James Version Only?
by Elgin L. Hushbeck, Jr.
Here are some of the reasons I do not accept the King James Version Only position. Let me be clear that this is not an attack on the King James Version, for I consider it to be a good translation. My complaint is not with the King James Version, but with those who claim it is the only acceptable translation of God's word.
1. No positive evidence
While there is much evidence to support the King James Version as a good translation, I know of no evidence that would lead one to conclude that it is a perfect translation. The evidence that is put forth either applies equally well to other versions (such as quoting Bible verses that speak of the Word of God as being perfect) or only demonstrate that it is a very good translation (such as citing its widespread use). One question I have often asked King James Version Only supporters is why the King James Version? Why not Luther's Bible, the Greek Bible used in the Greek orthodox church, or one of the many other translations? Why not the New International Version or some other modern translation. I know that King James Version Only supporters believe the latter to be corrupt, but this is only when "compared" to the King James Version. If one were to pick the New International Version as the perfect translation, one could then make the same charges of "corruption" against the King James Version.
2. Negative evidence
There are two main types of problems faced by any translation, including the King James Version. The first is determining the text and the second is how to translate it. Given the King James Version was translated nearly 400 years ago, it did not have access to the enormous wealth of information concerning the texts and this has resulted in a few problems. For example, it includes passages about which, except for King James Version Only supporters who must defend them to maintain their position, there is no doubt that they were not penned by the original authors, but were later additions.
Two examples of this are Acts 9:6 and 1 John 5:7-8. The King James Version of both passages contain additional material that was not in the originals. The additional material in 1 John 5:7-8 is found as part of the text in only 4 very late (16th century+) Greek manuscripts and is found written in the margins of 4 others. The added portion of Acts 9:6 is not found in any Greek manuscript. Given the widespread and early distribution of the NT documents, and the large number of manuscripts that we now have, it is simply impossible for this additional material to have been original.
The other type of problem involved poor translations. Translation is a difficult task and humans are not perfect. As a result, no translation the size of the Bible is perfect. While the King James Version is a good translation, it does have a few minor problems. Again here are two examples: John 5:44 and Hebrews 10:23. In John 5:44 the Greek text very clearly reads "... and seek not the honor that comes from the only God." Among other things this is a strong statement of monotheism. Yet for some reason the King James Version translates this as "and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" Here any reference to monotheism is removed, and it becomes a statement that honor only comes from God. In Hebrews 10:23, the Greek text reads "let us hold fast the profession of our hope." Yet the King James Version translates the Greek word for "hope" as "faith" and reads "let us hold fast the profession of our faith." I have yet to hear of any explanation of either of these translations except that the King James Version translators must have known what they were doing.
3. Circular reasoning
Much of the defense of the King James Version Only position is based on the assumption that the King James Version is God's perfect word. Since they assume what they are trying to prove, this is circular reasoning. This assumption can be seen in the citing of difference between the King James Version and modern versions as prove of corruption in the latter. To believe that the modern versions are corrupt because they differ from the King James Version, one must first assume that the King James Version is perfect. This can also be seen in the defense of the passage such as John 5:44 and Hebrews 10:23, which claim that the King James Version translators were infallible. If the translators were prefect, then the translation was perfect, and these can't really be mistakes.
In their attempt to support the King James Version as a 100% perfect translation, King James Version Only supporters resort to many inconsistent and contradictory lines of reasoning. For example, King James Version Only supporters often cite the majority of manuscripts that support them and criticize the modern versions for accepting minority readings. In other places, however, they reject the majority and accept minority (or even non-existent) readings when they are found in the King James Version (see discussion of Acts 9:6 and 1 John 5:7-8 above). When the King James Version has the word "Lord" and the New International Version does not this is seen as a sign of corruption in the New International Version. When the New International Version has the word "Lord" and the King James Version does not, this is not a problem. When the New International Version says "the Christ" this is seen as a sign of New Age corruption. When the King James Version says "the Christ" this is seen as a proper translation. In many respects this reminds me of the rules I learned in basic training. Rule #1: The sergeant is always right. Rule #2: When the sergeant is proven wrong, Rule #1 applies. It is also reveals a one-sided approach to the evidence. King James Version Only supporters are not drawing their conclusions based on the evidence, they are shaping the evidence to fit their conclusions. That the reasons they give to support 1 Tim 3:16 conflicts with the reasons they give to support 1 John 5:7-8 doesn't seem to matter, for only the evidence in favor of what they believe is given any real attention, and such problems are ignored.
5. Ad hominem attacks
Many of the arguments against the modern versions are based on ad hominem attacks that are by their very nature illogical. Such arguments are usually the last resorts for those who cannot support their position in any other means. That they play such a large role in the King James Version Only position is, I believe, significant of its inherent weakness. The real problem, however, is that there are sincere, God loving, bible believing Christians who are well informed of all the relevant issues and who worked on or defend the modern translations. Thus not only are such attacks illogical, they are simply wrong.
6. Conspiracy-theory mentality
Much of the reasoning used to defend the King James Version Only position is classical conspiracy theory reasoning along the lines of the JFK assignation and UFO cover up theories. This is seen in the fact that evidence to the contrary is viewed as planted to mislead and thus only serves as further proof of the conspiracy. For example, one King James Version Only supporter argued that Mark 1:2 in the New International Version weakened the deity of Christ because it reads "Isaiah the prophet" instead of "the prophets." He claimed that specifying Isaiah hid the fact that part of the citation came from Mal 3:1 which proclaims Christ deity. When I pointed out that the New International Version includes a footnote that refers the reader to Mal 3:1, he claimed that this was done "as a defense" against those who support the King James Version.
It is also seen in the constant application of sinister motives to changes regardless of the evidence pro or con. A difference from the King James Version is never the result of translation issues, or textual evidence, to King James Version Only supporters it is to change doctrine so as to undermine the word of God. Not only is such reasoning logically unsound, but it also ignores the fact that there are such a large number of scholars who hold such widely divergent points of view, that any such conspiracy would be impossible. You simply could not get them all to agree.
7. Ends more important than means
For most King James Version Only supporters, the reasoning and evidence are not as important as the conclusions that are reached. This has been seen in many King James Version Only supporter's defense of Riplinger's book New Age Bible Versions and their continuing use of it as a source. Her numerous and major errors are not as important as the fact that she is on their side. It is also seen in their defense of the illogical reasoning mentioned above. Even when the logical error and problems with arguments are pointed out, they still are used. That they are illogical is not as important as the fact that they support the desired conclusion.
THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS AND INCONSISTENCY
The following points are based on the claim of many King James Version Only supporters that unless you have a 100% perfect word of God, you do not have a Bible and that the King James Version is that perfect word.
8. The Word of God
The King James Version has minor differences from all versions, translations and manuscripts that came before it. As such, if the King James Version Only position is true, then the perfect word of God, and thus the Bible, did not exist until 1611 and then only in English. Not only do I reject this, it is inconsistent with the King James Version Only claims that God promised to preserve a 100% perfect version of his word.
9. Restoration. If the King James Version Only position is correct in that the King James Version is God's perfect word, then it must be seen as a restoration. For the Word of God to have been lost until 1611, would have been a tremendous victory for Satan, yet I find this unlikely in light of Matthew 16:18. That the Gospel would be given a second time is ruled out by Jude 3.
Given the difference with all earlier manuscripts, for the King James Version to be perfect would have to be the result of inspiration of God. Yet God's prophet's are always accompanied by signs and wonders to demonstrate their inspiration (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) I know of no evidence that would lead one to conclude that the translators of the King James Version were inspired by God in their translation.
These are the major problems I see with the King James Version Only position. There are other problems, and numerous other example could be given, but I have tried to be brief. The real point is that if there is no evidence to support a position, strong evidence against it and the reasoning used to defend it is faulty, why should anyone accept it?