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Originally Posted in the November 5, 2010 issue of “The Berea Baptist Banner”
I realize I will lose fellowship with many readers of this article because of the position I take on this subject. However, the truth is the truth and I believe the facts presented in this article will bear out the truth. I have felt for a while that an article on this subject may be beneficial to God’s people. However, I feel now it is necessary. Some of our people have begun to teach that if a church doesn’t use the King James Version (hereafter referred to as the KJV), it cannot be considered a true church.
Considering the problems of the New Testament churches, this teaching is simply preposterous. The KJV is proudly called, “The Authorized Version” as if God Himself has put His stamp of approval on it. However, it was never “authorized” by anybody but King James I of England. Realizing that KJV-onlyism has become accepted among Sovereign Grace Baptist people, I feel the need to “set the record straight”. Adolph Hitler (through the medium of his propaganda minister, Goebels) said, “If you tell a lie long enough loud enough and often enough the people will believe it”. Perhaps this explains this problem. This issue has replaced important doctrines. This issue has taken our focus off the spreading of the Gospel and put it where it doesn’t need to be. I plead with the readers of this article to consider the facts. Put away your pre-conceived ideas and tradition. Take a moment to consider these indisputable facts.
Before I begin, I want to explain how I was brought to see the error of KJV-onlyism. Several years ago, I would have probably considered myself a “mild” KJV-onlyist. I didn’t go as far as many. However, I surely believed every other version was corrupt and only the KJV was a “valid” translation. Then, I hit an unexpected snag while studying this subject. I found an outright lie written by one of the KJV promoters. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I began to research supposed fact after fact. I found many of the arguments of the KJV-onlyists to be nothing but fabrications. A few of these will be discussed in the article before us. I realize that many of our people are ignorantly KJV-only. They have been told things by people that have
been told things. Most have never studied this for themselves as I hadn’t. Don’t take my word for it, research it yourself.
Let me also be clear. I am not suggesting anybody should abandon the KJV. I am not saying the KJV is not a very good translation. I am not condemning anybody for their use of the KJV. This article is meant to set the record straight concerning KJV-onlyism and the lies that have been set forth by the proponents of this doctrine – nothing more. In doing so, I will bring out some shortcomings in the KJV. However, the purpose is to show that the very things they condemn other versions for can be said about the KJV.
Also, I am not advocating that all new versions of the Bible are good. To be perfectly honest, many of the modern translations are not solid for various reasons. The New International Version (commonly called the NIV) is a horrible translation. At best, it’s a paraphrase of the Bible. In fact, if the “translators” had been honest and said it was a paraphrase, I could respect them. However, you can’t judge every modern translation by the NIV. Each version must be judged on its own merits. However, every Baptist (and, therefore, Biblical) doctrine can even be found in the worst translations such as the NIV. Though I wouldn’t use it as my study Bible or preaching Bible, God surely can (and has) used it in the life of many of His children. It’s much more than many children of God had during the dark ages.
Let me begin this treatise by saying Baptists have surely not always used the KJV. Since the KJV didn’t come on the scene until the 17th century, Baptists used something else for 16 centuries. English speaking Baptists have not always used the KJV either. Some of the Bibles they used were the Coverdale version, the Bishop’s Bible, Wycliffe’s translation, Tyndale’s translation, and the Geneva Bible. Were they without the Bible for 16 centuries? Of course they were not. KJV-onlyists maintain that God has placed His “stamp of approval” on the KJV. However, this is opinion at best. Some would say, “God worked through the KJV for 400
years. That proves He acknowledges it alone to the English speaking people.” When did Baptists begin creating doctrine out of experiences? We could say that God is, no doubt, saving many people in Arminianism today. Does that mean we ought to all be Arminians? Of course not. This line of thinking wouldn’t be used by a Baptist in any case other than this one.
Early American Bibles were not the KJV. When the Puritans fled to America due to religious persecution in England, they brought their Geneva Bibles with them. If the Protestants opposed the KJV, there is little doubt that Baptists (being more persecuted than any other group) opposed the King James Version. One of the silliest arguments made by the KJV-onlyists is that the KJV was never copyrighted and other versions were. Admittedly, this is true. However, copyright laws didn’t exist until decades after the last KJV edition was completed. How did the KJV end up taking over the English speaking world? Simple. King James outlawed other versions such as the Geneva and placed heavy fines on those that were found printing or owning anything other than his “authorized” version. If King James had never outlawed the Geneva, it’s very possible that we would be using an updated version of it today. Perhaps some would be Geneva only!!
King James is often revered by KJV-onlyists as a great man. KJV-only groups have sought to make him a pillar for truth. However, some reputable historians have found information that at least suggests he was a homosexual. He was buried between two men that many have maintained were his lovers. Whether that is true or not, there is little doubt that King James I was a hater of Baptists. He and at least 6 of his translators were known persecutors of Baptists. Thomas Crosby (who wrote the first known English Baptist history book) spoke of Baptist persecution under James’ reign. He said, “The other one [burned] was Edward Wightman, A BAPTIST, of the town of Burton upon Trent, who on the 14th day of December  was convicted of diverse heresies before the bishop of Coventry and Litchfield; and being delivered
up to the secular power, was BURNT at Litchfield the 11th of April following.” This (the April following) was the same year the 1611 KJV was released!! The same year, James had Bartholomew Legate and his brother Thomas imprisoned for heresy. They were vocal opponents of both Roman Catholicism and the Church of England. Thomas died in prison. After being brought before James numerous times, Bartholomew was burned at the stake on March 18, 1612 when he refused to retract his opinions. King James may have been a great man by Church of England standards, but, he was no friend to God’s people.
KJV-onlyism is far from a Baptist distinctive. In fact, the single most responsible book for the KJV only position is Which Bible?, edited by David Otis Fuller. Besides Fuller, there are 11 other writers of this book. 46% of this book was written by Benjamin G. Wilkinson. In reality, 10 chapters of Our Authorized Bible Vindicated were included in Which Bible?. Originally, there were 16 chapters of Mr. Wilkinson’s book. Fuller leads his readers to believe that Mr. Wilkinson was a “scholar” of the “first rank.” Sadly, this influential man was neither a scholar nor a Baptist. Wilkinson was a 7th day Adventist. He is, perhaps, the most influential person in the KJV only movement. Lest anybody think I am misleading you, the college he taught at was Washington Missionary College known today as Columbia Union College. He was titled “Dean of Theology”. Let me just make note of a couple of heresies advocated by the 7th day Adventists. They propose that all who reject the Saturday Sabbath and worship on Sunday have taken part in the mark of the beast and will ultimately be lost. They also believe that Satan, not Christ, will ultimately bear the Christian’s sin. Of course, there are other errors, but, these two are enough to dismiss them as Christian.
This is the documented beginnings of KJV-onlyism. Let none of the readers suppose that this began or was advocated by any Baptists of the time.
Well respected Baptists have not always felt the KJV was the best translation. B.H. Carroll says in his Introduction to An Interpretation of the English Bible, “The only textbook absolutely requisite is the English Bible. The Common, or King James Version, can be made to serve, but the Canterbury Revision, or the American Standard Version, is much preferred.” Now, I am not advocating the use of any Bible that was translated from the Westcott-Hort text or the Nestle-Aland text. I prefer a Bible that was translated from the Majority text because I personally believe (though, I’m no textual critic) that they are more reliable. However, Carroll is plain here. He was a faithful Baptist. I have often heard him recommended and quoted by our preachers. There isn’t one shred of history that so much as hints to Carroll being “black balled” over this position. That, in itself, speaks volumes. Henry Jessey, a Baptist pastor in the early 1600's, complained about the KJV for its bent favoring "episcopacy," and said that Bancroft, who was supervisor of the KJV, “altered it in fourteen places to make it speak the language of prelacy". "Prelacy" refers to a system of church government by Prelates such as Archbishops and Bishops set over more than one local church. No Baptist that I have found wrote anything of KJV-onlyism before the past couple of decades. And then, most of the ones I find are hardly Baptist by doctrine and practice. Baptists were not KJV-only until recently. Numerous statements of faith and great men of faith could be quoted to show that Baptists believed the original Hebrew and Greek was inspired – not the translations and, therefore, not the translators.
KJV-onlyists claim that the KJV is to be preferred because it was translated from the Textus Receptus in 1611. This is simply false. The Textus Receptus wasn’t published until 1624. The KJV translators used Stephens of 1550 which was a predecessor for what is commonly referred to as the “Textus Receptus” today. Stephens text is a revision of the Dutch humanist (and Catholic) Erasmus’ work. However, none of these are completely identical. Also, the term from which we derive “Textus Receptus” wasn’t used until the 1633 printing. For that matter, there are only 50 known complete Greek New Testament texts. None of these
completely agree and the KJV doesn’t agree with any of them completely. In fact, 29% of the KJV was taken straight from Tyndale and 61% of it was taken from other versions. To be honest, the KJV translators were more a group of revisers of previous versions than they were translators. Please don’t misunderstand; I am confident that the KJV translators used a solid text. It’s the misinformation of the KJV-onlyists I wish to discredit.
One of the most common falsehoods is that the KJV used by the KJV-onlyists is the 1611 version. A church near my home often has “We use the 1611 KJV” on their sign. Many web-sites promoting KJV-onlyism claim to use the 1611 version. Some of them say “to read the 1611 Authorized Version, click here.” Without exception, every time I’ve “clicked here” I have been taken to a recent edition of the KJV. Today’s common KJV is actually the 10th edition. I have yet to find one church among the Lord’s churches that use the 1611 version of the KJV. Check your Bible. If it doesn’t contain the Apocrypha, it is not the 1611 version. If it doesn’t contain 8,422 marginal notes offering alternate translations, it is not the 1611 version. If doesn’t use “f’s” for “s’s”, it is not the 1611 version. Many major changes have taken place since 1611 – not merely language updates as the KJV-onlyists would have us believe. The Apocrypha was dropped, of course and the 8,422 marginal notes were dropped. Most likely, not one person reading this article uses the 1611 version as their primary Bible and most have neither read it or have owned a copy of it.
Considering this, if the present KJV is not the original 1611 (and it definitely is not), which KJV should be used? Which of the 10 editions is error free? It could easily be shown that numerous phrases and words were changed. They were not only changed to update language (we do readily admit that some of the changes were language updates), but many other words were changed. The first revision took place two years after the original printing in 1613. There were more than 400 variations from the first edition. It’s simply ridiculous to assert that the
language had changed so much in 2 years as to warrant this number of changes. The next revision occurred 3 years later in 1616. The only change was I Cor. 4:9. It changed from “approved to death” to “appointed to death.” In 1629, the first major revision was printed at Cambridge. Another revision in 1629 excluded the Apocrypha though most revisions didn’t actually exclude it until the 19th century. In 1631, it was printed at London and called the “Wicked Bible.” The word “not” was omitted from the 7th commandment. Obviously, this was a misprint. In 1638, there were further revisions. In 1717, a revision called “the Vinegar Bible” was printed. Jesus gives a parable of the vinegar (instead of the parable of the vineyard) in Luke 20. Again, this was obviously a misprint. In 1745, the “Murderer’s Bible” was printed. Mark 7:27 read, “Let the little children first be killed (instead of filled)”. As with the previous edition, this was a misprint. In 1762, Cambridge published another version that had major revisions. In 1769, Blayney’s edition of the KJV was published. This is the edition that is the basis for most modern KJV Bibles. It actually differs from the 1611 in at least 75,000 details. No doubt, many of these are capitalization and punctuation. But, it still begs the question of which one is correct. In 1873, Cambridge published another edition that contained 16 printed pages of differences from the original 1611 version. If (as the KJV-onlyist’s maintain) God “directed” the KJV translators, how can we believe any of these revisions was necessary?
The Translators of the KJV themselves disagreed with the KJV-onlyists. They stressed the need for constant revision to update the language. They confessed they were not inspired and were unsure about many of the words they translated. In their introduction, they said “"The original there being from heaven, not from the earth, the author’s being God, not man, the editor, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the apostles." They fully understood that they were simply men. They knew the originals were inspired by God. They never claimed inspiration whatsoever. They also gave credence to all other translations of the day calling them “The Word of God.” They said, “Nay, we affirm and avow that the meanest translation of the Bible in English is the
word of God.” In other words, even the poorest translations were God’s Word. They felt that the Septuagint was not a very good translation saying it “was faulty in many places. It descended from the original and did not come near it in grandeur or majesty.” This is the OT translation used by Jesus and the apostles!!! Did they condemn it because they felt that way? Did they say it was “corrupt” as the KJV-onlyist’s do in attacking any other version today? Absolutely not!! And, neither did the apostles since they used it. The KJV-onlyists often claim that the KJV translators were “directed by God” in the translation process. Were they “directed by God” to make these comments as well?
Gail Riplinger has influenced contemporary KJV-onlyism as much as anybody. Most of our KJV-only brethren continue to use information from her book New Age Bible Versions whether they know it or not. However, this book has been found to be full of outright falsehoods. I personally have owned this book for years. When I began “re-researching” this position, I checked many of her arguments and found them to be complete misrepresentations. There’s simply no way Riplinger didn’t know it. She purposely misrepresented the facts to support her belief. As with many KJV-onlyists, she didn’t want her “truth” to be confused with facts and she was willing to purposely mislead her readers to support her position. When one writer refuted her book, Texe Marrs (a KJV-onlyist) replied by saying “Don’t write me again unless in sincere repentance. You are a devil, plain & simple. I understand well why Mrs. Riplinger does not respond to your ridiculous assertions. Why dignify the lying claims of a servant of Satan!”. Since when has an investigation of facts been heresy? Was not it the Berean (and Baptist) saints that looked into the Scriptures daily to make sure what they were being told was the truth? Should we not do the same thing even concerning KJV-onlyism? Interestingly, most of our brethren would never acknowledge a woman teacher or writer. However, on this issue, she is given full credence because her books supports their position. Sadly, this one woman they are willing to follow purposely misled the masses in numerous places. For instance,
in her tract “NKJV errors and omissions”, she slams the NKJV by saying that it “ignored the KJV Greek Textus Receptus over 1,200 times.” However, she never compares it to the Greek. She compares it to the KJV which is not the standard. She should have said it disagreed with the KJV in 1200 instances. In her tract, Gail claims that in the NKJV, there are 66 omissions of “Lord.” However, she didn’t cite one verse to prove this. She (and many of our brethren) goes on to say that the NKJV wishes to discredit the deity of Christ by the 66 omissions of “Lord”. However, the truth is that these are not omissions at all, but legitimate translations. In fact, the NKJV uses the title “Lord” for Jesus Christ, but not for human masters. For instance, Mat. 10:24 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” (NKJV) The KJV renders the Greek word kurios as “lord” instead of “master.” The NKJV actually has the more correct translation in these passages. Why do our brethren not know this? Simply, they take her words as gospel rather than simply checking into her “facts.” As I’ve said, there’s absolutely no way that she didn’t know this information was wrong. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it a lie. Therefore, when we use it, we are promoting lies. Baptist people, we must check our facts rather than quoting misinformation simply because it agrees with our traditions.
I don’t know of any reputable Baptists that didn’t see the need for Greek helps. They knew the KJV was a translation. They saw the importance of referring to the Greek to make sure they were getting the proper meaning as given in the original languages. I was taught to do this by men that are considered scholars by most readers of this article. It is with great caution that I bring these points out. I do not wish to destroy the faith of any. However, we have reached a point where the truth must be told. We have the abilities to check the KJV with Greek helps. There is no doubt that “Easter” in Acts 12:4 should have been translated as “Passover” as it was in every other instance in the NT. For the record, every other modern version has the correct translation. The word “ecclesia” should have been translated “congregation” or “assembly” as every solid Baptist preacher I’ve ever heard readily admitted. Why did the KJV not correct this
error of the earlier English translations? Because King James I had a rule that all of the Ecclesiastical words were to be kept. If “ecclesia” had been translated as “congregation” and “baptizo” had been translated as “immerse”, there may be much less confusion on these subjects than there is today. One will also notice that newer versions changed “God forbid” (as translated in the KJV) to something like “certainly not” (as used in the NKJV). Though some will claim that the word “God” was omitted by the newer versions, honest seekers will find that it was actually added by the KJV translators. If our readers will simply check the Greek New Testament, you will find that every passage translated “God forbid” in the KJV is incorrect. The Greek word for God is absent in these passages in the Greek New Testament. This is adding to God’s Word at the least and taking God’s name in vain at the worst. When I found this out, I honestly felt betrayed.
KJV-onlyism among modern Baptists is nothing more than tradition. Our people have fallen into the same trap as the Jews in the days of Christ. We have gotten comfortable in our way of thinking on this subject and we have made a doctrine out of it. As I said earlier, some now are “un-churching” congregations that would use another translation. It matters not how accurate the doctrine and practice of churches are; they could lose their candlestick if they forsake the beloved KJV for another version that may be as solid as the KJV. This is purely tradition and, sadly, there are no real Baptists roots for it. Again, this doctrine is founded in the teachings of a 7th day Adventist.
The KJV is a wonderful translation and those that use it should cherish it. However, there are a few other excellent translations. Knowing the truth, we should give liberty on this. Baptists have sought a better translation since the translation process began. A small few KJV-onlyists say they’ll use a better translation if one is ever produced. However, they condemn all new translations – many without even owning a copy and surely without much study. Again, it’s
the doctrine and practice of a church that makes it faithful to the Lord or not. Without love (and with the KJV), I am nothing. With love (and with the NIV), I can please God. I personally will not use the NIV for various reasons which the next section will bring out. However, my concern for a church is whether they are preaching the true Gospel, taking the Commission to the World and standing for the distinctives which Baptists have stood for since the days of the Apostles no matter which version of the Scripture they use.
Taking all of this into consideration, what should we look for in a Bible? Well, first, we should look at the texts used in the translation process. Let me preface this by saying I am not a textual critic. The truth is that all of the texts are amazingly similar. They are 98% alike. This, in itself, speaks of God’s preservation of His Word. All Baptist doctrines (and, therefore, Christian doctrine) can be found in every text without exception. Even in the texts that exclude certain passages or verses, the doctrines found in those omitted verses are still found in other places. So, deeming the texts as “corrupt” is, perhaps, a little harsh. If the copyists were wishing to delete certain teachings from God’s Word, they’ve had 2000 years to delete all of the verses and passages which teach these truths. However, they still remain. That said, I prefer the Majority Text. This is the group in which the Textus Receptus belongs. These texts were preserved by God in the areas where the epistles were originally sent. The Alexandrian (Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland, ect.) texts were found in places where the epistles were not sent. It seems logical that the possibility for copyist errors grew as these texts were copied and sent to other areas. Secondly, and perhaps the more importantly, the translation method needs to be checked. For instance, the KJV, the NKJV, the KJ3, the Analytical-Literal Translation of the NT (and a handful of others) all use a “word for word” translation method from the Majority text. The English Standard Version is a good “word for word” translation. However, it may be a cause for concern that it uses the Nestle-Aland text. The NIV, contrastingly, uses “dynamic
equivalence” (as noted in their introduction) which is a “thought for thought” translation method. This type of translation is a paraphrase at best. The translators who use this method of translation attempt to tell you what the Greek “meant” rather than telling you what it said. In my opinion, they need to leave the interpretation to the reader and the leadership of the Spirit. They claim to use an “eclectic text” (a combination of various texts). However, a casual observer can see that it leaned heavily on the Alexandrian text making it doubly questionable. Lastly, the Bible needs to be readable. Some of the older English versions (such as the Wycliffe) take too much work (in my opinion) for a modern English speaking person to study daily as their main study Bible. Also, some of the newer literal “word for word” versions are difficult to read due to the word order. These versions could (and should) be used for reference, but, probably won’t serve well as a daily study Bible. Using these 3 guidelines, one may well use the KJV, the NKJV, the Modern KJV, the KJ3 and a handful of others. Just make sure that you read the introduction of whichever Bible you use to check into these things.
If nothing else, I hope this article challenges the readers. I am fully convinced that the KJV-onlyists who read this article will (in their minds) not believe the facts of this article. They are adamant of their position. As I’ve said, they don’t wish their “truth” to be confused with real facts. Hopefully, the majority of our readers are willing to consider these things. As previously mentioned, the KJV is a wonderful translation. God has used it. However, it’s simply erroneous to believe that God is not presently using a good translation such as the NKJV. I have used it in my daily reading for years and have found it to be very solid. In some places, it is better than the KJV. In other places, I prefer the KJV. Let us remember, neither of these is the standard. The standard is the original articles as they were given to men by the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, let us always keep Greek helps (a concordance, a lexicon, an interlinear, a Bible dictionary, etc.) near us. Perhaps more importantly though, let us judge a church by its doctrine and practice since that’s what we see God judging a church by in His Word.
As I said in the introduction, I’m confident that my opinions on this matter will cause some to break fellowship with me. I wish that wasn’t so. However, those that know me realize that I have never concerned myself with pleasing “the brethren” in my ministry. My desire is to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If you doubt what I have said, the facts presented in this article are easily researched in various places. I encourage every person that reads this article to do just that. In fact, I encourage you to make sure any and all facts presented by me or any other authors on this subject are accurate. My primary purpose for writing this article is because there is so much misinformation out there.
May God help us all.