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The Debate Over the King James Version

Rick Wade

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And The Bible... Then And Now.
Not only do the number of manuscript copies of the New Testament far surpass the number of copies of any other ancient document, but the New Testaments 6,000 full, or partial, Greek manuscripts, the roughly 8,000 Latin translations, the copies and fragments in various other languages, and the copious quotes by early church writers, make the New Testament the best authenticated ancient document... miles ahead of any of the others. Additionally, the length of time between the original Biblical document and the earliest copies is the shortest, by far, of any ancient writing.


Introduction: What the Debate is About
Since the 1940s, many new Bible versions have appeared on the market: the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, the Living Bible, the Contemporary English Version, The Message, and many more. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the King James was still the dominant version. However, it seems to have taken second place to the New International Version. On the other hand many consider the New American Standard Bible (NASB) to be the most accurate English Bible translation.

For some people, the multiplicity of versions is a nuisance, but they accept it, believing that it is all a matter of personal preference. For others however, this is a serious issue; not because of the inconvenience of multiple versions, but because they believe the King James Version is the only correct version for the church.

These new versions came about because of the publication of a new Greek New Testament about a century ago. Defenders of the primacy of the KJV were very vocal in their opposition to the new Greek text and the new English versions which followed its publication. This issue is not as big today, but it remains problematic for some Christians. Thus, a discussion of the King James/modern version debate is useful with a focus on the New Testament which is where the main concerns lie.

This debate is argued on two levels. On one level, some simply see a certain majesty in its language, and appreciate its role in the history of the church. They consider that the KJV has served the church well so there is no need to begin confusing things by bringing in all those other versions.

However there are some Christians who insist that the King James is the only valid English version and that newer translations do not reliably convey God's truth. Some arguments for this side are little more than angry diatribes which are often circular. For example, some say that since the new versions differ from the King James, they are bad versions. The supremacy of the KJV is simply assumed.(2)

Although arguments from tradition and style can be powerful, there might be other considerations which outweigh them. A significant problem with the KJV, of course, is the language. People who did not grow up using the KJV have a hard time understanding it. Some of its words are no longer in use, and the antiquated forms of many words impede the understanding of the text. Over time they can learn to understand it, but without any more compelling reasons than tradition and style, it is hard to see why they should bother.

On another level, this debate focuses on the Greek manuscripts from which the English versions are translated. Some "King James only" proponents believe that the Greek text underlying most of the newer versions is corrupt. As we will see, they present some good arguments for their position.

Because the Greek text is the critical issue in this debate, it will be the focus of our examination of the debate (we will not get too technical!). To set the stage, we will begin with a brief history of the King James Version.

A Brief History of the King James Version
Many of us have heard the joke about the King James Version: "If it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it is good enough for me!" Paul, of course, was fifteen and a half centuries too early for the KJV. The New Testament writers wrote in Koine Greek, the language of the common man in the first century A.D. The first complete English Bible was not produced until John Wycliffe produced his in the fourteenth century. He translated from the Latin Vulgate which was the most widely used version at that time.

The next major step in the development of the English Bible was Tyndale's translation of the New Testament published in 1526 and portions of the Old Testament published later. Tyndale's version was significant because it was translated from a newly published Greek New Testament rather than from the Vulgate.

After Tyndale's, a number of other versions were produced. Among them were the Coverdale Bible, the Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Bishops' Bible. In 1611 the King James Version was published to provide a Bible which could be used by both Anglicans and Puritans. Marginal notes reflecting any particular theological bias were removed, and the language used was that of the people.

I noted earlier that Tyndale used a Greek text for his translation. The first published Greek New Testament appeared in the year 1516. It was edited by Erasmus, a Dutch scholar. Erasmus had at his disposal no more than six Greek manuscripts (we have thousands at our disposal today). These manuscripts were part of what is called the Byzantine text family.

Although Erasmus' edition provided a great boost to the study of the New Testament, it had a number of problems. For one thing, none of his sources had the last six verses of the book of Revelation, so Erasmus translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek! Thus, in his text "several words and phrases may be found that are attested in no Greek manuscript whatsoever."(3) In the first two editions of his New Testament, Erasmus left out I John 5:7 because it did not appear in any of his Greek manuscripts. That verse reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This omission created a furor, so he promised to include the verse in a later edition if it could be found in any Greek manuscript. One was brought forward, and, although Erasmus did not think the text was genuine, he kept his promise and included the verse. It is now believed to have been a very late and unreliable manuscript, and some think it was forged to include the verse.(4)

Erasmus' Greek text was reworked and reprinted by others including Robert Estienne who divided the text into verses. Theodore Beza then built upon Estienne's work, and his Greek text provided one of the major foundations for the King James Bible. The term Textus Receptus, or Received Text, came from a blurb in another Greek text produced in the early seventeenth century by the Elzevir brothers. This title is still used in connection with the King James, and it is one you will see again in this article. Also See The Textus Receptus and The King James

Westcott and Hort
I noted earlier that the more substantial arguments for the "King James only" position focus on the Greek texts underlying the different versions. There are four significant issues in the debate involving these texts which I will develop: the science of textual criticism, the number of Greek manuscripts available, the history of the Greek texts, and the dates of the manuscripts.

Before getting into the debate itself, it will be helpful to mention the historical event which brought the debate to a head, and to introduce a central element in New Testament textual studies.

Between the thousands of Greek manuscripts available there are differences of one kind or another (although there are not any which effect doctrinal matters). Certain Greek manuscripts share enough similarities that they are believed to have come from the same source. Each of these groups is called a text family or a text-type. There are four text families which are generally agreed upon by scholars. The manuscripts which were used to produce the Textus Receptus (and later the King James Version) were of the Byzantine family. The other three text families generally agreed upon by scholars are the Alexandrian, the Caesarean, and the Western.(5)

The fundamental debate between scholars in the King James/modern version controversy is over the question of the most accurate Greek text family or families. Which of the four families, if any, most accurately represents what the New Testament authors wrote? The Byzantine text was the dominant Greek text from about the eighth century until the end of the nineteenth century.(6) In 1881, however, two scholars named Westcott and Hort published a new Greek New Testament which relied more on other text families than on the Byzantine family. Their Greek text became the basis of the New Testament portion of modern Bible translations.

Westcott and Hort evaluated the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament according to the principles of textual criticism. This is the science of the study of ancient texts, the originals of which are lost. Based upon their studies, they argued that the Byzantine text was not the closest to the original writings as the King James advocates claimed. It seemed to have combined readings from other text families, and some readings appeared to have been modified for greater clarity and understanding. Thus, they believed it was at least two steps removed from the original writings.

Also, they found no clear evidence of its existence in the writings of the early church fathers, and there are no copies older than the fourth century. Those who agree with Westcott and Hort believe that the Byzantine text was produced in the fourth century probably in an attempt to give the church one New Testament (there were a number of different Greek texts being used at the time). Other text families, on the other hand, appear to have more original readings and are quoted by the early church fathers, and are thus closer to the originals. So, the conclusions drawn from the application of textual criticism along with the ages of the manuscripts led them to believe that the most accurate Greek text is to be found by drawing from all the Greek text families, especially the Alexandrian family.(7)

Supporters of the Byzantine or Received Text responded that it was inappropriate to use naturalistic methods of study such as textual criticism on Scripture. They said that this amounts to elevating man over God in determining what the Bible says.(8) They also argued that the vast numbers of Byzantine manuscripts along with the centuries of history behind this text family should not be set aside on the basis of a few manuscripts discovered relatively recently. They insisted that the Spirit of God would not allow His true word to lie dormant so long while the church was being guided by inferior texts.

Textual Criticism
As I noted above, those who argue for the Byzantine or Received Text say that it is improper to subject the Bible to the scrutiny of textual criticism. The Bible, being the inspired Word of God, is unique. One begins with it as inspired and then accepts what it says.

But those in the Westcott-Hort tradition note that we cannot simply shut our eyes to the fact that there are differences between the various Greek manuscripts, even those in the Byzantine family. Even those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture recognize that the original writings of the New Testament were inerrant, not the copies. It is our responsibility to apply the most sound principles we know of to determine what the original manuscripts said. This is the aim of textual criticism.

So, how does textual criticism work? Differences between Greek manuscripts are called variants. There are several causes of variants. Some are accidental, such as misspelled words or repeated or reversed words. Some resulted from a scribe not hearing a dictation correctly. Also, deliberate changes seem to have been made to bring passages in different Gospels into harmony or to make a doctrinal point clearer.

What are some examples of differences between the Greek texts which show up in our English Bibles? One example is the Lord's Prayer as it is recorded in Matthew and in Luke. In the KJV the two versions are almost identical, while in the NIV the prayer in Luke 11 is significantly shorter than that in Matthew 6. Most scholars believe that, at some point in history, a scribe added to the text in Luke to make it agree more with Matthew.

The last half of Mark 16 is a lengthy section which is disputed. The KJV retains verses 9 through 20 while the NIV includes the passage with a note saying it is not found in the most reliable early manuscripts. Scholars who believe it should be excluded also note that the style and vocabulary are very different from the rest of Mark.(9)

To add one more, in the KJV, three verses in Mark 9 (44 ,46, and 48) are identical: "Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." The NIV puts verses 44 and 46 in footnotes and notes that some manuscripts include the phrase. Since each verse follows a reference to hell, it is very possible that a scribe simply repeated the warning to strengthen the message.

If all this makes you nervous about the accuracy of your Bible, it is important to note that textual criticism is used on all documents for which the originals no longer exist. New Testament scholar J. Harold Greenlee noted that, with respect to the Bible, "No Christian doctrine . . . hangs upon a debatable text."(10) This conflict provides no fodder for critics of Christianity who might ask how we can know what the Bible really says. We can be confident that we have a highly accurate text, especially given the number of New Testament manuscripts available and the antiquity of some of them.(11) As one writer has said, "It is well to remember that the main body of the text and its general sense are left untouched . . . textual criticism engages in turning a magnifying glass upon some of the details."(12)

Other Issues in the Debate
In addition to the question of textual criticism, questions regarding the number of manuscripts, the historical dominance of the Byzantine text, and the dates of the manuscripts still need to be considered.

First is the matter of the number of manuscripts. Between eighty and ninety percent of existing manuscripts are of the Byzantine family and are in remarkable agreement. This fact is not in dispute. King James supporters say that the few manuscripts to which Westcott and Hort gave preference cannot override the witness of the vast majority of manuscripts in existence which are of the Byzantine tradition. It is normal to expect that the oldest manuscript will have the most copies.(13) In response, those who follow Westcott and Hort point out that hundreds of copies could have been made from one defective text while a better text was not copied as often. The copying of New Testament texts was not as carefully monitored as the copying of the Old Testament text by Jewish scholars. As we have seen, errors were made and changes were deliberately introduced. Simply finding a lot of manuscripts which are in agreement is not enough. To illustrate their point, they ask whether one would rather have one real $100 bill or five counterfeits.

A second issue is the preservation of the text through history. Supporters of the Received Text ask why God's Spirit would allow the church to be under the authority of a defective text for almost 1500 years. Textual critics respond that this argument exaggerates the issue. They do not consider the Byzantine text to be a "'bad' or heretical text; it presents the same Christian message as the critical [or Westcott-Hort] text."(14) Again, there are no doctrinal differences between the Greek texts. Members of the Byzantine family are used along with members of other text families to determine what the true reading of a passage should be. The major text families are neither absolutely corrupt nor absolutely perfect. Text critics must use all the available resources to determine what the original documents said.

Finally, the dates of the manuscripts are important in this debate. Textual critics point out that church fathers before the fourth century "unambiguously cited every text-type except the Byzantine."(15) If the Byzantine text-type comes directly from the original writings, one would expect unambiguous quotations of it from the beginning. They also point out that there are no Byzantine manuscripts older than the fourth century, whereas there are copies of other text families older than that.

In response to this, King James supporters note that the New Testament manuscripts began to be altered very soon after they were written. Eusebius, the ancient church historian, reported that heresies sprang up early after the turn of the second century, and proponents of these heresies sometimes altered Scripture to accord with their beliefs.(16) Thus, antiquity is not the crucial test. That there are no copies older than the fourth century can be explained by the fact that the material manuscripts were written on was fragile; it's reasonable to conclude that the early copies probably wore out through frequent handling.

Summary and Concluding Thoughts
To summarize, those who support the King James/Received Text tradition emphasize the number of manuscripts, the church's history with the Byzantine text, and God's interest in preserving His Word, whereas those following Westcott and Hort say that the variants in the manuscripts - even between those in the Byzantine family - prove the need for the textual criticism of the New Testament. The results of their analysis along with the ages of the manuscripts leads them to believe that the Byzantine family is just one text family that can lead us back to the originals - or close to it - but it is not the one best text family.

So, which way should you go on this debate? If you are concerned about the issue, I suggest that you study it more. The texts cited in the notes will give you a place to start. If not, I would recommend using a version that is as close to the Greek text as possible while being understandable to you. But whichever version you choose, be very sure of your arguments before insisting that others use it, too. It seems to me that, with all the difficulties we face in our often hostile culture, we should not erect walls between Christians on the basis of Bible versions. We are not taking God's Word lightly here. We are simply calling for a more well-reasoned discussion and for the rule of love to govern the debate.



1. Marketplace, Christian Booksellers Association, May, 1998.

2. An example is the pamphlet by J. J. Ray, The Eye Opener (Junction City, Oregon, 1953).

3. D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 34.

4. Ibid., 35.

5. F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments 3d ed., (Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1963), 185.

6. J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 61-62.

7. To be more precise, while Westcott and Hort gave the greater weight to the Alexandrian text over the Byzan- tine, they gave even greater weight to the manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus which they considered to be "neutral texts." Later, sympathetic scholars grouped these two with the Alexandrian family. See Carson, 41.

8. Edward F. Hills, "The Magnificent Burgon," in Which Bible?, 5th ed., David Otis Fuller, ed. (Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1975), 101-105.

9. Greenlee, 133.

10. Ibid., 68.

11. In addition to the Greek manuscripts, also available for study are ancient lectionaries, various translations into other languages, and the writings of the early church fathers. See Greenlee, pp. 44-58.

12. Ibid., 17.

13. Zane C. Hodges, "The Greek Text of the King James Version," in Which Bible?, 37.

14. Greenlee, 81.

15. Carson, 47.

16. Eusebius Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971), 215-216. See also Benjamin G. Wilkinson, "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated," in Which Bible?, 190-193.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International. Copyright/Reproduction Limitations This document is the sole property of Probe Ministries. It may not be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions of this document must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright 2007 Probe Ministries) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.

With the passage of time, words change in meanings. For instance, in King James’ day the word ‘prevent’ could mean ‘come before’ but not necessarily in a hindering way. So the translators in that day rendered 1 Thes. 4:15, ‘For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.’ But today the word ‘prevent’ has lost that earlier meaning (come before), so it must be translated differently to convey the proper meaning: ‘According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not ‘precede’ those who have fallen asleep’ (NIV). ...To keep the translation of God’s Word living it must be kept in the living language the people are using.”¹


When the Bible Becomes an Idol: Problems with the KJV-Only Doctrine
by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

This outline was covered in a lecture of the same topic at the March 1998 ACAP meeting.

1. The KJV originally contained the Apocrypha.

    Thus, the Bible that KJV-Only advocates use omits thousands of verses originally contained in the KJV (just over 5,700) – far more than the few verses found in the KJV but omitted in the NASB, NIV, and other modern translations (such as 1 John 5:7). It is true that the Apocrypha was widely regarded by Protestants in 1611 not to have the status of full canonicity. However, in the original 1611 edition no disclaimer was included in this regard (one was added in later editions). Furthermore, if the Apocrypha were to be included today, KJV-only advocates would vehemently object to its inclusion – a sure sign that its inclusion in the 1611 edition is a significant difference.

2. Even excluding the Apocrypha, the KJV of 1611 differed slightly from editions of the KJV in common use today..

    We are not referring here to spelling changes and the like, or to misprints in later, single editions. Usually the changes are improvements – for example, Matthew 26:36 now properly reads "Then cometh Jesus," where the original KJV read "Then cometh Judas." Not all the changes are for the better, though – for example, Matthew 23:34 in the KJV originally read "strain out a gnat," which is correct, while subsequent editions of the KJV to this day have "strain at a gnat." These facts prove that the extreme KJV-Only belief that even the slightest deviation from the wording of the KJV results in a false Bible is completely unrealistic. Please note that we are not claiming that the differences are vast or troubling from our perspective. We are simply pointing out that the position that the wording of the 1611 KJV is inviolable logically requires that modern editions of the KJV not be used.

3. The translators of the KJV did not believe in the KJV-Only doctrine.

    a. They asserted that "the very meanest [i.e., most common or rude] translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession . . . containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God." In other words, any translation of the Bible by Christian scholars is the word of God.

    b. They understood their work as a translation of the original Hebrew and Greek text, contrary to some extreme KJV-Only advocates who maintain that the original Hebrew and Greek text is nonexistent and irrelevant.

    c. The KJV originally included marginal notes containing alternate renderings – making it clear that the wording of the KJV is not above correction or improvement. They admitted that there were Hebrew words that appeared only once in the whole Old Testament whose precise meaning was a matter of conjecture or debate.

    d. They also included variant readings – an extremely important point that contradicts the KJV-Only doctrine that the slightest variation from the KJV text results in an unreliable or false Bible. In at least one instance they placed half a verse in italics because they were unsure whether it was original (1 John 2:23b).

    e. They acknowledged that they exercised liberty in rendering the same Greek or Hebrew word in a variety of ways for stylistic purposes, again proving that they did not regard their wording as the only possible or acceptable rendering of the Bible.

    f. They took as a guiding principle the belief that the Bible should be translated into the "vulgar," or common, language of the people – implying that as the English language changes new translations may be needed.

    g. They asserted that there was value in having a variety of translations of the Scriptures.

4. The KJV Bible itself does not teach the KJV-Only Doctrine.

    a. No verse of the KJV indicates that there can be only one translation in any language. Much less does any verse of the KJV teach (as some KJV-Only advocates maintain) that there can be only one language version of the Bible at a time and that the only Bible in the world today is the KJV.

    b. The KJV does clearly teach that God's word is pure and that God promised to preserve his word. But in no verse does the KJV indicate that this preservation would occur without variant readings or renderings. To say that God's word is "pure" is not the same thing as saying that there can be no variations from one version of the Bible to another. It is, rather, simply to say that what God has said is absolutely reliable. But we must still determine precisely what God said. Did he say what is in the Apocrypha? Did he say 1 John 5:7? The purity of God's word is an axiom, but it does not automatically answer these questions.

    c. The KJV does teach that no one should add to or subtract from God's word. This does place a serious responsibility on the textual scholar and the translator; but it does not tell us which English version is correct about disputed verses such as 1 John 5:7.

5. The KJV-Only doctrine contradicts the evidence of the KJV Bible itself.

    a. If the KJV-Only doctrine were true, we would expect that quotations from the Old Testament (OT) appearing in the New Testament (NT) would be worded exactly the same. But this is usually not the case in the KJV. Granted, God might legitimately inspire the NT authors to reword certain OT verses. But this explanation does not cover all the evidence.

    b. The fact is that the vast majority of OT quotations in the NT differ at least slightly. Why would God inspire NT authors to reword OT statements routinely if there is only one legitimate wording for each OT verse?

    c. In some cases in the NT the OT quotation is presented as what a person in NT times actually read, or could read, in his copy of the OT. For example, several times Jesus asked the Jews if they had never read a particular OT text – and then quoted it in a form that differs from the KJV (Matt. 19:4-5 [Gen. 1:27; 2:24]; Matt. 21:16 [Ps. 8:2]; Matt. 21:42 and Mark 12:10 [Ps. 118:22-23]; Matt. 22:32 and Mark 12:26 [Ex. 3:6]). If the Bible is properly worded in only one way and any variant is a corruption of the Bible, then Jesus was asking them if they had read something which, according to KJV-Only reasoning, they could not have read. Elsewhere we are told that a person read an OT text, where the KJV of that OT text differs from what appears in the NT quotation (Luke 4:17-19 [Isa. 61:1-2]; 10:26-28 [Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18]; Acts 8:32-33 [Isa. 53:7-8]). These facts prove that the OT text which the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus himself, the rich young ruler, and the Ethiopian ruler had differed in wording from the OT in the KJV.

6. The KJV-Only doctrine is not the historic belief of the Christian faith.

    In the history of Christianity only two other versions of the Bible have ever been treated as the Bible, and even in these two cases not to the exclusion of other language versions. But those two versions were the Greek Septuagint (OT) and the Latin Vulgate, both of which (especially the latter) are typically rejected by KJV-Only advocates as perversions of the Bible. The Vulgate was treated as the only valid Bible for centuries by the Roman Catholic church in order to maintain uniformity in Bible reading and interpretation. Yet KJV-only advocates commonly regard the Septuagint and the Vulgate texts as false versions or "perversions" of the Bible. To be consistent, then, they must maintain that for over half of church history (over a thousand years) there was no Bible available to anyone outside a tiny number of scholars (if to anyone at all). In Protestantism the belief that the Bible may exist in multiple versions even in the same language has freed the Bible from the monopolistic control of the clergy or the theologians. The KJV-Only doctrine is a reactionary movement, limited almost exclusively to a segment of American fundamentalists (with much smaller followings in other English-speaking countries).

7. The KJV-Only doctrine does not fit the facts about the transmission of the Bible.

    a. According to at least some versions of the KJV-Only doctrine, God preserved the Bible against any and all deviations, so that the true Bible has always been the same. But there is no evidence that this has happened. In fact the Bible and portions of it have been freely copied, re-copied, and translated with great freedom in the first five centuries of the church and in the last five centuries (so far). This resulted in many variations and deviations from the original text.

    b. The copies of the first 1500 years or so of church history were all produced by hand, and no two extant manuscripts are completely alike. It is unrealistic to expect that before the printing press an absolutely unchanging text would be preserved by anyone – and the evidence from the extant manuscripts proves that in fact it did not happen.

    c. In the case of the New Testament, the distinctive Greek text tradition on which the KJV was based, known as the Byzantine text, does not appear to have existed in the early church. The best evidence we have so far suggests that the Alexandrian text tradition is the earliest. This claim is vigorously rejected by KJV-only advocates, and the arguments pro and con are many and the issue too complicated for most non-scholars to follow and appreciate. However, a simple observation can here be made even here. For the KJV-only doctrine to be correct, in every place where the Byzantine and Alexandrian texts differ, the Byzantine must always be right. To base one's doctrine on such an unprovable and dubious assumption is not wise.

8. One need not adhere to the KJV-only doctrine to respect the KJV as God's word.

    Many evangelical Christians greatly revere the KJV, read it, quote from it, believe it, and seek to live by it, who do not subscribe to the KJV-only doctrine.

9. One need not adhere to the KJV-only doctrine to express criticisms of other translations.

Many evangelicals who do not hold to the KJV-only doctrine have specific criticisms of other translations. For example, many evangelicals are critical of gender-inclusive translations such as the NRSV. Many evangelicals have pointed out weaknesses or problems in the NIV. Sober criticism of other translations assumes a humble perspective that recognizes that no translator or translators have produced a perfect translation and that translators who make mistakes are not necessarily corrupting God's word.

10. Advocacy of the KJV-only doctrine is no guarantee of doctrinal truth or interpretive accuracy.

A variety of Christian sects of American origin embrace the KJV in more or less exclusivistic fashion.

    a. Arguably the "Ruckmanites," a fundamentalist Baptistic movement that looks to Peter Ruckman as its primary spokesperson, is a distinct subgroup of American fundamentalism with almost cultish characteristics. Their basic theology seems sound enough, but it is overlaid with such extremism and legalism in its view of the Bible as to undermine its evangelical view of salvation.

    b. Mormonism uses the KJV as its official Bible, even though Joseph Smith produced an "inspired" revision of the Bible (which some Mormons also use). The Mormons have a strong commitment to the KJV because it was the Bible of the early LDS prophets, the Book of Mormon quotes (indeed, plagiarizes) whole chapters from the KJV, and Mormons have found it convenient to use the KJV in evangelizing especially in English-speaking countries. [See Section on Mormonism]

    c. Many Oneness Pentecostals hold to a form of the KJV-only doctrine, especially on a popular level among pastors and laity. In their case they find it convenient to stick with the KJV because in certain places its wording is more compatible with the way the Oneness doctrine is articulated than modern translations (e.g., Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16). Oneness Pentecostals often object to arguments based on the Greek or Hebrew as vain attempts to improve on the Bible.

11. The KJV-only doctrine requires that we have some sort of faith in the KJV translators.

    KJV-only advocates constantly complain that if we don't have one sure Bible, the KJV, then we have to trust what scholars say about the text and its translation. But they are placing their faith solely in the KJV translators. A genuinely Protestant approach to the Bible requires that we not trust any one translator or translation team. Lay Christians can compare different translations to help get at the truth about any passage – or at least to become aware of possible disputes over the meaning of the passage.

12. Advocates of the KJV-only doctrine all too commonly exhibit a spiteful and disrespectful attitude toward other Christians.

    Advocates of a hard-line KJV-only position commonly label all other translations (even the NKJV) "per-versions" of the Bible. They typically accuse anyone defending these other translations of lying, denying God's word, calling God a liar, and having no faith. While there are gracious, charitable advocates of the KJV-only doctrine, in general its advocates have earned a reputation for vicious name-calling, condescension, and arrogance. To quote the original 1611 edition of the KJV, these people "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel." While zealous to defend the KJV, they betray its teachings by failing to exhibit love toward fellow believers in Jesus Christ. All too often they imply that to be saved one must not only believe in Christ, but must also adhere to the KJV as the only Bible. A doctrine that fosters such bad fruit must be bad. There is nothing wrong with loving the KJV and believing it to be the best translation of the Bible. There is something very wrong with condemning other Christians for not sharing that opinion.

Bibliography 1. Fundamentalist KJV-Only (and Related) Works

Burgon, John W. The Revision Revised. Paradise: Conservative Classics, 1977 reprint [1883]. Fuller, Daniel O., ed. Which Bible? Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International, 1978. Hodges, Zane C., and A. L. Farstad, eds. The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text. 2d ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985. Pickering, W. N. The Identity of the New Testament Text. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977. 2. Evangelical Works Critiquing the KJV-Only Position

Carson, D. A. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979. White, James R. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995. 3. On Mormonism and the Bible

Barlow, Philip L. Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion. Religion in America series. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.


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