Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

2 May 2012

Is the King James Version the Final Authority?

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The King James-only movement suggests that with the coming of the KJV there was no need for further translation work and that the pro­liferation of modern versions is harmful to the church. Yet the transla­tors of the KJV faced the same objection. They note in their preface, “The Translators to the Reader,” that there was noth­ing unique about their work—it was only a continuation of the process of revision of previous translations and that making improvements in translations is a positive thing.

Yet before we end, we must answer a third cavill and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our Translations so oft; wherein truely they deal hardly and strangely with us. For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause?

But it is high time to leave them, and to shew in brief what we pro­posed to ourselves, and what course we held, in this our perusal and survey of the Bible. Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the be­ginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one;…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one, not justly to be expected against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark.

KJV-only advocates commonly speak of the King James Version as the final authority in English Bibles, as though the KJV text was fixed in 1611. But that is nonsensical in light of the historical facts. First, there is legitimate debate as to the original text of the original 1611 edition since there were apparently two versions printed in 1611, commonly called the “He” and “She” Bibles, from their respective readings in Ruth 3:15 (“he went into the city” and “she went into the city”). These two 1611 editions differ in about 450 places (see David Norton, Textual History of the King James Bible, pp. 173–79). Second, modern printed versions of the KJV are significantly different from the 1611 editions. This is because the KJV has been revised numerous times. Corrections were made in 1612, 1613, 1616, and 1617; more extensive revisions fol­lowed in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. It is principally the 4th major revision by Benjamin Blayney in 1769 that is in use today.

There are literally hundreds of differences between the 1611 KJV and modern printed editions. Let me list a few examples (see F. H. A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible, pp. 148ff.):

1611 KJV

Modern KJV

Gen 39:16 until her lord came home until his lord came home
Num 6:14 and one lamb without blemish and one ram without blemish
Deut 26:1 which the Lord giveth which the Lord thy God giveth
Josh 13:29 half tribe of Manasseh half tribe of the children of Manasseh
Judg 11:2 and his wives sons grew up and his wife’s sons grew up
1 Sam 18:27 David arose, he and his men David arose and went, he and his men
1 Sam 28:7 And his servant said to him And his servants said to him
2 Kgs 11:10 that were in the Temple that were in the temple of the Lord
1 Chr 7:5 were men of might were valiant men of might
2 Chr 28:11 fierce wrath of God is upon you fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you
Job 39:30 where the slain are, there is he where the slain are, there is she
Jer 34:16 whom ye had set at liberty whom he had set at liberty
Jer 38:16 So the king sware secretly So Zedekiah the king sware secretly
Jer 49:1 why then doth their king inherit God why then doth their king inherit Gad
Ezek 3:11 unto thy people unto the children of thy people
Joel 1:16 Is not the meat cut off before your eyes Is not the meat cut off before our eyes
Matt 12:23 Is this the son of David? Is not this the son of David?
Luke 1:3 perfect understanding of things perfect understanding of all things
John 15:20 The servant is not greater than the Lord The servant is not greater than his lord
Rom 3:24 the redemption that is in Jesus Christ the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 12:28 helps in governments, diversities of tongues helps, governments, diversities of tongues
1 Cor 15:41 another of the moon and another glory of the moon
2 Cor 5:2 For in this we groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed
2 Cor 11:32 the King, kept the city with a garrison the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison
1 Tim 1:4 rather than edifying rather than godly edifying
1 Pet 2:1 and envies, and evil speakings and envies, and all evil speakings
1 John 5:12 he that hath not the Son, hath not life he that hath not the Son of God hath not life

As the translators of the KJV said in their Preface, “For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause?” And indeed the KJV has been amended numerous times since 1611. For KJV-only advocates to argue that they hold the 1611 KJV as their final authority is at best silly and ill-informed, and at worst, extremely dishonest.