Monday, November 19, 2007

How to Decide Where You Stand on the KJV Only Controversy

The following was my thought process that helped me come to a conclusion on the King James Only controversy. If you are undecided on this issue, try the following:

1. Before addressing which version is perfect, the definition of "preservation" must be resolved. When we have two different ways of defining preservation, we will never be able to move forward to the deeper questions like which one is the "preserved" Word of God. If you define preservation as simply maintaining the fundamental doctrines of the faith, than yes, all modern versions could be considered acceptable. Sadly, many lose such finer points as the virgin birth (changing the word "virgin" to "young woman") or the Deity of Christ (changing the reference to Jesus as the "Son of God" to calling Him "God's Servant"). Many say that these are of no consequence, but I would argue that for a new believer, they may skew his/her doctrine. If you seriously want to come to a decision for yourself, I would suggest starting with deciding, based on your own study of the Bible, to what standard God promised to preserve His Word. The conclusion you come to will be a good starting point for further study.

Matt. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Ps 12:6-7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

2. If you decide that you believe God promised to preserve His Word forever, and that means every word (not just idea or doctrine) than the second thing you must decide is which version has the preserved Words of God (since all versions differ, only one can be correct, right?).

The King James Version Only crowd didn't just pick their favorite, they picked based on a specific criteria. There are two different underlying manuscripts. The KJV is the only English translation in mass production today that comes from the Textus Receptus (for a quick explanation of the Textus Receptus, visit The Answer Book by Sam Gipp). The other modern versions are based off of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. When boiled down to which underlying manuscript is the most accurate, the issue becomes much easier to wade through. Scientifically, non-KJVO's claim their manuscript holds up better under textual criticism, however KJVO's claim they can trace it back and see alterations by men who did not fear God (the Catholic Church played a big role in producing these corrupt manuscripts). The truth is that we don't have the "original autographs" (original writings), and are using around 6,000 different fragments to create our English Translations. Many modern day versions are based on the corrupt texts that Wescott and Hort compiled from the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts, and therefore have many passages missing, changed, or corrupted when compared to the Textus Receptus (click here to view their ommissions).

3. If you decide that you agree with using a Bible that has been translated from the Textus Receptus, than you can reaffirm your decision by looking at who is in each camp. On one side we have those who say that the King James Bible is the only preserved, inerrant Word of God for the English speaking people, and on the other side are those who say that all English versions are acceptable. If you believe point number one (that God preserved every word) than you can only be in one camp. There is nobody that claims that the NASB is the preserved Word of God to the exclusion of all others, nor the NIV, the NKJV, etc.

This is my simple yet effective thought process in wading through the information overload that is out there on this issue. I continue to study, read, and discuss the finer details, however I do so knowing that when God makes a promise, He will keep it.


Julie's Jewels said...

Great post!! I like your way of thinking.

David Scott said...

Thanks Julie. I like to keep it simple and straight-forward. I've been engaging in a lot of discussion on the Fighting Fundamental Forums, and even though it's like talking to a brick wall it helps me because it forces me to write out what I believe. A lot of those guys on that forum will never do that, they will simply ridicule you for your position without ever giving a valid argument. I hope this post will be used to help those who are on the fence make a decision for God's Holy Word, the King James Bible.

David T. said...

1. Preservation

Matt. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

- So this means we will lose the Bible once the events of the Revelation are complete? Then this makes the following verses complete lies: Psa 119:89, 160; Isa 40:8; I Pet 1:23, 25
- This verse is obviously not referring to written scripture. It uses the imagery of "jot and tittle" to imply that the smallest point of what God has said will be fulfilled.
- Verses like Psa 119:89, 160; Isa 40:8; I Pet 1:23, 25 tell us that the word of God will abide forever. Given the above, it is best to understand these verses as saying that what God has said will always be accomplished.
- Consider Isa 55:11. We are told that the word of the Lord will not return void. How many times has the word of God been given in preaching or teaching and the hearers have not responded? The key here is that is will accomplish that for which the Lord sent it. This verse reminds us that the most important things about God's Words are that they is true, and they will come to pass, and they will have the effect its Author intended.

Ps 12:6-7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

- If your interpretation is correct, God was not in the business of preservation until David's time, and so we can have no confidence about the accuracy of the portion of the Bible written prior to that.
- Every other time the word "preserve" or its derivatives appear in the Psalms it refers to God's people. There is no reason to make this the exception. (David has already talked of the existance of God's people so this interpretation avoids the problem in my first point)
- Vs. 6-7 are an expression of confidence in what God said in v.5 about defending His people. Thus, the "words" in v.6 only refer to God said in v.5, so even if v.7 is refering to the "words" of v.6, it doesn't support "whole-Bible" preservation.

2. Corrupt Manuscripts

- The Byzantine class of MSS of which the TR is a good representative were copied and kept throughout most of history by the Eastern Orthodox Church- an ancient offshoot of the RCC and hardly a acceptable belief system for the Baptists who dominate today's KJVO scene.
- KJVO folks like to pit Antioch (Syrian MS tradition) against Alexandria (Egyptian MS tradition). While it is true Alexandria had its heretics, Alexandria also was the home of staunch warriors against heresy in the early church, such as Athanasius. While it is true Antioch had its solid Biblical teachers it also was home to heretics such as Nestorius.
- The rise of Islam in 7th century goes a long way toward explaining the late rising dominance of the Byzantine text-type.

3. No autographa- missing originals

- "The danger facing certain fundamentalists who wish to elevate a particular version or text type to a special, miraculous, God-protected status is that of confusing inspiration with preservation and thereby compromising verbal inspiration and inerrancy."- "Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Fundamentalism" by Rolland D. McCune
- By focusing our understanding of preservation on the original language MSS themselves rather than compiled editions and text-types we recognize the tremendous opportunity for Satan to manipulate a single group or committee and thereby compromise Biblical accuracy for all future generations.

Bob Hayton said...


Interesting post. First of all, I commend you that you are studying and thinking through issues. You are trying to defend what you believe from Scripture, rather than just assuming its correct and looking down at others who don't agree with you.

If you are interacting over at Fundamental Forums, I fear for you! That site is a hodge podge of who knows what kind of people. I suspect your comments are true that non-KJVO people ridicule and criticize the KJVO people. However, I've also seen a bitter spirit from KJVO people directed the other way there.

When it comes to the KJV issue, I agree that it is complicated. To simplify it, you are basically looking for a version which is perfect and which Christians believe is perfect. If that is the only criteria, then the KJV wins. However, if you are looking for versions based on the TR, the NKJV and KJV both should be accepted.

Basically here is the problem, God promises to preserve his words, but He doesn't tell us where we are to find them. He promises that His people will have his message, and His words. They do, and always have.

But there was never a promise that all the words would be together in one book. Many KJVO people believe God used the Latin manuscripts to preserve some passages like Acts 8:37 and 1 John 5:7, but the Greek (which as a majority, support a KJV-kind of text) manuscripts to preserve most of everything else. So before 1611, where was a single copy of God's holy words in one book to be found? If it wasn't available, did God fail in his promises?

If you go back to the promises, they don't specify that all the words will be together in one physical tangible book.

God's people have always revered the Word of God and have copied it faithfully, but people are people and make mistakes. In fact we know of no 2 manuscripts (which are hand-written copies of the Bible from the days before printing) that are exactly alike in every particular. So either 1 manuscript is the only pure and perfect one, or else none of them are perfectly pure. So how could a Bible be perfectly pure if it is ultimately based on thousands of impure manuscripts?

Don't get me wrong. The Bible is pure, everything in it is sure and true. But if you open any 2 KJVs today, and just turn to 2 Tim. 3:17, you will find that some read "thoroughly" and some say "throughly". Which is it?

Well I have a reprint of the KJV 1611 (did you know modern KJVs are come from a revision of the KJV done in either 1762 or 1769, depending on which text the publisher wants to use?), and it says "throughly". But guess what? It has a marginal note at that verse. It says "or, perfected". So is it "throughly furnished" or "perfected"? Which is the perfect word of God?

Also, at Acts 25:6, the KJV 1611 has a marginal note which says "or, as some copies reade, no more then eight or ten dayes." (original spelling). Many KJV Only people are against footnotes or marginal notes which talk about other Greek manuscripts and give alternate readings, yet the KJV 1611 does this itself in dozens of places.

Here is another example: At Luke 17:36, the marginal note in the KJV 1611 reads: "This 36. verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies". This example is important, because at this same place some of the modern versions take the verse out and put it in the footnotes, and the KJVO people are upset about that. Yet as we see the KJV 1611 itself admits the verse is questionable as to whether it is an addition or not.

All of this illustrates the question and the difficulty of the debate. God promised to preserve His word, but he did not perform miracles so that all the copies are the same.

So we are left to determine which copies and readings are the best.

The KJV Only people will point to an English Bible version and say God blessed it so that means this must be it. But the Latin speaking Christians felt the same way about the Vulgate, when Erasmus' Greek edition came out. And the Dutch and German Christians both had excellent Bibles produced around the same timeframe as the KJV. Why aren't there versions perfect and the KJV a close second to them?

And stop and think about this, most KJVO people would not think God kept his promise if they couldn't hold a perfect Bible in their hands. However, until the 1600s, most Christians rarely, if ever, even saw an entire Bible. What about the Chinese and Spanish, where's there perfect Bible? And what about the tribes that have believers but no Bible in their language yet? Has God's promise failed them?

No God's word is here it is preserved. We have a high degree of certainty about almost all the many words of the Bible, and just a little bit of uncertainty about a few passages and verses which, while important, are not so affected by our questions that we don't know basically what God said, and not so affected that Bible doctrines are changed.

Now, I don't necessarily want to debate you, but I would be glad to answer questions for you and explain my position in a non-threatening way.

I would challenge you to do two things, however.

1) Read the preface to the KJV written by the translators.

2) Plan on reading one serious book about this issue that is from the other side of the position. (In my strict KJV Only IFB Bible College we were told to read one book for KJVO and one book against it, in a Greek class of mine. None of us abandoned KJV Onlyism due to that, but we were all educated more. We knew the issues better. For me, it gave me questions which I kept trying to answer, until I ultimately three years later or more, came to leave the KJV Only position. But if you are to honestly hold your position, you must at least read the opposing books for yourself.)

Also, feel free to use the resources I've compiled at my KJV Only Research Center to study the issues from either side of the divide.

I respect KJV Only people, I used to be one. I understand the good Scriptural motivations for holding the position you do. I understand it is a complicated issue. I hope that no matter if you become convinced to accept my position or not, that nevertheless you will respect those different than you and treat them as Bible-loving Christians who have concluded differently than yourself.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob Hayton

JMS said...

I would add one more suggestion to your list:

Learn to read Greek and Hebrew before attempting to take any hard stance on issues involving translation or transmission of Biblical texts and take at least one introductory seminary-level course on Text Criticism using manuscripts and original languages.

I have never met a KJV-Only proponent who has done this. I'm not saying that to be flippant or smug; I honestly have never met a KJV-Onlyist who's done this. I've met many former KJV-Onlyists who have though... ;)

Blessings from the Discipleship Dojo,


Michael said...

I want to respond to the person who suggested that a "KJV Only" believer needs to learn Hebrew and Greek and take a course on Text Criticism.

The Bible doesn't instruct believers to do any of those things. The Bible provides a guarantee that Gods word is preserved. Where in the Bible does God command or even hint at the idea that we are to spend our time learning languages to become "textual critics"? We already have Gods words. This, I feel, is the fundamental difference between KJV Only believers and "textual critics." I recently attended a church which used the ESV after having been a going to a fundamental KVJ only church for a couple years. I was pulling my hair out because the preacher was spending a good part of the lesson comparing words between versions, languages, and texts. Preach the Word, encourage believers, and lead people to the Lord.

The Bible indicates that Jesus IS the Word of God. Non KJV-only people state that there is no perfect Bible, thus no perfect Word of God.

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