I’ve only run into 2 of them in 15 years of ministry, but I have to admit, they are some of the most frustrating Christians to deal with. (I imagine Church of Christ being just as frustrating, but when I find out someone is Church of Christ, I politely change the subject with a phrase like, ‘how about them Vols
?’) That usually does the trick.
Who am I talking about here? I’m talking about those who believe in the King James Version of the Bible and only the King James Version. According to most of these people, all other versions of the Bible are spawned by the Devil himself, and trying to help them understand that the KJV is only a translation, not the original manuscripts, is like trying to get the Devil himself to repent. OK, maybe a bit of hyperbole, but you are getting the idea.
My latest encounter came this past Sunday after morning worship. We decided to go to Perkins for lunch instead of going home and eathing cereal again. (We were out of groceries or things that we can cook. We are really realizing how much we need a new grill. But that is for another post). So we went to Perkins and got a booth as is our custom since keeping the boys under control is easier in a booth.
Then Joey began standing up next to me and smiling at the two women behind us. I turned to apologize to both of them for interrupting them, and noticed that they were having a Bible study. The woman closest to me even had a new Bible, a study Bible for those who were into sports!
They found out I was a pastor and asked me a few questions. Before long, the Sports Bible woman let me know that she was a KJV only person and felt all other translations were works of the Devil. I tried to reason with her, but got no where. She would have none of it, especially given the fact that I’m a NKJV only person! (Not actually, but I do use the NKJV).
The key problem that I have with her view is this: she feels in her heart that she, and those like her, are the only true believers because they use the only true version of the Bible. She tried to explain that there were seven purification processes taken during the translation of the KJV, 1611 version, which made it God’s inspired translation. I don’t buy that. But back to the main problem. What she and her cohorts have done is given us a new level of righteousness that must be obtained if we want to be true believers in Christ. In the process, she has joined hands with those in Galatia that are called the Judaizers. In other words, they offer Christ, but Christ with strings attached. For the Judaiser, one must only trust in Christ, but be circumcised as well.
For the KJV Only crowd, it becomes Jesus, plus their version of the Bible. Regardless of the addition, it always corrupts the gospel. This woman may prefer the KJV, which is fine. I know people who do. But to say someone is not a true follower of Christ because they don’t use that particular version, is a bastardization of the gospel itself and must be stood against at every opportunity.
This was the argument that Paul was making in the book of Galatians. This is what Paul says about those who were trying to add circumcision back into the gospel: Galatians 5:12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! (mutilate themselves). This shows Paul’s anger with those who lead others astray from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is very serious, and we should ALL be angry about it.
By God’s grace, I didn’t get angry with this woman on Sunday. I challenged her to find some real error in my teaching or preaching. I even tried to give her my sermon from Sunday morning, but she would have nothing to do with it. I do pity her. She probably is a believer in Christ, but she has been very misled by some false teaching. I hope and pray that she does repent of this false doctrine and cling to Christ and Him alone.
If the process of translating the Greek and Hebrew into the 1611 version of the Bible were overseen by the Holy Spirit, then why are there so many margin notes on possible other translations? The link here, shows that even in 1611, there were variations in how certain verses of the Bible should be translated. They had the same problems of translation that the translators of the modern day had.
Secondly, one of the arguments this woman made was that the “thees” and “thous” of the Bible were special to the KJV. The people of that day, didn’t really speak that way. I simply asked her if she ever read Shakespeare. The entire reason for translating the text into English, was to get it into the “common” tongue. “Thees” and “thous” are not holy language, just the personal pronouncs of the day.
James White has divided the King James Only movement into five main types (according to Wikipedia):
- “I Like the KJV Best” – Though White lists this group as a division of the King James Only group,
this division does not believe that the KJV is the only acceptable version. This faction simply prefer the KJV over other translations because their church uses it, because they have always used it, or because they like its style.
- “The Textual Argument” – This faction believe the KJV’s Hebrew and Greek textual basis are the most accurate. These conclude that the KJV is based on better manuscripts. Many in this group may accept a modern version based on the same manuscripts as the KJV. White claims Zane C. Hodges is a good example of this group. The Trinitarian Bible Society would fit in this division; however, “the Trinitarian Bible Society does not believe the Authorised Version to be a perfect translation, only that it is the best available translation in the English language”, and “the Society believes this text is superior to the texts used by the United Bible Societies and other Bible publishers, which texts have as their basis a relatively few seriously defective manuscripts from the 4th century and which have been compiled using 20th century rationalistic principles of scholarship.”
- “Received Text Only” – Here, the traditional Hebrew and Greek texts are believed to be supernaturally preserved. The KJV is believed to be a translation exemplar, but it is also believed that other translations based on these texts have the potential to be equally good. Donald Waite would fall into this category.
- “The Inspired KJV Group” – This faction believe that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They see the translation to be preserved by God and as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Sometimes this group will even exclude other language versions based on the same manuscripts claiming the KJV to be the only Bible.
- “The KJV As New Revelation” – This faction would believe that the KJV is a “new revelation” or “advanced revelation” from God, and can and should be the standard from which all other translations originate. Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original-language Hebrew and Greek can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called “Ruckmanism” after Peter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view.
These latter two views have also been referred to as “Double Inspiration”.
These types are not all mutually exclusive, nor a comprehensive summary of those who prefer the KJV. Douglas Wilson, for instance, argues that the KJV (or, in his preferred terminology, the Authorized Version) is superior because of its manuscript tradition, its translational philosophy (with updates to the language being regularly necessary), and its ecclesiastical authority, having been created by the church and authorized for use in the church.
BTW, here is a piece of a debate between those who hold to the KJV and Dan Wallace, and James White. Dan Wallace was my Greek professor when I was at Dallas Theological Seminary, so I love posting it. It’s a bit dated, and you will notice that James White doesn’t look like that any more. He’s now bald, by choice.