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.
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.
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.