The KJV Only Position


KJV Only - Majority Text


Part Two - The KJV Only Position


As we stated last week, there are few current theological issues that have caused up as much strife and division in the Church as has the King James (KJV) only position. We spent most of the last “Pastor’s Desk” taking time to define and explain terms and concepts that relate to the translation of the Scriptures. In case you did not read it, you find it under Bible Tools, KJV Only.

It is now time to look directly at the KJV only issue and see if this moment has any grounds on which to stand. Lets us keep in mind the ultimate authority in all of this whether pro or con must be based on the Word of God. If there is no Scripture to back up the KJV Only issue, clear definitive Scripture, than me must conclude that this movement is not of God. 

Those who hold to the KJV Only position oppose all new versions. They believe the newer translations are inferior to the KJV and see these translations as the tools of the devil. Now I want at this point to make it clear that not all translations are good translations. Some modern translations take great liberty with the Word of God and instead of translating it they rather interpret it to fit their own personal beliefs. Take the New World Translation which is the Bible of the Jehovah Witnesses. In John 1:1 they make Christ “a god” rather than “The God”, equal with the Father. This is in complete violation of the requirements of Greek grammar and the rules of translation. However since they do not believe in the deity of Christ they have chosen to translate the Bible to fit their beliefs. 

Those who hold to KJV Only position often accuse even the best of the new translations with a bias against key doctrinal issues such as the Deity of Christ, the atonement of the blood, and many other things. They also charge the newer translations remove passages from the Scripture leaving the Bible incomplete.

Now to answer these charges we must understand that there at least three groups that hold to a KJV Only position and though they come to the same conclusion, yet they arrive there in three different ways. 

The one group believes that the Hebrew and Greek copies used to translate the KJV were divinely preserved by the Holy Spirit and are thus more accurate and superior to all other the Greek and Hebrew copies. This includes those copies which are much older and closer to the time of the original writings. They believe the older copies not as accurate because those who copied them were moved by their heresy to add and delete from the Scriptures and thus can not be trusted.

Several points to make about this position.

1) The older a copy of the original Greek or Hebrew, the closer it places it to the originals. It would seem to make sense that if it is a100 years removed from the original it would have less copying errors than if it was copied 1000 years removed. The more copies that separate it from the original the greater the potential for copy errors. However, a copy made in 200 AD, though closer in time may be further removed depending on how many copies separate it from the original. For example, a copy made in 200 AD may be the 100th copy in a row from the original, and yet a copy made in 1000 AD may have been made from a copy made in 150 AD and may only be only 30 copies away from the original. 

The problem with using this as an argument for the superiority of the copies of the time of the KJV is that there is no way to know how close any one manuscript is to the original writings. Therefore if God has allowed other copies to be discovered since that time, we should take them into consideration as we seek to know what did the original writers say? In doing so scholars have been lead to make changes in the New Translations that at times differ from that found in the KJV. Does this weaken the Bible? In no way! It further strengthens our confidence in the preserving work of God to keep His inspired Word available to all generations.

2) This group also argues that the older manuscripts were copied by individuals who held heretical views of the Scriptures and thus they changed the text to reflect their views. Once again there is no proof that such tampering took place. This is not to say such heresy never existed, it just means we have no proof that it influenced a scribe in the way he copied the sacred text. In fact, this is a highly unlikely practice in light of the trade of Scribes and their commitment to accuracy.

3) Finally, I find that this groups says it holds to the KJV because of the superiority of the Greek and Hebrew copies from which it was translated, however in reality I believe their commitment to the KJV goes deeper. If this matter is one of which are the best manuscripts, why doesn’t this group make a new translation based on these manuscripts? No one in this camp has been willing to even entertain the idea and I think I know why. The real reason they are KJV Only is because they have traditionally used the KJV and find it hard to give it up. Change for some is a difficult path to follow.

Another group argues that the men who translated the KJV were more godly and had a better grasp of the English language than anyone living today. Therefore, those who have translated the newer versions have fallen short of truly communicating the Word of God in the English language. Only the KJV has accomplished that. 

Note several points that render this argument mute as well.

1) The KJV was not a new translation but merely a revision of the work accomplished over the 150 years leading up to the translation. There is little difference between the translation of the KJV and that which Wycliffe did 150 years earlier.

2) Many of the men who work on the translation would not be allowed into the churches of those who are KJV Only because of these translator’s theological positions on salvation, baptism, the mass and the list go on. I have had as professors some of the men who have worked on these newer translations and I can tell you they were very godly men.

3) These men truly were gifted in the English language, however that giftedness holds only to the English of their day. If they were selected to translate a version today, they would be unequipped to handle the English spoke in the 21st Century.

4) Many of the men who have given themselves to the translation of the newer versions are probably more knowledgeable of the original languages and their translation than any of those who translated the KJV.

The final group believes that the Greek and Hebrew copies became so full of errors, that God re-inspired His Word in the same manner that He did with the original writers. Therefore the KJV is not a version or translation but the inspired inerrant Word of God, inspired to the very vowel and consonant even as the original writings. Having drawn this conclusion, those who speak English have no need to study the original languages. Everything that was communicated in the original version is now available in the KJV. As one preacher has written, “I can find no advantage to studying Greek or Hebrew nor does God.” 

Rather than go into a lengthy discussion of the problems with the last view, I will wait to talk about it next week. In the meantime lets sum up what we have learned so far. It would appear that the first two groups who believe the KJV as the best English Bible do so not based upon any teaching of the Scripture. They do not do so based on facts revealed from any one manuscript family or time period. It appears they do so because they want to hold on to a version of the Bible they have grown up with and find it hard to set it aside for something newer. It is as Jesus spoke about during His ministry, a decision based on the traditions of men rather than the teaching of the Word of God. So much emphasis is placed on this doctrine as it pertains to the English Bible but very little if anything is mentioned regarding the other languages of the world. Has God done the same for all the languages of the world.

In many ways I see them heading down the same path as the 5th Century Church which put the Latin Vulgate Translation on such a high pedestal, that all other translations and even the original languages were neglected for 1000 years. In the meantime the people of the world stopped speaking Latin and thus the Bible was no longer assessable to their personal study. So it is with the KJV. Each decade modern English reflects less and less the English found in the KJV. If this were to go on indefinitely and the Lord were to tarry a couple of hundred years longer, it may come to the point that the average English speaker will need to study early English in order to read the KJV. Is it not the purpose of God to put His Word into the language of the people now? Definitely!