One of the more recent causes for head scratching has been the King James Version and its veracity. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you know that I’m not wedded to any particular version—I regularly read from the King James, I own an ESV, my kids read from NIV, and my wife has tried NLT and NKJV.
Why all the versions? Because the KJV has word choices that are not currently used and uses language that’s no longer modern. We’ve searched for a version that’s easy to comprehend, and the meaning is correct and not obscured.
Of the versions that we’ve tried, I would not recommend the NLT.
The Definition of the Problem
There are many blends of King James purists that are in America today. The extreme end of this movement believes that the 1611 version of the King James Bible is inspired, and all future versions are filled with modernist alterations that have polluted God’s Word. The spectrum runs from that end to those that believe that the current edition that is based solely on the Textus Receptus are the current Word of God for the English language.
These are separate from those that simply believe that the King James is the version that they prefer—for textual, reading, word flow or other reasons.
Why It Gives Me a Headache
I am good friends with a person that has recently decided to join what I would consider the moderate position of this belief—mainly she now believes that the current Authorized Version of the King James Bible is the inspired Word of God for the English language and is evangelizing this belief on Facebook and on her blog.
Anyone paying attention to this blog has witnessed some of this back and forth on this blog, and there has been hours of conversation on this topic in e-mail, on Facebook and on her blog as well.
I get a headache because, as I described in the first post of this series, this topic has gone from reasonable discussion to the absurd.
What I Don’t Have a Problem With
The strongest arguments that the KJV Only proponents have are based in textual criticism. It is here where they can bury you with opinion on everything from the relative character of Erasmus to the original King James translators (including their scholarship and credentials) to the veracity of some word and passage choices compared to the originals.
In fact, through the discussion, I’ve moved in my position to give them more credit than I probably would have previously, and some of my misconceptions have been corrected.1
What I Have a Problem With
Most of the material you read on the Internet on this position comes from the radical end of this belief, rather than the more moderate. With sites like “av1611” that show in their url their predisposition, it’s near impossible to separate their beliefs from the more radical end. Some sites that I’ve read go so far as to say that if you don’t believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired Bible than you are not (or must not) be saved.
And there is where they cross the line in my opinion.
You see, I can accept that someone believes that the King James Bible is the best translation. I can see where they believe other, modern translations may be changing or watering down things2, but crossing the line into salvation sets up division and battle.
If they’re right, then how do they explain the many people with testimonies of faith that came to the Lord via a modern translation and continue to use one? Are these people mislead, or not truly saved? If so, how do they expect to reach those that are lost, but believe that they are saved while still reading and adhering to the NASB? Does one need to go through a conversion if they started NASB and then changed to believe KJV Only? Were they unsaved beforehand?
If they’re wrong, are they therefore guilty of heresy, for promoting a faith that’s “salvation + believe this Bible”? If they’re guilty of heresy, does that mean that you should read anything they have to say regarding the topic, since they’re clearly wrong on a salvation level issue?
You see, you can’t separate the leadership of a given movement from the movement. You can say you accept pieces of the movement and not others, but if you’re getting your information to support your position from the leaders of the given movement you have to understand where they come from and their agenda.
Many of the arguments that I’ve read in support of the King James Bible have to do with the character of the translators versus the modern version translators. However, what isn’t compared is the testimony of the current leaders of the various movements. I believe that what we’d find is good men and women on both sides of the issues—and what should we do with that?
If good men and women of faith testify that the ESV is profitable for doctrine and remains true to the faith, are they wrong? Leading people astray? Not worthy to comment on the Bible since they aren’t scholars?
So here I sit behind the keyboard, still pondering through all of this. I don’t want to call anyone a heretic, and yet this issue quickly moves from a preference to a statement to a linking with salvation. And once you go there, it’s hard to have that conversation and not wrap yourself up in the spokes, wondering what to make of the whole argument and whether/how it impacts salvation that’s supposed to be by grace and through faith in Christ’s finished work—alone.
- The biggest gripe I’ve had with the KJV translators has been “baptism” and why they didn’t translate it “immerse” to help solve a lot of problems. However, it’s been shown to me that the term “baptism” was in common use at the time, so while I think they could have had more accuracy…
- Though I’ve only personally seen one or two things that I haven’t been able to explain—and both were problems with the NIV, which is one of the versions I won’t be against, but I wouldn’t recommend.