IS THE KJV THE ONLY RELIABLE TRANSLATION?
By Malcolm Bowden
I have a few friends and contacts who will only use the KJV and will not use any other version. They all have my full respect even though I do not agree with their stance. What follows does NOT apply to them, but to some of the responses I have received when the recipient has seen that I use translations other than the KJV.
Unfortunately, some KJV adherents are extremely antagonistic, not just to other versions but on a personal level to the people who do use them in their studies. I have received letters and emails that take delight in making savaging comments and pointing out that I am using versions that are "corrupt", "deceptive", "perverted", "Satanic" and many similar words.
To have a difference of opinion with another Christian is perfectly acceptable if any discussions are carried out in a mature, sensible and thoughtful manner, but I find that some KJV adherents make their comments in a very aggressive tone. This is saddening, but there is an aspect that I find rather more disturbing.
It does not take much insight to detect behind all their sharp personal critcisms a very strong sense of a "holier than thou" attitude! Furthermore, underlying such an attitude is a very strong sense of pride in superiority over others whom they regard as misled and deceived Christians.
Far from being concerned that non-KJVO's have been deceived and presenting their evidence calmly in order to persuade them, there is a sense of dismissal and contempt that is unworthy of any true Christian. Indeed, one could go further, for there seems to be an attitude that this subject of the KJVOnly is their "thing" that they can use to batter other Christians to demonstrate their superior spiritual position. Again, hardly a display of the gentleness and humility that the Christian is commanded to have in all his relationships with others, whether Christian or not. Certainly, to attempt to criticise their stand is very likely to stir up considerable emotion and invective.
These are just some personal reflections on the attitude taken by a few KJVO adherents to me. I have, however, read BOTH sides of the subject, and have been far from convinced by their arguments. I give a brief summary.
1. James White's book "The KJV only controversy"
I read this and found his evidence and arguments quite convincing. In it, he often referred to "The King James Version defended" by Dr. Edward F. Hills, and to be fair and hear both sides, I thought I should try to obtain this. It was only when I was putting the book away that I saw I already had a copy. I then remembered that I had started to read it several years ago but found a huge flaw in their arguments on one page. A few pages further, there was a claim made on one page, and then on the opposite page another that virtually contradicted the first. Although I had only read about a quarter of the book, I stopped reading any further.
2. The circular argument.
There is not a single external support for their claim that the KJV is inspired. It all comes down to their insistence that "God promised to preserve His word." In their view, only the KJV fulfills that promise. However their is no biblical or any other reference that supports this claim in any way. Indeed, the thread running throughout their arguments is that "God said he would 'preserve his word', he has done so in the KJV and any version that differs from that is therefore in error." They fail to see that this is circular reasoning.
Why should God preserve the English of the KJV translation - but no other translation in any other language? Why should this specific English translation be so important in God's eyes. National pride is one thing, but this spiritual pride ....
3. Drake's article.
In a most enlightening article (Reformation Today March/April 2005 p.23) Michael Drake made some interesting revelations. They are from his book "The King's Bible".
(a) King James laid down very specific rules that the translators should follow.
(i) It was not to be a direct translation from original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts but follow the Bishop's Bible, making as few changes as possible having consulted other sources. This is truly amazing. It was NOT a direct translation from the Textus Receptus as KJVO devotees would have us believe! Indeed, Erasmus' "Textus Receptus" was never called that until many years after the KJV had been completed. The translators would never have head of the TR!
(ii) They consulted the Catholic Latin Vulgate and Tyndale's first English version. They frequently used two of Beza's editions.
(iii) "Church" was NOT to be translated as "congregation". This was deliberately to protect the High Anglican centralised "Church" structure. To allow the word "congregation" - a gathering of equals - threatened the hierarchical structure of the Anglican Church. Erasmus and Tyndale translated it as "congregation".
Drake comments; "The translators were not free to give an accurate rendering of the Greek and Hebrew. On the contrary, political and doctrinal bias was stamped on their work from the very beginning."
(iv) The king wanted no new words as they supported the evangelicals, and the translators actually stated that their translation was, in part, to suppress Puritans and Baptists!
(b) The varied sources used
(i) The TR is NOT a specific original text that is the best of them all. It is a compilation derived from a broad group of texts that have 6 to 10 variants per Bible Chapter, from which choice has to be made.
(ii) They did not limit themselves to the TR but used other manuscripts and bewailed that they had so few manuscripts available. They also said that translations should always be in the "vulgar tongue".
(iii) The TR is frequently referred to as the basis of the KJV and "Roman Catholic" sources are considered corrupt. But the TR was the product of Erasmus, a Roman Catholic who used RC sources amongst others, and hated Luther and the Protestant Reformation!
(iv) Erasmus had few manuscripts and gave no reasons for his choices. He discarded one because it differed from his Latin version. He had one version of Revelation with the last six verses missing, so he made up the Greek from his Latin version, and then translated the Greek back into Latin for his Latin version. In his TR Greek text there are passages that have never been found in any known Greek manuscript (e.g. Acts 9.2, which some give at Acts 22:10).
(v) Because he knew others were also working on a compilation, he rushed out his first edition in 1516 which had hundreds of typographical errors. His final fifth revision was in 1535, and his fourth edition had 90 changes to Revelation alone.
(vi) Drake comments; "The Greek they consulted (and sometimes rejected) was not the best available then and is not the best available now. Departure from the Textus Receptus (and from the King's Bible) is not indicative of heretical tampering with the word of God".
Many more criticisms are given in White's book, but sufficient has been given in the items above to show that the KJVO's have little support for their rigid stance.
To give one further instance, the KJV quotes Paul as saying "God forbid" in 13 places. The word "God" does NOT appear in any of the Greek manuscripts, where the phrase "me genoito" is more correctly translated "Certainly not!" in the NKJV. (Strangely, the NKJV does translate it as "God forbid" in Gal. 6:14.). The NIV says "Not at all!" or "Certainly not!"
How can KJVO's criticise others for "tampering" with the texts when the KJV adds the words "God" and "forbid" where they do not appear in any Greek texts!
The desire for absolute certainty
There is one aspect that struck me quite forcibly, and which was also noted by White; this is the emotional, almost fanatical, attitude most KJVO's have towards the KJV that suggests they are seeking some point of absolute certainty in a world full of change and uncertainty. Here is something that they can really hold on to as an absolute truth (and which, furthermore, they can use to berate other "misguided" Christians as I have said above).
White notes "This argument is extremely powerful and should not be underestimated. Many people fulfil their longing for "certainty" in religious matters by swearing allegiance to a particular leader or system.... Protestants, however, should be quick (emphasis his) to question any such notion of absolute religious authority.... We cannot hand off our responsibility in religious matters to someone else.... Those who offer absolute certainty do so at a cost: individual responsibility." (White. p. 93-95).
One cannot but wonder if this criticism would also apply to the emotional investment some have in the charismatic movement? It saves them from thinking too deeply, challenging error and taking responsibility for their doctrine.
As 1 Cor. 3:11-15 shows, we will ALL be held responsible for our actions before God. Christ secured our salvation, but we will still be held responsible for any sinful yet unconfessed attitude, motivation and behaviour in this life.
MB - September 2005.