A Letter to “KJV Only” Proponents

“[A] variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.”  – closed-mind2The KJV Translators

“Do not give them a loaf of bread, covered with an inedible, impenetrable crust, fossilized by three and a half centuries. Give them the word of God as fresh and warm and clear as the Holy Spirit gave it to the authors of the Bible … For any preacher or theologian who loves God’s Word to allow that Word to go on being misunderstood because of the veneration of an archaic, not-understood version of four centuries ago is inexcusable, and almost unconscionable.” (Edwin H. Palmer, spokesman for the NIV)

I understand one’s concern over guarding the inerrancy of the Holy Scripture. I share their concern. That’s one of the reasons that I often do word studies from the original Greek and Hebrew when I study The Bible. I use several different English translations of God’s Word, as well. As you know The Bible was not written in English. In fact, the English language did not even exist 2,000 years ago. So it stands to reason that any Bible you choose to use, from the KJV to the NIV, is obviously not word for word as accurate as it is in the original language that it was written in.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar. Therefore, I must depend on the skill and devotion of those anointed men and women who are. For every Bible known to man was translated by scholars. In fact, there are Bibles through the world translated into many different languages. However, it’s important to note that Bibles in other languages were not translated from the KJV, or from any other English translation for that matter. They were translated from the original Greek and Hebrew text.

I once felt just as strongly as some of you about the King James Version of The Bible. I would argue passionately with anyone who did not hold my views. I dare say I was more of a KJV supporter then some of you. Anyone who knew me back then can attest to this fact. Therefore, I think I understand from where you are coming. However, that started to change over the years when God pointed out two eye-opening truths to me.

Number one: I discovered that it was foolish of me to judge the accuracy of the New International Version, or any other modern translation, by comparing it to the KJV. Love it as I did, I had to admit that the KJV is not the ultimate standard—the original text is the standard. So, for me to compare the NIV to the KJV and then say that the NIV was guilty of leaving something out because the KJV had it in was a poor argument. After all, I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar; so, how could I know that the KJV translators didn’t put something in their version that wasn’t in the original text? How could I be so certain considering I had never examined the Greek and Hebrew documents that the KJV scholars used? As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be able to read them even if I saw them. Do you see all the holes in that line of reasoning?

Number two: My arguments for the KJV really began to unravel one day with this discovery. I was studying my Bible and was reading the words of Jesus as he was quoting from the Old Testament. “Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10 KJV) However, when I went to the Old Testament reference that Jesus used and read it, I found that this was not exactly what the passage said! The verse Jesus used is in Deuteronomy 6:13 and is worded very different from what Jesus said. It says. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.” Jesus quoted the verse using the word “worship”—not “fear!” It blew my mind! I researched further and discovered many other examples of variations in New Testament quotes of Old Testaments scriptures.

For example:

Isaiah 9:

“1 NEVERTHELESS the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (KJV)

Matthew 4

“14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [a variation of Isaiah] the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (KJV)

Here’s another example. Again, notice the difference in the wording.

Mark 11:17, And he taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’ but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Here is the passage that Jesus quoted.

Isaiah 56:7, Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.

I then thought to myself, “Why are these, and many other quotes in the New Testament, worded differently from the original passage in the Old Testament?” Then I found out about The Septuagint. Please indulge me if you already know about this, but the Septuagint was the modern translation (Greek) of the Hebrew Bible that was used by the first century Jews. It was also used by the first Christians, the apostles and by our LORD, as well.

This intrigued me considering the fact that Jesus was the Living Word in flesh while he was on the Earth. (John 1:1&14) Wouldn’t the One who was the living embodiment of God’s Word realize that the Greek translation of the writings of Moses and the prophets from Hebrew and Aramaic to Greek was done by men, and these men at times did not exactly get it word for word right? Doesn’t it then stand to reason that Jesus would quote it the way it was originally written?  In addition, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit also inspire the writers of the New Testament to do the same?

Then it dawned on me. [It takes some doing but I do eventually get it.] The message and the spirit of the Holy Scripture, as in the Septuagint, were found in the words used by the scholars. The same is true for any legitimate translation of God’s WORD. If John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV), what difference does it make if the wording says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”? (NIV) The message is the same. One must, therefore, be careful about judging another version of The Bible, lest one find one’s self guilty of religious nitpicking and find oneself straining out a gnat. (Matthew 23:24)

The Septuagint was a translation of Scripture that was presented in what was then the language of the day. It was a contemporary version of The Bible. To Jesus the clarity of the message was of greater importance than criticizing the translation. I believe that the scholars who translated the KJV [which was revised four times, the last being in 1769] felt as Jesus did. They wanted God’s Word to be translated into the language of the day. It was very important to them that the message be clear to their culture.

The same rings true for the scholars who came together in 1965 under the watchful eyes of God and of the Christian world. The English language has changed drastically over the past 400 years. They translated directly from the best available Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts (such as the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1947, which was centuries older than the manuscripts used by the KJV scholars).

There were over 100 dedicated theologians and Bible scholars involved in giving us the NIV. They came from different denominations and their work was endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, as well as by leaders from many major denominations.[1] Now, compare this to the scholars who gave us the KJV. They were part of the Church of England, a church that’s anything but evangelical. In fact, it is the daughter of the Catholic Church. However, they worked hard and got the job done. We thank them and bless God for what they did.

“The language of Generation X and Millennials is changing every day, and those in their teens, 20s and 30s are on the Internet all the time, creating and adapting words from pop culture in their emails and Web logs. In 2003, Merriam-Webster updated its collegiate dictionary. The dictionary’s lexicographers made more than 100,000 changes and added more than 10,000 new words and phrases that did not appear in 1993. According to a 2004 nationwide Harris Interactive poll, 80% of people surveyed preferred more readable language in their Bible when given the choice. While younger generations long for timeless truth, they want it in today’s language.”[2]

When was that? 400 years ago! We don’t use Elizabethan English in 21st century America. God’s Word is much too important to leave it in antiquated terms that are no longer in use, or words that have a totally different meaning today then they did in 1611. The writers wrote the words down in the language of the day. Shouldn’t we have Gods WORD in the language of our day? We must update the language and keep God’s Word fresh and readable. We must make sure that the message remains clear. The translators of the KJV understood this. That’s why the KJV went through many revisions before we got the one we all know today.

You see, the original KJV (1611) is not the same one we know today. The beloved KJV we use is the 1850 revision. Hundreds of changes took place from 1611 and 1850. In fact, “More than 400 errors in the first edition of the KJV were corrected in a subsequent edition two years later.” (How We Got the Bible- by Neil Lightfoot) Over the years devoted scholars have updated and at times even corrected the KJV and it has come to us in the form it is today—the latest revision is the New King James Version.

“The two most important characteristics of a Bible translation are accuracy and readability. After 30 years of researching the English Bible in light of the original languages, I have found the New International Version to be the best combination of accuracy and readability of any English Bible ever done. That is why I have committed most of my career to producing reference books that help other scholars and laypeople better understand God’s word using the NIV.”  John R. Kohlenberger III, Editor, The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament; Co-editor, The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament.

I hope this has been helpful. As I said, I mean no offense to anyone who prefers the KJV. In addition, I mean no offense to the KJV Bible. I grew up with it and love it. It’s a beautiful and beloved work of art. It has been used mightily over the years; then again, so has the NIV and many or the other wonderful translations. After all, they’re each a translation of the Word of God that was designed to speak to their peculiar generation.

I use the NIV to preach from and for personal Bible study. I use it in my writings, my YouTube page an blog as well. I do so for many of the reasons that I mentioned, but the main reason I use it to preach and teach with is simple. It is the most widely used Bible of the Bible in the English-speaking world. “Since the mid 1980s, the NIV has been the best-selling English Bible in the US.”[3]


[1] For more info on the NIV and how it came to be go to http://biblehub.com/niv/version.htm

[3] This is based on actual sales statistics published by Spring Arbor Distributors, the largest distributor of Christian books to the retail trade, and monthly sales statistics gathered and published by Bookstore Journal, the official publication of the Christian Booksellers Association.’ http://www.equip.org/free/DB135.htm

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