Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

25 Apr 2012

Is Only the King James Version the Word of God?

Posted By

The King James-only movement refuses to recognize any other translation in English as the Word of God. As I noted in previous posts (here and here), the Preface to the 1611 KJV is an embarrassment to the KJV-only position because in the Preface the translators themselves absolutely reject the erroneous idea that any translation has such a unique position. Unlike modern KJV-only advocates, the translators them­selves admired the work of previous translators of the English Bible.

And to the same effect say we, that we are so far off from condemning any of their labours that travailed before us in this kind, either in this land, or beyond sea, either in King Henry’s time, or King Edward’s, (if there were any translation, or correction of a translation, in his time) or Queen Elizabeth’s of ever renowned memory, that we acknowledge them to have been raised up of God for the building and furnishing of his Church, and that they deserve to be had of us and of posterity in everlasting remem­brance.

The Preface goes on to declare that other translations are also the Word of God, even if they contain minor errors. In fact, they acknowl­edge that errorless translation is impossible since translators are not like the apostles, who were superintended by the Holy Spirit in their writing.

Now to the latter we answer, that we do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [worst] translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession…containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God: as the King’s speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, every where.…A man may be counted a virtuous man, though he have made many slips in his life, (else there were none virtuous, for in many things we offend all) also a comely man and lovely, though he have some warts upon his hand, yea, not only freckles upon his face, but also scars. No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. For whatever was perfect under the sun, where Apostles or apostolick men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?

So according to the translators there is no justifiable reason why any good-faith translation should not be considered the Word of God, yet KJV-only proponents have denied that any English translation since 1611 is the Word of God. The KJV translators deny that their own translation is perfect (no errors) since perfection is only possible when men are under the direct, supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In order to prove that good-faith though imperfect translations are still the Word of God, the translators give an example of what they consider to be a translation with numerous defects, yet, in spite of those problems, can still be called the Word of God.

The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the Original in many places, neither doth it come near it for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Hierome [Jerome] and most learned men do confess) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using of it so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the ap­pellation and name of the word of God.

The translation of the Seventy is a reference to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translated several centuries before Christ, which is often quoted in the New Testament when the writers cite the Old Testament.

So again we see that the Preface to the KJV proves to be an embarrassment to the supporters of the KJV-only position since the very words of the translators themselves refute the erroneous claims of the KJV-only movement.

3 Responses

  1. I can see the sense in almost any error that is taught; that is, I can understand how it made sense to the original errorist.

    Not this one. Ever.

    I’ll never forget my shock the first time I met a pair of KJV-onliests in the Christian book store at which I worked. I just remember my shock, my feeling that they were kidding, that they were pulling a joke on me. They couldn’t be serious.

    All that to say, I’m wondering: to what degree do you think that modern KJV-onlyism is just an elaborate excuse to provide cover for men too lazy to learn Greek and Hebrew?

    1. Research Dr. D.A. Waite. Whatever it is, it isn’t laziness or ignorance of the originals. Lots of KJVO guys have studied the original languages.

      If you want to understand a position, it’s always a good idea to read some of its more credible proponents.

  2. Bill Combs

    Your mention about being shocked reminded me of a similar incident that happened in a class I teach on Monday when we were talking about the KJV-only view. A young student was also totally shocked that there were really people who believed such nonsense. Fortunately, in the class was an older student, a pastor, who had in recent years come out of the KJV-only movement. He was able to click off the names of numerous churches in our state that are KJV-only, several with more than a thousand members.

    On your point about the Greek and Hebrew, I have never really thought that was a big contributor to the problem, but I can see where it could be an appealing reason for some, and maybe more than I imagine. I have always thought it was the desire for certainty coupled with an invalid view of the doctrine of the Bible that was the major cause. Though I realize that we are far enough into the movement that we have a new generation who grow up in these churches and don’t really know any better.