Grief Over “King James Only” Logic

Grief Over “King James Only” Logic

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It is with an abiding sense of weariness that I read about Pastor Marc Grizzard’s plan to have a “Bible-burning” this coming Halloween night. The reason that the North Carolina pastor desires to burn Bibles? They are not the King James Version, which, in his mind, “is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God . . . for English-speaking people.” As if that were not enough, however, not only will a variety of non-King James versions of the Bible be burned, but so will a plethora of books written by authors ranging from Billy Graham to Rick Warren.

All of this is not only the height of arrogance, but it is the epitome of ignorance; particularly this near idolatry of the King James Version of the Bible. And, frankly, that is essentially what it boils down to for the so-called King James Only crowd: idolatry. For years I as a pastor have encountered people deeply wounded and confused by the King James Only movement. These wounded people remind me of the bleeding woman of Luke 5 whose fear to be recognized by Jesus was largely because of her dread of the rabbis who in their hubris elevated their ideas of the Law over and above the God of the Law. This is a deep shame. And I grieve because of it.

Do not misunderstand me here. I personally love the King James Version of the Bible. I own several copies and frequently read the KJV for personal devotion or for study. I am also sensitive to the fact that many in the audience to which I preach use the King James Version. As a result I will often reference it in the midst of my sermons. Generally speaking, the King James Version is an excellent translation, and it certainly is a masterpiece of the English language. There are times when its rich and lofty language uniquely resonates with me and with hordes of others who value its genius. Indeed, there are many passages of Scripture that I have memorized throughout the years from the King James Version. When I bring those passages to mind it is in the old English.

But to suggest that the King James Version is the inspired and inerrant Bible for the English speaking people is ludicrous. If one wishes to discuss the merits of its translation relative to the other fine (or not so fine) English translations, that is acceptable. But to anoint the KJV as God’s unique revelation to English speakers is to do something that has absolutely no basis theologically, philosophically, historically, or for that matter, logically. Among many reasons are these:

First, such logic must then assume that every language has its own, unique inspired and inerrant translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts. Thus, Chinese and Hindi and the tribal tongue of the Fore people of Papua New Guinea must have their own inerrant and inspired Bible translation. Heaven forbid that Wycliffe Bible Translators produce a second or refined version of the Fore New Testament. They might then be heretical.

Secondly, such logic must suggest that any English version of the Scriptures prior to the King James was somehow unworthy. Thus, Tyndale’s Bible or Coverdale’s Bible or the Geneva Bible or still others must have themselves been lacking God’s sanctioning. Those believing in the inspiration of the King James Version must believe that God, thankfully, intervened in the English-speaking world and put upon the royal court of England the burden to acquire a translation that was inerrant and worthy.

Thirdly, the original King James Version included the Apocrypha, a collection of books that throughout the centuries have been generally recognized as not being inspired. Even ardent King James Only proponents refuse to accept the Apocrypha as inspired works.

Fourthly, such logic assumes the King James has no errors, but this is certainly not so. In fact, it was a work full of errors, so much so that there were several editions and revisions made in its general infancy simply to correct them. The so-called Wicked Bible is one example, an edition of the King James that was widely published, which omitted the word “not” from the seventh commandment regarding adultery. Furthermore, within a generation of it’s initial publication scholars found upwards of thousands errors to be addressed; translation errors, printing errors, etc. Indeed, todays copies of the King James generally differ, albeit slightly, from one another, depending on which publishing house one is buying from. Additionally, there were mythical images placed within the King James Version that simply reflect poor translation. There are several references to unicorns, for example, which would have been better noted as wild oxen. Such things come off quaint, but not accurate.

There is more to be said, but these few things suffice for now. Every translation will have its short-comings; not just the King James. But therein is the whole point. Translations are imperfect representations of the Greek and Hebrew texts handed down throughout the centuries. Nearly all of them strive toward a faithfulness and dignity that is worthy of so great a Savior as Jesus, and yet all of them have their limitations. Thankfully, however, the reflection of the ancient texts is of a quality that still sets Bible translation in general apart from the translation of many other kinds of ancient works.

I suppose what troubles me the most is the near worship of the King James Version, and the utter castigation of those who those who do not share such a commitment to it. There is something abhorrent to me about this, something that is quite twisted, and, frankly, quite removed from the exhortation of Paul to Titus as recorded in Titus 3:9: But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain (KJV).

21 thoughts on “Grief Over “King James Only” Logic

    • Author gravatar

      There seems to be quite a parallel between this debate and the creation/evolution debate.

      There are many who believe evolution with tremendous conviction and passion but unfortunately have not examined the other side of the debate. They have heard Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins and yet have never looked at the arguments/evidence by such world class scientists like Henry Morris, Jobe Martin or Walt Brown, who have provided us with tremendous insight into God’s creation and our natural history. The fact that the leaders in the evolution debate don’t acknowledge or attempt to answer any of these “creationist” ideas casts more doubt on their position of evolution.

      The same is true here. If your position on the textual debate is informed by Bruce Metzger and James White AND you haven’t actually examined some of the arguments from the other side, in their own writings, then you don’t know the debate.

      Research done by men such as Dean Burgon, Edward Miller, Edward Hills, F.H. Scrivener, D.A. Waite and Wilbur Pickering, to name a few, presents arguments that shatter every foundation of the critical texts position while the proponents of the critical texts remain silent in answering these qualified scholars. Their writings are available on the Internet and their books are available in many local libraries. It doesn’t take long to see that there is a tremendous argument here, hiding in plain sight. This is very similar to the creation/evolution debate.

      Please understand that I’m not defending the positions of Peter Ruckman or Gail Riplinger. James White addresses their arguments but they represent only a small percentage of the King James Version supporters. In fact Mr. White’s book is a straw man argument. There are people who really do think along the Ruckman/Riplinger line, but they are an extreme minority. Also very similar to the creation/evolution debate.

      Both Bruce Metzger and James White seem to have compelling arguments on first glance. Unfortunately neither gives his opponents a fair representation. Again, very similar to the evolution/creation controversy.

      Ultimately this boils down to a matter of faith. Not because the evidence is lacking but because we’re talking about the Word of God here. Did God say that He preserves knowledge? Did He say that His Word endures forever? Did He say that His counsel shall stand and that His words shall not pass away? Yes God said these things.

      Do we believe Him?

    • Author gravatar

      I’m not sure the place you’re getting your info, however great topic. I needs to spend some time finding out more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

    • Author gravatar

      If anyone is interested in furthering their knowledge of this topic, I suggest “The King James Only Controversy” by Dr. James White.

      White’s arguments in his book were the proverbial back-breaking straw for me in coming to conclusion on this topic.

    • Author gravatar

      Michael the Red,

      The reasoning to which I adhere is sound, but my presentation of that reasoning is not always as clear, precise, or thorough as it could/should be – especially in these media-exchanges.

      Another factor is that I have tried to balance the need for sufficient documentation and facts (to encourage further study), with the need for brevity (and for charitable exchange of those facts).

      Instead, I would enjoy a personal visit with you – and others – to assist in conveying that charitable spirit. (Words can appear to have an edge to them when only humour is intended.)

      So, please ask for whatever clarification or further detail you believe is necessary to make my presentation cogent.

      Thanks for writing!
      Mike.

    • Author gravatar

      Mike,

      Thanks for your reply!

      To be clear, none of my questions were “bait”. If they appear that way, I apologize. I am really trying to understand your reasoning and arguments.

      I will take time to walk through each of your responses. I appreciate the amount of time you put into them and will take any further questions offline through email.

    • Author gravatar

      Michael the Red,

      1. Thank you for taking time to write a response to my post. I understand how it is easy to feel uncomfortable when the things we believe are not readily accepted – especially if we have invested much of our lives in those beliefs.

      2. I hesitate to answer your questions because they are off-track from the entire line of reasoning upon which I founded my post, and because my answers might probably lead our discussion further down contentious paths that ignore my original points and are therefore neither relevant to the issue, nor profitable.

      3. However, as a habit I respond to sincere questions. So, I will answer these questions you asked in trust that you will honestly review what I originally said and will deal with the evidence, as presented, before posing any further arguments of opinion that are similarly off-track.

      4. You asked: “Can I assume that you are a formally trained and skilled scholar in the area of textual criticism (lower and higher)?”

      a. You need not assume that I am formally trained in textual criticism by any authority that you might accept, but this is the first comment you made that is off-track by its irrelevance. The biblical pattern (our final authority, right?) is that the scribes, the pharisees, the lawyers and learned Jewish leaders were notoriously consumed with their own intellects, and that the Lord chose the ‘foolish things to confound the wise’, (I Cor 1:27) including unlearned men who had no recognized scholarly credentials but for their time spent with Jesus (Acts 4:13). So, what things were academic gain for me, those things I count as loss for Christ. (Phil 3:7)

      b. Moreover, your first comment was off-track logically, because – for example – one need not be a certified scholar or a recognized textual critic (of any degree) to understand that 1,300,000 is not equal to 1,100,000; nor to understand that 800,000 plus 500,000 does not equal 1,100,000. One only needs to understand English and Mathematics to approximately a grade-five level to understand such things, and to conclude thereby that the NIV (in this case) is in error.

      c. And that is the basis of my statement that everyone’s opinions are irrelevant; that the texts can speak for themselves; and that the error or truth of a text is self-evident intrinsically, without fallacious appeal to authority of any sort.

      5. You asked: “Do you believe that it is possible that any English version will fully and perfectly represent the exact meaning of original language?

      a. I regret that a comprehensive answer to this is beyond the time that I can spare and quite probably beyond your patience to hear. (If not, prove me wrong by contacting me at our website and arranging for a personal study – http://www.BereanResearchInstitute.com)

      b. In brief, the answer is yes. Again, the scriptural pattern (our final authority, right?) is that the existence of originals (manuscripts, texts or otherwise) are unimportant to God or are – at least – not essential to his ability to preserve his perfect word forever; and that translations are equally considered by God to be scripture.

      c. Assuming that you might object to these assertions, I will briefly cite a few of the scriptural proofs:

      ORIGINALS:
      1) The ‘original’ ten commandments were destroyed and a NEW ‘original’ was drafted that was undoubtedly perfectly consistent with the wording as well as the meaning of the first ‘original’.

      2) The first ‘original’ of the book of Jeremiah was destroyed by a heathen king (Jer 36:23), the second ‘original’ was tied to a stone and cast into the Euphrates river by Jeremiah at the command of God himself (Jer 51:63), and the only reason we know anything about these stories is that a third ‘original’ was drafted to recount all that was originally written along with these accounts of what subsequently occurred. So the scriptural practice is that God does not worship ‘originals’ and that he is still able to preserve his word forever.

      TRANSLATIONS:
      3) You appear to reject translations on the basis of a perceived inability to “fully and perfectly represent the exact meaning of the original language”. As stated, I do not; and I defer to the scriptural pattern (our final authority, right?) for the evidence to support my reasoning.

      4) In Genesis chapters 42-44, Joseph spoke to his brothers in Egyptian. His words were translated by a translator into Hebrew. (Gen 42:23) Those Hebrew words were then written in the Old Testament Hebrew which you accept as scripture. You can’t have it both ways. This passage is either perfect in the original written Hebrew, or it has lost something because it is merely a Hebrew translation of the words that the Holy Ghost divinely inspired Joseph to speak in Egyptian (II Pet 1:21). (Or do you now agree with me that both the original and the translation are perfect scripture?)

      5) In Acts 22, Paul spoke to the Jews completely in the Hebrew tongue (Acts 21:40). But Luke wrote those words in Greek in the New Testament which you accept as scripture. You can’t have it both ways. It is either perfect in the Greek New Testament, or it has lost something in the translation from Hebrew to Greek because it is merely a translation. (Or do you now agree with me that both the original and the translation are perfect scripture?)

      6) Jesus and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Hebrew passages that were recorded for us in the New Testament in Greek – BOTH of which you would accept as being perfect “original” scripture. You can’t have it both ways. Either the New Testament Greek is perfect scripture, or else it is an imperfect translation of the Old Testament Hebrew and is therefore not perfect scripture in the New Testament Greek – even though the Holy Spirit has confirmed it to be so.

      7) I could cite other passages where pagan kings and foreign persons (in Babylon, Persia, etc) spoke in other tongues that were translated into Hebrew or Greek, but more examples are unnecessary.

      8) Clearly, the scriptural pattern – as found in our final authority – is that God considers translations to be as pure and perfect as that which was spoken and/or written in the original tongue.

      6. You asked: “Considering that many men, highly skilled in textual criticism and etymology have labored over the manuscripts to provide translations that is accurate to each generation, why should I trust your opinion over theirs?”

      a. You shouldn’t. But the fact that you asked this question demonstrates that you either ignored or didn’t understand my point. ALL opinions are irrelevant.

      b. It would be unreasonable of you to conclude (and dishonest if you persist in claiming) that I am asking you to accept my opinion of the merits of any text, when I say “let the texts speak for themselves”, “opinions are irrelevant”, “apply inductive reasoning (which, on the basis of its conformity to the laws of logic, transcends the influence of personal opinion – including mine).

      c. For example, the text of Mark 1:2 is either accurate in the NIV and NASB, or it is not (the law of logic pertaining to the excluded middle prohibits any other conclusion. That is not opinion; it is a law of logic.) A quick look through Isaiah and Malachi proves that neither the NIV nor the NASB are accurate in the rendering of their texts at Mark 1:2 . However, as always in a case of conflict, the text of the King James IS accurate in this passage. That is not opinion either; it too is fact – proven by the same method.

      d. So, if you continue with examination of passages as I have described herein, you will – by inductive reasoning (NOT by opinion, but again by conformity to the transcendent laws of logic) be able to identify a consistent pattern of data points that – in all provable cases of conflict between the King James Bible and ANY new version – the King James Bible is ALWAYS correct, true, accurate and consistent; and the new version is wrong, false, inaccurate and/or contradictory.

      e. DON’T take my word for it. DON’T accept my opinion. Take the texts in your hands, examine them and prove it for yourself. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thess 5:21)

      7. You asked: “Am I wrong in understanding that the KJV was written based on older versions of the Greek New Testament (Erasmus, Beza/Stephanus)? Knowing that we now have much older versions of the manuscripts than what was available in 1611, why should I assume that the KJV is better?”

      a. I think you meant to write “later”, which would actually be “younger” manuscripts; not “older”.

      b. Yes, most of the manuscripts underlying the King James Bible are later/younger/newer than manuscripts now underlying the new versions.

      c. There are very good reasons for you to believe that only the King James is God’s perfectly preserved word in English; not only that it is “better”. [For simplicity, I have deleted here, for now, a great deal of explanation that we can discuss later, if necessary.]

      d. As with anyone else’s library, my bibles are very well-worn – or are retired now; whereas my books of Mormon and NWTs, etc are in nearly pristine condition. There is no doubt that future archaeologists (who are unlikely to exist, given our proximity to the Lord’s return) a couple of hundred years from now would find that the bibles in my library are much later/younger/newer copies than the ‘older’ books of Mormon and NWTs, etc. Should they conclude, therefore, (based on the ages) that the books of Mormon are true and that the bibles are false? Certainly not. So, then why should you?

      e. The more interesting question would be, why would you rely on Sinaiticus, for example, when it has undergone so many strike-overs (up to ten on a passage) that someone saw fit to throw it into the wastebasket at St Catharines monastery from whence it was recovered?

      f. Why should you assume the King James is ‘better’? Well, another reason is that these “older”, “more reliable” manuscripts to which you refer contradict each other frequently.

      g. Why should you assume the King James is ‘better’? Well, because the people who refer to these “older” and “more reliable” manuscripts inconsistently apply the rules of age and reliability. For example, when the Vaticanus reading conflicts with the King James reading, the new version editors will accept the “older”, “more reliable” Vaticanus. But when the Vaticanus AGREES with the King James reading, the new version editors will REJECT the “older”, “more reliable” Vaticanus in favour of the “younger”, “less reliable” Sinaiticus that DISAGREES with the King James. Now, if that dishonesty doesn’t bother you, then we don’t have much more to discuss.

      8. You asked: “The real problem I have (perhaps I am completely misunderstanding your post) is that it would appear you are making the argument that the KJV is not just subjectively better (the flow and style of the phrasing as well as accuracy), but objectively the “ONLY” true and perfect translation. If that is the case, by what scripture are your making that claim?”

      a. Well, you can read my words quite easily yourself; of course, I wouldn’t intentionally make such a foolish claim. What I said, and maintain, is that the King James bible is the ONLY word of God in ENGLISH. (I would like to believe that your omission of the qualifier was simply an oversight and not ‘bait’ for some ridiculous KJVO misconception that the King James Bible is the ONLY true and perfect translation.)

      b. Further to your inference, however, the contributions of rhythm, meter, rhyme and syllabic construction are, in fact, very much measurable characteristics that can lead to the same objective conclusions – in addition to those characteristics of textual veracity and consistency – to which you allude.

      c. By what scripture am I making my claim? Come on, Michael. The bait on that one is as obvious as a Jehovah’s Witness asking if I believe in “the Trinity”. Of course Ps 12:6,7 is scriptural proof that God would preserve his pure words forever; and it does not appear to specify how and where he would accomplish that, does it?

      d. But the biblical pattern (our final authority, right?) is that God did not specify in the Old Testament that he intended to write his words in Greek in the New Testament, nor how he intended to preserve those words, so we are left to examine the intrinsic merits of the text itself – as I proposed – and to exclude all texts as candidates of God’s word if and when it is proven that any has an error, omission, or contradiction in it.

      e. In this short response alone, I have proven the NIV and the NASB to be unsuitable candidates for the word of God. The burden of proof would remain on you at this point to apply the same test to the text of the King James until you are satisfied that you can conclude, by inductive reasoning that the text of the King James bible is God’s ONLY pure word in English.

      9. You wrote: “1 Thess 5:21 in context deals with prophesy (see v. 20) not future translations of the very epistle that is being written.”

      a. That is silly. I Thess 5:16-22 is a LIST of commands. By your logic, verse 21 “in context” has just as much to do with the proving of that which is evil (verse 22) as is does with prophesy (verse 20). Otherwise, we are only to “rejoice” (verse 16) with prophesy, “pray without ceasing” (verse 17) when prophesying, and abstain from all appearance of evil (verse 22) when prophesying.

      b. By your logic, we would also only be forbidden from stealing (Ex 20:15) and killing (Ex 20:13) in the “context” of committing adultery (Ex 20:14)!!

      c. On the contrary, all of these commands are universal. We are to prove ALL things; hold fast that which is good. I recommend that you obey this command, in the first place by proving that all new versions are NOT the words of God, on the basis of their errors, omissions and/or contradictions. (This is a very easy task, and I have put you well on your way – having already done the NIV and NASB for you.)

      10. You wrote: “Glad you stopped by Matthews blog!”

      Thank you. I probably won’t find my way back – at least not often; so, if you would like to engage in further conversation, please feel free to contact me by email through our website: http://www.BereanResearchInstitute.com or at least notify me of your posted reply.

      You can TRUST and BELIEVE every word in God’s word in English, the King James Bible.

    • Author gravatar

      Mike, I have a few questions related to your post.

      You said: “The only way you will find the truth is to ignore everyone’s opinion and let the texts speak for themselves. Opinions are irrelevant.” Can I assume that you are a formally trained and skilled scholar in the area of textual criticism (lower and higher)?

      Do you believe that it is possible that any English version will fully and perfectly represent the exact meaning of original language?

      Considering that many men, highly skilled in textual criticism and etymology have labored over the manuscripts to provide translations that is accurate to each generation, why should I trust your opinion over theirs?

      Am I wrong in understanding that the KJV was written based on older versions of the Greek New Testament (Erasmus, Beza/Stephanus)? Knowing that we now have much older versions of the manuscripts than what was available in 1611, why should I assume that the KJV is better?

      The real problem I have (perhaps I am completely misunderstanding your post) is that it would appear you are making the argument that the KJV is not just subjectively better (the flow and style of the phrasing as well as accuracy), but objectively the “ONLY” true and perfect translation. If that is the case, by what scripture are your making that claim?

      1 Thess 5:21 in context deals with prophesy (see v. 20) not future translations of the very epistle that is being written.

      Glad you stopped by Matthews blog!

      Soli Deo Gloria

    • Author gravatar

      Matthew,

      I spend most of my life building people’s faith in God’s word. I don’t know the reasons why you have come to the conclusions that you have, but I can see from your article that someone has misinformed you of the issue and/or has not sufficiently informed you of the truth. I do not claim to be “KJVO” because some attach ridiculous beliefs to the label. However, I do absolutely believe that the King James is God’s only word in the English language. I have heard others who claim to be ex-KJVOs, but when questioned, they exhibit little if any depth of understanding of the issue. The truth will be known by all; but it will be too late for some. If the truth matters to you, I do encourage you to research the issue objectively and with an honest heart.

      The only way you will find the truth is to ignore everyone’s opinion and let the texts speak for themselves. Opinions are irrelevant. If you understand inductive reasoning, then apply inductive reasoning to the texts alone. Take a King James and an NIV – or whatever text you think is better and examine their intrinsic merits. You will find that the new versions have errors, omissions and contradictions. The King James has none. No opinions – just facts.

      Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (I Thess 5:21)

      Mike.

    • […] Arthur points us to a good post by Pastor Matthew that unfortunately these people will probably never read. October 30th, 2009 | Tags: Bible, […]

    • Author gravatar

      Thank you for the article on this subject. I am in contact with several KJV only people and the points you bring up in this article will help me express my views in a more logical manner.

    • Author gravatar

      One of the best articles on the subject I have read. You presented truth in your loving way. I hope KJVO brothers and sisters give thought to the words you have penned. Bless you as you speak His Truth.

    • Author gravatar

      Terri . . . thanks! Isn’t it sad that people can get so trapped in such foolish things? The enemy relishes blinding us and distracting us. I sure trust you are doing well. Thanks for your constant encouragement to me . . . it’s great keeping up on FB and such.

    • Author gravatar

      Bern . . . you are awesome. I can tell NoCal must be great for you. I love tracking you on FB. Fargo is wonderful . . . we love it . . . and consider it a great privilege to be at Bethel Church. Having an absolute ball. Don a heavy winter parker and come see us!

    • Author gravatar

      Matt, THANK YOU for this wonderful article. I remember growing closer to God at King (I was saved when I was 6, but obviously strayed), and the Scripture I used while doing so was the NIV version.

      Like you, I know and love many verses of the Bible in the KJV, but I agree that this “worship” of the KJV is not logical. You included many of the points I use when talking to a KJV Only person, and I do know some. Thank you again for a well-written article.

    • Author gravatar

      I can’t believe this guy limited the KJV to the English language! What a phony – every true KJVO knows that the KJV corrects the Greek and Hebrew and therefore should be translated into every other language!

      In other news, Nor Cal is great, I take it Fargo is treating you well.

      bern

    • Author gravatar

      Bob . . . thank you. I would love sometime to hear more from you about how and why KJV Onlyists process their thinking about the KJV. Also, what moved you and others past that. I really respect what you said, and hope God’s blessing are abundant upon you.

    • Author gravatar

      Matthew,

      Great post. Your grief is well-placed, unfortunately. We are blogging about the KJVO debate over at KJV Only? All of us are former KJV Onlyists who have a heart for those stuck in this kind of thinking. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to get through the smoke in a debate like this. I didn’t really intend a pun there, but the bonfire does come to mind…

      Again, great post.

      God Bless,

      Bob Hayton

    • Author gravatar

      Thanks Tom! Your words are a rich encouragement to me. And the KJV matter has been heavy on my heart for years. Such foolishness. Say . . . I’m praying as I write this that today and the days ahead will find you feeling deeply God’s pleasure . . . .

    • […] produce a second or refined version of the Fore New Testament. They might then be heretical. (read the whole post) Related Posts:Bible Translators Do Get It Wrong….The Origin of the BibleThe Best Bible […]

    • […] wanted to link to an excellent article by Dr. Matthew St. John on the topic of King James Only logic. Dr. St. John is the former senior […]

    • Author gravatar

      Super article, my brother. You have hit the nail squarely on the head regarding an area that I am all too familiar with and having to deal with myself. I appreciate your writings, your balance and your passion. God bless you and the ministry God has blessed you with there in Fargo!

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