Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

The King James Version of the bible

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I do not care for the KJV. I find it hard to read, frequently difficult to understand and outdated. My reasons for this are because it uses a form of English that we have never known, and which has not been common for centuries. Granted, it’s prose can sometimes sound stately (Psalm 23, for instance), but I’ve found that I commonly have to read a passage more than once in the KJV to grasp it because the language is foreign to me.

There are some zealots who believe that the KJV is the only inspired translation of God’s word. These folks are King James Only (KJO) advocates. They eschew modern translations as inferior and lacking. Amongst the most hardcore of the KJO crowd is the belief that  modern translations are the work of Satan himself and an outward proof of your lack of faith and salvation. Yes, the hardcore KJO crowd believes that if you use another translation you are not saved, thereby making use of the King James bible a legalistic work required for salvation. They also state that where there are any disagreements between manuscripts and the KJV, you side with the KJV. This is horrendous scholarship, since a bible translation comes from manuscripts, not the other way around, but KJO people must resort to such absurd lengths in attempts to validate their beliefs.

The KJO people have a laundry list of accusations against modern translations. I have read them and I have read the responses to them. I find the responses adequately address the complaints. Added to this are accusations by the non-KJO crowd that attack the KJO position. Perhaps the most notable is that the King James bible has undergone changes since its original publication in 1611. The KJO folks deny this (they have to or the very core of their position implodes) but it is patently true. Thus, since the crux of their doctrine is in error nothing that stems from that error is worth considering, and what stems from that are nothing more than frivolous and/or straw man arguments anyway.

When I encounter a King James Only advocate I refuse to debate the issue with them. My reason for this is because these people are as extreme about their cause as the Mullahs that control Iran are about Islam. That is not meant as an open affront to them, or a back-handed insult; they are zealots who are not only steeped to the bone in their beliefs, but both groups also take serious offense to any question of said beliefs. Some of the most vicious verbal assaults I have witnessed concerning religious debate have emanated from the King James only audience. Secondly, when I learn someone is KJO I recognize they are not able to rightly divide the word of God. This matter is an essential doctrine to them, and that fact proves to me that they are incapable of a true and full understanding of God’s word. If they were capable of this they wouldn’t hold to such a rigid, legalistic belief, which is reminiscent of those held by the scribes and Pharisees.

I am not a biblical scholar, but many who are also question the manuscripts from which the King James Version was translated. The translators used “modern” manuscripts (isn’t that ironic). The KJV is translated from the Textus Receptus family of manuscripts, which is a small family (i.e. the majority of manuscripts are not in agreement with it). Other translations lean upon older manuscripts, which so happen to belong to the majority of texts. One example of this is found in 1 John 5:7=8. The King James read thusly:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

This would be an obvious reference to the Trinity. The NASB, which is derived from the older set of majority texts, renders it this way:

For there are three that testify:the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

Biblical scholarship recognizes that through the centuries some scribes might have added the exegesis of the times to the text. Such is claimed as the case in the quoted passage. While we may agree with a long-ago scribe that the Trinity exists, if the original manuscripts from which they made copies do not say something they should not have added to the text. This is why in the NASB some disputed portions of scripture are included, but [placed between brackets] to show that they are not found in earlier texts which compose the majority. Standard scholarship logically maintains that if later manuscripts, for which there are fewer copies, contain differing language than older, majority texts, the latter falls into question.

I already mentioned the language issue but there is actually more to it than finding it outdated and hard to understand. In fact, some words that held a common meaning in 1611 hold a different meaning today. One example is found in Matthew 19:14

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

In 1611 “suffer” was understood to mean permit, or allow. In today’s English the statement to “suffer little children” makes no sense. Today, “suffer” means to languish in pain. Thus, the NASB renders that verse as…

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Another example is the term “pisseth against the wall”. Do a search of “pisseth” in the King James version and you will find at least 6 returned results (1 Samuel 25:22 for instance). So when you read in the King James a reference to “those that pisseth against the wall” you may wonder what it means. Today, the word “piss” is considered vulgar. If I were in attendance at a church that adheres to the King James only doctrine I’m quite sure I would be frowned upon if I announced that I had to “take a piss” in the restroom. However, that vulgar word is found in their bibles. The phrase meant men, since women do not urinate as men do. The NASB renders 1 Samuel 25:22 as…

“May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.”

This we understand, and there is no question of vulgarity involved. Now then, my personal issues with the King James Version having been stated, I do not begrudge anyone for choosing to use that translation, so long as they aren’t KJO of course. I know of many older Christians who were raised with the KJV and have never owned another bible translation, which is why they use it. They are not KJO. With them I have no complaint.

Daniel Webster, a graduate from and now professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has written an article on why he doesn’t believe the KJV is the best available translation. You can read it here if you wish. In it Webster addresses the scholarly issues with the KJV, as well as language issues and more. This has been an issue that has been on my mind for a couple of months, since we visited a church in another town that was conducting a conference. The one night when I attended I was put off by the comportment of the keynote speaker. After arriving home I noted that the literature my youngest son had been given in his youth class, which was part of the conference, had a proud KJO pronouncement. I went to the web site of that church and saw that it was KJO as well. A friend attends that church and this concern was brought to her. She asked about it and was told that their pastor used the KJV exclusively, but if attendees at the church wanted to use something else that was allowed. This is a classic example of speaking with a forked tongue, because the church’s web site states that any and all teaching of the church shall come from the KJV. They may not be so zealous as to ban other translations, and state users of them are unsaved, but that statement on their web site makes it clear they are a KJO church.

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Written by Shawn

April 16, 2010 at 3:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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    stephaniedunn61898

    April 8, 2016 at 11:56 am


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