The KJV–Is It the Only True Version of the Bible? Part 1

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Recently I watched a video that promotes the King James Version (KJV) is the only true Bible. The theological/philosophical position of the professor in the video is representative of a slice (an increasingly small slice) of Bible-believing Christianity that teaches the King James Version of the Bible is the only one that is inspired by God (I acknowledge that some KJV-Only advocates do not necessarily assert that the KJV is “inspired.”) Thus any translation, no matter how literally it follows the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, is to be counted as something less than God’s Word.

This is not a new debate. But the video is new. It is, in my opinion, a tactic the advocates of this position are using to suggest that this argument is part of modern evangelical discussions.  The coffee shop setting, the sharply dressed, modern looking student asking the questions, along with the cinematography, all combine to make a rather archaic position look as if it is popular today. However, anyone who keeps up with evangelical discussions knows this is not the case. Churches across the globe may be debating translation issues, but they are of a much different sort than that of the KJV-Only debate. The debates over gender-neutral language in the NIV 2011 and whether or not literal translations are more faithful than thought-for-thought translations are much different debates than whether or not continued translation is helpful at all (most KJV-only advocates would deny the validity of continued translation work.). Simply put, this debate is not found in most evangelical circles.

To be clear, my position is that continued translation is needed and warranted. The KJV itself was actually the product of continued work in this field. The KJV was another effort in continuing to translate the Bible into the language of the people.  The KJV translators noted the importance of giving the people a Bible they could read in their own language. A segment from the preface to the 1611 KJV states this eloquently, “Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel…Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which is deep) without a bucket or something to draw with…Now what can be more available thereto, than to deliver God’s book unto God’s people in a tongue which they can understand.[i] Thus, the very translators of the King James Bible noted that translation was a beautiful, faithful, and helpful undertaking. This is a bit ironic! The very men who produced the KJV believed translation work was a worthy endeavor. I think they were right, and the principle stands today.

The work of the KJV translators stood on the shoulders of those who had come before them. John Wycliffe (1329-1384) would say, “it helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence.[ii] Wycliffe would come to be associated with the first entire English Bible to be produced (although, as Peter Wegner notes, “it is uncertain whether Wycliffe made the translation himself or…whether several of his students helped…while he oversaw the work”, From Text to Translation.). Regardless, long before the 1611 edition of the KJV, God was working through other men to bring the ancient words of Scripture into the English language. The original KJV translators even go so far as to state, “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 principle good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.”[iii] Wycliffe would produce the first English New Testament in 1380 and the Old Testament would follow in about 1382. Thus, over two hundred years before the KJV was produced, the people of God who spoke English were given the Word of God in their own language. From the work of Wycliffe many translations would follow. Men like William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, and John Rogers, among others, would carry on the work. The Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Translation, the Matthew Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Bishops Bible would all precede the King James Version. And, in fact, the very work of the KJV translators was, at times, nothing more than revisions of earlier work (see their statement from the 1611 Preface above). So, translation into vernacular languages preceded the KJY translation. The KJV translation stands in this tradition. I see no warrant, whether it be theologically, exegetically, or philosophically, to discourage this type of continued work of translation.

Now, what I have meant to do here is introduce this issue. I plan to deal with some of the arguments that Dr. Gipp, the professor in the video, articulates. But for now, let it be said that (1) this is not a huge debate in the evangelical world at the moment, but is nonetheless an important one, (2) that the KJV Bible was not the first English Bible, (3) the translators of the KJV themselves acknowledged the need for continued translation (that is what they were doing) and (4) the goal of getting the Bible into the language of the people, so that it can be understood by the people, should continue today.

More argument and support will follow as I have time.  This is a discussion that I will want to handle carefully, and thoroughly, so the time between posts may be lengthy.  I have other things to focus on (family, work, school, other projects), so I ask for your patience as I write.


Update: I do not plan to write any more than what I have already written on this subject. There are a couple of other posts that I have written that you can find on this blog if you want to continue reading. I am simply reposting this now because the Gipp video’s are continuing to be referenced despite the low quality of scholarship that is found in each.

[i]  James R. White. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 73.

[ii]  Paul D. Wegner. The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 282.

[iii]  White. The King James Only Controversy, 74.

  1. […] by those who believe and teach that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true Bible (See Part 1 for link to video).   At this point it is helpful for us to address some of the superfluous […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s