Thinking Out Loud

July 31, 2012

Refuting the King James Only Position

  1. The argument from the text itself — In both the translator’s preface to the 1611 King James, and in the alternative renderings the translators inserted liberally throughout, there is allusion to the quotation from Augustine which says, in essence, “There is much to be gained from a variety of translations.” The translators themselves did not have consensus on some passages, and recognized that other translators would follow their work.
  2. The argument from “paraphrase” — We often hear the term “paraphrase” used today in reference to The Message bible, but from a linguistic viewpoint there is no such word, all renderings of text for different audiences constitutes translation. (Furthermore, Peterson worked from original languages.) The Message was designed for a specific audience (American) and a specific time (late 20th Century) just as the KJV was designed for a specific audience (British) and a specific time (early 17th century) and nothing makes this more clear than the insertion of “God forbid!” in Romans 6:1.  As a Jew, Paul would never insert God’s name here. (Nor would he be likely to do this as a Christian.) The British colloquialism is unique to the KJV, no other translation follows it at this point. God’s name should not be found in that verse if the translation is accurate. They took great liberties — let’s say they paraphrased — that verse, and this is just one of hundreds of similar issues.
  3. The argument from soteriology — Strong proponents of the KJV-only position totally contravene Revelation 22, and actually add the KJV as a requirement for salvation, inasmuch as a person must be saved through the KJV.  In their view, you cannot come to Christ through any other translation; you must be saved through the King James Bible. So much for the two travelers on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus post-resurrection. Having your “eyes opened” is insufficient.
  4. The argument from foreign missions — Anyone who has spent anytime on the mission field; any American who has shared the gospel with their Latino friends; any Canadian who has witness to their French-speaking Quebec neighbors knows the total absurdity of the KJV-only position in a world context. Still, some extreme groups actually attempt to teach non-Anglophones enough Elizabethan English so that they can read the English Bible and thereby meet Christ.
  5. The argument from history — If the King James is the only acceptable version of the Bible, then what did people do before 1611 to obtain salvation? You’d be surprised at the way some KJV-only advocates work around this. Just as Old Testament people were saved in anticipation of Christ’s perfect sacrifice; so also were people saved through the coming of this one translation. Or something like that. You would think that the Bible was part of the Holy Trinity. Or quadrinity. The Catholics add Mary, why shouldn’t the King James crowd add the Bible? (See item 3.)
  6. The argument from scholarship — Here I refer not to the leading Protestant and Evangelical academics — none of whom give this subject more than a passing thought — but the so-called ‘scholarship’ of the KJV-only advocates themselves. Basically, the problem is that their ‘arguments’ are a house of cards stacked with flawed logic and false premises. Owing more to the spirit of ‘conspiracy theories’ than to anything more solid, their rhetoric is mostly attacks on other translations, particularly the NIV, a translation despised for its popularity and hence a very visible target.  One conspiracy involves the removing of the phrase “Lord Jesus Christ” — taken out in cases where it was a scribal ‘run on’ — but if that was the NIV’s intent, it actually missed the opportunity nearly two-thirds of the time. Despite this lack of scholarship, naive followers eat up their every words because people would rather believe the conspiracy than trust the sovereignty of God to sort out any translation issues.
  7. The argument from a ‘house divided‘ — Like the Creation Science community, the KJV-only crowd is divided; but it’s not a simple “old earth versus young earth” type of disagreement. Simply put, some 1789 KJVs are better than other 1789 KJVs. There are nuances of spelling that reflect the textual decisions of different publishers and just because you own a King James Version you may not have the right one. Dig deep enough and you find unsettling division.
  8. The argument from the ostrich mentality — If you read any KJV-only blogs or websites at source, you actually don’t see the phrase, King James Version. With blinders firmly in place, they argue that there is only one Bible and it is the King James Bible. (So what are all those editions in Barnes and Noble and Family Christian? Answer: They are blasphemous.) This is much like saying that New Zealand doesn’t really exist, or that September 11th never happened. If someone’s worldview is that narrow, it doesn’t bode well to trust their opinions on anything else; you’re only going to get denial and revisionism.

Paul Wilkinson


  1. Why do traditional christian churches always refer to all Israelites as Jews when the Jews were just 1 of 12 tribes of Israel?(or 13 after Joeseph’s 2 sons adopted)
    I found an amazing FREE book @ called “US & Britian in Prophecy” showed me why!!
    Would love to know what you think of it.

    Comment by Joan — August 1, 2012 @ 5:44 am

  2. I’m not criticizing this work; I think it’s excellent. This post has been clearly thought out and well presented. I am going to play devil’s advocate and ask one question: who is it for? (I wonder the same thing when I see the “Seeing Eyedogs Allowed” sign.) The KJV only people will never read it, and if they do it will be to find things wrong with it and label you a blasphemer. Those of us that read it and appreciate the scholarship and logic behind it… are not KJV only.

    I was brought up in KJV only churches. One particular pastor’s wife taught that “the Word of God is forever established in heaven” meant the King James Bible. There is a whole doctrine about how the KJV refers to itself, such as removing “one jot or tittIe.” I once suggested to my dad that Gideon Bibles sent to Mexico were in Spanish and therefore not King James. If I remember correctly his response was “Shut up.”

    Comment by Clark Bunch — August 1, 2012 @ 9:15 am

    • We have a friend who is dealing with this issue in his family circle. As I thought about the issue, some of these ideas occurred to me along with a different way of presenting them; but I decided to more or less toss it out there. That’s why there’s no introduction or concluding comments. It’s just there.

      As to the idea of it not being seen, past indication shows me that with the tags it was given, KJV people will show up now and then.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 1, 2012 @ 9:38 am

      • I sometimes engage atheists or attempt to referee the science vs. faith debate. When a devout atheist and I exchange comments, I know that his mind will not be changed. Hopefully, even while trying to win, he realizes mine will not be changed either. So why bother? I believe others are paying attention. I want all those on the sidelines who haven’t made up their mind yet to know that Christians are not just blind sheep, but that a lot of thought and scholarship goes into what we believe. I want college students to know that not all believers are hanging onto “the Bible says it and that settles it” as our only defense.

        For anyone struggling with committing to King James only, or on the threshold of abandoning said position, this is an excellent resource.

        Comment by Clark Bunch — August 1, 2012 @ 9:46 am

  3. Great points. I’ve heard it said from the pulpit that even looking into a non-KJ puts one in danger of hell. As this says – almost like adding to the Trinity.

    I love the KJV and use it all the time for my personal devotions, but I also use a number of others. I often quote the Amplified and I use a modern translation when talking with children and/or non-Christians.

    I find the KJV the easiest to memorise by a long way: maybe because it is more poetic, or at least different, as opposed to straight prose. I also find the KJV “stronger” as in “yield” against “present” – where yield implies complete surrender.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — August 1, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

  4. […] §Refuting the King James Only Position. This brief article summarizes some of the problems with the “King James Only” position. If you interact with folks from a church that holds such a position – and they are pushing it on you – you may find this article helpful. Find it at: […]

    Pingback by Why Attend Church? « Christian's Thoughts — August 3, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  5. I used to be a KJV only guy. Then, I came across the MacArthur NKJV Study Bible. Then I came across the ESV. Then I came across the NLT. I agree with meetingintheclouds…the KJV is the easiest for memorization. I agree that it’s probably the poetic prose/cadence of the verses that makes it easier to remember. But that doesn’t make it easier to understand. I guess I consider it this way: if someone believes any version other than the King James is a sin, then to them it’s a sin. But I read my other versions of the Bible to get to know Him better, so that I can better serve Him and honor Him. To me, it would be a sin to not read anything but the KJV. Enough said.

    Comment by Rich Wheeler — August 3, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

    • Your final sentence

      To me, it would be a sin to not read anything but the KJV.

      is one of the most refreshing ways of putting this I’ve seen. Thanks for your comment.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 3, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

  6. I can appreciate your views and see where you are coming from, however not all kjv only people hold to the above views and throwing them all into one basket prints a bad name on everyone who uses it. Being a kjv only person myself i wouldn’t say that i hold the kjv as the only acceptable means of salvation, it is believing and trusting in Christ for forgiveness of sins that brings salvation, not the bible; the bible is simply a tool to reveal the truth and show a person how to obtain salvation but by no means does it save them. I use the kjv because, as some have mentioned, it is easier to memorise, but i also like it because the old archaic words contain alot of truth that other words which have been simplified do not. The person who said that anyone who wonders outside of kjv only is in danger of hell needs to read their bible. I have friends who use niv’s and nkjv’s and they are saved, i wouldn’t recommend using them though simply for the reason i have above. I must say that bashing another version of the bible though doesnt sit well with me, i would never say to someone that their version is wrong and i would not give ‘evidence’ for it, let the Holy Spirit deal with people and their convictions. God will deal with them. Try edifying people instead of bringing them down. it doesnt help anyone, it just causes strife and contention. be glad they are reading a bible despite the translation. I appreciate your work, and i pray that God shows you the way forward. i do not label you a blasphemer, i avoid labelling anyone, in the end God is our judge and i will judge no one. I just thought as a kjv only i would give you my input, check out my blog sometime and see what you think, we arent all crazy!

    Comment by 2t224 — August 4, 2012 @ 7:36 am

    • James R. White in his book The King James Only Controversy suggests a gradient of five ‘levels’ of affection for the King James Bible. You are obviously in a ‘softer’ category where your use of the KJ is a matter of strong preference, but I wonder if preference is enough to really put yourself in an “only” camp.

      It’s interesting to note here that because I was raised with the KJV, and in one of my Bible software programs I still search some verses in KJV (even though it displays NIV) that I actually fall on the very end of White’s scale!

      Only in point #2 here do I directly consider the possibility of weakness in the KJV itself. This example, Romans 6:1, is one of many White uses in his book, but he saves them for a much later chapter in order to avoid the suggestion that he is simply ‘attacking back.’

      Still, the point remains that, as in all translations from Greek/Hebrew to English, there are deficiencies in the KJV itself; including confusion where people names are translated as though the text refers to place names (and vice versa) and examples where the KJV rendering actually means the opposite to how we use the same word today. (Not unlike the kids today who use ‘wicked’ as a sign of approval!)

      But mostly, White’s book is an attempt to refute the errant scholarship in the writing of people like Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger, which I summed up here as point #6.

      Thanks for writing. You are correct; not every KJV supporter fits the characterizations I listed.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 4, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  7. The “translator’s preference” [sic] isn’t the text of the Bible itself. God put his words into English without the translators necessarily being aware. Your opinion of what words should, or should not, be in the Bible are totally irrelevant – they prove nothing except that you disbelieve what God wrote and attempt to judge scriptures, when they judge you. And of course God chose Hebrew and Greek while ignoring Chinese and scores of other languages – it’s God prerogative to be exclusive. Your false assumption that the devil is not interested in corrupting the Bible is naive and grossly ignorant of the facts and history. You “arguments” are a sad reflection of your spiritual blindness and mental rot.

    Comment by MackQuigley — December 5, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    • I am spiritually blinded and mentally rotting. Really? And you know this for sure?

      And you think that people who engage in textual criticism are doing so because they are under conviction or trying to escape the responsibility of doing what the Bible says? Seriously? You believe that? Because I have NEVER encountered anyone in the course of the translation debate who is so engaged because they’re looking for an opt-out from the personal responsibility of living holy lives before god. NEVER!

      God is not willing that any should perish. It is his ‘prerogative’ that everyone comes to hear the good news of the gospel.

      Oh Lord, set these people free of this translation bondage.

      …But thanks for pointing out the spelling error; it’s been corrected.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 5, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  8. For a prominent example of a staunch King-James-Only advocate and promoter who, ironically, violates his own professed commitment to KJVO, see my article:

    “Vampires, Werewolves and Other Assorted Creatures: The Apocryphal Bestiary of Chick Publications,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, vol. 24, no. 2 (Summer 2012).

    Comment by Alan G Phillips Jr — October 1, 2015 @ 9:28 pm

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