Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [Psalm 119:89]*
The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160]
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Timothy 2:15]
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
In the first part of this series we examined the assumptions which underlie the KJV Only cult’s beliefs and gave examples from the King James translators themselves as to why those beliefs are defective. In this installment, we shall look at other problems with the KJV-Onlyists’ beliefs and the evidence against them.
One of the arguments advanced by KJV-Onlyists as the justification for their misguided views is that the KJV translators had a perfect knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. As a corollary to this view, they assert that translators who worked on modern translations are inferior to the KJV translators intellectually and spiritually. They basically use a form of circular logic, in which one argues from a point which has yet to be proven to prove that point. The argument goes something like this:
1: The KJV is superior to any modern translation.
2: It is a perfect translation because the translators had a superior knowledge of Hebrew and Greek than any translator who has worked on modern translations.
3: The translators proved they had a superior knowledge because they produced the King James Version of the Bible.
Now I would grant that the men who translated the King James Version were men of great academic accomplishment for their time, but the question of whether or not their knowledge of the biblical languages was superior to what is known today is highly debatable, if not patently false. Certainly they did not claim such for themselves. And given what we know about the nature of the text and what has been discovered over the past 250 years the claim is arguably false on the face of it.
In the first place, the men who translated the KJV were totally unaware of the nature of the Greek language used in writing the New Testament books. They knew it differed from the classical Greek demonstrated in the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer, but they attributed this to the language being some special form of the Greek language. We now know from the work of linguist/archaeologist Alfred Deissman that the language of the New Testament was koine [common] Greek, the language of the marketplace and the streets, not the language of the academics.
Consequently, the translation of the New Testament of the KJV abounds in grammatical errors caused by this lack of knowledge. The most glaring of these is found in Titus 2:13, which is a clear testimony to the Deity of Christ, calling Him “God and Savior.” The KJV muddles the translation by making the reference separate God from Christ. They simply did not know how to translate the phrase correctly. It wasn’t until Granville Sharp, working almost two hundred years after the time of the KJV translators, discerned the relationships of regular nouns joined by a conjunction in reference to a proper noun that the correct translation became clear.
Interestingly, the modern translations which KJV-Onlyists falsely accuse of downplaying the Deity of Christ are in agreement that Titus 2:13 presents the clearest witness to the Deity of Christ. The ONLY translation which follows the KJV in its erroneous translation of the passage is the equally erroneous New World Translation published by the Jehovah’s Witness cult.
Another myth proposed by the KJV-Only cult is that the modern translations dishonor God by not capitalizing pronouns which refer to Deity. These are the most prominent translations which capitalize pronouns referring to Deity: the CSB [Christian Standard Bible], the Amplified Bible, the NASB [New American Standard Bible], the MEV [Modern English Version], the NKJV [New King James Version], and the HCSB [Holman Christian Standard Bible]. And the prominent translations which do NOT capitalize pronouns referring to Deity [which according to the logic of the KJV-Onlyists means the translators do not really worship God] are: the ESV [English Standard Version], the NIV [New International Version], and… wait for it… drum roll please… the KJV itself! So, as I noted, by their own arbitrary and capricious standards, the KJV itself should be jettisoned because the translators profaned the honor of God by not demanding that pronouns which refer to Him be capitalized.
A very real example of an error in the translation of the KJV may be found in Mark 6:20, which reads, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Compare this to the NKJV rendering of the same passage: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Did Herod observe John the Baptist, or did he protect him? The Greek term is suntereo [pronounced “soon-tay-REH-ŏh”] and according to all recognized authorities, it means to protect, guard, keep safe. In other passages where suntereo appears, such as Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:38, it is rendered “preserve” in the KJV, giving a correct rendering to the term.
Another infamous mistranslation in the KJV is found in Mark 9:18, which reads: And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. The NKJV renders the passage: And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. The Greek word is xeraino [pronounced “xay-RAH-ee-nō”. This is what is known as a deponent verb where the meaning changes according to the form it takes. While it can mean “to wither [or pine] away” — that is only if the verb is in the ACTIVE voice, where the focus is on the subject of the verb. In this context the verb is in the PASSIVE voice, where the focus of the verb is on the object. And in the PASSIVE voice it always means to become rigid, like a piece of wood when it dries up and is no longer flexible. This is especially crucial when we note what was happening in the passage. The demon which possessed the child was causing the child to have seizures. Anyone ever witness someone having grand mal epileptic seizures? They don’t wilt and become limp. They stiffen up.
Another infamous passage where the KJV translators did not render the verb accurately is in Luke 18:12: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. In this case, the error is perpetuated by the NKJV. The NASB renders the passage: I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. This is another example of a deponent verb, which changes meaning according to how it is used. In this case, the verb is ktaomai [pronounced “KTAH-ŏm-eye”], it means “possess” only if it is in the perfect tense. Here the verb is in the present tense and therefore can only mean “to acquire,” not to have already as a possession.
Another way in which KJV-Only cultists denigrate modern translations is through the ignorant claim that the modern translations have removed parts of the text. They claim that this violates the command of God in Deuteronomy 4:2 because the modern translations have taken away from the word of God, citing such passages as Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7-8, among others. The problem is that they make the assertion without evidence, but based on the unproven presumption that the KJV itself is perfect and therefore is the standard by which all translations are to be measured, not the original texts themselves.
What they fail to consider, or hypocritically ignore is the very real possibility that the Bible version they idolatrously worship may have added to the text something that was not in the original texts, and thereby securing their own condemnation under the same passage they use to condemn others.
Their ignorance or hypocrisy is further displayed when it is pointed out that in many passages the KJV itself has taken away from the word of God. For example, look at Hebrews 9:7: But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. Now look at the same passage in the NKJV: But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance. It is dishonest to apply a standard of critique to one translation of Scripture if one is not willing to apply the same standard of critique against one’s pet translation. But then, from my experience, KJV-Onlyists aren’t exactly known for acting from honest motives or logical, intellectual, or moral consistency.
Another problem with the KJV-Onlyists is their head in the sand attitude towards changes in the English language which have occurred over the past four hundred years. While James White documents many instances where the language has changed such that the Elizabethan style of the KJV [which is late Middle English] is almost incomprehensible§, let us look at one of the most famous instances in 2 Thessalonians 2:7: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Although this was a correct translation at the time, the problem with this translation is that the word has changed in its meaning. Originally, the English word “let” meant to prevent, or hinder. The contemporary meaning is to permit or allow — the opposite of what it originally meant. This is why modern translations translate according to what the words actually mean and do not tie themselves to an English word which as radically changed in meaning over 400 years, rendering the passage as For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
Another infamous example of an anachronistic error in the KJV is found in Acts 12:4: And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. As much as the KJV-Only cultists refuse to admit it, this is an error pure and simple — a poor choice of translating the Greek word pascha [pronounced “PĂS-khăh”]. The word appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and twenty-eight times the KJV translators rendered it correctly — as “Passover.” There is no possible linguistic or logical justification for this error.
What is equally confounding here is that most KJV-Onlyists are the first to attribute the term “Easter” to pagan origins and accuse translators of modern translations of attempting to foist New Age neo-paganism on unsuspecting churchgoers. Why are they inconsistent in this matter — is it because of ignorance or dishonesty?‡
Yet another red herring KJV-Onlyists use as a criticism against modern translations is that they are copyrighted. They argue that God’s word cannot be copyrighted. The inference being that the KJV was never copyrighted. First, it should be noted that this argument is utterly false. Because the work of translation was subsidized by the British Crown, upon its completion it became the property of the British Crown, and this ownership, unlike an ordinary copyright in modern times, exists in perpetuity. Every publishing house in Britain which publishes copies of the KJV has to pay a fee to the Crown for a license to publish the KJV. Even Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, the largest Christian publishing concern in the United States, has to pay royalties to the British Crown for the privilege of publishing copies of the KJV. That sounds a lot like a copyright to me. Again, are KJV-Onlyists merely ignorant or dishonest?
And, finally, one of the most absurd reasons the KJV-Only cult gives for their rejection of modern translations is that the translators on those translations are not Baptists, but [to use their words] “baby sprinklers.” This is absurd because when one reviews the lists of translators involved in such translations as the NKJV, the NASB, the ESV, and the NIV, over half of the people listed are affiliated with denominations who have strong beliefs in believer immersion. What makes this rationale absurdly ironic at best, if not hypocritical, and reveals the KJV-Onlyists as either total ignoramuses in matters of history at best, is the number of men who translated the KJV who believed in and practiced believer immersion: ZERO. Yup, every single man who was involved in the translation of the KJV was an Anglican—a BABY SPRINKLER. So again, what is the basis for their belief—ignorance or dishonesty?
In the final analysis, the proof of any truth claims rests on two foundation stones. The first stone is that of historical, verifiable facts, and the KJV-Onlyists have no facts with which to back up their outrageous and utterly false claims.
The second foundation upon which the truth claims of the KJV-Only cult has to rest is that of what fruit is produced by their beliefs. When one reads the writings [ravings would be more like it] produced by those in the cult, we do not find the love of Christ which desires that all men might repent and be saved. Their churches are not active in missions, instead they are insular and inbred, placing themselves in the judgment seat over other believers over the most nitpicky issues. They are legalists who would make the first century Pharisees proud with their man-made rules and regulations which have no basis in Scripture. And in truth, when one sees them engaged in various forms of sexual immorality, one wonders, “Where is the fruit of true holiness in their lives if their beliefs are so true?”
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
§ See James White, The King James Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995, 2009) pp. 276-296, for a detailed listing of the multiplicity of errors and mistakes in the KJV.
‡ This of course is dependent on one accepting the ahistorical myth perpetrated by Edward Hislop in a nineteenth century work titled The Two Babylons, in which Hislop, without any evidence, claims the word “Easter” is derived from the Canaanite pagan goddess Ishtar and represents a springtime fertility ritual appropriated by the Roman Catholic church after the conversion of Constantine. The true nature of the term “Easter” is that it derives from the German word Ostern, which derives from the Teutonic word Erstehen, which meant “resurrection.” So there is nothing pagan about the term, but it is still anachronistic to read a modern English word back into a first century Greek document.