Reprint from 2001: Somehow the original disappeared from this site, so we are correcting the matter with this update, skipping the first page and one-half and keeping the essential text.
Paul warns in the fourteenth chapter of Romans, not to strive in disputable matters. His purpose herein is not to discourage honest debate. On the contrary, God has given each of us a different spirit (we have the same Spirit, in the Holy Spirit, but each of us has a unique and individual spirit, or soul). We all see things differently and, as such, honest debate is healthy. Solomon tells us that we sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Pro 27:17). Peter admonishes us to be ready to give an answer, or an argument, for our faith (1Pe 3:15). What better way do we have to sharpen each other and prepare to give an answer to the world than by debating the Scriptures? (Or the versions, thereof).
Paul warns us, whatever we do, in regards to disputable matters, we must do it in faith, for whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23). The argument over versions, King James or otherwise is a disputable matter. If you are a KJO, you had better be firmly convicted and your conviction must not be from tradition or preaching but must be of faith. Then, if it is of faith, your position must be defendable (1Pe 3:15).
Some would argue that the King James Version is not a disputable matter but is a fundamental of the faith. How can this be? There is one criterion that separates a fundamental from a disputable issue; that standard is whether salvation hinges on that issue. Salvation does not hinge on one’s faith in the King James Version. Salvation centers on faith in Jesus Christ: Who is both God and man; Who was born of a virgin as prophesied in Scripture; Who died for our sins; Whose blood was the final sacrifice that satisfied, or fulfilled the ceremonial laws of the Scripture and once for all atoned for our sin; and Who arose from the dead the third day as the Scriptures declared to give us everlasting life. To receive this salvation we must have faith in the Son and repent of our sins. There is nothing else we can do: no work can save us and the strict adherence to the KJV will not save us.
After fundamentals come doctrines. Doctrines are policies, if you will, or beliefs that apply to our faith and our walk that we glean from the Scriptures. For example, atonement, justification, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, propitiation, judgment, salvation, sanctification, God’s holiness, God’s sovereignty, the Trinity, sin and mans’ fallen nature, prayer and intercession, salvation and eternal security, predestination, baptism, communion, et cetera, are all doctrinal issues. Doctrinal issues can be disputed and they are. That is why the Christian church has many divisions, or denominations.
After doctrines come disputable matters. These are matters that may be important to our walk or the defense of the faith but cannot be argued directly from Scripture. Paul brings up this matter in Romans chapter fourteen and First Corinthians chapter eight. One man may consider the issue important, even life and death, while another man is not bothered at all. In the two chapters we just mentioned, Paul puts forward the issue of eating meat, or food sacrificed to idols. Although he gave his opinion that the eating of meat was okay, whether sacrificed to idols or not, for it is only meat, he emphasized what he or others believed about these matters was not of primary importance. Three conditions are more important than our opinion, or belief, of a disputable issue. First) that we do not become proud and judge, or exclude, our brothers (Rom 14:1-3,13; 1Co 8:1-2); Second) that we do nothing that would cause our brother to stumble (Rom 14:13-16; 1Co 8:8), and; Third) whatever you do, be fully convinced between you and God. If it is not of faith; if you argue for dispute (or judging) or if you are doubtful, then it is sin (Rom 14:22-23).
We must defend the message of the Gospel (1Pe 3:15) and hold to true doctrine (1Ti 4:16; Tit 2:1). But when it comes to disputable matters, we cannot “judge someone else’s servant.” [Rom 14:4]. For all of us serve the Lord God and He knows those who are His. Whether our faith is weak or strong, God is able to make us stand (Rom 14:3-4; 1Co 8:3). Moreover, not one of us has yet attained a perfect knowledge and we can be assured we will all have to give an accounting of ourselves to Him (Rom 14:12, 1Co 8:2).
Or, as Paul presents this argument in Romans chapter fourteen, verses seven to thirteen: “We do not live to satisfy ourselves, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to Him. Dead or alive, we belong to the Lord! This is why Christ died and rose again, so He might be Lord of the living and the dead. So why judge your brother in petty matters? Or why look down on your brother because he doesn’t have the same view on all matters? We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. It is before Him that we will bow and each one will give an account of himself to God. So put an end to these petty judgments and make up your mind not to be a stumbling block to your brother.” [Dean Isaacson Version (if we need another one)].
What is important is not the version of Scripture we defend, but that we build up the brothers in the faith so we may all serve the Lord and be the city upon a hill that He desires we should be (Mat 5:14). Now, I know the argument this statement just raised, that if the Scripture relied upon is corrupted, so will be the walk of the believer. In that respect, please allow me to present a brief argument in defense of trustworthy translations, such as the NASB, ESV, NKJ and NIV (1973 and 1984).
[It should be noted the 2011 edition of the NIV cannot be trusted because they have revised the translation to satisfy the politically correct crowd.]
There are noteable scholars on both sides of the King James question and I have read many of them. Some authors resort to unfounded attacks and defamation to substantiate their positions and they distort historical facts. The worst distortions are from the KJO camp who want to paint all modern translations as some sort of satanic conspiracy. My friend, we must be careful not to be too quick to condemn any work we perceive to be less than perfect, as a work of the devil. For God works in many ways among the hearts of man and not everything is brought to completion the moment it is received. Too many in the fundamentalist camp are very quick to attribute small or imperfect works to Satan, when in reality, God uses imperfect men to accomplish His perfect work. Test the spirits to see if they are of God (1Jo 4:1-6). We will all stand before God to give an accounting; in this regard, I do not want to do anything that will hinder His work – especially by speaking evil of God’s word that I might view as less than perfect.
The fact of the matter is we do not possess the original text of any portion of the Scriptures. Even the Textus Receptus (TR), or Received Text (which is argued to be the foundation for the KJV) is a collection of many smaller manuscripts, of which none are the original Greek or Hebrew. The original Word of God is inerrant, but it is impossible to copy or translate without some human error. Whether the version is from TR or some other, they have all been copied, over and over, and handed down for translation and retranslation. Must the translation be “flawless” to be the true Word of God? That is the wonder of God’s Word: He protects it even with the human flaws. The test of versions is not whether a flaw can be found in a verse or a passage; but when studied in context and when viewed in the whole, will it stand the test of retaining the true Gospel message and upholding the doctrines of the faith.
No translation is inspired, in and of itself. Those who argue the KJV is inspired and is the only preserved Word, implicate the fathers of the Reformation on acting upon other than God’s Word. Luther translated the Scriptures into German over one hundred years before the KJV. His version and the KJV disagree in many places. Does this make Luther apostate? Did the Pilgrims not have the true Word of God in the Geneva Bible? How about Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Knox and others? Did these giants of the faith possess an apostate Scripture? Were they not lead by God? It seems many KJO brothers so worship the King James that even if a modern translation were derived strictly from the TR which they hold to, they would still reject it because it is not King James and thus, not inspired.
When Bibles are translated into other languages, do we use the original language of Scripture as the guide, or the King James text? Do we research the language and translate it into the vernacular of four hundred years previous? What if the translators don’t fully understand the language (or the culture) they are interpreting; do we attack their work as satanic if it is flawed or found at odds with the KJV? Surely, we do the best work we can and leave the results to God. Certainly, the purpose for translating the Scriptures is to bring the Word of God to the people, in their language, rather than force them to develop an appreciation of the King James language.
The King James is referred to as the “Authorized Version,” as if that is credible evidence in itself. Many who hold this position do not realize this “authority” was from King James, not from God. This was the only version the king allowed and he authorized the translation in hopes of establishing a single source of Scripture (“authorized”) for the Church of England, thus eradicating the power of the Roman Catholic Church in his land. The results of the official Bible would be two-fold: first, to undo or overcome the previous works of the Reformation fathers and the Geneva Bible. By incorporating the multitude of translations into one recognized version, he would bring unity and authority to the official Church of England. The second intended result would be that he, the King of England, would be established as the first Pope of the Church of England as a reward for his “work.” James firmly believed that he not only had divine rights as the king within the political realm, but that he, as the divinely appointed king, was the head of the church and he wanted to make that position official.
He was unable to bring about the unity he hoped for and was not able to convince the church fathers to install him as pope. One thing history records is that his persecution of the protestants outside the official church was so severe the Pilgrims were forced to flee to the New World (America), with their Geneva Bibles. The Puritans stayed on in England for a time, hoping to influence the official church in the ways of the reformers. But, alas, under James’ son Charles, they too were forced to flee to America, with their King James Bibles.
The NIV seems to be the target of choice for the KJO crowd. We don’t have space to examine all the translational errors of the NIV and KJV, nor would it serve any good purpose. Many scholars, more learned than I, have published exhaustive studies. But, for the sake of a foundation for this defense, I will examine a few of the arguments on both sides. Through the years, I have read many reports claiming over five thousand errors in the NIV. One day, I obtained a copy of these “errors” and began an investigation. After the first hundred, it appeared the errors were so petty, I did not think it a good use of time to examine all five thousand. However, since that time I have read the work of those who have and they conclude most of the “errors” were not translated properly in the KJV either, because they are the type of flaws that result from translating one language to another.
There are some portions of Scripture relegated to the footnotes of the NIV. I don’t like it either but in defense of the translators, what they have done is true to the manuscripts from which they translated – and these manuscripts date earlier than those used for the translation of the KJV. That they would maintain the inclusion of controversial text by placing it in the footnotes (at least) is a plus. However, for the KJO to use this as “proof” of a conspiracy to change doctrine is far fetched. For often, as in the Gospels, when a verse, or portion of a verse, is relegated to the footnotes in one text, that same Scripture is intact within another book. For example the text, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost,” is in the footnotes for Matthew 18:11 but it is retained in the text of Luke 19:10. If the translators were intent on changing the message, they were not very thorough about it.
Another attack leveled against the NIV is that it changes or perverts doctrine. One example is that the blood of Christ is left out of Col 1:14. However, the blood, within the same context, remains in the passage in verse twenty. It is unfounded that the NIV ignores, negates or minimizes the doctrine of the blood in either the Old or New Testaments.
We could go on with a multitude of charges on this scale. By splitting verses or passages one can “prove” corruption in the text. The fact of the matter is among the NIV, NAS and NKJ, there is no perversion or change of doctrine when examining the context of the passage and especially when examining the whole Scripture. If there was a conspiracy to change the doctrines, why were they not thorough in their work? It is not impossible – the authors of the Jehovah’s Witness Bible (New World Translation) proved it could be done.
Let us examine a few of the problems with the King James Version. It was already mentioned above that King James wanted to be the first pope of the Church of England. The Church of England was Protestant in doctrine but styled after the Church of Rome, holding to the vestments and sacraments. One of the customs of the Roman Church is the titling of saints. Following this tradition, the King James carries the titles of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke and Saint John for the introductory title to the Gospels and Revelation. However, neither the Greek nor the translations I listed grant this title to the apostles.
On the political level, three times the KJV mentions, “God save the king.” The TR and the NIV say may the king live long, or “long live the king.” [1Sa 10:24; 2Sa 16:16; 1Ki 1:25]. Even men of the cloth have, at times, been more fearful of the crown than of God and it is evident they bent the meaning to satisfy the “authorizer” of the translation.
Otto Scott wrote a book, “James I, The Fool As King” (Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA, 1976). In this book, using a bibliography of more than one hundred other works, he documents the life of King James and that he was a practicing bi-sexual (which is not the main subject of the book). To me, it is not significant, because the king did not do the work of the translation or editing. However, some KJO seem to think it is of great significance and for this reason they have revised history so that he appears next to sainthood; pure in his motives and worthy to translate the Scriptures. This is an affront to the truth and they condemn those who expose the truth. Mr. Scott, had no axe to grind. He was the author of many historical books and he was a Christian man who held firmly to the King James Version! I met Otto Scott through my friend, Justice William C Goodloe (deceased). We had many long conversations together on things Scriptural, historical and political. Knowing the integrity of the man and his vast knowledge, I trust his work.
The King James Version was not translated directly from the TR as many defenders claim. It borrowed from many existing works, including the Geneva Bible and the works of Tyndale, via the Bishop’s Bible, but largely it was a translation of the Latin Vulgate, the work of Jerome and the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. True, the TR was the foundation of these works, thus the influence is indirect but it is not direct. This is neither good or bad in my book, for the King James Bible is a good work – even though it is not perfect.
However, the defenders, while pointing to the errors and evil intent of the transcribers and handlers of other texts from which modern versions are derived, fail to acknowledge potential corruption of the TR. The compiler of the TR was a humanist, a defender of the Catholic Church and an enemy of the Protestant faith. His name was Erasmus. History accounts that he was in such a hurry to be the first to get his collected manuscript to market that, where various passages were missing, he filled them in, not by researching the texts, but translating backward from the Latin versions into the Greek (the New Testament texts were Greek). My friend, both his personal life and his methodologies left room for serious error that would eventually be the foundation of the KJV. Nonetheless, God, not by direct inspiration to the translators, but by His own Providence, preserved the work, not to the point of being flawless but maintaining His message and doctrine despite the flaws. May God be praised!
The King James Version has four differing New Testament interpretations of the Old Testament passage from Genesis 15:6 (Rom 4:3, 9, 22; Gal 3:6). The TR and the NIV, hold to the same interpretation and maintain the same wording all four times. Because the KJV changes the wording each time, one has to wonder which of the four KJV interpretations is inspired. Certainly, this is a petty item but it serves to illustrate that words were changed and in this case for no apparent reason. This is the work of man and is not illustrative of an especially inspired work. Another important reason for this argument is most the charges against the NIV do not rise above this level.
Aside from the KJV referring to the Holy Spirit as an “it,” my biggest problem with the KJV is the legitimizing of a pagan holiday, without which, we would probably now celebrate Resurrection Day rather than Easter. The King James refers to the Easter holiday in Acts 12:4, while the NIV, NAS, NKJ and the TR use the word “Passover.” Maybe, this too, is a minor error; however, if the KJV had not referred to the Passover season as Easter, the church would not likely have adopted the name of the pagan holiday (that was named after a pagan god) for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
When the KJV differs from the TR (about 300 times), which is right? If they differ, it is reasonable to assume that one is more flawed or less accurate than the other. The KJV has had four major revisions and many minor ones, incorporating over one hundred thousand changes in punctuation, words and grammatical structure. Certainly, it is preposterous to assert that all these changes were inspired. Moreover, if the changes were necessary, it is implicit that the original was not inspired. For, if God inspired a translation, it would not need correcting. Even now there are several versions of the KJV on the market, each one labeled as the Authorized Version. If you hold to the position that the KJV is now inspired, which version of the King James is the “flawless” one? My point is the Scriptures are inspired but the translations are the work of man and subject to flaws. In most translations, these flaws are not fatal and the true meaning is easily discerned through the study of the Scriptures.
The original 1611 version of the King James included the apocrypha. It has since been removed from Protestant versions. If the translation of the Scriptures in 1611 was inspired, it is implicit that the apocrypha was inspired as well. But the Protestant church holds the apocrypha is not Scripture!
The original 1611 King James Version of the Bible had over eight thousand margin notes suggesting alternate translations for various words and passages. The fact that the translators had doubts, difficulties or reservation about the translations of words and passages, suggests the version is not inspired or flawless. Yet, it is no less the Word of God.
Along this same line, the King James Version contains many words in italics. These are the substitutions or descriptions for words and phrases that are not easily translated from one language to another. Who chose these words but mere men? Not apostles or prophets to whom God spoke directly but scribes and teachers who come before God in the same manner as you and I. (Bear in mind, that in every version, even the KJV, some of the translators and editors were not saved men!). They used the best wisdom they possessed to insert the best word possible. If these words were inspired, they would not need to be italicized!
The fact that the New Testament does not quote the Old Testament passages exactly demonstrates that if these are not flaws, there were changes in the copy of the text between the time of the writing of the Old and New Testaments; or there were difficulties translating from the Hebrew to the Greek to the English. If the translation could not be perfectly rendered from Testament to Testament, yet we know God preserves His perfect Word, why can’t we trust God, even now, to preserve His Word and perfect the saints, using modern translations?
I stumbled along something of this nature the other day in my study of Hebrews. In chapter one, verse six, Paul quotes a portion of Deuteronomy 32:43. Speaking of the advent of the Messiah, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” (There is only one other passage in Scripture that is close to this; Psa 97:7, “… worship Him all you gods.” However, this passage refers to the second advent, or in the least, refers to Christ after the resurrection). What is interesting is this portion of the verse in Deuteronomy is not in the KJV because it was left out of the TR and that chain of translations. It is not within the text of the NIV either but there is a footnote that explains the phrase is found in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls (God bless those footnotes!). You may refute whether this phrase is Scripture, or added text but the fact of the matter is the Book of Hebrews (even the King James) quotes this portion of a verse that does not exist in the KJV. (And if the Masoretic and Septuagint were good enough for Paul, they’re good enough for me!).
Both sides of the King James controversy can argue their points till the cows come home or, if you will, until Christ returns. Do you think He wants us to be doing this when He arrives, defending (or attacking) the works of the King James scribes? Christ told us the fields are ready to harvest (Mat 9:37; Luk 10:2; Joh 4:35). Paul said he became all things to all people, in order to win some (1Co 9:22). I changed from the KJV to the modern, trustworthy translations while working with street kids and later found it useful in the political arena. It was useful because it is the Bible in the language of the people I was addressing (not confusing this argument as a defense for translations that use hip, slang and vulgar language). The Bible must not be unreachable; it must be understandable.
God is the protector of His Word. I have known people who have been saved because they were reached with the weakest of Scripture translations. Allow God to mature them in the faith; to bring His work into completion (Php 1:6; Heb 13:20-21). Even to bring them out of flawed translations, if that is His desire. You do not have anything special in the KJV; what you have special is the Holy Spirit. You could not know what you read, whether modern or KJV, unless the Holy Spirit revealed it to you. So don’t be arrogant and don’t deprive a brother from Scriptures he can understand.
At this point, some KJO will argue that we can judge the translation by the fruit of the reader. This is an absurd point, for we test the written word by the Gospel and the doctrines. We judge the believer by their fruit. There are giants of the faith on both sides of the King James controversy; just as their are fallen examples on both sides of the issue. What better example to use than the greatest and loudest expounder of the King James Only dispute, Dr. Peter Ruckman. He has rallied a generation of believers into a near-frenzy to do nothing more than protect the KJO arguments. He has distorted facts and history to prove his point and create crisis. He has enlisted an army of reactionary Christians. It gives me no pleasure to speak ill of a minister of God (or so perceived) but if you would contend with me whether his work is trustworthy, all I need argue is that the man has been married multiple times. This fact, demonstrates his ability to deceive and be deceived. This fact also demonstrates bad fruit. Had this credential been set upon a man of the NIV, it would have been evidence enough among the KJO to reject his work and his teaching altogether. But they don’t reject Ruckman’s teaching because he is one of the few of his stature arguing “the faith” and rallying the troops. Something is wrong with this picture!
My intent is not to change the mind of anyone who enjoys the King James Version. You do as the Lord has convicted you. Please understand this: even though God does not change the terms of His offer of salvation from man to man, yet He convicts men differently and we test our convictions by His Word. Just as our spirits are different, we see things differently; that is why we are not all feet, some are thumbs. And God uses the talents He gives us, and the convictions He places upon us, for His purposes, including the reaching of the lost. Where one man’s convictions may lead him to testify in a certain way or by certain means (the message is not changed), another man’s testimony, or means, might reach someone the other won’t and visa versa. We do not know the mind of God nor why He would convict one man one way and another man differently.
Remember, Paul rejoiced the Gospel was going forward, even though some were preaching with bad, or false, motives (Php 1:15-18). He did not categorize these practitioners as “satanic,” he recognized the hand and work of God. Harvesting souls is cause for rejoicing, vilifying the laborers is not; neither is convicting weak Christians to use a translation they cannot understand. Rather than beat each other on the head with our versions let us do the work of the Lord, together.