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!

Five Questions for King James Only Believers—Part One

Title page from the original 1611 King James Version of the Bible.

The first Bible I ever owned was a King James Version that my parents gave me when I was about seven years old. I used it until I received a newer translation in my teenage years. Then in 2000–2001 I used the King James as my primary Bible again. It is one of many translations I have read all the way through, along with the NASB, NKJV, NIV (1984 and 2011), NET, ESV, HCSB, and the Lexham English Bible. I usually read a new translation each year, although I’ve repeated some of them, because I believe there is tremendous value in reading Scripture and discovering how translators have handled certain passages.

I have found strengths and weaknesses in each of the versions I’ve read, but there is one issue that frequently arises that needs to be addressed: the King James Only position. I have spoken with many people who believe the KJV is the only translation of Scripture we should use today. They often refer to it as the KJB, since they consider the King James to be the only Bible, and they don’t really consider the other translations to be legitimate versions. Proponents of this view will often attack fellow believers for using modern versions, which are often said to be based on Alexandrian texts and regularly called New Age Bible translations.

This view is to be distinguished from what has been called “Only King James” or “King James Preferred.” Those who hold these views might be uncomfortable using any version other than the King James, but they do not make a habit of ridiculing, admonishing, or condemning those who use other translations. I have a very good friend who has adopted this position, and I have no problem at all with someone preferring the King James over other versions. It’s a great translation, and God has used it to reach and teach millions of people over the past four centuries.

Years ago, I gave a talk on alleged Bible contradictions in which I showed two verses in the NKJV that are at odds (2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2—was Ahaziah 22 or 42 years old when he became king?). This seems to be a classic “typo” made by a scribe somewhere along the way, and it seems rather obvious that he was 22 when he became king. If he were 42, then he would have been older than his father, Ahab. A little while after the talk, an angry woman approached and told me that had she been in there she would have immediately pulled her high school son out because the King James has the same figures in these verses as the NKJV, and I was attacking Scripture. In reality, my talk was all about defending Scripture and showing how to address alleged Bible contradictions. The next day of the conference, she handed me a copy of an attempt to reconcile the two figures by Peter Ruckman, a King James Onlyist (KJO) who utilized some of the most contorted interpretations I have ever read in an effort to save the idea that the King James Version is inerrant. Many similar experiences could be shared. (I’ll talk more about Mr. Ruckman in part 3 of this series.)

This post should not be viewed as an attack on the King James translation, although KJOs will undoubtedly see it as such. As mentioned before, I have read through the King James Version, and I greatly appreciate it. But I do have five sincere and pointed questions I would like to ask KJOs. So in a spirit of gentleness, I ask these questions because I would like for those who have adopted that position to think carefully about their own view and the claims many have made about other translations.

Question 1: Where does the Bible ever teach that the King James Bible would be the version through which God would preserve His Word?

Readers of this blog know that I strongly believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, inerrant, and infallible word of God. But the doctrine of inerrancy is usually defined as applying to the original manuscripts, and it only extends to the copies and translations insofar as they accurately represent the original documents.

Did God Promise to Preserve His Word?

A common response in the literature of KJOs is to cite Psalm 12:6–7.

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.”

This image proudly uses the quote from Ecclesiastes 8:4 and references Psalm 12:6–7, both of which are misused in defense of the KJV Only position. (Image from Now the End Begins website)

Even if these verses are referring to God preserving His word, where does it say that He would do this only in an English Bible translated 2600 years after this psalm was written by David? It doesn’t, so this passage does not answer the question because it says nothing about the King James Bible. Also, if the KJO interpretation is correct, then wouldn’t this also mean that God was lying since He apparently did not preserve His word from sometime soon after the New Testament was composed until the KJV was translated?

But there is a bigger problem with this response. Not only does it say nothing about the King James, the preservation referred to here is almost certainly not about the Lord’s words, even though that’s how it appears in English. The problem is that English doesn’t have gender for words as do many other languages, like Hebrew. When the text states that God will preserve “them” it uses a masculine pronoun, so it refers back to a masculine noun. The “words” that are “pure words” in verse 6 are feminine in Hebrew, so “them” does not refer to the Lord’s words. Instead, “them” refers back to verse 5: “‘For the oppression of the poor (masculine), for the sighing of the needy (masculine), now I will arise,” says the Lord; ‘I will set him in the safety for which he (masculine, obviously) yearns.’”

So these verses are not even about God preserving His words, even though I believe He has done that, but not on the basis of this verse. Instead, they are about God preserving the poor and needy mentioned by David from their oppressors.

The Word of the King Is Powerful

Another response from KJOs to this question is to cite Ecclesiastes 8:4, which states, “Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’”

It should be rather obvious that this verse has nothing to do with the alleged superiority of the King James Version over other translations. The writer is simply saying that that a citizen should obey his king. Verse 2 states, “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God.” And verse 5 states, “He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful…” To employ this verse in defense of the KJO position is to abuse and twist Scripture by yanking a verse so far out of its context to make it mean something that no one would ever see without KJO-colored glasses. Besides, if another king commissioned the translation of the Bible, would we then need to view that one as the “Authorized Version”? King Henry VIII authorized the Great Bible (1539) by Myles Coverdale. If we use Ecclesiastes 8:4 as some KJOs do, then perhaps the Great Bible should be viewed as the Authorized Version.

Summary

So the answer to the first question is that the Bible never tells us that God would provide the world with an infallible English Bible, let alone a particular version published in 1611. So those who hold this position must base their arguments on something outside of Scripture. Most of the time, it comes down to one’s preference or what they’ve been taught. Essentially, KJOs have put their opinion or preference about Scripture on the same level as Scripture. But there is another approach—KJOs will claim that all the newer Bibles have errors in them, so we need to stick with the King James. This leads naturally to the next three questions:

– Is it a sin to use a Bible that has mistakes?
– Why is the King James Version missing verses or parts of verses?
– Why does the King James Version add verses or parts of verses?

The first of these two questions listed above are addressed here: Five Questions: Part Two.
The third question and an additional question are addressed here: Five Questions: Part Three.

I understand that this topic can be quite sensitive and I will do my best to be kind in my questioning and explanations. If you plan to reply to this series of posts, please be sure to read all three posts and keep it civil. Thanks for reading!