are called not to live by our traditions, but truth. We are called to earnestly contend for the truth, live by the truth and be shaped by it. A position which blindly accepts the KJV as perfect is no different to a Muslim who wholly ignores the historical evidence acknowledged by atheist and agnostic scholars and denies that Jesus died on the cross, despite having lived in the first century, on the grounds of unwavering faith in the Quran. The conclusion is assumed before the starting point. Hence, the term circular reasoning.
As KJV Only Advocate Dr. Samuel Gipp highlights in the Answer Book p.148:
Question: What about a contradiction that can’t be successfully explained?
Answer: You will have to accept the perfection of the Authorized Version by Faith.
Just to reiterate, I am all for defending the deity of Christ and the Trinity. I defend this in front of Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses. If you doubt this, have a look at my recent posts.
That’s all well and good you might say but where is your evidence the KJV is not perfect? Where is your evidence about what the KJV translators thought? Where is your evidence the KJV does not perfectly depict the original text? I trust you will be open to the evidence. Here are some considerations below. Do I think some modern translations go too far? Absolutely, however, I will not go so far as to say the likes of the NIV, NASB and ESV have been deliberately corrupted to deviate from the original text or that the KJV is a perfect translation.
Setting the scene
The King James Bible was initially published in 1611 (Authorised Version). Several translators unfortunately died between 1604 and 1611 which is a sad fact to mention but something unfortunately KJV Onlyists love to point out if it happens to anyone helping translate a modern version of the Bible as some sort of a sign of God’s judgement on them (I don’t agree but let’s be consistent with each other). The 1611 included the apocrypha and notes for alternative readings. After multiple editions (strange you’d edit an infallible perfect translation), the 1769 version became the one most commonly used. The King James Version is based on the
Masoretic text for the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus for the New Testament. Old Testament scholar Michael Heiser highlights how what we now know as the Masoretic text was actually created by Jews in response to Christians over using the Septuagint in circa 100 AD, whereby Jews decided to standardise their Bible (please keep in mind how KJV Onlyists love to use ad hominem attacks on anyone remotely questioning Christianity being involved in the translation, compilation of copying process yet also being the ones who use the Masoretic text). For more read Heiser on how we got our Old Testament https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Transcript-104-How-We-Got-OT.pdf
In second temple Judaism, Heiser notes there were several Hebrew versions of the Old Testament, one of which was the Masoretic text , another was the Hebrew text behind the Septuagint (Septuagint was a Greek translation of Old Testament) which Christians including the apostles frequently quoted while there was also the Samaritan Pentateuch. All three of the these textual traditions in Hebrew were discovered in Qumran at the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. As such, fragments of the Hebrew texts in use other than the Masoretic text were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls between 1947 and 1956, well after the 1611 KJV was produced. The Masoretic text tradition gave rise to the Aleppo Codex of circa 920 AD.
In the 1500s Catholic scholar and priest, Erasmus played a key role in what later became the Textus Receptus. He used a handful of manuscripts to produce a Greek and Latin version of the New Testament. However, he had no access to any Greek manuscripts for Revelation, instead basing his translation off what he found in a commentary (Minuscule 2814 which was a commentary by Andreas of Caesarea), excluding the last 6 verses which fell off from the back of the commentary meaning he used a Latin manuscript to translate the last six verses of Revelation instead.
His New Testament translation had several editions. Erasmus was clear with the help of the Greek, passages “had been restored that were before corrupt” (Erasmus Annotations) showing he believed in the importance of the original languages and textual criticism, he didn’t believe the Latin Vulgate had no translation issues. Erasmus’ notes flagged he noted there were corrupt passages in Greek manuscripts as well, which is why it was important to have many manuscripts to compare to. In other words, Erasmus was a textual critic exhibiting the very kind of intellectualism KJV Only advocates hate to see.
Stephanus and Beza built on his work. The work of Erasmus, Stephanus and Beza contributed significantly to the KJV translation of the New Testament. Beza had access to fewer than 20 manuscripts while Erasmus had access to fewer than 10 (there are thousands of New Testament manuscripts). The Textus Receptus focused on Byzantine New Testament manuscripts which were later and more full (more pious words than earlier manuscripts) rather than earlier Alexandrian manuscripts. If the TR was infallible why were there multiple editions of the work of the translators behind the TR?
The Byzantine text tradition geographically relates to a part in modern day Turkey close to Greece while the Alexandrian text tradition primarily relates to areas surrounding Egypt. The Byzantine text tradition did not become the majority text until the 9th century AD.
Virtually none of the early church fathers used the Byzantine texts. Gordon Fee in the March 1978 Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society highlighted how analysing Greek texts quoted in the early church fathers “always moves the father’s text of the NT away from the TR and closer to the text of our modern critical editions.” Alexandrian texts slowed down as the Byzantine text tradition became more prevalent due to the growth of Islam near Egypt which caused many Christians to either be persecuted or flee to areas closer to Byzantium (also known as Constantinople). It is somewhat perplexing that the early church fathers who quoted Scripture enough so that we could practically reproduce the entire New Testament just from their quotes, believed in the deity of Christ, were prepared to die for it (many did), yet intentionally used some Satan worshiping Alexandrian texts to quote Scripture, overlooking more suitable types of texts. Who are we seriously trying to fool by making claims like that?
In 1881, Westcott and Hort produced a New Testament version with a much greater focus on Alexandrian texts which were written earlier than the Byzantine texts. These included Codex Sinaiticus which was a Greek version of the New Testament found near the Sinai Peninsula as well as Codex Vaticanus. Westcott and Hort did not believe the Alexandrian text traditions were perfect.
Subsequently, Nestle and Aland produced a New Testament which revised the work of Westcott and Hort and allowed for more manuscript evidence being less “Alexandrian” than Westcott and Hort’s text but more “Alexandrian” than the Textus Receptus. The Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies have multiple editions and form the main basis of modern Greek texts. Aland noted the presence of tenacity in the manuscript tradition, meaning once a variant reading appeared in a manuscript it simply did not go away. This illustrates how serious scribes were in accurately copying prior texts and also shows why we should be careful of useful purely later texts as the Textus Receptus does for there has been more time for variants to build up into these manuscripts.
Even sceptic Bart Ehrman admits in Misquoting Jesus that it is “probably safe to say that copying of early Christian texts was by and large a “conservative” process.” Through this we can see God’s hand in preserving his Word as Christianity grew exponentially and explosively despite being under intense persecution with manuscripts spreading all over the known world.
Most modern translations (MEV, NKJV are still primarily Byzantine however) take on a more eclectic approach to manuscripts taking into consideration Byzantine, Alexandrian, Caesarean and Western manuscripts with a weighting towards earlier texts. This is why for some passages such as Philippians 1:14, modern translations still have a more Byzantine reading than an Alexandrian one, they don’t take the all or nothing approach KJV Only advocates push for. They factor in earlier manuscripts than the KJV allowed for and have the benefit of taking into consideration advances in understanding ancient grammar (eg. Granville Sharp rule not known in England in 1611) and the monumental Dead Sea Scroll findings. With this context in mind let’s now turn to some of the issues with the KJV text.
- The King James translators weren’t King James Onlyists
Have a read for yourself http://www.togetherweteach.com/TCB/kjvpreface.htm
They believed in using multiple translations(quotes in italics)
Variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures
Yes you read that correctly, that’s what the KJV translators said! They believed God spoke to his Church by his Apostles and Prophets in Hebrew and Greek through the Scriptures, not KJV English.
These tongues (Hebrew and Greek), therefore, (the Scriptures, we say, in those tongues,) we set before us to translate, being the tongues wherein God was pleased to speak to his Church by his Prophets and Apostles.
They believed in Scripture being translated into a language understood by the majority of people at any point in time
But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.
Indeed, without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well
They believed in having notes in the margins and providing alternative readings (the 1611 had notes and alternative readings on the side)
Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgement not to be so sound in this point.
They admitted certain things in translation are questionable which is why alternative readings are important
Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts, and precious stones, etc., concerning which the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgement, that they may seem to have defined this or that, rather because they would say something, than because they were sure of that which they said, as S.Hierome somewhere saith of the Septuagint. Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?
For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident, so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgement of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.
They spoke of the original being from heaven (inspired by God) but did not say the same about their translation
the original thereof being from heaven, not from earth;
They were fine with the apostles using the imperfect translation of the Septuagint despite the KJV being based off the Masoretic text
It is certain, that that translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them to take that which they found (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than by making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations as though they made a translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded.
This may be supposed to be some cause, why the translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current.
They also made it clear the translators of God’s word which the apostles used for the Septuagint were interpreters, not prophets
The Seventy were interpreters, they were not prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell
They linked translations with errors such as the Septuagint to the temple built by Zerubbabel, inferior to the earlier temple built by Solomon, but still dwelt by God, as such the Septuagint was still God’s word used by the apostles. Translators of Scripture were not considered inspired prophets who made no translation or copying mistakes.
So, by the story of Ezra and the prophecy of Haggai it may be gathered that the Temple built by Zerubbabel after the return from Babylon was by no means to be compared to the former built by Solomon (for they that remembered the former wept [Ezra 3:12] when they considered the latter:) notwithstanding, might this latter either have been abhorred and forsaken by the Jews, or profaned by the Greeks? The like we are to think of translations.
The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the original in many places, neither doth it come near it for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it?
Condemn it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Hierome and the most learned men to confess) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the appellation and name of the Word of God.
With all this in mind, there is no shadow of a doubt in my mind the KJV translators would be completely against the current KJV Only movement. The question is if the apostles used the Septuagint (the KJV doesn’t), the KJV translators were all having different translations, providing alternative readings and reaching the ordinary people in their language, why are KJV Onlyists against all this?
- 1611 v. 1769: Do KJV Onlyists really believe a 1611 translation edited multiple times subsequently was infallible and the only true word of God, superior to all translations into English on every single word of every single verse of the Bible? If so, why the mistranslation of certain words (examples below) and the multiple editions? Why include the apocrypha in 1611 then take them out in later editions? Why confuse Judas with Jesus in some Authorized Versions in 1611 on Matt. 26:36, then change it if the first translation was perfect and not to be disputed?
Please note the examples in William Coms 1999, Errors in the King James Version. https://petergoeman.com/resource%20files/other/combs.pdf
Here are some changes Combs points out.
Here’s a couple more
Which KJV is the perfect, only true Word of God? 1611 or 1769? It can’t be both.
- KJV uses the Masoretic text yet NT authors also considered Septuagint Scripture:
If the Masoretic text is the true Word of God, then why do the King James Translators include the author of Hebrews quoting the Septuagint (an error ridden translation) rather than the Masoretic text in Hebrews 8:9?
KJV Jer. 31:32
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord
KJV Heb 8:9
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
I was an husband v I regarded them not.. very interesting similarity.. Was God a husband to them in this verse or did he regard them not? Which one is it? How can the author of Hebrews be inspired by God if they do not quote the Masoretic text for Jer. 31:32 when the Masoretic text is the only true inspired text of the Old Testament which was behind the KJV? Stop and think about this for a moment..
It gets worse for KJV Onlyists. The author of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 in Hebrews 1:6 “all God’s angels worship him”, modern translations include this part of Deuteronomy 32:43 but the KJV lacks it, quoting a shorter form of the verse! Thus the KJV excludes Scripture quoted as Scripture within Scripture, yet is apparently the only true word of God according to KJV Onlyists! The Dead Sea Scrolls also affirmed the longer reading of this verse as found in the Septuagint.
- The KJV mistranslated certain words
The KJV poorly translates the Greek present participle for Acts 2:47, 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, 2 Cor. 4:3 and Ephesians 4:22 showing an ongoing process as something past or fully complete. The idea of having been saved yet being saved or sanctified is present throughout the New Testament. Romans 8:28-29, 1 Peter 1:6-9, 2 Cor 3:18, Rev. 2:7, Matt. 24:13 and many more passages. Besides, the ESV plainly says we have been saved in Eph. 2:5 and other places, why not get rid of this terminology everywhere it appears? Romans 5:9 in the KJV says “we shall be saved from wrath” referring to being saved in the future! Why don’t KJV Onlyists complain about that?
The KJV translated age or aion as world in Matt. 28:20, Galatians 1:4 and half a dozen other passages. This is despite the aion ending at the coming of Christ Matt. 13:49 and Matt. 24:3. Kosmos would be a more suitable Greek word to suggest the world around us.
The KJV uses the word Lucifer instead of “morning star” in Isaiah 14:12, despite this not coming into the biblical manuscript tradition until Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.
Language also changes over time which is why the KJV calls grain offerings meat offerings (meat meaning food) while the word “study” in 2 Tim 2:15 has a different meaning to how we would use it.
The KJV mistranslated pascha as Easter in Acts 12:4(Easter never existed as a Christian festival during Acts) instead of Passover despite correctly translating it as Passover everywhere else in the New Testament. Some KJV Only advocates say Easter is the right word because this was referring to the whole festival (which wasn’t called Easter but anyway) but this is inconsistent with how the whole festival week is treated in Ezekiel 45:21 in the KJV as it is called Psssover. Furthermore, in Acts 19:37 the KJV talks about robbers of churches when the Greek is very clear the word for churches is not in the verse, but the word for temple is.
Acts 12:4 KJV v NIV
|4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.||4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.|
Acts 19:37 KJV v NIV
|37For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.||37You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.|
More mistranslations below:
2 Cor 12:9 KJV
And he said unto me,My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Cor 12:9 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The KJV uses the word infirmities to describe astheneia calling astheneia weakness in the exact same verse. It uses the same Greek word but gives different English words. The ESV is more consistent as shown above. Hence the KJV translators took more liberty in translating this word than the ESV ones.
Furthermore, the KJV translators mixed up dynamin (power) and exousian (authority). They translated these words correctly in Luke 9:1 and then inconsistently treated the exact same words in the next chapter in Luke 10:19. It also mistranslates daimonia as devils when they are demons. The word for devil is based on diabolos not daimoni.
Luke 9:1 KJV
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
Luke 9:1 ESV
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases
Luke 10:19 KJV
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:19 ESV
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.
Notice the KJV correctly translates exousian as authority in Luke 9:1 but incorrectly translates it as power in the very next chapter! Who is taking more liberties here the ESV translators or the KJV ones?
- The KJV includes some verses attested by only a minority of manuscripts.
Luke 17:36, Acts 8:37 and Acts 15:34 are attested by a minority of manuscripts yet included in the KJV. Even Erasmus omitted Luke 17:36 and Acts 8:37 appeared in no manuscripts for around the first 500 years after Jesus. Acts 8:37 is found in very few Greek manuscripts overall. Yet, the KJV includes it.
- The benchmark is the originals as determined by textual criticism, not the KJV. The benchmark from which we determine a change, omission or deletion to Scripture is by comparing a translation to what textual criticism suggests is the original, not by using the KJV which was neither in the original languages nor in the apostolic era as a benchmark. There were other English translations before the KJV. Why not benchmark against those too? God preserves his Word in the manuscript tradition.
As White notes in the King James Only Controversy, “ When we apply sound methods of examining the readings of the texts themselves, taking into consideration the concepts presented above regarding scribal errors of sight or hearing, harmonization, parallel influence, and the “expansion of piety”, we discover a remarkable fact: Almost always these internal criteria point us to the Alexandrian, Western, or Caesarean (not Byzantine) reading.”
- King James Onlyists don’t take verses on believing in Jesus and sanctification in context: King James Onlyists love to make a big deal about John 6:47 saying believeth on me in the KJV while only saying “he who believes” in the modern translations. The Greek text used by modern translators does not include “on me”. Thus this is far from some modern conspiracy to remove believing in Jesus from the Bible. If that was the case why does the NASB explicitly talk about believing in Jesus in John 7:38, 11:25-26, 12:44 and 12:46. In the immediate context the NASB talks about believing in Jesus in John 6 verse 35 and verse 40 meaning the context makes it super clear v47 is talking about belief in Jesus. Moreover, if we apply consistent standards why does the KJV not mention the object of belief in Mark 9:23, Romans 1:16, Romans 10:4 and 1 Cor. 7:12? Believeth, believeth, believeth what? Let’s be consistent.
- KJV Onlyists are unaware of parallel corruption or the expansion of piety considered by textual critics: Colossians 1:2 in the KJV is an example of parallel corruption in that Ephesians 1:2 is incorrectly copied into it.The manuscript evidence supports this.
Col 1:2 KJV
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Eph 1:2 KJV
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the modern translators were so intent on removing Lord Jesus Christ from the Bible why not also remove it from Eph 1:2? Why use the term Lord Jesus Christ over 60 times in both the NIV and NASB if this is a term you want to remove from the Bible? A lot of “evidence” used to support the idea modern translations deny the deity of Christ is based on misunderstood parallel corruption. The Bible still says Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, he still says to pray your will be done on earth as in heaven, he still says get behind me Satan etc. These passages are still in the Bible just in different places to what KJV Onlyists expect. If there was a deliberate effort to eliminate all such passages, why leave them in some places and not others? Do KJV Onlyists ever look at the manuscript evidence before making such claims or do they only ever judge against the 1611 KJV (or wait sorry most likely the 1769..).
- The vast majority of the Textus Receptus and the Westcott and Hort text are in line: Westcott and Hort highlighted in Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek that only 1/8th of the variants between the Textus Receptus and their own Greek text had any weight, with the rest being “trivialities.” In effect, this means 98.33% of their text is in line with the Textus Receptus!
- No essential doctrine is unique to the KJV translation that cannot be supported in the likes of the NIV or ESV: As James White notes in the King James Only Controversy, “No textual variants in either the Old or New Testament in any way, shape, or form materially disrupt or destroy any essential doctrine of the Christian faith.” King James Onlyists when pressed are unable to show one key doctrinal belief they hold as a result of reading the KJV that cannot be supported or proven in the modern translations.
- Multiple passages better support Jesus divinity in modern versions than in the KJV: There are several passages where, contrary to the suggestions of KJV Only advocates that modern translations only ever downplay the divinity of Jesus, the KJV actually downplays Christ (or even at times the Holy Spirit) relative to the modern translations.
Here are some examples:
Rev. 14:1 KJV
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
Rev. 14:1 ESV
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
Acts 4:25 KJV v Acts 4:25 ESV
|25Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?||25who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?|
Conspiracy! The KJV is trying to remove the Holy Spirit from the Bible. That’s what we’d say if we applied KJV Only standards to the KJV.
Acts 16:7 KJV v Acts 16:7 ESV
|7After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.||7And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.|
The modern translations include Jesus where the KJV does not! Who would have thought this was possible given the modern translators hate Jesus.
Romans 8:34 KJV v Romans 8:34 ESV
|34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.||34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.|
Another time where the ESV includes Jesus but the KJV does not!
Romans 9:5 KJV v Romans 9:5 NIV
|5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.||5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.|
The NIV calls the Messiah God but the KJV does not. Unbelievable, I thought the NIV translators were trying real hard for the Messiah not to be God.
John 1:18 KJV v John 1:18 NIV
|18No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.||18No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.|
There you have it again! The KJV down playing Christ’s divinity relative to the modern translations which are supposedly meant to eliminate any support for Christ’s divinity. At this stage I’m wondering to what extent people who make such claims have even looked at the evidence. White argues the textual evidence supports the Christ being God in this verse.
John 14:14 KJV v John 14:14 NIV
|14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.||14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.|
Does the KJV downplay praying to Jesus? If anything the ESV shows you can pray to Jesus, suggesting he is divine. The oldest manuscripts of John’s gospel include the word me after ask, yet the KJV ignores this. The KJV wording mirrors the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witness on this passage which says “ask anything in my name.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for denying the deity of Christ and I’m sure they’d side with the KJV here on this verse over the NIV.
Furthermore, the KJV translates 3 different Greek words as Godhead in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9 causing confusion.
1 Peter 3:14-15 KJV v 1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV
|14But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;||14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,|
|15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:||15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,|
The modern translations include Christ the Lord in this passage but the KJV doesn’t. In this passage Peter is drawing on Isaiah 8:12-13, which is a passage about YHWH. In effect, Peter is saying Christ is YHWH! You won’t notice that in the KJV though. Again, a Jehovah’s Witness would much prefer the KJV reading of this verse.
Jude 4 KJV v Jude 4 ESV
|4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.||4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.|
The KJV separates Jesus from the Lord God while the ESV places a unique role to Christ as the only Lord and God.
Phil 2:5-6 KJV v Phil 2:5-6 NIV
|5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:||5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:|
|6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:||6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;|
NIV says Jesus is very nature God, you cannot separate divinity from Christ.
2 Peter 1:1 KJV v. ESV
1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
1Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
Titus 2:13 KJV v Titus 2:13 ESV
|13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;||13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,|
In both of these passages the KJV separates Jesus from God while the ESV does not. The ESV applies the Granville Sharp grammatical rule which came about well after the 1611 was produced. Again, this is a passage where the KJV is closer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses NWT on these few words than to the ESV, NIV etc.
- The KJV has some very peculiar translations of some Old Testament words: As Dr. James Price notes in a letter to Riplinger published by the Baptist Biblical Heritage:
In Gen 36:24, all Hebrew manuscripts and other ancient authorities read “found water”; whereas the KJV reads “found mules” following a medieval Jewish commentator. Do you suppose this is a New Age attack on the Word of God for which water is a symbol, replacing it with mules? In 1 Sam. 2:25 all Hebrew manuscripts read “God”; whereas the KJV reads “judge”, without capitalization. Do you suppose this is a New Age denial that God will judge sinners? In Isaiah 19:10, all Hebrew manuscripts read “soul”; whereas the KJV reads “fish”.. In Hosea 13:9, all Hebrew manuscripts read, “he destroyed you”, whereas the KJV reads, “thou hast destroyed thyself,” with no apparent support from any authority. Do you suppose this is a New Age corrupting of the Word of God? In Mal 2:12, all Hebrew manuscripts read “aware and awake”; whereas the KJV reads “the master and the scholar,” following the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate. Do you suppose this is a New Age attack on spiritual alertness, replacing it with godless scholarship?
- History repeats: Jerome stirred a riot in Carthage by translating the Old Testament into Latin, while Erasmus who significantly contributed to what we know as the Textus Receptus was treated with suspicion by some for learning Greek and Hebrew in an era of Latin manuscripts. Human nature has not changed, change scares us, unfamiliarity scares us. Does that mean keeping things the same is always right?
- Textus Receptus v. Textus Receptus. There are multiple passages where the Erasmus, Beza and Stephanus are not in agreement. For example their purification v her purification Luke 2:22, Erasmus omits Luke 17:36 while Beza includes it, alongside differences on John 16:33, Romans 8:11, Romans 12:11, 1 Timothy 1:4, Hebrews 9:1 and James 2:18.
- In a hurry: Erasmus’ translation that played a crucial role in the Textus Receptus (as it was later called) was produced while he was in a rush to produce a New Testament before Cardinal Ximenez published his Bible. His Novum Instrumentum had multiple editions (clearly not infallible) and the first two editions did not include 1 John 5:7
- No Greek manuscripts on Revelation for Erasmus: Erasmus had no Greek manuscript access to Revelation and in fact copied part of the end of Revelation (6 verses) from a Latin manuscript which appeared in the Textus Receptus. As a result the Textus Receptus included a unique Greek word not found in any manuscripts. Erasmus was disappointed with the lack of manuscripts he found in Basel, Switzerland which he used for his translation. Perhaps this is why in Revelation 17:4, Erasmus text includes a Greek word never seen before akathartetos (real word akatharta) which featured in the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Textus Receptus.
- Multiple editions for Erasmus and Beza: Erasmus had multiple editions of his Greek New Testament and so did Beza. This shows these were not perfect or inspired translations.
- When the ad hominem fallacy strikes its sender: King James Onlyists like to point out any involvement Catholics and “baby washers” had in translating modern texts but ignore the fact Erasmus was a Catholic and was a key person behind the Textus Receptus the King James translators used. Erasmus in fact dedicated his New Testament translation to Pope Leo X. As Anglicans, the translators were “baby washers “ so such a charge against Westcott and Hort is nonsensical. Furthermore, they ignore the fact the KJV Old Testament is based on the Masoretic text which was compiled by Jews in response to Christians who were using the Septuagint too much. Many ordinary KJV Onlyists do not even know what the Masoretic text is despite it making up most of the Bible.
- Our knowledge of Greek and Hebrew as well as our access to manuscripts has drastically improved since 1611. The KJV confuses Kue with a “linen yarn” in 1 Kings 10:28, confuses being captured with “being joined unto them” in Isaiah 13:15 and uses the same Greek word to translate muder and kill in Matt. 19:18 and Romans 13:9 although these words have different meanings. The Granville Sharp Greek grammatical rule which applies to Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 was not recognised in 1611.
- Unique contradictions and multiple confusing names for the same person: The KJV has a unique contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 which does not appear in versions such as the ESV. Please note the Greek word is different between the two passages but the KJV translates it the same.
Acts 9:7 KJV v ESV
|7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.||7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.|
Acts 22:9 KJV v ESV
|9And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.||9Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.|
Jack Lewis in The English Bible from KJV to NIV noted how Old Testament names can cause confusion for the readers, sometimes using a Hebrew form, sometimes a Greek, sometimes a Latin. For example, Balak and Balac, Kora and Core, Elijah and Elias, Henoch and Enoch etc.
- King James translators worked off translators (eg. Erasmus etc) who used very few manuscripts compared to what we have available. Erasmus and Beza also used very few manuscripts. Erasmus had no manuscript access to Revelation so he used Minuscule 2814 which was a commentary on Revelation, copying the text out of the commentary. The last 6 verses were cut off so Erasmus copied these from Latin into Greek. He most definitely was not using early Greek manuscripts on Revelation.
The King James completely ignores any findings in the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. An example is Deut. 32:8 which says sons of God in the ESV reflecting Dead Sea Scroll findings while the KJV says children of Israel.
- Adding verses in? Erasmus included 1 John 5:7 in his 3rd edition of his Greek translation of the New Testament due to pressure from Lee and Zuniga and did not want to previously include it. It was not found in the first 1000 years worth of manuscripts. It was also not included in the first two versions of his Novum Instrumentum or New Testament. No ancient Greek manuscripts include this verse only several late Latin manuscripts include it. As such, no Greek manuscripts Erasmus used included this verse. Yet, KJV Only advocates make a big deal of it being excluded from modern translations. The question is not if this verse is true or not (I believe it is) but if it was in the originals. The evidence that it wasn’t is overwhelming. Modern scholars also generally believe it was unlikely the story of the woman caught in adultery in John and the ending of Mark were in the original texts (earliest manuscripts lack it, there is a grammatical shift etc.).
- Beza added a “conjectural commendation” to Revelation 16:5 found in no manuscript or translation prior to him: His addition of “and shalt be” instead of “O Holy One” appears in no prior manuscripts. It is not in the Byzantine majority text. It is not in Erasmus translation, it is not in Stephanus translation, it is not in the 1538 Coverdale translation nor in the 1560 Geneva Bible. If we are to maintain the KJV in the only true word of God, it contains some words not found anywhere in the Bible for the first 1500 plus years of Christianity. In effect, we would have to believe God revealed something to Beza that he didn’t reveal to John the apostle or to the early church or to anyone in between the early church and Beza.
Rev 16:5 KJV v Rev 16:5 ESV
|5And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.||5And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.|
- The Textus Receptus is not the same as the Byzantine Majority text so for King James Onlyists to make it as if they perfectly follow the Byzantine manuscript tradition is misleading. Similarities yes, identical no.
- King James Onlyists regularly make claims about tampering with the Alexandrian texts but cannot provide evidence of this as they have no earlier manuscripts in the Byzantine text tradition which show alternative readings which were tampered with later. Furthermore, they ignore the fact modern translations such as the ESV are an eclectic reading of Byzantine, Alexandrian, Caesarean etc texts. In effect, KJV Onlyists do not believe God preserved his word in Alexandria which included people such as Athanasius who defended Christ’s divinity but only in the Byzantine area which was full of Arians.
- The Alexandrian texts are much earlier than the manuscripts used in the Textus Receptus and no clear proof of corruption can be provided unless the King James authors refer to earlier manuscripts than these. As noted before, virtually none of the early church fathers used the Byzantine texts. Gordon Fee in the March 1978 Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society highlighted how analysing Greek texts quoted in the early church fathers “always moves the father’s text of the NT away from the TR and closer to the text of our modern critical editions.” Alexandrian texts slowed down as the Byzantine text tradition became more prevalent due to the growth of Islam near Egypt which caused many Christians to either be persecuted or flee to areas closer to Byzantium (also known as Constantinople).
- If one still prefers the Byzantine texts, they do not need to be a King James Onlyist. The NKJV and MEV also primarily build off Byzantine texts. The Greek Orthodox church prefers Byzantine texts but are not KJV Onlyists.
With all this in mind it is clear the King James translators were not King James Onlyists. The apostles were not King James Onlyists for they quoted the Septuagint which is derived from a different Hebrew text than the Masoretic text included in the KJV. Erasmus was a textual critic who believed he made mistakes and that he used imperfect manuscripts. The KJV was edited and updated multiple times which is why virtually all people use a 1769 version and not a 1611. The KJV mistranslated several words in the Old and New Testaments. It doesn’t take into account new discoveries about ancient languages or recent manuscript or archaeological findings. It doesn’t factor in the oldest manuscripts available. It includes some things only included in Latin manuscripts but in no Greek manuscripts anywhere. It is not perfect. It deviates from what textual critics suggest were the original manuscripts. Is it helpful? Absolutely. Perfect translation? No. Does it contain the message necessary for salvation? Yes.
With all this in mind you have a choice. Do you hold to a KJV Only position with blind faith which accepts facts which contradict reality and contradicts the words of the translators themselves or do you thank God for preserving HIs word through the manuscript tradition with tenacity? Given there is no essential Christian belief unique only to the KJV and given the concerns about the KJV raised above, it is time we stopped being unnecessarily divisive, making foolish claims falsely stereotyping all non KJV readers as Arians and got to work defending the deity of Christ to nonbelievers.
If you’re a Christian reading this or even a non believer, I hope this article has given you some exposure to textual criticism. The Bible stands alone against all the works in antiquity in terms of its breadth of textual support.
The New Testament has by far the most and earliest manuscripts out of any major work in antiquity with approx. 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and approx. 8,000 in other languages such as Coptic, Syriac etc compared to 3 manuscripts of Tacitus, 7 of Plato, 10 of Julius Caesar, 49 of Aristotle, 75 of Herodotus, 200 of Suetonius and 1758 of Homer ( Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1998), Christ, p 63. Norman L. Geisler, “Updating the Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament”, www.normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Reliability).
We have 42 sources speaking about Jesus within the first 150 years of his life as Habermas highlights, including secular sources such as Celsus, Thallus, Phlegon, Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Mara Bar Serapion, Lucian, Pliny the Younger.
Of the variants in New Testament manuscripts (thousands of manuscripts), 75% are spelling or similar differences, 15% are variations of Greek synonyms and transpositions, over 9% are late changes easily detectable and less than 1% impact the meaning of the text and are from early manuscripts while even Ehrman admits as quoted in another question, these do not impact essential Christian doctrines (See Daniel Wallace’s chapter on “The Quantity and Quality of Textual Variants in Reinventing Jesus, 53–63, and his section under “The Nature of the Variants” in Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament, 40–43, for a more thorough look at the types of variants.).
The Dead Sea Scrolls found between 1947 and 1956 confirmed many writings we had of Old Testament books translated into English were significantly consistent with the ancient manuscripts found which included an entire scroll of Isaiah and around 230 manuscripts which contain partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible except the book of Esther.
Essential Christian beliefs have not changed since the earliest of Alenxadrian texts. Here’s what sceptic Ehrman says in an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p. 252):
Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions — he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not — we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement — maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands. The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.
These manuscripts were not controlled by a central authority unlike the Uthman of Islam. Instead, they spread like a wildfire all around the Middle East, southern Europe and northern Africa. Spread by people who would be tucked in a corner with a candlelight near a manuscript hiding from Roman soldiers, who risked their lives for what they thought was God’s word.
The fact we have a complete Bible with minimal variation and the same essential beliefs consistent across different manuscripts is truly a miracle. Many have wanted to eliminate the Bible from society. Let’s not forget this history and the complexity behind how we got the Bible when we hear the black and white naive remarks of King James Onlyists. Many translators of modern translators hold to the divinity of Jesus and give their lives to the task. No one is perfect. Let’s not fall for ad hominem attacks. Let’s follow the evidence. Let’s follow the thousands of manuscripts which go back very early, not merely the late handful of manuscripts used by Erasmus, some of which weren’t even in Greek. Our imperfections rather than drawing us away from God should bring us closer to him as we realise our need for him.
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