- Christogenea Internet Radio
Addressing “King James Only” Christians (Click here for a 1611 King James Version facsimile)
Recently, during our visit to some Christian Identity brethren in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I was introduced to a man from Missouri who considers himself an Identity Christian and a pastor. He and some others actually sat in the room with me and listened to one of my presentations of Bertrand Comparet's sermons.
We had a long discussion after that program was completed. But I quickly found out that this man, who I do esteem to be a sincere Identity Christian, did not like anything of what I had said about the King James Version translation of the Bible. In fact, he refused to acknowledge that the King James Version could be amended or improved upon in any way. He insisted that talking about the Scripture, “we need a sold foundation”, as he called it, and that the King James Version was the only solid foundation inspired by God.
Is it really true, that the King James Version is the only Scripture inspired by God, and is it true that it was inspired by God? In Psalm 147:19 we read that God “... sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.” Therefore there must have been Holy Scriptures before 1611, that Israelites could understand. In Acts chapter 17 we see the account of the men of Berea, who hearing Paul and Silas had “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Therefore there must have been Holy Scriptures before 1611, that the Greek and Judaean men of Berea could understand.
Paul of Tarsus had wrote asking Timothy to come to him in Rome, and when he did he also asked him that “when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). Since the King James Bible was not published until 1611, there were books and parchments that Paul of Tarsus considered to be Holy Scripture long before the King James Version. So we must ask this: which books have the greater authority, the King James Version, or those which Paul had considered to be Holy Scriptures, whether they were in his own possession, or in the possession of the men of Berea? The phrase “word of God” appears many times in Scripture, but the King James Version did not exist until nearly 1600 years after the Crucifixion. So what was the “Word of God” until then?
One thing I learned from my sometimes heated conversation with this pastor from Missouri, is that if a man has no background understanding of manuscripts and of the history of Bible translation before the King James Version, then he does not have the tools necessary to understand why the King James Version is not what he claims it to be. I spoke for a half hour about early manuscripts, the Geneva Bible, other early translations, and how the King James Version was created to supplant other translations in order to support the authority of the Anglican church, all to no avail. His steadfast position in support of the King James Version combined with a lack of historical knowledge concerning translations and manuscripts has blinded him from ever seeing the truth.
Almost 900 years before the King James Version, the Anglo-Saxon church historian Bede had written proudly about the many churchmen who had been translating the ancient Scriptures into vernacular tongues for common people to understand. These were eventually outlawed by the popes, because very often they challenged church authority.
The Protestant Reformation produced a lot of excellent and brave men willing to stand for the truth against the popes, but there is a huge difference between inspiration and motivation. There were many men who were motivated, and perhaps inspired, to translate the Scriptures into their common tongues during this period, and the King James Version is a relative late-comer. Over 200 years before, John Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards, made the first complete Bible translation into English. Martin Luther translated the Scriptures into German roughly 90 years before the King James Version was published. The Geneva Bible was created by a group of respected English scholars in Switzerland who were fortunate enough to have escaped the persecution of the Catholic queen who is famously known as Bloody Mary.
But in nearly every way, the Anglican Church was no better than the Roman Catholic Church. King Henry VIII never reformed the church in England. Rather, he only denounced the pope in Rome as the head of the church in England, and appointed himself as the head of the Church of England. When the Geneva Bible was published, 60 years before the King James Version, it was immensely popular, and especially among English dissenters to the Church of England. These dissenters understood that the king had no ecclesiastical authority, and neither did the pope. They used better translations of certain Greek words to convey the idea of the Christian assembly as it was described in the original Scripture. So in the Geneva Bible we read congregation instead of church. That reading certainly is better, because then we see that the people of God cannot be replaced by some imperial organization. The Geneva Bible was also the world's first study Bible, with many marginal notes. Some of those notes indicated that Godliness was a resistance to tyranny, and both the kings and the popes despised that idea.
While there were other earlier English Bibles, such as the government-sanctioned Bibles known as the Great Bible and Bishop's Bible, the Geneva Bible was the Bible of Shakespeare, Cromwell, all of the English Puritans, the Puritans of the Mayflower who came to America in 1620, the Presbyterian Church founder John Knox, the famous English poet John Donne, the persecuted author of Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan, and the famous author of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, John Foxe. William Whittingham supervised the translation in collaboration with the famous Puritan Miles Coverdale and a group of other English scholars. These men were associated with John Calvin and his succesor, Theodore Beza. Some of these men, such as Coverdale, had worked on the previously-sanctioned English Bible, the Great Bible. The manuscripts of Stephanus and Beza were employed in the Geneva Bible translation, and also like the King James Version, much of the language – at least 80% - was patterned after the great linguist Tyndale. The fault of Tyndale's earlier Bible was that he had no Greek or Hebrew manuscripts available to him, so he was forced to use the faulty Latin Vulgate. The Geneva Bible was the first to be made from Hebrew and Greek, free of the Vulgate.
But King James found the Geneva Bible to be seditious, and especially its marginal notes. The Geneva Bible editors challenged any religious authority of kings over the congregations of Christ, and they also challenged much of the formal church structure which the Anglican church had carried over from the Roman. So King James ordered his own English Bible, and had it employ language which would uphold the official church structure, without all of the marginal notes. The King James Version marginal notes forsook the commentary, but continued to supply many of the cross-references and alternate meaning of words. Once the King James Version was published, the Geneva Bible remained far more popular. However after a short time King James banned printing of the Geneva Bible, which forced his own Bible to become the standard. Therefore modern Christians must understand that the King James Bible is popular today only because it was the government-mandated Bible of the time, and competition was eliminated by force.
This situation also prevented English Biblical studies and translation from developing any further. That is what we may fairly protest. But before further discussing the need for better translations, let's take a look at the Greek manuscripts from which the King James New Testament was translated. To do that, we will simply quote from a rather accurate and straightforward article on the Textus Receptus found at a website called Theopedia:
The term Textus Receptus is Latin meaning "Received Text". It comes from the preface to the second edition of a Greek New Testament published by the brothers Elzevir in 1633. In this preface the Elzevirs wrote, Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus -- “What you have here, is the text which is now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” [The Elzevirs printed seven editions of the Greek NT between 1624 and 1678. Unlike the editions of Erasmus, Estienne, and Beza before them, the Elzevirs were not editors of the editions attributed to them, only the printers. Ref. J. Harold Greenlee, An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, 2nd ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), p. 65.] From this statement comes the term Textus Receptus or TR, which today is commonly applied to all editions of the printed Greek NT before the Elzevir’s, beginning with Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1496-1536) and his first published edition in 1516.
So when the Elzevirs had begun calling their own publication of the text of the New Testament the Textus Receptus, the term began to be applied also to the sources from which they had received their text, which is basically a third or additional version of the text of Stephanus. Stephanus, whose real name was Robert Estienne, had in turn received his basic text upon which he had begun working from Erasmus. But those versions were never considered to be a Textus Receptus until the Elzevirs applied the name as a description of their own text in 1633.
Now continuing from the same source:
Erasmus was the author of five published editions from 1516 to 1535. His consolidated Greek text was based on only seven minuscule manuscripts of the Byzantine text type that he had access to in Basel at the time, and he relied mainly on two of these - both dating from the twelfth century. [William W. Combs, Erasmus and the Textus Receptus, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, DBSJ 1 (Spring 1996): 35–53.]
Although many point to obvious limitations and certain short-comings in Erasmus' first Greek text, later editors used it as their starting point, making minor revisions as needed based on additional Greek manuscript evidence.
Robert Estienne (known as Stephanus) (1503-1559) edited and printed four editions from 1546 to 1551. His third edition of 1550 was the first to have a critical apparatus, with references to the Complutensian Polyglot and fifteen additional Greek manuscripts. The fourth edition of 1551 had the same Greek text as the third, but is especially noteworthy for its division of the NT books into chapters and verses, a system still in use today. [The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in virtually all English Bibles.]
Theodore Beza (1519-1605) published four independent editions from 1565 to 1604. His text was essentially a reprinting of Stephanus’ third edition (1550) with minor changes.
The third edition of Stephanus (1550) became the standard form of the Greek NT text in England and that of the Elzevirs (1633) on the continent. [William W. Combs, op. cit.] The Stephanus 1550 text as given in Beza’s edition of 1598 was the main source for translators of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.
Now Erasmus was a humanist, and while he was a very respected scholar of his time, he was virtually idolized by humanists, and he is to this day. I could make a fair criticism of his motivations in other areas. However, in Scripture, let us assume that Erasmus had worked with the best tools available to him. There are thousands of miniscule manuscripts in existence today, the oldest of which date back to the 9th century. Those available to Erasmus did not predate the 10th century. These manuscripts, the work of medieval copyists, frequently disagree with one another. Many of them also contain late interpolations or substitute words when compared with the earliest known manuscripts of Scripture, which are the Great Uncials and the papyri, many copies of which date to earlier than the 6th century.
So Erasmus only had 7 miniscules available to him, and he did the best he could with these. But the manuscripts he had were missing certain verses that were found in the Latin Vulgate. So Erasmus simply back-translated these, meaning that he basically guessed at what the Greek should say from what the Latin of the Vulgate said. Then Stephanus, and later Elzevir, worked with the product of Erasmus to create their own editions. While Stephanus was also a great scholar, and added 15 miniscules to the 7 of Erasmus, neither did he have the best source material. But he did well in one area, to make a critical apparatus comparing the variant readings in the manuscripts which he did have, and that practice is still useful to scholars today.
But the King James translators did not follow Erasmus exclusively, and neither did they follow Stephanus or Beza exclusively. So what manuscripts did they employ? The truth is that the King James Version of 1611 was not based on any single known manuscript. Rather, the translators basically cherry-picked a host of secondary versions in addition to these few scholarly editions in order to arrive at its English text. This can be proven by comparing the King James translation with its sources. It employed the 1527 manuscript of Erasmus, the 1550 manuscript of Stephanus, the 1598 manuscript of Beza, and to some extent the 1522 Complutensian Polyglot, and the 1592 Clementine Vulgate. While these later two manuscripts may not have made a large impact on the translation of the King James Version, when the italicized words are inspected it seems that these manuscripts were indeed an influence on the final text. We will discuss the italicized words shortly.
Now that we have discussed why the King James Version was authorized, and we have seen from what manuscripts it was created, we must ask this: Which King James Version is the absolute authority on the Word of God? That is because the King James Version which we have today is not the Bible that King James had authorized.
In 1769, the original King James Version began to be replaced with another version, and to explain that we will summarize an article entitled Changes in the King James Version found at a website called Bible Research, and also offer some of our own comments. This article concerns only the New Testament:
Changes in the King James Version
In 1769 the Oxford University Press published an edition of the King James version in which many small changes were made. These changes were of five kinds: 1. Greater and more regular use of italics; 2. minor changes in the text; 3. the adoption of modern spelling; 4. changes in the marginal notes and references; and, 5. correction of printers' errors. This edition soon came to be known as "The Oxford Standard" edition, because it was widely accepted as a standard text by commentators and other publishers. The editions of the King James version published in our century generally reproduce this Oxford edition of 1769, with or without the marginal notes. The following information is given so that the reader may gain an accurate impression of how far the modern editions differ from the original King James version of 1611.
Now while this article does mention changes finalized in 1769 regarding the removal of the books of the Apocrypha, it does not really concern itself with the Apocrypha. The original 1611 King James Version of the Bible included the Apocryphal books. However it was not until the Westminster Confession of 1647 that the Anglican Church officially excluded the Apocrypha from its canon. The Puritans were the first to print Bibles excluding the Apocryphal books, but evidently not until after 1666.
It must be born in mind, however, that if the authorization of King James or the original translators are required in order to uphold the exclusive authority of the King James Version, then that would have to include all of the books of the Apocrypha, since originally they were authorized as part of the English Bible just as much as the other books. Today, “King James Only” advocates give reasons for the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the 1611 King James Version which the original King James translators did not give, so they are only making or repeating excuses.
§ 1. ITALICIZED WORDS OR PHRASES
The King James version was originally printed in the type style known as "black letter," which [appear like traditional Medieval English lettering] Words of the translation which were supplied to make the sense clear, but which were not represented in the Greek text used by the translators, were often set in small "roman" type… In later editions, the ordinary text was set in roman type, with the supplied words in italics…
The important things to note here is that there are many words in the King James Version which appear in italics, which are admittedly not a part of the Greek manuscripts that the King James Version was translated from. It is the translators assertion that this is necessary to make the sense clear, but that is a highly contestable position.
This typographical feature was not employed very consistently in the 1611 edition; in many places the supplied words are not indicated as one might expect. This inconsistency was probably the fault of the printer's compositors, who very often modified even the spelling of words in order to lengthen or shorten a line of type.
We will note later, that if it is supposed that God inspired the translators to be perfect, as many KJV-only Christians claim, then why did God not inspire the printers to be perfect as well? This is especially important, because it is another little-known fact that the original copies of the translators were destroyed in the great fire in London in 1666. From that time, all that was left are the copies of the printers, which contained acknowledged errors.
The editors of the 1769 Oxford edition undertook, therefore, to regularize the use of italics by italicizing all words of the translation which did not have a counterpart in the text of Stephens 1550. Consequently, modern editions of the King James version are much more heavily italicized than the original: In Matthew, the 1611 edition uses roman type 69 times, whereas the more exact 1769 edition uses italics 384 times. The reader should be aware of the fact that the King James version is not, strictly speaking, a translation of Estienne 1550; and so in some cases the modern italics are misleading if used as an indication of the readings upon which the version is based. For example, in Mark 8:14 the modern editions italicize the words the disciples because they are not in Estienne, but it is evident that here the King James translators were following, as usual, the text of Beza 1598, where the words hoi mathetai are found…
Estienne is the surname of Stephanus, or Stephens. If the original 1611 translation had marked 69 words in Matthew as being added to the Scripture, but the 1769 edition marked 384 such words, that is a sizable error to merely attribute to the printers. But it is equally important to note that there were 384 words added to Matthew by the translators, which are not in the original Greek of the manuscripts which they employed.
Our article then says:
§ 2. MINOR ALTERATIONS OF THE TEXT
The following list includes all changes to the text of 1611 which do not involve the correction of obvious errors of the press (examples of which are given in § 5 below), or changes of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Most of these changes were made with reference to the text of Estienne 1550, and with a view to greater clarity or accuracy. The changes marked with an asterix "*" are all those which are considered improper or unnecessary by F.H.A. Scrivener, an eminent authority on the text of the KJV, in his book, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611), its subsequent Reprints and modern Representatives. (Cambridge: University Press, 1884).
The article then provides a list of 111 verses in the New Testament which had been changed in 1769 from the 1611 edition of the King James Version. Most of them are relatively minor, but these are not printer's errors. Rather they were deemed to be corrections of the original translation from the Greek. If the King James Version is the inspired Word of God in English, we must ask this: which King James Version does that include? Or does God change His mind because He allowed, or even made, mistakes?
Section 3 of our source article concerns the modernization of spelling, and the altering of words to make the spellings, punctuations or capitalization consistent. This raises another issue in relation to the claims of the divine inspiration of the translation.
§ 4. MARGINAL CHANGES IN THE OXFORD EDITION OF 1769
In the first edition of the King James version, marginal notes indicating various renderings or readings appeared in 775 places in the New Testament. Of these notes, 34 evidently referred to various readings of the Greek manuscripts. They appear in the following places: Mat 1:11, 7:14, 24:31, 26:26; Mark 7:3, 9:16; Luke 2:38, 10:22, 17:36; John 18:13; Acts 13:18, 25:6; Rom. 5:17, 7:6, 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:31; Gal. 4:15, 4:17; Eph. 6:9; 1 Tim. 6:5; Heb. 4:2, 9:2; James 2:18; 1 Pet. 1:4, 2:21; 2 Pet. 2:2, 2:11, 2:18; 2 John 1:8; Rev. 3:14, 6:8, 13:1, 13:5, 17:5.
The editors of the 1769 edition left all of the original marginal readings and renderings unchanged, but added 87 more notes, of which 17 referred to various readings of the Greek manuscripts.
The article then gives a sample by listing the marginal notes added to Matthew, and then gives a separate list of translation alternatives added to the marginal notes of the entire New Testament. These lists of alternate readings also betray the influences of the Vulgate on the King James translation.
Section 5 of our source article gives 5 printing errors from Matthew as an example of the printer errors which were corrected in the 1769 edition of the King James Version.
By some sources, there were revisions of the King James Version which, in addition to changes in punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, also included many hundreds of changes in words, word order, possessives, singulars for plurals, articles, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, entire phrases, and the addition and deletion of words. So is the “inspired word of God in English” represented by the “verbally inerrant” King James Version in 1611, 1629, 1638, 1644, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, or 1850?
Now all of the changes made to the King James Version may be dismissed by those who claim that the King James Bible is the perfect word of God. But the fact that there are acknowledged errors and necessary changes by itself reveals that God is not responsible for the translation, but that it was executed by fallible men. Anyone who claims otherwise, does so to support an agenda.
I am going to quote from an article which defends the King James Version, but which also has a more realistic attitude towards the translation. This is from Changes to the KJV since 1611: An Illustration, at Bible.org:
There are approximately 25,000 changes made in the KJV of the New Testament from the original version of 1611. But in the underlying Greek text, the numbers are significantly smaller: there are approximately 5000 changes between the Textus Receptus (the Greek text used by the KJV translators) and the modern critical texts (used as the base for modern translations). That’s one-fifth the amount of changes that have occurred within the KJV NT itself. To be sure, many of these are fairly significant. But none of them affects any major doctrine and most of them are—like the internal changes within the KJV tradition—spelling changes. In the least, this puts the matter in a bit of a different light. Again, the reason I don’t think the KJV is the best translation today is basically threefold: (1) its underlying text is farther from the original than is the text used in modern translations; (2) its translation is archaic, with now over 300 words that no longer mean what they did in 1611; (3) four hundred years of increased knowledge of the biblical world and languages have rendered many of the KJV renderings obsolete. All this is not to say that the KJV is a bad translation; I still think it stands as the greatest literary monument in the English language. And one can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ reading the KJV just as one can get saved reading the NIV. But if one is seeking clarity and accuracy, a modern translation is much preferred.
Now we do not agree with everything that he said concerning the Greek texts: we believe that many of the differences are much more significant. However we also understand that modern churchmen often defend bad translations because the translations are so important to many church doctrines. The point is, however, that even a defender of the King James Version can face realities concerning the text and the translations.
There was another part of the original 1611 King James Version of the Bible which was removed from all modern editions, but not until the 19th century, and that is the Preface. The original Preface to the 1611 edition explained a lot of the attitudes and methods of the translators. No opinion should be promoted over their own as to the importance of the original languages, or as to what they themselves considered to be the Holy Scriptures.
In the Preface to the 1611 version, the translators spend much time extolling King James himself, they admit respect for the translators of Scripture which had come before them, and after admiring early Christians who had studied the Scripture in its original languages, they give a lengthy defense concerning the necessity of a translation. For centuries, the prevailing attitude of the Roman Church was that the Scriptures be available only in Latin. Then the Preface gives a brief history of the early translations of Scripture into both Latin and Greek, referring to the Septuagint, along with a brief survey of other translations into Dutch, French and English, evidently using them as an authority of precedent to support the cause for their own into English. In regard to these translations, the King James translators attested that “we are so farre off from condemning any of their labours that traveiled before us in this kinde, either in this land or beyond sea”. They had this attitude because, as they make clear in their Preface, they considered the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew to be the authoritative “Holy Scriptures”.
Concerning the translation itself, the original King James Preface says: “Therefore let no mans eye be evill, because his Majesties is good; neither let any be grieved, that wee have a Prince that seeketh the increase of the spirituall wealth of Israel ... but let us rather blesse God from the ground of our heart, for working this religious care in him, to have the translations of the Bible maturely considered of and examined. For by this meanes it commeth to passe, that whatsoever is sound alreadie ... the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; also if any thing be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the originall, the same may bee corrected, and the trueth set in place.” So in their own Preface, the King James translators leave open the possibility for error and correction.
Then in the next paragraph, in response to the Puritan's complaints that earlier Bibles suffered bad translation, they wrote: “Now to the later we answere; that wee doe not deny, nay wee affirme and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set foorth by men of our profession (for wee have seene none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the Kings Speech which hee uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian and Latine, is still the Kings Speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expresly for sence, every where.” So in their own Preface, the King James translators admit that other translations of the Scriptures are every bit as much the Word of God as their own, even if they are not the most eloquent.
In this same light, the King James translators recognized the authority of the Septuagint, even though they thought it was defective from the Hebrew. It is apparent that they thought this only because they accepted the claim of the Jews that their Masoretic Hebrew was authoritative, and they did not have the tools we have today, that allow us to know better.
Then, answering the criticism of the Catholics, because the translation of the King James Version had already been amended before the Preface was published, the translators say that “Yet before we end, we must answere a third cavill and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our Taanslations [sic] so oft; wherein truely they deale hardly, and strangely with us. For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to goe over that which hee had done, and to amend it where he saw cause?” This admission alone betrays the fact that the King James Version is the work of fallible men, and the translators themselves humbly admitted their fallibility. They then add: “If we will be sonnes of the Trueth, we must consider what it speaketh, and trample upon our owne credit, yea, and upon other mens too, if either be any way an hinderance to it. This to the cause: then to the persons we say, that of all men they ought to bee most silent in this case. For what varieties have they, and what alterations have they made, not onely of their Service bookes, Portesses and Breviaries, but also of their Latine Translation?” So the King James translators admit that sons of truth should study their own works, recognize possible errors, and seek to correct even themselves.
Then concerning the work of the earliest Christian writers and translators, the Preface says: “If you aske what they had before them, truely it was the Hebrew text of the Olde Testament, the Greeke of the New. These are the two golden pipes, or rather conduits, where-through the olive branches emptie themselves into the golde. Saint Augustine calleth them precedent, or originall tongues; Saint Jerome, fountaines. The same Saint Jerome affirmeth, and Gratian hath not spared to put it into his Decree, That as the credit of the olde Bookes (he meaneth of the Old Testament) is to bee tryed by the Hebrewe Volumes, so of the New by the Greeke tongue, he meaneth by the originall Greeke. If trueth be to be tried by these tongues, then whence should a Translation be made, but out of them? These tongues, therefore, the Scriptures wee say in those tongues, wee set before us to translate, being the tongues wherein God was pleased to speake to his Church by his Prophets and Apostles.” So the original languages bear the authority of the Word of God. Then after discussing other translations they affirm that “neither did we disdaine to revise that which we had done, and to bring backe to the anvill that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helpes as were needfull, and fearing no reproch for slownesse, nor coveting praise for expedition, wee have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the worke to that passe that you see.” And with all this they do not assert that their work is the final English authority, rather, they assert that it can be reconsidered and improved.
The original 1611 King James Version also included hundreds of words in the margins, which represented what they considered to be alternate renderings of Greek or Hebrew words. Here in part, is what they wrote about this: “Some peradventure would have no varietie of sences to be set in the margine, lest the authoritie of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that shew of uncertaintie, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgmet not to be so be so sound in this point…. There be many words in the Scriptures, which be never found there but once, (having neither brother nor neighbour, as the Hebrewes speake) so that we cannot be holpen by conference of places.... Now in such a case, doth not a margine do well to admonish the Reader to seeke further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?… Therfore as S. Augustine saith, that varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversitie of signification and sense in the margine, where the text is not so cleare, must needes doe good, yea is necessary, as we are perswaded. ” So here the King James translators admit that they are not the final authority of the Greek or Hebrew words of Scripture, and that many things require further study on the part of the individual. Their entire attitude is quite contrary to those of today who somehow claim that the King James Version is the final word on Scripture. In this aspect, they themselves conclude: “They that are wise, had rather have their judgements at libertie in differences of readings, then to be captivated to one, when it may be the other.”
There is no doubt that the King James Bible was a very eloquent work of art. But today we have an additional 400 years of Greek scholarship, the archaeological discovery of hundreds of more ancient manuscripts, and many other excellent tools available to us which the King James Version translators did not have. We deceive ourselves if we limit our understanding of our Christian faith to their work, and in their own Preface, they certainly would agree.
Now, we can sympathize with many of our Christian Identity brethren, that being raised on the King James Version of the Bible, they have come to trust it, and it is all they have ever known. But that does not in itself make the King James Version of Scripture the only acceptable version of the inspired Word of God in English, and we have seen that the King James translators themselves would never have believed that. What about the generations of Greek and Latin readers who knew no other version of the Old Testament outside of the Septuagint or Vulgate, and those of the West who knew no other New Testament but what they were told from the Latin translations? And when the Geneva Bible or the King James Version was published, those Latin copies which so many churchmen and lay people knew were under attack, because the knew English versions were based on “original languages”? Now today, we have many better manuscripts of the original languages than the scant manuscripts which the King James translators had, and we would be hypocrites if we refused to use them to improve on their work.
We can also sympathize, that these people who know nothing but the King James Version cling to it because for almost a hundred years now they have been assaulted with modern versions, and often those modern versions have had nefarious agendas. There is no doubt that some have arisen having one agenda or another, and have attempted to recreate the Bible and form their god in their own image. From this, quite fraudulent translations have been made, such as the Living Bible, or one more recent edition purposely mistranslated to be “gender inclusive”, which we can consider as feminist. Of course we must forever guard against such people. But that is where inspiration and motivation must come into consideration: there are honest men, and there are dishonest men, and each are known by their fruits. The dishonest, however, are no excuse for refusing the work of the honest students of Scripture.
This Missouri pastor simply refused to accept that I, being an Identity Christian, have a perspective of Scripture from a purely historical viewpoint that the King James translators did not have, but which is more agreeable to the context of the Bible. That perspective allows for a much more honest Biblical translation, and the King James has many faults which his own ideology will never allow him to admit no matter how well I can explain and prove them. He also could not understand that today we are blessed with resources that were out of reach to the King James translators, which provide us with much better original manuscripts and a much better understanding of the original Greek language in which they were written. I may never get him to realize these things, but here I hope to begin an ongoing effort to answer and correct these so-called “King James Only” Christians.
Tonight's presentation is a first draft, so to speak.
[I had wanted to present some of Steve Rudd's questions to the “King James Only” adherents found here, but did not have the time: http://www.bible.ca/b-kjv-only.htm#proof]