Is the King James Version the Best English Translation?

7 Factors to Consider when Comparing the KJV with Modern Translations.

There is a powerful faction of well-meaning Christians who believe and teach that the King James Version is the only uncorrupted English translation of Scripture. 

Their explanations are very convincing to the average Christian who has not studied the historical and linguistic background of Scripture translation.

I will let the authorities in the links below explain the details because they are experts in these areas, but let me summarize some important background:

1. The original texts of Scripture (those Moses, Paul, and others wrote under the anointing of the Spirit) are called autographs, and none have survived. If it were important that we have those autographs, God would have protected them. He didn’t.

2. What we have are copies of the autographs, written by human scribes who sometimes made mistakes when copying the original text. The newer the copy, the more scribal errors it contains because it was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, etc. instead of a copy of the original.

7 Factors to Consider when Comparing the KJV with Modern Translations.3. Most of these scribal errors are insignificant and don't change the meaning of the text. By comparing multiple manuscripts and relying on the accuracy of the older manuscripts, we can be confident that our present Bible accurately represents the autographs.

4. When KJV was written, some of the older copies of Scripture had not yet been discovered. So the King James translators used the newer copies of Scripture with more scribal additions (words and phrases added to the text). None of these additions detract from the message. But they are not Scripture even though they are part of the KJV text. 

5. That’s why King James Only teachers are able to compare texts and claim that modern translations have omitted words. In truth, the KJV includes words not found in the older, more accurate manuscripts. This doesn’t make the KJV corrupted. It simply means that certain details of its wording are based on scribal changes and errors, not Scripture. Since God allowed the newer manuscripts to be our only source for years, I'm sure He was not concerned about these insignificant differences in them. But He also allowed the older manuscripts to be found so we could make our translations more accurate. 

6. To claim that an English translation of the Bible written in the 1600’s is the most accurate version for modern Christians means:

     A. God is limited in His ability to communicate. He is stuck in time, only able to express Himself in archaic words that no longer have the same meaning to modern readers.

     B. God anointed the translators of the KJV but refuses to anoint any other translators even though it would make His Word more understandable to the modern reader.  
Neither A. nor B. is true.

This article expresses concerns with The Message and The Passion Translation but recommends the use of other legitimate translations of Scripture, refuting the "KJV only" teaching.
7. Translations use different methods, but each major English translation seeks to transmit the message accurately. One of my professors in seminary was Dr. William J. Larkin who translated Acts in the New Living Translation. I have never met a more humble, godly man who knew Scripture so intimately and accurately. He read from the Greek New Testament in our classes, translating as he spoke. He would never have been part of any translation team that did not seek to accurately represent God’s Word.

Note: Paraphrases of the Bible are not translations. Translations are made by a team of Bible scholars. Paraphrases are written by a single author who is attempting to put the Bible into words that he feels a particular group will easily understand. He may or may not consult the original languages of Scripture. Paraphrases should not be studied as your main source of Scripture and everything in them should be tested against a genuine translation because sometimes the author has an agenda. Popular paraphrases include The Message, The Living Bible (not the same as the New Living Translation), and The Passion Translation (not really a translation).(1) 

I regularly see  comments on social media from KJVO believers claiming that anyone who posts in modern translations is seeking to pervert the gospel. I have no desire to debate anyone. My goal is to inform those who are confused, those who are open to researching the evidence of God-fearing Bible scholars. 

I don’t think KJVO teachers are intentionally trying to be divisive. I believe most of them are well-meaning and sincere. But they are also misinformed. 

For those who are willing, please read the articles linked below. I have included a short excerpt from each:

Changes to the KJV since 1611, Bible.org

Regarding the KJV: "(1) its underlying text is farther from the original than is the text used in modern translations; (2) its translation is archaic, with now over 300 words that no longer mean what they did in 1611; (3) four hundred years of increased knowledge of the biblical world and languages have rendered many of the KJV renderings obsolete. All this is not to say that the KJV is a bad translation; I still think it stands as the greatest literary monument in the English language. And one can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ reading the KJV just as one can get saved reading the NIV. But if one is seeking clarity and accuracy, a modern translation is much preferred."

Is Your Modern Translation Corrupt? Institute for Christian Research

"The importance of the topic should not be underestimated. While the vast majority of conservative Christian scholars completely reject the KJV Only position, the emotionally charged rhetoric of KJV Only advocates causes unnecessary concerns among many believers."

Is the King James Bible the Only Reliable Bible? By Billy Graham

7 Factors to Consider when Comparing the KJV with Modern Translations."Some people prefer the King James translation because they have been familiar with it, often from childhood. Others prefer modern translations because they are more easily understood. Also, modern translators have the advantage of using many older Greek manuscripts of the New Testament discovered since the King James translation was made. Most scholars consider these older manuscripts more reliable than the few later manuscripts available to those who translated the King James Bible."

What is the King James Only Movement? Got Questions

"Our loyalties are to the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Only the original languages are the Word of God as He inspired it. A translation is only an attempt to take what is said in one language and communicate it in another. The modern translations are superb in taking the meaning of the original languages and communicating it in a way that we can understand in English."

Why I Do Not Think the KJV is the Best Translation Available Today - Bible.org 

"Those who vilify the modern translations and the Greek texts behind them have evidently never really investigated the data. Their appeals are based largely on emotion, not evidence. As such, they do an injustice to historic Christianity as well as to the men who stood behind the King James Bible. These scholars, who admitted that their work was provisional and not final (as can be seen by their preface and by their more than 8000 marginal notes indicating alternate renderings), would wholeheartedly welcome the great finds in MSS [Greek Manuscripts] that have occurred in the past one hundred and fifty years."

The King James Only Controversy – The Gospel Coalition

Regarding the KJV Only claim that modern translations delete verses from the Bible: "Based on the older and more reliable manuscripts, the modern translations have simply sought to reflect what was contained in the original manuscripts. It is just as serious to add to Scripture, as it is to take away from Scripture."

Is the King James Version the Only Good Translation? - Eternal Perspectives Ministries (Randy Alcorn)  

This article addresses the fact that all translations have verses or phrases that could be better translated, but the translation teams of the modern translations are seeking to share Scripture accurately. KJV Only teachers claim that modern translation teams purposely mistranslate. 

"Such comparisons are not becoming nor loving, especially to those translators that are Christian brothers. I choose to think the best of why a translator seemingly mistranslates. For example, why did the translators of the KJV translate “Easter” in Ac. 12:4 (the word is lit. “Passover” and is in every other place in the KJV “Passover” Strongs number 3957)? Was it because that translator was a secret worshiper of the fertility god “Oster” (cf. “Easter” was a fertility goddess similar to the Biblical Ashtar)? Or was it more likely that the translator was trying to now give a Christian context for the time of year such a festival is held? Think the best of the translators and spend your energy trying to discover WHY they translated something different."


For a video explaining all of our English translations: Can I Trust Bible Translations?


(1) Concerns with The Message and The Passion "Translation."

More on The Message Paraphrase:
In 2017, Eugene Peterson publicly shared ideas that were not Scriptural in regard to homosexuality. He later retracted his statements when Lifeway Publishers prepared to stop selling his books (source, source). However, Peterson's attitudes toward homosexuality are reflected in passages about homosexuality in The Message. This is perhaps the most damaging area where Peterson's opinions are reflected in The Message paraphrase, but not the only place. I do not recommend using The Message unless you are extremely careful to compare it with legitimate translations.

More on The Passion Translation:
I have concerns with someone who titles their paraphrase a "translation" when it is not one, but that is only one of many concerns associated with the The Passion paraphrase and with the author Brian Simmons. I recommend this video for a full explanation of concerns: My Concerns About The Passion Translation and Brian Simmons. I do not recommend using The Passion "Translation."

Bible Love Notes

15 comments:

  1. I am not a KJV only individual. I am a King James primarily person. I do not think that older necessarily means better. Most modern translations are based on the work of Westcott and Hort in the 1800's--two men who did not believe in the inerrancy of scripture nor the redemptive power of Christ's blood, but did believe in Charles Darwin's work. Codex Vaticanus had been gathering dust in the Vatican's library for several centuries; Codex Sinaiticus, whether it was found in the trash at St. Catherine's or stolen (more likely), was riddled with copious errors. Whatever flaws the KJV scholars may have had, they were certainly Christian. I respectfully submit that it is entirely reasonable to be suspicious of most modern translations in light of the well-documented "beliefs" of Westcott and Hort.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Carole.
      I'm sure you are sincere, but despite your right motives, you are passing along errors, not historically accurate facts.

      The King James is a good translation, but it is not the most accurate translation.

      I pray that whoever convinced you of this Charles Darwin connection will be convicted of his slanderous accusations against the hundreds of godly men who have translated modern translations, and I pray he will stop passing along historically inaccurate information.

      I pray that those who prefer the KJV will enjoy it without unjustly criticizing other translations.

      I'm sad that Satan is using this controversy to weaken God's people, cause confusion and fear.

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    2. Please read these accurate facts, Carole. I am reprinting them from GotQuestions.org:

      Question: "Who were Westcott and Hort and what did they have to do with the text of the Bible?"

      Answer: Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort were 19th-century theologians and Bible scholars. Together, they produced The New Testament in the Original Greek, one of the earliest examples of modern textual criticism. Since its publication in 1881, Westcott and Hort’s work has proved to be impressively accurate, though far from perfect. Their approach not only advanced the science of textual criticism, but it added considerable weight to the claim that the Bible had been preserved from tampering and corruption.

      The goal of textual criticism is removing changes, errors, and additions to a text in order to determine the original words. The King James translators, for example, generated their work from a series of manuscripts, none of which exactly matches their final product. They chose between variant readings or spellings, deciding what was most likely original through various techniques. Recognizing the need to use prior scholarship combined with new discoveries, the KJV translators made a good faith effort to improve upon what had already been done. This process continues today, albeit with a much greater number of manuscripts available. The differences between the various texts are trivial, amounting to less than one half of one percent of the words in the New Testament.

      Not all textual critics use the same methods or give the same weight to certain manuscript families. The specific methods used by Westcott and Hort are no longer held as ideal by Bible scholars. Modern research considers their approach overly reliant on two manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, as well as the principle of “shorter is earlier.” For these reasons, though the effective differences are minimal, The New Testament in the Original Greek is not the basis for any modern translation of the Bible. Rather, the United Bible Societies and Nestle-Aland critical texts are typically sourced for English translations today.

      Unfortunately, Westcott and Hort are still infamous names with respect to the Bible, despite their text not being the basis of any major modern translations. Most mentions of the pair today are from detractors of their work, particularly those supporting the King James Only movement (KJVO). Such critics tend to focus entirely on Westcott’s and Hort’s non-orthodox spiritual beliefs. In truth, both men held to several ideas that modern conservative Christianity would consider heretical. Then again, the same can be said for church fathers such as Origen, Jerome, and Augustine. And, it’s worth noting that the King James translators themselves were, variously, supporters of Anglicanism, infant baptism, and so forth.

      One of the great strengths of the Bible as a sacred text is its manuscript evidence. Even compared to secular works, the Bible exists in more early, preserved copies than any other ancient text. Westcott and Hort’s work is valuable precisely because it can be examined, tested, and corrected where evidence supports that correction. As other Bible scholars such as Erasmus, Wycliffe, and Tyndale had done, Westcott and Hort advanced the work of their predecessors and produced a scholarly resource for the study of the Bible. (https://www.gotquestions.org/Westcott-and-Hort.html)

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  2. Hi Gail,
    Isn't true that NIV and sorry I can't think of the others at the moment, leave out verses? I feel whatever Bible you like you should have a few different ones to be able to compare...

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    Replies
    1. Dear Unknown,
      Please read the info above about modern translations leaving out verses. They don't. And yes, it's a good thing to compare translations for a full understanding.

      Delete
  3. Thank you Gail. Accuracy is important, even with historical facts.

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  4. Thank you for this Gail. It is important that we have accurate translations available to us, your input helps us get there. My personal study bible is NASB, my bible study uses ESV, and I use Bible Gateway to compare several translations at once if I am really digging into something.

    This has to be the most anointed of times in that we have so many really good choices. Just more of God's never ending abundance.

    Keep up the good work, and keep Denver sane until I can move back. hugs and hugs.

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  5. Hi Gail, Matt here. I read the NLT version of the Bible. I feel sorry for one of our street preachers on Youtube. His youtube user name is called GabetheStreetPreacher. I think his name is Gabriel. I emailed him something back with a different verse translation of the bible on BibleHub I believe.

    I emailed him about losing our salvation. This is what I sent to him.


    https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-lose-salvation.html

    I hope clears the whole Issue of Christians losing or not losing their Salvation. I just believe that when you have accepted Christ as your Saviour and walk in his ways as best as you can, the Holy Spirit will be in your life forever until we all die and see Jesus or see Jesus when he returns. This is a verse I read in Isaiah 43:10-13 that I have found helpful.

    10
    “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord.
    “You are my servant.
    You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
    and understand that I alone am God.
    There is no other God—
    there never has been, and there never will be.
    11
    I, yes I, am the Lord,
    and there is no other Savior.
    12
    First I predicted your rescue,
    then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world.
    No foreign god has ever done this.
    You are witnesses that I am the only God,”
    says the Lord.
    13
    “From eternity to eternity I am God.
    No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
    No one can undo what I have done.”

    This was his reply.

    With all due respect please not post drom that "got question" site its full of false teachings. Secondly do not read from any other version than the King James version when you present scripture in public. The version you read from is watered-down versions that disrespect the word of God. Thirdly watch my videos for more Truth, you are in much confusion and error.

    FYI. Read our statement of faith on the front page. This is a non debate ministry. You believe what you believe and move on. You want to Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ you stay.

    Amen.

    Servant,
    Gabriel"

    It sounds like he wants to be stuck in the KJV version. I'm not going to battle this. Just saying that whatever version we read or whatever is comfortable to you, continue to let God's Word change your life forever.

    Brother in Christ
    Matt

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  6. I came into a deeper relationship with Jesus in a KJV-only preaching church. I struggled with memorizing the text and with reading it to others who could not follow the English style used. The guilt laid on me for wanting to read from other versions followed me for years. 15 years actually! So, this Christmas, I went to a Bible bookstore and purchased an NIV copy for myself. I hope to learn more scripture because the English is more relevant to how I speak and for the reasons you mentioned above. I had to leave that church denomination, not because I was in disagreement with their preaching or music, just because that point of reading only from KJV was stifling my attempts at outreach. God knows my heart and how I've struggled with this false belief that was sown into my thinking years ago. I still meet KJV only Christians - and I choose to be kind over being right ... because it's not a hill worthy dying on for me. Thank you for your insightful devotional on it.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Blue Jeans,
      I'm glad that you feel comfortable reading more modern translations, and I think you are wise not to argue with those who've made up their minds. May God continue to guide you.

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  7. When I read this I noticed the name of a professor you mention is the same as the last name of an preacher from around 1920. I am curious to know if your professor William J. Larkin was related to Clarence Larkin who wrote the book "Dispensational Truth". This is a book my parents gave me. I have never really read it all and have had many Christian people tell me "dispensationalism" is unbiblical. Do you have a biblical stand for or against dispensationalism?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Colleen,
      I don't know if they were related, but professor Larkin was not a dispensationalist. However, even though I am not a dispensationalist either, I don't think it's fair to say it's an "unbiblical" belief. There are differences in non-essential doctrinal beliefs among genuine believers, and dispensationlists generally believe all the essentials of Christianity. If you'd like to read more about it, I recommend this article:
      https://www.gotquestions.org/dispensationalism.html


      Delete
  8. Actually according to Dr. Leslie McFall, a Tyndale Bible researcher, that has recently passed on, he says that actually, the KJV is not blameless either as said in his 587 page work on Erasmus' addition of the word "ei" (if) in front of the word "mh" (not) to his Greek text of Matt. 19:9 which forces it to mean "except" instead of just the little word "not" (found before "for fornication" in most critical Greek texts today), which duped the early reformers. And because it wasn't caught until the 1800's, the damage it has caused the church in allowing an exception for divorce, has had too much momentum to reverse it without great controversy. Here's the free link: https://lmf12.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/divorce_aug_2014.pdf
    It's verrrrrrry thorough! We're amazed that the Bible translators are still keeping this HUGE error in our modern English Bibles. I've caught the (deliberate?) "mistake" being perpetuated in an interlinear app that I use. It says "except" but the Strong's number above the Greek word takes you to the definition/origin as meaning "not/lest". In fact Strong's g3361 has been translated as "not" 953 times. Yet only "one" time for "except". "Except" makes it mean the opposite of what was actually said. And on the subject of what constitutes adultery, it is crucial to get it exactly right, otherwise people are being lead into some serious eternal consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Gail!!
    My favorite is the NKJV, but I also use/own The Passion Translation. I would encourage you to read the Translation Philosophy page, as well, About the Lead Translator. He has been a guest speaker several times on a Sunday morning, as well at the churches conferences. I don't mind agreeing to disagree, or continuing the dialogue on this version of the Bible.

    Off topic, I was sharing with a fellow sister in the Lord that I wasn't interested in promoting yoga (which she wasn't either), but that I loved pilates, and that I want to eventually be trained in it to teach others. She then told me that pilates was considered "bad" like yoga! I was shocked, and I will look into later, but have you heard anything about it in your research?

    Thank you, and love to you, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi unknown friend,
      I'm glad you are not exclusively using The Passion “Translation.” I hope you listened to the video I linked about TPT so you have full knowledge of the concerns many Bible scholars, pastors, and teachers have with it.

      I think it's a fair video.

      I just pulled up the Translation Philosophy for The Passion Translation, and I admit that at first glance it sounds good, but they say "TPT maintains the essential form and essential function of the original words." And that's not really accurate. They don't simply try to convey the meaning of the original text, they add ideas, insights, and phrases not found in the original text. And even if they are adding “good things,” it’s a serious thing to add to God’s Word.

      And regarding the “About the Lead Translator”: My understanding is that Brian Simmons is not simply the lead translator, he is responsible for the bulk of the translation. Paraphases are often written by one man, and that is one reason they should never be trusted like a translation.

      Genuine translations have large teams of Bible scholars. They seek out the best experts on various books of the Bible, men who are experts in the original languages, who have intensely studied the history and background for specific books. This type of team provides careful unbiased translation. There is strength in a multitude of counselors, and God’s Word certainly deserves the best, most accurate translations. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that while Brian Simmons has a number of degrees, he has no formal training in Biblical languages.

      Please listen to the video linked above and read this short article: https://www.gotquestions.org/Passion-Translation.html.
      If you listen to and read these things and still trust The Passion Translation, we certainly can agree to disagree, dear friend. But please don't accept it until you have checked it out thoroughly.

      About Pilates....I'm not aware of a problem, but please let me know what you find out. Thanks!

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