The KJV-Only Debate

Growing up, I was given King James Version bibles from the moment I could read. According to my grandpa, it was the only inspired version. (He had come to this conclusion, of course, after studying with the NASB and other versions for YEARS... but I digress.) As I got closer to the teenage years, I began using other translations for my personal study, and found it so personally enriching. Suddenly, I didn't have to rely on a memory of what a word meant... the words used in these newer versions ACTUALLY spoke to my heart. Anyway, my grandpa still believes this. And has left many a church over any deviation from this belief. And he's not the only one; there are still many people who believe this. And they split and leave churches over this conviction.

When someone asked me recently what I thought of KJV-only conviction (not as a personal preference for reading, but the belief that it is the only "inspired" translation), and how one should respond to relatives or friends who espouse this belief, this is what I wrote, and I wanted to share it with you lovely folks and get your views and allow you to add any additional points I may have missed.
There is one simple way (in my mind) to put such arguments to rest:

Simply ask your well-intentioned relatives if they really think that everyone should be reading the KJV, does that include converts in Mongolia? What about in remote parts of North Africa? What about in the jungles of Peru? And in the Pacific islands?

Does one really have to know not only English, but Old English, in order to come to faith and be pleasing to God? And if not, why not? Because they wouldn't understand it? HMMMM....

And then what if the situation were reversed? If some Tajik from Tajikistan came to America and moved to your neighborhood, saying that the only way to know God was to learn 15th century Tajik and read one particular manuscript, and that even an English translation (that you could understand) wasn't good enough, what would you think of the power of that book or manuscript? What would you think of his God? I bet you'd never bother.

When you put the whole KJV only thing in the global context, it's patently absurd.
What say you, dear friends and fellow bloggers? I'm not asking if it's OK to use the KJV for personal reading, as an individual preference. I'm specifically talking about the conviction that the KJV is the only inspired version of the Bible. Thoughts or comments?


Hind's Feet said...

When I have been faced with this argument I try to simply ask if this was the orginal Bible as the Holy Spirit spoke it to men's hearts...

In other words, the "inspired version" would be in Greek, Hebrew and whatever other language the first portions used.

So, while the KJV might be an excellent "translation" that is what we all need to look for, "translations" rather than "versions." (I think got the right emphasis.) We want God's words translated to a language we can understand, rather than man's version of what he thinks God might be saying to someone at some specific time in history. (such as the "gender neutral" Bibles being published... NOT translations, but versions)

Okay, I better stop before I mix myself up. Hope that made sense.
Blessings, Kim

Anonymous said...

I was brought up to believe that the KJV was the only true bible and that I HAD to read it every day. It was very legalistic. In my later teen years I had a friend who read an 'everday language' version. I started reading it...I started to actually want to read the bible because i could understand it and it spoke to me.
As you said....if we want the truest form of the bible we need to study the original languages it was written in.
I think it is important to remember that God is bigger than we are and He can work with and through 'man's' imperfect translations of His word.
Just my thoughts, Tanya

Steph VG said...

I used to be part of a message board run by (and populated by) Christian women who were KJV-only, among other things. They were Godly women, and accepted me into their fellowship very kindly. But I remember a clear shift when one topic came up: the cheerful, "Let's talk about our Bibles!" When I posted that mine was a NASB, several stopped acknowledging anything I said. Ever.

So I'm no longer part of it, since I was then unwelcome. But in an effort to at least understand what they believe and why, I did some research.

One of the arguments I read is that the KJV is the only inspired English version. Some say that God has preserved His Word in English through the KJV, but that the first translation in other languages is also inspired.

The issue for me is that 2 Peter 1:21 says that "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." That seems to point directly to Kim's point that the Word as it was originally written in the original languages was the inspired Word. Are some translations of those languages better (meaning, more accurate) than others? You bet. But is there one translation that God has chosen to supercede all others? No.

Another point I've considered is that they don't hold to the first-ever English translation, but instead the 1611 KJV. "The Authorized Version." If God chose to preserve His Word in English, wouldn't it have been right the first time?

Anyway, enough from me. An interesting post, Jess - you don't shy away from opening wide the doors, do you? :-)

Jess said...

;) I just enjoy a good, open discussion about real things. Sometimes controversial, sometimes more than some people would want to hear... but I'm always looking for a good discussion, or something I can learn...

... Which, by the way, I did from your comment- about the whole "first translation in every language" thing... I'd never heard that. I appreciate knowing that that's at least where some people originate this argument, although I don't know that many people think that far. Just as many in those groups think, "hymns- always good. Praise songs- always bad", many also think, "old language makes it more holy, so anything that uses language we can understand is suspect".

Anyway, thanks for writing- I definitely learned something from your comment!

amy said...

I have known many wonderful Christians who would rather lose an arm than read (or hear read) the Word in something other than KJV. However, one thing my husband pointed out, it that even the KJV we read today is not like the KJV was when it was first published. In all reality, WE wouldn't be able to understand the King's English.

Every modern translation has errors and denominational slants. I also think that God is much bigger than we are and a good Bible student can take any translation and learn God's Word. I have known people who were able to take a New World Translation (JW) and still show the deity of Christ and how the teachings of that group were in error with the Word of God and their own book.

We must be as wise a serpents and as harmless as doves in all things.

Thanks for bringing this subject up. I know it can be a real sore spot for some, but we must remember our loyalty is to God Almighty not a particular translation.

Kim said...

I think it's junk, quite plainly. Not KJV, but the "KJV only" argument. I also think people who down the NLT or The Message because it's not word-for-word in the exact order it was written in the Greek are Bible snobs. Seriously. (I have a bigger problem with the gender-neutral TNIV than I do with The Message, because the purpose of The Message IS to be a paraphrase and make the Bible more readable. It doesn't claim to be a word-for-word translation.) Maybe I'm being harsh. I own a NIV, NASB, KJV, and am hopefully getting an ESV for my birthday (just because I want a One-Year Bible and the translation I like the best out of the ones that are available is the ESV). I think they each give us a different angle on the same words - the English language is so limited in it's ability to express things, that I think it's really cool - and a helpful Bible study tool - to read it in different translations to get a more complete understanding of what the Word is saying. I think your argument about the different languages is an excellent one. (I have had the KJV only argument with my brother before and it just makes me red in the face. It's such a shallow argument. I mean, our ability to translate has gotten better over the last 400 years, so one would think that the later translations are just as good.) My grandfather was similar in his argument that KJV = best, but he made room for grace, which was nice.

Also - I've seen pages of the some of the first Bibles translated into English - they are almost like reading any other foreigh language, it is so different from today's English.

Thanks for bringing this up - it's an excellent discussion topic!

sharyn said...

Well, at risk of "outing" myself here, we are Torah readers, so as you might imagine, we find our God just fine without reading the KJV!

But to offer an 'outsider's' viewpoint, I sincerely hope that no one finds me to have less of a faith or be less of a believer in God because of what text I read in worship. Of course, I would expect many people to disagree with specific tenets or aspects of individual faiths, including Judaism. That would be fodder for important conversation that could deepen faith and help sharpen religious convictions, or effect needed change. But to say that the only acceptable version of the Bible is one specific translation seems short-sighted and exclusive, rather than encouraging and inclusive -- isn't the point for us all to find God? And if the bridge to that faith is a text other than the KJV, are we to reject the believer and dash his/her chances of finding God?

I hope not!

The Nerd said...

There is a more rational/academic side to the debate. Most academics that hold to KJV only point not to the english translation but to the underlying body of greek texts called the 'majority text' or 'textus receptus'.

Basically, when the biblical letters were written they were latered copied. As time passed, different text families arose, which are now basically put into four groups. Early copies in each family made different additions, changes, corrections, etc. and these changes got passed down by later scribes.

These changes were usually very minor an addition or omition of words like 'the' or spelling changes. Or sometimes later scribes didn't know whether previous scribal comments in the margin were comments or corrections that were left out. So after several hundred years of this we ended up with a Bible with 102% of the original text with these additions.

The majority text is one that the eastern orthodox church actually had, and had many more copies (hence Majority Text) because they were still being used regularly. However, this text family was one that had a few more additions than others than some of the other families that were a little more literal.

Anyhow, scholars that want the KJV say that since there are so many more of the Majority Text manuscripts, it's more likely to be correct. But 99% of scholars use a well-honed method to help determine what was the most likely original reading to get us from the 102% back to the 100%. So the case for the Majority Text is about as good as for the KJV (that is, no good at all), but it is more complex than just looking at the English translation.

Allison said...

I had no idea that this argument even existed! Perhaps I live under a rock... who knows!

But I, like Kim, think its junk! I think this mentality is exactly the thing that turns a lot of people off (if you will) and discourages them from being a part of organized religion. Who are we to say this is "better" or "holier" or "more inspired" than that? Is it not all the same message? Are there not multiple translations of The Word in order to reach as many people as possible?

Frankly, I feel that this argument is a bit discriminatory and perhaps even hypocritical. Isn't this a way of saying "what I do is better than what you do and what you do is wrong"? How *Christian* is that philosophy?

I have never been able to read from a KJV bible - simply because it means NOTHING to me. I can not get it! But I have tried at least 3 other versions, and I get a little bit more out of each one. I tend to read several different translations of the same verses to see which makes the most sense - which strikes the loudest chord. And I think that I have a fairly stromg grasp on The Word and what it means. I think that I know the messages that have been put forth.

I feel that reading the bible, along with worship and praise, should be done in the way that best serves each individual person. Again, are we not reading the same message? Are we not worshiping the same God? Who cares how we do it, as long as it works for us?

Anonymous said...

It is another one of those issues that satan uses to divide God's people.
if we were to be convinced to read only kjv, then we would understand less (since it is effectively in another language) and we would be unable to share it with the unchurched (since they would have even less of an understanding of the meaning).
a dear friend of mine has become involved in an ultra conservative church, and one of their things is kjv. my friend no longer has anything to do with me. apparently, i am too worldly, and don't even read the true bible!
divisions, divisions. the way satan works in the church.
love you boldness, jess :)

LisaM said...

I think you have a good argument, and further statements like are mentioned here, esp. those scholarly examples given by "the nerd", really stand beside your reasoning. As I get older and learn more about using a Vine's or Strong's companion (or the like, since these are also "old" translators) I find more richness in understanding what the words of God mean. (Not that the Shakespearian poetry of the Old King James isn't rich. ;) )
"The more I live, the more I learn, ... the more I realize the less I know." (from the movie Yentl)

Anonymous said...

I've read "The Message" and I loved it, it motivated me to really dig into what I think is God's preserved word the KJV. After all of the blessings the Lord has given me the lest I can do is read what I believe is His True Words. I use the other "versions" (I don't see them as translations) as a type of study guide of sorts but when it comes down to it, if I'm gonna quote Him I better know exactly what He said.

Allena said...

i love what the one commentor said about them being translations rather than versions.
i personally never understood the whole thing. b/c to me they all seemed to be different translations rather than versions.
i think that the whole KJV only thing is something that Satan uses to distract and disrupt believers away from where their focus should be. and he's sooo effective!
God is sooo much bigger than a version of the Bible.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a wonderful rhythm & beauty to the KJV, that has influenced our music, poetry & other's impossible to separate the words of this Version from so much of what we know of Western culture.

That said, it seems a foolish argument to make, that it's the one, the ONLY inspired version of God's Word that exists. Many, many people have been moved spiritually, & come to know God & His love through Jesus Christ, by reading & studying other versions.

Fussing over these different versions seems a bit, to me, like arguing about the virtues of 2 or 3 perfectly good wool coats, & which one would keep you the brown one better than the black one?...better than the red one?


sealjoy said...

I personally prefer the NKJV to the KJV, but don't have a problem with many of the other versions out there. The only ones I don't like (and this is because I am the study type) are the ones that to me "dumb" down the word.

I can understand using language that we understand, but paraphrasing the Bible to me leaves room for misinterpretation.

My personal opinion is that the original languages were inspired, and God though is not limited by language or translation.

My new best friend is the interliniar Bible that includes both English and original text languages.

I find that if I really want to understand something that I research it to the fullest and including translating what I am reading. Other times when God wants to speak directly with out me having to take to much time to understand, His word speaks directly. Sometimes He makes me work for it, and sometimes He doesn't.

Just my two cents.


Anonymous said...

Laurie B here:

Sharyn, I didn't know there were any other Jews who read Jess's blog!

The idea that the KJV contains the one true word of God is amazing to me.

Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't the KJV translated from the Vulgate in Latin, rather than directly from ancient Hebrew and Greek? If so, the KJV is really a translation of a translation.

And let's not forget that even the "original" New Testament was a translation, because Jesus and the disciples would all have been speaking Aramaic, not Greek.

So the followers of the various apostles who wrote the gospels were writing in a different language from the one Jesus used in his teaching.

In that sense, the KJV may be a translation of a translation of a translation.

My knowledge of Hebrew is poor, but I have observed Jewish scholars arguing over the correct meaning of passages in the Torah. Even people who are fully conversant in Hebrew and have spent decades studying the Bible still disagree over how we should understand certain words.

So it seems silly to imagine that the people who translated and edited the KJV Bible were somehow privy to exactly what God wanted us all to know.

Lizzie said...

Hope you don't mind me sticking my toe into the water on this one.

I'm a newbie believer and began to read the Bible via because I didn't own a hard copy. I'd previously discovered a good homemaking blog whose author was EXTREMELY pro-KJV-only so I started reading in that translation. I got as far as Leviticus, exceedingly slowly and painfully I might add, wading my way through the 'lookeths' and 'thines' until my eyes blurred. When I couldn't stand it any more (I think perhaps reading from Page One was possibly a bad move, LOL) I switched to the New Testament and the NIV. What a difference!

Sure, the NT is a different feel than the OT anyway, but not only could I read this version, I didn't have to stop every two or three words to decipher what was going on (as I remember having to do with Shakespeare in school, co-incidentally, LOL)

For me, if I'd been presented with a KJV-only option for reading the Bible I'd have probably said no thanks. The gospel is translated into so many languages for a reason - to reach the maximum number of people. So I think the greater issue here is not whether a text line is authentic, or whether the KJV is the only inspired version, but rather, who are the newer translations able to reach that the KJV can't? People like me. I've heard it said many times now that new believers (the ones like me who come to faith in adulthood with no basis in Scripture beforehand) should never be given a KJV Bible until they've spent a large portion of time (maybe years) studying the 'easier' translations and finding a fit that's right for them. It's a whole lot easier to delve into the KJV after you've already got a basis for comparison. For the record, I chose the NIV because it was the most common translation, and I've since bought myself a hard copy Bible.

Plus, as a couple of others have pointed out, God's a pretty cluey guy, LOL. He's just plain happy as many people as possible are hearing the gospel!


Brenda said...

I read all the comments thus far and I'm seeing something that concerns me...
A few mentioned they had not really heard of this debate before and others seem to have not given it much thought. That's fine...but I encourage you to pray and think about it and most of all, if your husband is a Christian, to ask him about it.
I assume most of us responding are women and I see a lot of "I feel that..." and "I feel..." in our comments. We are that way, but more is needed than our "feelings" on things like this.
We have read about this and thought about it, too. However, I need to get my thoughts straight and speak to my husband before I respond to this--because I want my comment to have some meaning )and it's awfully early for deep thought right now Jess!) :)

Anonymous said...

I like the KJV better and feel like the minority. Most churches I have visited and in different states use other versions and I can't follow along in my Bible. I have used other Bibles in study but I love my KJV. I feel like I get so much out of it. I do have parents that are KJV only people and won't visit a church that doesn't use it and that doesn't leave a person with many options. I am one of those people who like hymns better too. My reason is that I love the words to those songs. Most churches I have attended have put the hymns away for full praise music and I feel like I'm missing something. Sometimes the words to some praise music seems so generic to me. When I sing hymns that mention the name of Jesus I feel like I'm really worshiping. I wished my writing could express my feelings better. Don't look at the hymns as just being old fashioned but read the words. I'm not too old, I'm 41. Thank you Jess for your blog.

Seashell / Chelsea said...

My family uses KJV only. However we don't believe it is the only "inspired" Bible. We believe that the only "inspired" Bible was the original. Every other copy or translation since then is likely to contain errors or biases. We use the KJV because after some study we believe it to be the most accurate English Bible with the least ammount of bias. A lot of Bibles today come with built in agendas (ie feminist friendly, or ok with homosexuality). We also believe the Bible shouldn't be copyrighted as the new versions are. Should we "own" the Bible? So maybe they are easier to read (although some tests say that the KJV is a t a lower reading level than the NIV) but what are you sacrificing to modern english?

Steph VG said...

Really appreciated Laurie B's point that if the KJV is translated from the Latin Vulgate, then the KJV is an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek translation of...

I just said to a friend the other day that part of the reason the Lord made the Body the way He did is so we would have options. There are some people who just respond more to KJV; others can't get through the language barrier. I'm somewhere in the middle. It's like what Jess said about hymns vs. praise songs. Each "side" has value; neither side should be thrown out. Praise God for the colors of the Body, and the way He allows us to sharpen and encourage one another.

Theodora Elizabeth said...

Laurie B wrote:

Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't the KJV translated from the Vulgate in Latin, rather than directly from ancient Hebrew and Greek? If so, the KJV is really a translation of a translation.

That is incorrect. As it is printed on the title page of my Cambridge KJ Bible: "Translated out of the original tongues[Hebrew for OT & Greek for NT] and with the former translations [in English] diligently compared and revised by His Majesty's special command."

From the Preface of the King James Bible (not usually printed in modern editions): "If you ask what they [the Translators] had before them," says the Preface, "truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New ..."

You might find the Translator's Preface of interest:

Anonymous said...

I've always liked the NRSV because it's straightforward and I can read it without having to think so hard about the words that I miss the meaning. However, the KJV is beautiful when read out loud. My husband is a strict KJV-only guy, which I think is a little ridiculous... but our wedding was KJV, which gave it a nice traditional feeling.

Great post!

Jess said...

At 7:06 AM, Andy Rayner left the following comment:

It's pure ethnocentrism in my mind.
I agree with the other comments above about the Greek & Hebrew. KJV is a translation. I wonder if KJV people would support bible translation around the world? How could they?

It will be a huge shock for KJV people to know that the majority of the world are now reading bibles that are not even in English let alone KJV. English is now a minority language like many others among world Christianity. English is non-existent in many places in the world today.

Alas, because of the Holy language of old english, almost 80% of the world's evangelical workers around the world are currently in and keep getting sent to gospel-saturated former British colonies where English can be spoken by them and their families and used reasonably well to get around and function. Places where there are already hundreds of churches, pastors, and national leaders.

Our love of English prevents the pioneering spirit we still need to complete the task of taking the Truth to all nations and peoples.

At 7:10 AM Andy Rayner added this additional comment:

Oh and concerning the original texts and manuscripts comments above, which I so appreciated, we have texts today that are closer to the date, more of them to compare with, etc., than the Old KJV translators had in their hands then. Something to think about.

Jess said...

At 3:11 PM, Sharlene left the following comment:

This discussion has been going on for a while, but if I may add a comment. My husband and I have prayed about this translation issue.

We work overseas, and the people we work with do speak English, but they cannot make a "th" sound. Reading the KJV is very difficult for them and understanding what they have read is even more difficult.

One girl had to read her Bible at my house, because I have a dictionary. Even then I had to help her understand all the words that have changed meanings over the years.

My husband and I were in distress. We desperately desire to tell them about Christ, but how could they grow if they couldn't read the Bible on their own? After much prayer, we introduced the NASB and that has made a world of difference. We have been criticized for doing this, but when I look at the spiritual growth of many people here, I am thankful that we were able to introduce them to a Bible that they could read and understand on their own.


Anonymous said...

At 7:06 AM, Andy Rayner left the following comment:

"I wonder if KJV people would support bible translation around the world? How could they?

It will be a huge shock for KJV people to know that the majority of the world are now reading bibles that are not even in English let alone KJV. English is now a minority language like many others among world Christianity. English is non-existent in many places in the world today."

I think people who consider the King James Bible the best of the translations available in ENGLISH have no problem recognizing that there are other languages in the world.

There are two issues mixed up here and to lump them together generates very emotional comments that do not represent reality fairly. Among KJV supporters there are really two broad categories, as I have been able to tell:

- There are the KJV-only in the sense that the KJV is inspired by God in the same sense that the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were; that the English corrects the Greek (!), that one need not even study the Greek because that promotes pride; that any KJ Bible even that has 'Savior' instead of 'Saviour' (the American spelling instead of the original British spelling) should be thrown into the garbage as it is not THE real Bible. These are mostly supporters of Peter Ruckman and his heresies.

- There are also KJV-only people in that they recognize that while God can use whatever translation to save someone, research has made them reach the conclusion that KJV is very accurate and the best of the available translations. They don't claim that one is lost for not reading/studying the KJV but they are aware of translation problems in the other versions and honestly believe this is the most accurate translation there is in ENGLISH.

So to make sweeping statements like 'this is all junk', 'the KJ-only people cannot support missions' and so on is ... not a well-informed or loving choice of words.

I have so far run into people belonging to both strands of KJV-only, and those from the second category have made that choice out of their love for truth. Words, even small words, can make a world of difference. Think of 'Jesus is God' versus 'Jesus is a God'. Just one tiny little word differs, but it sends a completely different message. The same way, real translation problems can be pointed out - I'm aware of problems with the NIV, for instance - where parts of verses are missing (and I don't mean the italics words either) or where the meaning of some verses was changed or not rendered fully. In some cases, the deity of the Lord Jesus is in question.

I only wrote this as an attempt to shed some clarity.

Mrs. P

Young Christian Woman said...

Disclaimer: I read the NIV.

Minor quibble: the KJV is modern English, or if you prefer, Shakesperean English. I can't read old English, and chances are most of the other people here cannot either. If you have trouble with the KJV, chances are you can't read middle English, either. That would be Chaucer.

Here is the pro-KJV argument I have heard (from Kent Hovind):
When the KJV was translated, it used the most common version. That version was most common because people had been painstakingly copying the Bible correctly for over 1500 years. The NIV tried to use the oldest texts that they could. The oldest texts were actually less accurate; that is how they survived so long. The texts that were good were in use more, and thus did not survive as long. Hovind used the example that he has a Mormon Bible in his home, but that he will never wear it out like he will the copy he uses for daily Bible study. He also thinks that the English language was at its apex at the time the KJV was translated.

The argument that the KJV is too complex has a number of refutations as well. First of all, the fact that it is more complex can be an argument in its favor. If it is more complex it can be richer. The argument for teaching from the KJV is that if you start your children in the KJV, they will be used to that kind of writing; it won't be an issue to them. They will learn more words from that version. I do not find the KJV too difficult (but then, after a little bit of reading, I don't find Chaucer too difficult either.)

I can certainly respect these arguments. (As opposed to "If the King's English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.") Considering, however, how similar the KJV and most other translations are, I think it is a stretch to say that the others are not inspired. Even if they are not an "inspired translation," they're still the Bible. I do not like translations that try to change the meaning of the Bible (like a gender neutral Bible). I also think that translations that try too hard to reach the lowest common denominator lose a lot. For example, the Lord's prayer in the message:
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

That's not in my bible--three square meals? Safe from ourselves? Reveal who you are is not the same as hallowed be thy name. Keep us forgiven with you is not common everyday language, and it seems to me to cheapen the fact that we must ask for forgiveness, as well as glossing over what must be forgiven--sin.

2He said to them, "When you pray, say:
" 'Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]' "

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3Give us day by day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

These are practically identical, except for the "deliver us from evil."

And if the KJV is a problem because of "thous" and "eths," you could consider the NKJV:
Our Father in heaven,[a]
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.[b]
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.” [c]

Jesus uses symbolism frequently. He knew this made it harder for some to understand. When this confused His disciples, He explained the symbolism without abandoning it. He did not seek to make his teaching easier, only more understandable.

I don't think that reading the Bible should be all about ease or comfort. I can see choosing an easier version over a harder version, but I would also make sure that version was still accurate. I don't think the question should be a test of fellowship.

sealjoy said...

Thank you Mrs. P for your comments. I fall in to the NKJV where I love the language. When I became aware there were translation problems all around, I decided that since my soul is my responsibility, I wanted to get it as right as possible.

That is why when I do a study I do my own translation research and use a linear Bible that allows me to follow both the Greek wording and Hebrew as well. This has shed much light on many controversial issues for me.

My own opinion is that many different doctrines these days that are so limiting, seems to me a way Christians can put God in a neat little box that doesn't challenge their personal comfort zones. I prefer not to limit God in my life, and let Him work however He wants no matter how uncomfortable it is.


Andy Rayner said...

MR P said; "There are the KJV-only in the sense that the KJV is inspired by God in the same sense that the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were;...."There are also KJV-only people in that they recognize that while God can use whatever translation to save someone, research has made them reach the conclusion that KJV is very accurate and the best of the available translations"

I am well aware of both Groups. I don't think we missed this. However, regarding both Groups- The real issue is this - Both views are based on Human opinions, and human opinion make for poor church Doctrine. In nearly all "KJV Only churches". Jess's original article was not talking about those who have KJV "preference". In KJV only churches, rarely is this view taught as a "preference" or AN "opinion", but as a must believe doctrine. Churches and other believers are condemned and often judged over it.
When people isolate other brothers and sisters, and refuse to attend a church where KJV is not read are making an opinion a "Thus saith the Lord" doctrine. That is what bothers me.

And Yes this doctrine is extended to the missions field. I know from first experience that KJV only churches send missionaries who, by and large, must read the KJV English Bible first in an African village for the "power of God's word" to go out. Then after reading the KJV the English can be translated into the local language by a translator, or then a national language translation can be read. However, the KJV does need to be read first, as it is "God's only authorized translation" of the word.
I'm not trying to be unloving in my approach. This KJV only doctrine (not preference)is reaching out to and effecting world missions and missionary practice as these churches send out missionaries. There is a prevalent low view of national or other language translations of Bible scriptures.
"In Essentials unity, in opinion liberty, in all things love"

Anonymous said...

I personally know some KJV-only missionaries (who believe it is the most accurate translation into English) and they would not do the things you describe (Andy Rayner). Actually, they tried hard to learn the natives' languate and try to preach in it as much as possible. They don't first read from English to obtain some 'magical' effects. :-)

Mrs. P

As for limiting fellowship on the basis of the use or non-use of the KJ, all I can say is: I would certainly fellowship with people using other translations, just as I would fellowship with someone who would not hold to the doctrines of grace to the degree that I do. BUT if I considered those things important, if I considered specifically that there were issues with the other Bible translation that made them prone to promoting weak or wrong doctrine, of course I would look for a church that consistently preached from the KJ. I don't think that would mean I was condemning people. We all stand for things that are important to us.

That being said, I am sure there are people that have a really nasty spirit about this (I've met a particular group on the net, for whom I was not conservative enough), as there are people having such an attitude about just about any doctrine... but believing the KJ is better not only as a matter of personal taste does not necessarily make one condemning and judgemental. I'm not sure I'm expressing myself clearly enough, but that is the point I'm trying to make.

Anonymous said...


This might not be exactly what you were looking for in the debate on this post, but I think it is worth mentioning.

When my father-in-law is asked which translation of the Bible is the 'best', his answer:

The one that you'll read.


LOVE that reply! It gets right to the heart of the issue: Just read God's Word! It doesn't matter if you own the most literal translation possible if you never read it!

-Lauren H.

Pauline said...

This is a fascinating discussion - one from which I have learnt a lot. I was brought up with the KJV, but as my parents ran a Christian Bookshop, we were introduced to many of the new versions as they were published.

When I worked in another Chrisitan bookshop, I was once asked for the 'real' Bible - 'the one that Paul wrote'. So it is true to say that there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion among the most genuine and God fearing individuals.

There are many who say that the KJV has a melody or rhythm that enables them to memorise it much more readily than the newer versions. I respect that, and use the KJV regularly in conjuction with whichever other version I happen to be reading from at the time.

I have tried the NIV, but did not really enjoy it - a bit too much like reading a book. I enjoyed the NLT for a time, but am now reading the NASV while my husband is using the NKJV.

Above and beyond all the issues regarding inspiration and reverence, I can't help but feel that there are some other important and over-riding factors:

1. Our God is not constrained by a particular version in His communication to our souls

2. It is our heart readiness and attitude to our devotions that our hearts are opened to what He has to say to us through whatever version we are reading.

3. Personal preference is just that, and it saddens me to think that genuine God fearing souls are caught up in what is such a sensitive area, to the extent that it it a stumbling block to true fellowship - I wonder what version is 'authorised' in heaven?

Just my thoughts.
God Bless,

Mom said...

Amen to what you wrote, Jessica, and as the daughter of the man who you mentioned (my dad and your grandpa), I had many times of talks, frustrations and just plain times of wonder through the years. I also remember comments made about Bible translators by him. He would snicker or laugh about it, so, no, he didn't believe in that AT ALL. He would just say that "the great God of the universe" could do anything and that He could use the KJV to reach anyone anywhere. He was very stubborn and hard to convince or talk with in this area. But, I do remember wondering about the Bible translation issue, and, as early as my teenage years couldn't quite understand his point of view. And, I agree with one thing that he said. The Great God of the Universe CAN and DOES work in the lives of people everywhere, but I also now know that He uses different versions and different types of ministries. Mom

Shamgar said...

I also think people who down the NLT or The Message because it's not word-for-word in the exact order it was written in the Greek are Bible snobs.

Well, I'm one of those people. But I don't do it because I'm a bible snob. I do it first because there is a widespread ignorance of the bible in general. Many people read it who do not own an actual translation, and many of them have never read an actual translation. When you talk to them, they frequently come away with some very poor understandings of scripture as a result. I also hold this view because most people are not as well informed as many of the people on this blog seem to be, and do in fact think it is a 'translation' and accurate as such, which leads to the above problem.

Lastly, and most importantly, I take this view because I do not believe that it's a good idea to allow anyone besides your pastor to interpret scripture for you. And even then under the review of the Scriptures he claims to be interpreting.

Another poster mentioned that there are people who can prove the deity of Christ even in the deliberately mistranslated NWT, which seeks at all costs to eradicate such things. And it's true, you can. God's truth still shines through in places. Despite that, you cannot deny that the NWT lends itself specifically to heretical doctrine - which is of course why the JW's wrote it and use it. Why expose yourself to that kind of risk and unnecessary difficulty when there is so much that is better available?

There is a more rational/academic side to the debate. Most academics that hold to KJV only point not to the english translation but to the underlying body of greek texts called the 'majority text' or 'textus receptus'.

The Nerd is right, the real issue here that underlies this debate is one of the MT/TR over against the other textual families.

The trouble is that the MT doesn't reflect what we've learned since the 1600s, all the older manuscripts we've found - some of whom were buried and lost in the first couple centuries after Christ. The MT has more copies, but they are all inbred copies of the same branch of the text. These other manuscripts come from all over the region and from much earlier time periods.

One thing I would clarify is that the other textual families don't just use those earlier text. They use the MT/TR together with the earlier texts to get at the original manuscripts, or as close as possible.

I'll note btw, for those who find this disconcerting that we have more textual evidence for the the original manuscripts of Scripture than any other work of antiquity by a LONG shot. We have more copies in agreement from further distances much closer in time to the originals than anything else. If you believe Homer's Illiad is the real deal, then the bible is a cinch.

These other families are the works that most modern translations are based on. The KJV tradition is one of the few that still is devoted to the MT/TR

Now, that doesn't mean it isn't accurate - it just means it isn't as accurate as it could be. The Gospel is there, there are fine points that may be difficult to understand without some language, historical, and cultural context but it's all there. Which is why there are very few "KJV-never" type people. ;-) Most of us even agree that it is very beautiful language in some places. However, if you want to do serious in-depth study with the most accurate translations possible w/out doing the extra wading then the KJV isn't what you want. At the very least you'll want another translation to refer to.

Shamgar said...

Really appreciated Laurie B's point that if the KJV is translated from the Latin Vulgate, then the KJV is an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek translation of...

No - not a 'greek translation of'. The original was Greek (for the NT other than a few short sentences in aramaic).

That is incorrect. As it is printed on the title page of my Cambridge KJ Bible: "Translated out of the original tongues[Hebrew for OT & Greek for NT] and with the former translations [in English] diligently compared and revised by His Majesty's special command."

Well, actually, you're both right. ;-) Erasmus used both. In several of specific places Erasmus translated (in essence) from the Latin Vulgate only. The first of those is 1 John 5:7, which you'll only find in the KJV, as it is not located in any greek manuscript anywhere, but only in the Latin Vulgate. (Well - no authentic ones anyway. Erasmus was overly confident and stated if one was found he'd include the passage, and someone "produced" an Irish manuscript that had it. The only one in existence and highly suspect as having been created for that purpose)

There are other places where he imported passages or phrases, like: Acts 8:37, Acts 9:5 and 6, Acts 19:20, and Rev 22:19. (And others in Romans, Timothy, and I think hebrews - but I don't have time to look them up right now). These were things he put into his Greek manuscript which was then used by the KJV translators.

Now, I should note this simply speaks to the accuracy - not to its orthodoxy. There's nothing specifically *wrong* with the *additions* in the KJV, but there wouldn't be anything particularly /wrong/ with including the formula for the circumference of a circle into James either. Everything in James would still be true - but it wouldn't be accurate.i

I could list quite a few errors in the KJV translation here, including on passage suggesting that Peter claimed Christ was killed and /then/ hung on the cross. Those obviously are /wrong/ but they're just translational errors - those things happen. But they do cause some bit of trouble for people who hold to it as an inspired text.

Shamgar said...

We also believe the Bible shouldn't be copyrighted as the new versions are. Should we "own" the Bible?

Well, that's a straw man. Having a copyright doesn't give them ownership over the bible. It gives them ownership over the translation they did. Anyone can grab a greek manuscript and make their own if they so wish. You're paying them for the convenience of using theirs.

Also, I'm afraid your KJV bible had the same thing. It wasn't called a copyright of course, the very idea of printing was still too new for such a concept to even come up. However, the KJV technically even now belongs to the British Monarchy. For the first hundred years after it was printed it could only be printed by the Royal Printer and no-one else. A rose by any other name...

They paid for the translation and printing and it belongs to them. Today, we don't have to depend on the government to finance and print the bible for us (thank goodness, given how poorly they do everything else). We have private companies that compete to provide the best translations.

Sometimes that means we get bad ones, because there's a market demand for them. But it also means we get good ones, because there is also a demand for those. And they're widely available in a variety of styles and often times are even made available for free in certain formats. The NET bible is an example of this.

Shamgar said...

1. Our God is not constrained by a particular version in His communication to our souls

2. It is our heart readiness and attitude to our devotions that our hearts are opened to what He has to say to us through whatever version we are reading.

This I think is where we have to be careful. I'm sure this isn't the case with you personally, but many people have fallen into a trap of mysticism that says it doesn't really matter, God can speak to me through anything.

The thing is, God has spoken, and he has preserved his word in a miraculous fashion. The study of transmission of the text of Scripture is truly fascinating in that regard. As Christians, do we not have a responsibility to be faithful and wise in what we read?

Should we not be educated on these topics and be careful to choose those translations which are most dedicated to the accuracy of the original manuscripts, so that we can be as faithful to his word as possible - and eliminate confusion where we can?

That's not an argument against the KJV per se - as for casual study and reading I still think it's perfectly fine on its own. But even with the NASB or ESV it can be good to have another handy to help provide perspective in the translational challenges faced by the men doing the translation.

It is however an argument to not let us swing on that pendulum all the way to the other side of just not caring at all what translation we use (and I'm not implying you don't here), or even if we use a translation at all. As with pretty much every aspect of our Christian lives, the road is narrow, and the pits are on both sides of the road.

After all, while God is all powerful, it is not normative for him to just correct the words on the page in front of us. How corrupt can the translation be before it ceases to be edifying to use?

God has given us wisdom, and has preserved his word for us. I believe the responsibility falls on us to exercise that wisdom in our choice of Bibles.