King James & The Danger of Our English Bibles

More than once, the “KJV Only” phenomenon has stopped me in my tracks. Authorized Version. 1611. All other versions are fakes. Says who? King James? Who gave him the “say-so”?

While I haven’t conducted a formal investigation on the matter, my basic understanding of how the Bible was written and who wrote it, how the Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation, and how we ought to proceed in our quest to learn the words and thoughts of God, leads me to believe that this “KJV Only” position is not only misleading, it’s a downright danger to the church.

Yet, as I have a number of dear friends who affiliate themselves with this particular stance, I aim to speak respectfully. Let not my words persuade you, but the wise and gracious hand of the Spirit, who will certainly lead you to all truth as you are ready to receive it. His wisdom far exceeds my own. And while I know this topic is not new, and my words repeat those of more than a few who have expressed concern before me, my heart leads me here today, and I write this post, as I do with all others, to grapple with the truths God is teaching me and to encourage others to join me in the journey.

kjv

I think we’d all agree that the Bible we’re seeking to know and to follow is the Word from God himself {because actually, we’re seeking to know and follow him}. News flash: The Bible was not written in English. So, if we’re talking about an “Authorized Version,” it’s the original Greek and Hebrew one.

But as we all know, translation is necessary. How I thank God that the Scriptures are available to me in English! I would be in serious trouble if they were not!

Translations are necessary. But they are also fallible. Here, I tread carefully. I hesitate to say that the Bible preserved for us today is fallible. But I do believe the work of translation is indeed fallible. Infallible Scriptures and fallible translators. Seem contradictory to you? I assure you they are not. Put the two together, and you have my main point in a nutshell.

I am not saying we all must learn Greek and Hebrew in order to know and understand the Scriptures {though it’s not a bad idea!}. I am merely saying that the Bible, as it was originally penned, was perfect. Is perfect. Human translation, however, requires some measure of interpretation. That interpretation is not God’s Word. It may not be contradictory to it, but it is not the Word of God where it drifts from God’s original words, meaning, and intention.

What does this have to do with King James? As I understand it, the “KJV Only” position holds that King James I of England authorized a version of the Scriptures in 1611 as the one and only true English copy of the Scriptures, and thus any other translations or versions are in error.

The problem here? King James was an imperfect human being. Name any version of the Scriptures besides the original Greek and Hebrew copies, and they are fallible, by the mere fact that they have been translated and interpreted.

From here, our question is, What English version of the Scriptures is acceptable and “safe” to use on a regular basis? For this answer, we must research the process by which translators do their work. If they have a copy of the authentic manuscripts in hand, and work together to remain as literal and true as possible to the original words of God, preserving truth in such a way that we can read it and understand it, we must accept their work as a precious gift.

Side note. By my estimation, the most literal translations and versions include the following: King James Version, New American Standard, English Standard Version, or Holman Christian Standard, among others. Note that the New International Version, which involves unnecessary interpretation, is not considered the most reliable. I leave the research to you. I personally prefer the ESV, as I believe it is the most readable for Christians today.

And so the danger with the “KJV Only” position, as with a strict adherence to any one particular translation, is that the work of translators or the approval of an earthly authority is being placed above the divine authority of King Jesus.

The necessity of translation, then, must not make us lazy students of the Word, as we read with such ease the holiest of texts graciously and beautifully presented in our native tongue. Instead, such a gift must thrust us into a deep search of the Scriptures as they were given by the mouth and mind of God. We must run with our questions not merely to the English Bible in our laps. When possible, we must take the further step of discovering what God truly says and what he means by what he says. And I repeat, English was not the language of choice when quill was put to scroll.

To my friends who have adhered to the King James Version and remain skeptical of the validity of other translations, I offer three questions for your consideration:

If the King James Version of 1611 is the only acceptable version of the Scriptures, what does this mean for non-English-speaking individuals today and for all Christians before the time of King James I?

Does God say the King James Version is the only Authorized Version? If so, where? How can we be dogmatic in this matter unless the Scriptures lead us there?

Whose voice holds all authority? Is our ear turned to King James and to those who would simply trust his stamp of approval? Or is our ear turned to God, by whose Word alone we find the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

And if this sounds like another appeal to find out what God says and to search for it with all your might while it is still day? That’s because it is.

 [image  credits: pixabay.com, journeyoftheword.com]


21 thoughts on “King James & The Danger of Our English Bibles

  1. I couldn’t agree more!

    It is always important to understand the causes behind things, and I think there are two main reasons why some hold to a KJV-only position.

    One, it may be a legitimate reaction against liberal corruption of translations. There are some very twisted translations out there! This reason is purely reactionary, but at least the intentions are good. I think a lot of people have grown up with a fear of anything but the KJV, expecting that all other translations are purposely deceptive.

    Two, in my experience, the primary reason for this belief is a person’s personal need for an absolute authority. The Word of God is supposed to be authoritative, but if different translations or manuscripts say different things, then truth is not crystal clear. And some people cannot accept that, whether intellectually or emotionally. They are so accustomed to believing that they have God’s absolute Word that they believe God is bound to give them truth, that they have a right to it. They forget that most people in the history of the world have not been given this truth.

    To conclude, the KJV is “safe.” It’s “easy.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The funny thing is the KJV isn’t even close to being the first English translation. When it was written they worked off of 6 manuscripts. By comparison, by the time the NIV was written, archeology had provided over 5000 manuscripts that they were able to work off of. While I’m at it, the NIV isn’t supposed to be a literal WORD translation, but an IDEA translation that was easily readable.

    I think the Devil loves it when he can get Christians to fight with each other over these things, so let’s be easy on each other.

    This is very interesting, if you want to check it out.
    Sorry for long URL.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/&ved=0ahUKEwiZhOa41MrKAhXIGT4KHRrHDFIQFghRMAk&usg=AFQjCNF5IvEdVTmqI9u3-W8AVnkdA36S7Q&sig2=qByLvpiIB2osTuhHRUyVgg

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  3. Great points!! My personal hard copy Bible is an NIV. It stays on my bed side table and goes to church with me. Anytime I am searching or studying I find myself using online/digital copies where I can easily jump back and forth between translations: This seams the best way (aside from learning Hebrew or Greek) to see the “Whole Picture”. I have actually found the Common Jewish Bible as one of my favorites when I’m really studying a subject. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for tackling another difficult subject respectfully. I believe much of the KJV only debate centers on the manuscripts from which the biblical translation was done. The KJV only crowd is strongly committed to the fact that God so preserved His Word that only the manuscripts on-hand at the time of the 1611 translation should be considered. However, many later popular translations draw on the wealth of manuscripts now available. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is not to major on the minors. Thanks for sharing at the #LMMLinkup.

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  5. My husband believes the American Standard Version is the closest to the original. I have a copy, but prefer reading the New King James version as it reads better and happens to be on my e-sword computer version that I read every morning. I agree the new versions are helpful especially for new believers who can’t wade through the KJV language. I enjoyed your thoughts and appreciate you sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m kind of bothered as to how you have presented this subject, but perhaps you are dealing with just the “KJV Only” crowd and not everyone who holds to the KJV? I hope you know there’s a difference. If you think that all who hold and use the KJV as the faithful English translation today believe this way, I respectfully suggest that you do more research into this subject. It is not as simplistic as you seem to present it.

    You wrote: “What does this have to do with King James? As I understand it, the ‘KJV Only’ position holds that King James I of England authorized a version of the Scriptures in 1611 as the one and only true English copy of the Scriptures, and thus any other translations or versions are in error.”

    I can’t speak for all people who claim “KJV Only.” We “use only the KJV,” but the “KJV Only” moniker is not appreciated by all of us who use the KJV. In fact, within the KJV crowd as a whole, many consider the “KJV Only” sect to be more or less fanatical. The fact is that King James I did not authorize a “version of Scripture” with the intent that it should be the one and only true English Bible. I suppose some ignorant people might claim that and I could see how they would be ones within the “KJV Only” sect. Frankly, the fact that King James I authorized the translating of an English Bible has nothing to do with its authenticity. The historical significance of a king authorizing the translating of a Bible in a given language is interesting, but it in no way gives authority to that translation. The authenticity must come from the source of manuscripts which are used, the actual translation work, and the evidence of God’s blessing on that translation.

    The translators of the KJV are an interesting and important facet to many of us who hold to the KJV. How they translated and, even more interestingly in some cases, their amazing level of scholarship are points that some of us appreciate very much.

    The most important aspect of the KJV, however, is the origin of the Greek and Hebrew texts. This is, in reality, where the real issue lies, although I freely admit that there are people who claim to be “KJV Only” who may be ignorant of that. Ultimately, the real question is where did the Hebrew and Greek texts come from that were used for a given translation – in ANY language – and how faithful were the translators to that text?

    If you do not know the history of the various texts, and especially the lines of Greek texts (one from Antioch and the other from Alexandria), I encourage you to look into that. It is a significant issue in the matter of which English (or any other language) Bible to recommend and use.

    To answer your questions:

    1. First – very few people actually use the “1611.” Just to be clear. Most of us are using a version of the KJV that reflects later editings, and the 1611 style fonts have been left behind long ago. Secondly, there are translations in many other languages, and ones that pre-dated the KJV in English which were faithful to the reliable Greek and Hebrew texts. Yes, I know that some of the “KJV Only” people would mock me to scorn on that, but there are bunch of us who use the KJV who know this.

    2. No, God does not *say* that the KJV is the only “Authorized Version” – but that is a misleading question because “Authorized Version” refers to the authorization (official state licensing/approval) of the KJV by the monarch of England at that time. But, to answer your intended thought as I see it: The main issue is the history of the texts and skill in translating. Some of us also accept the other English translations that pre-date the KJV as far as their faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew go, but we feel that no English translation since has been done faithfully enough to the most reliable texts to be accepted.

    3. Again – for many of us, this issue has nothing to do with King James or his “stamp of approval.” It saddens me to think that someone might have actually given you that impression. The issue for my husband and me, and for others I know like us, has to do with the line of faithful texts that has come to us from the early days of the church. In this we see the preservation of God’s hand in keeping _His word_ for us. What some king thought about it is of little importance other than from a historical perspective – he thought it was worth commanding that a translation be done in English and that it was put into the hands of the common people eventually (not necessarily his wish), which was a big deal back in those days. A really big deal.

    I should add, that as far as I know at this point, the majority of the manuscripts that were “discovered” later support the KJV as it is translated, not contradict it.

    P.S. I do not think you are an idiot. I think some of your other articles look like interesting reads, and I plan to come back later and read more. 🙂

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  7. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this, Mary. I truly appreciate and value your feedback. I do apologize if I misunderstand the viewpoints of those who prefer the KJV. I do not intend to do so.

    I did attempt to do a fair amount of research before writing this article, but I’m sure I still have much to learn. I have met a good number of people who label themselves as “KJV Only,” and many who have expressed their belief that all other translations are less accurate and thus not truly Scripture. This is my concern. Perhaps you would see that as the “KJV Only position” and different than your own.

    As far as the manuscripts are concerned, my research leads me to believe that there are many translations which use the most trustworthy of manuscripts and the highest level of scholarship. If we’re talking about a careful, word-for-word, literal translation from verified manuscripts, I don’t understand why there’s still a question. As far as I understand, NASB, ESV, and HCSB (to name a few) are faithful to the reliable Greek and Hebrew texts as you mention. I don’t understand how these can be seen as lesser than the KJV, unless you’re simply speaking of preference.

    What do you mean by “the evidence of God’s blessing on that translation”?

    As for King James, I referred to his authorization of the text mostly to make a point in this article. I’m sorry if that was misleading.

    Thanks again for reading this article (and others!) and responding to it. My aim was to speak respectfully, even to those who may prefer the KJV. My apologies if I spoke too strongly or out of turn.

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  8. Congratulations on tackling a difficult and obviously controversial topic. I remember when my denomination used the KJV exclusively and newer more modern language translations began appearing. Many people feared we were falling into heresy. Of course that didn’t happen; the various choices made it easier for us all to read and understand God’s Word. We also learned that some of the new versions are more reliable and true to the original manuscripts than others, so we need to be selective in what we read as in what we listen to. Perhaps, if nothing else, this has made the Scriptures more accessible to more people, and that should be a good thing.

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  9. I could not agree more with you on this topic. I have a hard time with those that think the KJV is the only true word and all others are leading us astray. I do not agree with that. I think that if you disregard the translations we now have such as the ESV you miss out on a richer reading of God’s Word. I love the ESV and I think it is a great translation. Loved this post and shared it!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Rhiannon, and thanks for sharing this post. It was a difficult one to write, as I wanted to be respectful yet honest and bold. I pray it has had the proper effect on its readers. Many blessings.

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  10. I think that some KJV only supporters misunderstand the concept the KJV is the best translation for the English speaking people. A good translation of the Bible in another language will be done from the original texts into that language. I know of some Bibles that were translated from KJV or other versions and, from what I understand about translation, that is not the best way to translate the Bible.

    The process of translating the Bible is a difficult and tedious one. Make no mistake about it, there are bad translations out there, both in english and other languages. IT is a most important thing to make sure the Bible you are using was translated from the God inspired original texts. Satan uses all different sorts of tools to mislead people, even Bible translations.

    Yes, people are fallible and God infallible, that is why I believe God has preserved His word for us. I personally use the KJV but in no way do I cast stones at anyone who feels it best to use another version of the Bible. What settled my thoughts on what translation is best was a Bible translation class that my family and I went through. While at this moment I can’t tell you all that we learned (I would have to go back and look at my notes), we went away from the class feeling confident in the fact the God did preserve His Word for the english speaking people through the KJV of the Bible. But again, I’m not in a position to cast stones or belittle anyone else for using another version they are comfortable with.

    King James just refers to the time period in which that version was translated and unfortunately some people do not understand that and end up putting King James on a pedestal or something (he was not a very good person, really).

    It is a very big deal and a large amount of research (we should be careful about where we get our information as well) should go into our decision of what Bible to use and recommend to others. (Researching the Antioch and Alexandria texts is very important).

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    1. I so appreciate your input, Renee! You make some very good points! Of course I haven’t researched the issue as much as I could (and probably should!). I do know that many solid scholars whom I highly respect agree that the KJV is one among several versions which have been preserved for us by God and which are equally reliable. Until I do further research myself, I am trusting their judgment.

      But I agree completely with your statement: “It is a most important thing to make sure the Bible you are using was translated from the God inspired original texts. Satan uses all different sorts of tools to mislead people, even Bible translations.” Right on!

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  11. oooooo, I love you! I personally prefer the KJV, because that’s what I was raised on, and know my memory verses from. But I understand others have a harder time with it.
    I have never liked the NIV.
    You wrote a well balanced, thoughtful piece. Thank you!
    Friday Frivolity

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  12. I use the New King James, just from my past readings. compared to NIV. The NIV is like a washed down version. I understand that it is easier to understand.There are verses in NIV that kinda loses its power and meaning by just the way the verses are translated compared to NKJV. Another thing that always brought me to more deeper reading into the NKJV is the reverence to Christ, the Spirit and the Father. Compared to the ESV or NIV or other versions when the scripture is translated there is no capital “He” or “Spirit” or even “Lord”. They hold on more to capitalizing the names of kings, prophets and people that actually giving Him the honor.(even though the word is written about Him).That just thing that kind of bothered me.

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  13. As a person who has taught the gospel to both the illiterate, those with poor reading levels and English second language readers, I want to emphasize that God desires us to know Him. All of us. We must not let reading level be a barrier. I love the ESV!

    Liked by 1 person

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