Five Questions for King James Only Believers—Part Three

Has God perfectly preserved His word in only the 1611 King James Version of the Bible?

This should be my final post in this series on sincere questions for King James Only believers. As I explained in the first post, this series is not addressed to those who are better classified as Only King James or King James Preferred. These people will use only the KJV or strongly prefer it over others, but they don’t spend energy criticizing or condemning fellow believers for using other translations, actions commonly performed by King James Onlyists.

In just two days of the first post in the series going up, I have already been accused of serving a different god than the God of the Bible. This kind of nonsense needs to stop. As Christians, should we be so afraid of someone asking some genuine, thoughtful questions that we immediately condemn them for it? How weak is your faith if that is your response? What are you placing your faith in? I did not call into question the gospel of Christ’s sacrificial death and His subsequent Resurrection. I have asked questions about a particular Bible version, and yet those who have responded negatively to my posts have made no effort to answer the questions.

In the first post, I asked where the Bible teaches that the KJV would be the Bible in which God would preserve His word. In the second post, I asked if it was a sin to use a Bible with an error in it and why the KJV has removed verses or parts of verses, and I gave two clear examples where it does this. So let’s move on to our two final questions.

Question 4: Why does the King James Version add verses or parts of verses?

Not only is the KJV missing parts of verses, it also has additional verses that were not in the original manuscripts. KJOs claim that these are the verses that were removed by what they call the corrupt or new age versions, allegedly from the Alexandrian family of manuscripts. In some cases, it is difficult to determine if the verse was original or a later addition. However, as will be shown, it is very easy to determine in some cases. Also, the attempt to categorize every ancient manuscript as being either part of the so-called Alexandrian group or the Masoretic text massively oversimplifies the situation.

Comma Johanneum

Perhaps the clearest example of an added material is found in 1 John 5:7–8. KJOs often claim that the the so-called Alexandrian manuscripts were produced by heretics attempting to remove the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity and other key doctrines. But a quick look at some facts will make it clear whether material was added to or removed from the originals. Here is the passage:

“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” (1 John 5:7–8, emphasis added)

The bold words are known as the Comma Johanneum. Text notes in most modern Bibles explain that these words above do not appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. If these words were removed, you can see why KJOs would argue that someone tried to take out text that mentions the Trinity. But there are at least two major problems with this claim.

First, simply saying that the verse doesn’t appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts doesn’t come close to conveying the whole picture here. This verse doesn’t appear in any manuscript until the tenth century where it only appears as a note in the margin, having been a later addition. The first time it shows up in the text is in a manuscript from the fourteenth century, but even in this one, the wording is quite different. It isn’t until after Erasmus published his Greek New Testament in 1516 that this wording appears in a manuscript. He did not include it in his first edition, but he was pressured by the Catholic Church to add it in his third edition (1522), even though he strongly objected to doing so.

Second, the lack of this verse did not stop the early church fathers from defining and defending the doctrine of the Trinity. Countless discussions and debates about the Trinity took place in the first few centuries of the church. Augustine published a massive book called De Trinitate (On the Trinity), which I had to read in a doctoral class. English versions of this work are often over 500 pages long with small print. Yet not once did Augustine or any other church father quote this passage in support of the Trinity. It is unthinkable that the church fathers would have neglected to use this verse in defense of the Trinity had they known about it. However, the reason they did not quote it is because it was not part of John’s letter—at least not until many centuries later.

Adding an Angel

In our previous post, we saw that the KJV was missing a mention of angels. Well, there is also an example where an angel appears to have been added. Let’s look at one more example before moving on to our next question. In John 5 Jesus healed a paralytic at the pool in Jerusalem. Here is what we read in the NKJV.

In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (John 5:3–5, emphasis added)

As you probably guessed by now, the bold words do not appear in the earliest manuscripts. The case against their inclusion is not as solid as it is for the Comma Johanneum, but there are some strong arguments against it. The words are not found at all in the earliest manuscripts. When the words do start showing up in later manuscripts, they have a variety of readings and are often marked by an asterisk or obelisk, indicating that the scribe knew the wording was spurious. It seems as if a later scribe wanted to explain why the sick and lame waited by the pool, so he may have cited a tradition about an angel stirring the waters, and this explanation eventually found its way into the text.

The Pool of Bethesda by Robert Bateman. Notice the angel preparing to stir the water. The name of the pool is another example where different titles appear in the manuscripts. The majority of scholars today believe it should be Bethzatha.

There are several more passages in the New Testament that include words, phrases, sentences, or even entire passages (e.g. the woman caught in adultery and the ending of Mark) that do not appear in many of the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. There are varying degrees of evidence for and against the inclusion of these sections, and each one should be handled on a case-by-case basis. The NET Bible can be read online and includes over 60,000 translator notes, many of them dedicated to explaining the data for these variants in the manuscripts. Check it out here.

The study of the differences between the manuscripts falls under a discipline known as lower textual criticism, which does not mean that it criticizes the text. Instead, it is a scholarly attempt to discover the text of the original manuscripts through detailed studies of the many copies. This topic is so important for Christians to understand, particularly young people from Christian homes before they head off to college. If we teach young people that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and infallible word of God (as we should), but fail to explain that this applies only to the original manuscripts and any faithful reproductions of them, then we set them up for disaster, no matter what Bible they use. If they think their faith is rooted in the inerrancy of an English Bible translation, then all an opponent needs to do is point out some of the differences in the manuscripts to undermine the young person’s misplaced faith. I use “misplaced” because one’s faith should be rooted and grounded in the historical reality of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His subsequent Resurrection. Inerrancy is a very important doctrine, but it is not the basis of our faith.

Question 5: Instead of attacking fellow believers and sometimes lying about them and other Bible translations, why don’t you use that same energy and zeal to share the Gospel and love your fellow believers?

King James Onlyists can be quite aggressive in how they approach this topic, and I have no doubt that I will receive some strongly worded comments in response to these posts. I have heard KJOs condemn fellow Christians for all sorts of reasons, but most of the time it is related to whether the person uses the KJV. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s position, but it’s entirely different to misrepresent and outright lie about them.

Perhaps no KJO has done this more than Gail Riplinger, author of New Age Bible Versions. This book and her video presentations on the topic are so full of misrepresentations and lies that it’s sad anyone has ever been persuaded by her claims. My wife and I watched Riplinger speak to a large crowd on alleged errors of the NIV. We had an NIV open and checked out each of her claims, and in many cases, the text did not even say what she claimed or she yanked phrases out of context, but I’m sure no one in her audience would be caught dead with an NIV to check her claims. She also regularly slanders many godly men and women who have been involved with various translation committees, accusing them of being part of the New Age or any number of horrible organizations.

Besides her many baseless claims, this type of argument is a form of the genetic fallacy. That is, even if she were right that Dr. So and So was a cultist, it would not invalidate the translation work. A similar charge is often made against the KJV when someone claims that King James was a homosexual. I don’t know if he was, but even if the charge were true, it would not invalidate the KJV. One must look at the work itself to see if it stands up rather than avoiding the real issues.

The late Peter Ruckman was also a staunch promoter of King James Onlyism who did not hesitate to use extremely harsh language against those who supported any other version. Apparently, he didn’t mind abusing Scripture to make his point either. In a pamphlet titled “A Critique of the NIV,” Ruckman lambasted the NIV and threw in the NASB for good measure as being of the devil like the Alexandrian text before them. Then came this appalling statement. He said that their granddaddy, Satan, “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Excuse me! That is a quotation of Hebrews 13:8, which states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Ruckman used it to refer to Satan, which wouldn’t even be true. Satan was originally a holy angel (“yesterday”), is now a fallen angel actively opposing God (“today”), and one day will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity (“forever”). So even if it were legitimate to apply those words into a different context, it would be false to apply them to Satan.

Many webpages have been devoted to critiquing the errors of Riplinger and Ruckman so there is no need to rehash them here. They have arguably been two of the most abrasive and misleading promoters of King James Onlyism. So it wouldn’t be fair to paint all KJOs with a Riplinger/Ruckman brush, however, many of the gentler KJOs use some of the same false and misleading arguments.

I can appreciate the strong desire held by KJOs to have God’s inerrant word in our hands. However, like the Israelites Paul referenced in Romans 10:2, their zeal is often not according to knowledge. It’s a misplaced zeal that has often been divisive, hurtful, inflammatory, and slanderous. It would be wonderful to see KJOs reorient their energies to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers and living in harmony with fellow believers who might happen to prefer a different Bible translation.

Conclusion

As I bring this blog series to an end, there are some more questions I have for KJOs.

Do you really believe that people who speak a language other than English need to read from an outdated form of English to have a real Bible? Isn’t it commendable for missionaries and Bible translation committees to translate Bibles into the language of people groups who did not previously possess a Bible in their language? If God perfectly preserved His word for English speakers, as KJOs believe, then could He not do the same for other languages? Why would it be wrong to update the version as our language changes? I am not aware of anyone who speaks Early Modern English anymore, so why not update it to the way modern English is written and spoken?

Would you stop misleading people about why some translations don’t have certain words? Instead of believing they are caught up in a conspiracy against God’s word, would you at least acknowledge the careful scholarly work that has been done in a sincere attempt to accurately translate the Bible?

Take a look at the spelling and font used in the 1611 version. Most KJV Bibles today do not look like this because they have been updated.

Would you carefully study an issue before making wild accusations against fellow believers?

Would you be consistent and acknowledge that you probably are not using the 1611 KJV with its difficult outdated formatting, such as “I” instead of “J” in “Jesus” and “f” instead of “s” (as was common at the time), and would you check to see if your Bible includes the Apocrypha as the 1611 did?

Finally, dear King James Onlyist, would you please carefully consider the points I raised in this series and dig deeper into the truth of these matters. Would you spend less time creating division in the body of Christ and more time loving fellow believers and reaching the lost alongside them?

If you are not a KJO and have made it this far, I ask that you do not make it your goal to berate, belittle, or argue with KJOs. Instead, extend them some of the grace God has given us and then gently and humbly correct those who are in error, and we must be willing to accept correction as well if we are in error.

Five Questions for King James Only Believers—Part Two

The Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, is regularly criticized by King James Onlyists, however, its text often (not always) more accurate with New Testament quotations than the Masoretic Text.

In the first post of this series, I mentioned that I had five sincere questions to address to King James Onlyists (KJOs). These are Christians who believe the King James Version is the only inspired version of Scripture, and that believers should refrain from using any other translation. In this post, we will look at questions two and three.

As I mentioned in the first post, I understand this can be an extremely sensitive issue. I will do my best to be kind in how I address these issues. Also, please do not view these posts as a shot at those who are better classified as “King James Preferred” or “Only King James.” These are individuals who prefer to use the King James Version over any other Bible, but they do not condemn those who use different translations as do many KJOs.

The first question asked KJOs where the Bible ever claimed that God would preserve His word for us in an English version of Scripture that would be translated in 1611. The Bible doesn’t say anything like this, so the KJO cannot prove their position from Scripture, and the two main Bible passages they use to support their view do not support their view. So let’s move to my second question.

Question 2: Is it a sin to use a Bible that has mistakes?

Surely all Christians would agree that it would be ideal if each language had a Bible version without mistakes in it, but this is simply not true to reality. Some KJOs have gone as far as saying that a person is not even saved if someone used an NIV while sharing the gospel with them. This is false and is akin to adding works to the gospel message. The gospel message of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross for our sins and His subsequent burial and Resurrection can be found in the NIV, NASB, ESV, or practically any other Bible translation. Romans 10:9 does not teach (not even in the KJV) that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead AND that you must learn this from the King James Version of the Bible, then you will be saved.

But here’s the question that KJOs must wrestle with. Is it sinful to use a Bible that has errors in it? For the sake of argument, since the NIV tends to be the primary target of KJOs, let’s assume the NIV has errors. Would it be sinful to read it or teach from it? There’s a huge dilemma for the KJO here. Notice the question is not, “Would it be ideal to read…?” or “Would it be preferable to read…?” The question is about whether or not it is sinful to use a Bible with an error in it.

If a scribe made a mistake while copying a book of the Bible, would it be sinful for a person to use that copy of Scripture? Image from www.reponsesbio.com

If the KJO says, “Yes, it is sinful to use a Bible with errors in it,” then we ask if it was sinful for Jesus to use a Bible that contradicts the KJV, which in the mind of the KJO would mean that Christ’s Bible had errors in it. Since we agree that Jesus never sinned, then it obviously would not have been sinful for Jesus to use a Bible with errors.

Many people believe Jesus and His disciples used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Many KJOs object to this point and claim that the Septuagint was not finished until after the Lord’s ministry, but we’ll see in this and the next point how this objection is irrelevant. There are numerous examples where a New Testament quotation of the Old Testament matches the wording in the Septuagint but disagrees with the wording of the Masoretic Hebrew text, which is what the King James (and other English translations) is based on. It’s also possible that they used an older Hebrew version (or even Aramaic) that agreed with the Septuagint in these places. So if the King James is perfect, it would mean that a Bible contradicting it, like the one used by Jesus and His disciples, would be in error. And if it is sinful to use a Bible with errors, then Jesus was not the sinless Son of God who died for our sins. (The next point will demonstrate conclusively that Jesus and the disciples used a Bible that contradicts the King James Bible.)

Now if the King James Onlyist says, “No, it is not sinful to use a Bible with errors in it,” then we simply ask why they make such a huge deal out of people using the NIV or other translations. It’s one thing to encourage someone to use a Bible that may be a better translation so that they might avoid errors, but it’s entirely different to condemn a person or an entire congregation because they do not use the King James.

Question 3: Why is the King James Bible missing verses or parts of verses?

This argument is often made by KJOs against other Bible translations. Because modern translations of the New Testament are usually based on a critical text (composed after taking into consideration the data from thousands of fragments and manuscripts) instead of the Textus Receptus (“Received Text” used by translators of the King James), there are some differences. At times, it seems like the newer translations have removed verses. For example, look up Acts 8:37 in the NIV, ESV, or other newer translations. KJOs cry foul and claim that these Bibles have corrupted God’s Word by removing crucial information. Of course, this argument could be turned around on the KJO and ask why the King James added verses (the point of our next question).

I snapped a picture of this bumper sticker that perfectly illustrates the misguided view of KJOs.

For the most part, the newer versions are the result of sincere attempts to faithfully translate the original text, and these so-called missing verses do not appear in many of the ancient manuscripts, particularly those generally considered to be older and more reliable. Nevertheless, most Bibles still include them in some sort of textual note or footnote. So the NIV and ESV still have Acts 8:37 in them, you just might need to check the notes on the page to see it. The translators are not engaged in a conspiracy to remove key theological concepts. If they were, they’ve done a lousy job of it since they still include the details in notes and those details taught from these so-called missing verses can be found elsewhere in nearly every case.

That being said, there are passages in which we can be certain the KJV is missing details. It isn’t that the King James translators deliberately skipped details; it’s that the texts they worked from were incomplete. Here are two crystal clear examples of the KJV missing key parts of verses.

Missing Angels

The author of Hebrews frequently quoted from the Old Testament. While expressing the superiority of the Son of God over the angels, the writer states,

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the word, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Hebrews 1:6, quotation marks added around OT citation)

So here we have an inspired New Testament text quoting from the inspired Old Testament text (“And let all the angels of God worship Him.”). But here’s the problem: that verse does not appear in the Old Testament of the KJV, so how can the KJV be infallible if it records the quotation of an Old Testament passage that does not appear in the KJV Old Testament?

Some point to Psalm 97:7 (“worship Him, all you gods”) as the verse being quoted, but despite their similarities in theme, there are some differences. There is one verse that is an exact match for the quotation from Hebrews 1:6, and that’s Deuteronomy 32:43. Here is how the verse reads in the KJV:

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people
For he will avenge the blood of his servants,
And will render vengeance to his adversaries,
And will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deuteronomy 32:43, KJV)

Notice there is nothing in the verse about the angels of God being instructed to worship God, at least not in the KJV. Here’s how it reads in the Septuagint:

Rejoice, ye heavens, with Him,
And let all the angels of God worship Him;
Rejoice ye Gentiles, with His people,
And let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in Him,
For He will avenge the blood of His sons,
And He will render vengeance, and recompense justice to His enemies,
And will reward them that hate Him;
And the Lord shall purge the land of His people.
(Deuteronomy 32:43, Brenton LXX, emphasis added)

Notice that the second line is an exact match of what the author of Hebrews quoted: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” So if the KJV is God’s perfect translation, then why is it missing these words in Deuteronomy 32:43?

Besides the fact that the author of Hebrews quotes this passage, there is another strong argument to support the claim that the Septuagint’s version is consistent with the original. Notice how it maintains parallelism between the various lines of the text, but the parallelism so common in Hebrew is missing from the KJV (and most other English translations too, since they often follow the Masoretic Text as well—the ESV and NRSV come closer to the Septuagint).

But this is not the only verse in Deuteronomy 32 that has been altered. There is considerable textual evidence to show that Deuteronomy 32:8 has also been changed from the “sons of God” to the “sons of Israel.” The Septuagint and two fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls match the former reading and give a clue as to why a later scribe might alter the text to something less offensive. By removing or changing the wording, the text would no longer mention entities other than God who are identified as gods, which may well explain the reason for the change in v. 43. The “angels of God” from the Septuagint is a translation of the Greek uioi theou (“sons of God”), a Greek translation of the term used in Genesis 6:1–4, Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7 to refer to angels.

Missing Cures for the Blind

A similar motivation might be seen in another example of a missing section of a verse in the KJV. In Luke 4:17 Jesus read from the book of Isaiah while He was in Nazareth’s synagogue:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because He hath anointed me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
To preach deliverance to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord .

This passage of Scripture is found in Isaiah 61:1–2.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord hath anointed me
To preach good tidings unto the meek;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Jesus healing a blind man as shown in the Christ, Cross, and Consummation exhibit at the Creation Museum.

The difference in wording is largely due to the translation process. Isaiah has been translated directly from Hebrew to English, while Luke has been translated from Hebrew into Greek (or possibly from Hebrew to Jesus speaking Aramaic to Luke recording in Greek) and then into English. However, this fact cannot explain the truth that an entire line is missing in the Masoretic Text of Isaiah 61:1—“And recovery of sight to the blind.”

Here’s the dilemma for the KJO: Luke 4:17 in the KJV has Jesus reading from Isaiah 61:1–2, but the Isaiah passage does not include a key phrase Jesus quoted, at least not in the KJV or the Masoretic Text on which it is based. If the KJV is the perfect, inspired, inerrant version that God has preserved for us, then why did Jesus quote something that isn’t there? Would you like to guess where this wording does appear? If you guessed the Septuagint, then you would be correct. Here’s what it says in those same verses:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me;
He has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor,
To heal the broken in heart,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind;
To declare the acceptable year of the Lord.
(Isaiah 61:1–2, Brenton LXX, emphasis added)

So why does this wording show up in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic Text? One of the most compelling reasons is that at some point after the life of Jesus a Jewish scribe removed the line from Isaiah for a very specific reason—to weaken the Christian’s case that Jesus was the Messiah.

How would the removal of a reference to healing the blind weaken the Christian’s case? When you think of all Jesus’ miracles recorded in the Gospels, many of them have a corresponding miracle in the Old Testament. For example, by God’s power Elijah raised the dead (1 Kings 17:19–23), Elisha multiplied food to feed a large group (2 Kings 4:42–44) and healed a leper (2 Kings 5). But one particular type of miracle that Jesus repeatedly performed really stood out among the Jews—the recovery of sight to the blind.

Consider the strong reaction of the Jewish leaders when Jesus healed the man who had been born blind. They interrogated the man and his parents. The formerly blind man seemed incredulous that the leaders were so upset about the healing, and he said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (John 9:32). The Old Testament records the restoration of sight to those temporarily blinded (2 Kings 6:8–23), but there is no example of the healing of a person who was born blind. When John the Baptist sent disciples to ask Jesus if He truly was the Messiah, Jesus told them to tell John about the things they had heard and seen, and the first evidence He mentioned was that “the blind see” (Matthew 11:5).

So it’s possible that the text was changed by a Jewish scribe to remove a very clear indicator that Jesus was the Messiah. There are other possible reasons for the variant readings of Isaiah 61:1, but whatever the reason for the difference, the fact remains that the KJV, like many other Bibles based on the Masoretic Text, is missing a line in Isaiah 61:1.

Looking Ahead

We have one more post in this series, Part three is available here and focuses on the following questions:

– Why does the King James Version add verses or parts of verses?
– Instead of attacking fellow believers, and sometimes lying about them and other Bible translations, why don’t you use that same energy and zeal to share the Gospel and love your fellow believers?

Once again, I will attempt to maintain a spirit of gentleness on this topic, and I ask that all who comment on this series carefully read each post and then keep the comments civil.

If you missed part one in this series, which asks where God promised to preserve His word in the 1611 version of the King James, you can find it by clicking here.

Thanks for reading!