We have had the “Authorized” King James Version (KJV) of the Bible for only 405 years (1611-2016) with one major change in 1885 when the 14 book of the Apocrypha were dropped and we were given the English Revised Version (more on that later). Remember when you see the word “Authorized” it simply means that it was indeed “authorized” by King James I of England. It doesn’t mean that it was “Authorized” by God Himself. Don’t confuse “authorized” with “inspired.” Between 1611 and 1769 there were three updates that included over 100,000 corrections made to the KJV. These mostly consisted of spelling errors. But even after all these corrections there still remains “typos” or “ignored” errors in the Authorized KJV (e.g. Matthew 23:24; Hebrews 4:8). And today, lmost all KJV Bibles use the 1769 revisions.1
Here is an example of a mistake that continues to be published in all modern KJV Bibles: Matthew 23:24 the KJV says, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” The original Greek read and means “strain out a gnat.” Another example is found in the wording of Hebrews 4:8, which in the KJV says, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” Which leads the reader to think the author of Hebrews is talking about Jesus. However, instead of ‘Jesus,’ Joshua is what the author meant. It’s the same word in Greek, but the reader of the text will hardly think of Joshua when he or she sees ‘Jesus’ here since ‘Joshua’ is found everywhere in the OT.
Let me say, I have no problems believing the KJV Bible and using it in my faith walk or for sharing it with others. It will reveal God’s eternal purpose for humanity. However, if you believe that only the KJV Bible is inspired and that it is the only Bible Christians should use for reading, study, and guidance you are misguided and should understand, that the KJV is not perfect, as is pointed out in the two examples above. Again don’t confuse “perfect” and “inspired.” Although there may be a mistake (typo) the work itself is still inspired. Even the KJV translators themselves, in the preface of the 1611 Bible state the following:
“Therfore as S. Augustine saith, that varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversitie of signification and sense in the margine, where the text is not so cleare, must needes doe good, yea is necessary, as we are perswaded… They that are wise, had rather have their judgements at libertie in differences of readings, then to be captivated to one, when it may be the other.”2
The KJV translators in 1611 saw it necessary to get a “sense” of the scripture and made notes in the margin when the text was not so clear. There were 8,000 marginal notes in the original 1611 Bible that have since been removed from all modern Authorized Versions.
If a person believes “only the KJV” is the “inspired” Word of God, and not other modern translations, these questions then have to be answered:
“Prior to 1611, when King James I of England authorized the release and publication of the Bible, what did Christians use as their “Bible” or “scriptural text? “And if only the KJV is inspired (as many purport), then was what millions of people relied upon for over 1,500 years prior to 1611 not inspired? If that was the case, the question has to be answered: “Why would God do that? Why would God only give humanity after 1611 His “inspired” holy Word?” And additionally, are we going to say that divinely approved scriptures cease after 1611?
These are some of the questions I hope to address in these series of posts. Scholars tell us that the KJV, as it is today, is not identical to any manuscript that is in existence. It was a “compilation” of many manuscripts to get the sense of the text.
Martin Luther’s work of translating the Bible into German in 1522 predated the KJV by almost 100 years. Are we going to say that God has only spoken inspirationally in English? And where there are discrepancies between Luther’s Bible and the KJV, such as 1 John 5:7-8, can we say that God has inspired one and not the other? Our faith does not rest in a singular tradition, or translation, nor is it provincial. Vibrant, biblical Christianity must never unite itself with provincialism. Otherwise, missionary endeavor, among other things, would die.3
In my next post I will be covering the period from the time of Jesus’ death in A.D. 30 to 1611 when the KJV Bible was printed and will discuss what Christians used for their source of truth when they didn’t have the “Authorized KJV Bible.”
Which version of the Bible do you currently study and read? Why?
— Keith Fife
1. Fifteen Myths about Bible Translation. (2012). Retrieved May 18, 2016, from https://danielbwallace.com/2012/10/08/fifteen-myths-about-bible-translation/
2. King James Bible. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2016, from http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611-Bible/1611-King-James-Bible-Introduction.php
3. Wallace, D. B. (n.d.). Why I Do Not Think the King James Bible Is the Best Translation Available Today. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from https://bible.org/article/why-i-do-not-think-king-james-bible-best-translation-available-today