Biblical or Cultic?

There are many today, often very sincere and well-meaning, who are seeking to promote a “double inspiration theory.” They teach that not only were the original manuscripts inspired by God, but also that the King James Bible translation has been miraculously preserved and translated with the result that it is absolutely perfect and flawless.

This view is stated clearly by one of its defenders: “We believe that the same God who gave the original Scriptures has the power and authority to PRESERVE them through the years of time and give them to us in our language—infallible and without possibility of error. … We believe that Almighty God through the power of the Holy Spirit has INSPIRED and PRESERVED (emphasis his) one and only one translation and version in the English language as the infallible and inerrant Holy Scriptures. That version is the King James Authorized Version of 1611” (written by Mark A. Underwood, president and founder of THE KING JAMES BIBLE MINISTRY, a ministry which was founded “for the purpose of promoting and defending the KJV of 1611 as the infallible and inspired Holy Scriptures”; the above quotations are from Underwood’s brochure in which he tells about his ministry and presents his statement of faith).

I, also, am “King James Only” in the sense that I use only the King James Bible in my reading and study of the Word. I love and honor and respect this translation of the Bible, and recognize that it has been greatly used of God since its first edition in 1611. I also recognize that there are serious problems involving the multitude of modern translations that are on the market today and that these problems must be faced and dealt with. But it is my position, and the historic position of Bible believers, that it is only the original manuscripts (autographs) which have been given by inspiration of God and that no translation, not even the revered KJV, is absolutely flawless and perfect. A translation is accurate only to the extent that it faithfully gives an accurate rendering of the original text. I am thankful that in general the KJV does this and does it very well. (Adapted from a 5/9/98 pastor’s e-mail.)

One can certainly appreciate the point that many modern translations are suspect because of the heterodoxy of the translators. Still, insisting on retreat to a less than perfect translation of 1611, as all translations must be (and in fact usually using a 1769 tenth edition of that translation, which alleviates some of the earlier nine editions’ imperfections), is still retreat, not an advance for the Kingdom of God. We can continue to appreciate and use “the KJV (tenth edition)” without making it into an idol that is as detestable to God as any other idol.

Background Information

The Old Testament (OT) was almost all originally written in Hebrew with a few portions in Aramaic. The New Testament (NT) was written in Greek. The OT: Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found (1947-1956), the earliest hand copied manuscript of the Hebrew OT was dated about A.D. 900. The Dead Sea Scrolls provided manuscripts that were copied from 100 B.C. - A.D. 200. These manuscripts were about 1,000 years older than any previously known copies of Hebrew OT texts. The remarkable thing was that a comparison proved the amazing similarity of the texts. The only variation involved what scholars termed “incidental matters.” Today, there is little debate over the OT text.

The NT: There are three major sources to examine to try and determine the actual text of the original writings of the Greek New Testament. They are the Greek Manuscripts (about 5,300), the versions which are earlier translations (about 8,000) and Bible quotations in the writings of the early church fathers.

Greek manuscripts have two primary text-type families. The debate over the preferred (or non-corrupted, if you are KJV-Only) text centers around the Byzantine and the Alexandrian text-types. The Byzantine text-type was the Greek text used during the Byzantine period (A.D. 312-1453). The King James translation was based on a few (about 6) of these manuscripts. Those few manuscripts became the basis for what became known as the TEXTUS RECEPTUS or THE RECEIVED TEXT as presented in the KJV. The manuscripts that the KJV were based on were late, with none earlier than the 10th century (cf. THE KING JAMES VERSION DEBATE by D.A. Carson, pp. 35-36). The earliest Byzantine texts are from the 4th century. The Alexandrian text-type has fewer manuscripts but they are older. They were discovered after the translation of the KJV. Modern translations are based primarily on these older manuscripts.

Facts of the Matter

1. Of over 5,000 copies of the NT available (of which no two are identical), only 50 are complete NTs, of which the Textus Receptus is only one.

2. The Textus Receptus (TR) is NOT the NT the KJV translators used (for the 1611 KJV translation)—they used the Stephens of 1550. The TR did not even exist until after 1624. The TR was a combination of the Stephens and Beza texts. There are 200-300 variations between the Stephens text used by the KJV translators and the TR.

3. Other translations were used by the KJV translators is producing the 1611 edition—2.9% of the KJV is word-for-word from the 1525 Tyndale Bible. Overall, 61% of the KJV was taken from other available translations, including the Geneva Bible (see preface to the 1611 KJV).

4. The KJV used today is NOT the 1611 version, but the 10th edition! (which occurred about 150 years after 1611). Moreover, the KJV of 1611 included the Roman Catholic Apocrypha (also called “Deuterocanonical books”)! How could these “God-guided” translators (as KJV-Onlyites like to refer to them) have made such a grievous error? [The Apocrypha began to be omitted in approximately 1769, and the most common printings of the modern day rarely include them (except that all Roman Catholic Bibles still do). However the British coronation service requires, or required, an “unmutilated” edition.]

5. Modern translations of the Bible as a standard practice include textual notes to indicate to the reader where the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts contain variants. KJV-Only advocates, generally, dislike such footnotes, feeling that they can “confuse” the reader, and that they are, in fact, faith-destroying. However, the KJV contained 8,422 such marginal readings and notes when it was first published.

6. The translators of the 1611 edition, in the preface, stated the need for constant revision to update the language. Yet KJV-Onlyism people criticize the modern translations for doing this very thing. If the KJV is the “authorized” Bible, then KJV-Onlyites should have a real problem with what the translators themselves said.

7. A KJV-Only advocate, Texe Marrs, wrote the following letter on July 28, 1994, in response to receiving twenty-eight pages of documentation demonstrating the errors and misrepresentations in Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions: “Don’t write me again unless in sincere repentance. You are a devil, plain & simple. I understand well why Mrs. Riplinger does not respond to your ridiculous assertions. Why dignify the lying claims of a servant of Satan!” Is this the kind of “godliness” and “humility” we can expect from KJV-Only defenders?

8. It’s unfortunate that King James name is even on the KJV—he was an unsavory character. 

Questions for KJV-Onlyism Advocates
To those who believe that the King James translation has been flawlessly preserved and miraculously inspired, we would ask the following questions (for more questions):

1. Which revision of the KJV is inspired and/or preserved, since it was revised ten times, the last being in 1850? 

2. What Bible did God have for the English-speaking world prior to 1611? Was it also a perfect translation? If God was under obligation to make the King James Version perfect, then why would He leave English-speaking people for 1600 years without a translation they could rely on? 

3. Where in the Bible does God guarantee that any translator of the Bible, anyone who copies the Bible, anyone who preached the Bible, or anyone who teaches the Bible, will be infallibly correct? [There is no such Scripture. The doctrine of infallibility of the translation in the King James is not a Bible doctrine; it is a manmade scheme by some partly ignorant and some partly influenced by bad motives.]

4. The KJV translators translated the Apocrypha and included these books in the original 1611 edition. If the KJV translation was inspired, does this mean that the Apocrypha is inspired by God also? And if so, why was the Apocrypha removed from later editions? 

5. If God gave the English-speaking world an inspired translation, did He also give an inspired translation in the other languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc.)? If so, where is it? If not, why not? [If God has obligated Himself, as some fanatics say, to make one translation in English, that is, the King James Version, perfectly translated without error, then would not God be obligated to furnish such a translation in every other language also? What are those translations?] 

6. Why did the KJV translators use marginal notes showing alternate translation possibilities and showing variant manuscript readings?

7. If the KJV translators were inspired of God in their work, why did they not know this and why did they not mention this in their introduction, “The Translators to the Reader”? Instead, why did they humbly acknowledge their own shortcomings and imperfections as Bible translators? If the KJV was perfect, why did the translators expect that others would one day make their 1611 Bible into an even better one?

8. When there is a difference between the Textus Receptus (the “Received Text”) and the KJV translation, why do you favor the KJV and reject the Textus Receptus?

9. When there is a difference between the Majority Text and the KJV translation, why do you favor the KJV and reject the Majority Text?

10. Did our Pilgrim fathers have the wrong Bible with them when they brought the Geneva Bible with them to North America?

11. If the KJV differs or varies from the original Greek text, should we correct the English by making it agree with the Greek or should we correct the Greek by making it agree with the English?

12. When was the KJV “given by inspiration by God”? In 1611 or in one of the years when major/minor revisions took place?—in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1644, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, or 1850?

13. Was the original Greek lost after 1611? If not, where are we to find it? It cannot be the Textus Receptus, because there are many places where the KJV differs from the Textus Receptus. It cannot be the Majority Text because there are many places where the KJV differs from the Majority Text.

14. Where does the Bible teach that God will perfectly preserve His Word in the form of one and only one seventeenth-century English translation?

15. Should we condemn Tyndale’s translation (1525), Coverdale’s translation (1535), the Great Bible (1539), or the Geneva Bible (1560—the Bible of the Pilgrims), because these English Bibles varied slightly from the KJV? And if so, why did the “inspired” translators use these translations in their own readings?

16. If the KJV can “correct” the inspired originals, does this mean that the Hebrew and Greek originally “breathed out by God” was in need of correction and improvement? How can the inspired, infallible originals need correcting or improving?

17. Why did the Lord Jesus and the Apostles make use of and quote from the Septuagint translation (ancient Greek translation of the OT), even though the Septuagint differed from the original Hebrew in places and was certainly not a perfect translation?

18. Since no two manuscripts of the Greek New Testament have been found to be exactly alike, which manuscript is it that has been perfectly preserved and perfectly reflects the original?

19. F.H.A. Scrivener published a Greek New Testament that was made to reflect what the KJV says. The 1976 Trinitarian Bible Society Greek New Testament followed the text of Scrivener and claimed to be the Greek text behind the KJV. Why is it that the KJV differs from these two Greek editions in certain places? [For example, in Acts 19:20, where the Greek editions have “Lord” but the KJV has “God.”]

20. King James Only advocates frequently refer to the “Textus Receptus” (TR, Text Received) and the work of the Roman Catholic monk Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536) as the only correct Greek text of the New Testament. Were the compilers of the Textus Receptus (Erasmus, Stephanus, etc.) inspired by God in their work and miraculously kept from error? But Erasmus revised the Greek text four times (and the KJV translators did not use his last edition). Which is the correct, inspired text?

21. For 150 years Wycliffe’s translation was the only complete English translation in use. He completed his translation about 1382. It was not translated from the original languages but from the Latin Vulgate. Wycliffe’s translation varied from the KJV in many places. Should Wycliffe’s Bible be condemned or did it serve a good purpose? Was it helpful or hurtful?

22. Luther translated the Greek New Testament into the German language. Was his translation a perfect translation? Was it blessed of God and useful to the German people? Was it of the devil or of God?

23. Was Tyndale’s Bible a good translation? Was Tyndale guided by God any less than the KJV translators? It has been estimated that one-third of the King James Version is worded as Tyndale had it, and that even in the remaining two-thirds, the general literary structure set by Tyndale has been retained. Some scholars have said that ninety per cent of Tyndale is reproduced in the King James Version of the New Testament. Thus, the KJV translators were greatly indebted to Tyndale and yet they recognized that even his work was in need of revision and correcting. Did they not also recognize that their work might also be improved upon?

24. The Geneva Bible was the translation used by Shakespeare, John Bunyan, the Puritans in England, and Oliver Cromwell, as well as the Pilgrim fathers. It was the Bible that was brought to America on the Mayflower. Even the address from “The Translators to the Reader,” which is prefaced to the Authorized Version of 1611, took its quotations of the Scripture from the Geneva Bible. Was this Bible a corrupted Bible? Was it used of God? Was it hurtful or helpful to the cause of Christ? Did it make people wise unto salvation? Was it used effectively in building up God’s people in the most holy faith?

25. If God guided the KJV translators to translate a perfect Bible, did He also guide them to translate an imperfect and uninspired Apocrypha? Were the Old and New Testaments translated in the Spirit and the Apocrypha translated in the flesh? 

26. Why were italics employed by the KJV translators in 1 John 2:23? [The italics were not employed, as usual, to mark a supplement, but to show that the words were regarded as suspicious. Stephanus excluded the clause but had a reference to it in the margin; Beza admits it without hesitation]. Do the italics indicate that the KJV translators were uncertain as to whether or not this clause was part of the original text?

27. Why were there 35 textual notes given in the margin of the King James Bible? [Examples: Matthew 26:26—“Many Greek copies have…” Luke 10:22—“Many ancient copies add these words…” Luke 17:36—“This verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies” Acts 25:6—“Or as some copies read, no more than eight or ten days.”

28. Was the KJV correct in following the Latin Vulgate in Revelation 22:19 (“book of life”), even though most Greek manuscripts have “tree of life”? Should the Latin be preferred over the Greek?

29. The Greek text underlying the King James Version agrees in 81 places with Beza’s Greek edition against Stephen’s Greek edition, and it agrees in about 21 places with Stephen’s Greek edition against Beza’s Greek edition, and in 29 places they agree with neither. In light of this, which Greek edition can we say has been divinely and perfectly preserved?

30. Blayney’s edition of the KJV (1769) became the standard form of the version and is unto this day, but his edition differs from the 1611 edition in about 75,000 minor details. Which edition of the KJV (Blayney’s or the original) is the perfect, flawless Bible? If the original 1611 Bible that the KJV translators produced was perfect, does this mean that our present KJV edition (based on Blayney’s edition) is flawed in about 75,000 details?

In Their Own Words

As cited earlier in this report, the King James translators did NOT think they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to produce an infallible translation which was to be the only English Bible that God would ever use to preserve His Word.

In fact, in the preface to the 1611 version (the Preface and the Apocrypha which they translated have both been omitted from most copies of the KJV today), they clearly disclaim that their translation was the only Word of God. There were already several English translations in existence and being used in England, America, and other countries. Some of these were Wycliffe (1380), Tyndale (1525-30), Coverdale (1535), Matthew’s Bible (1537), Great Bible (1540), Geneva Bible (1560), and Bishop’s Bible (1568).

In the preface titled, “The Translators to The Reader,” was written:

“... We do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [most common, lowest quality] translation of the Bible in English … containeth the Word of God, nay, is the Word of God. … We are so far off from condemning any of their labors that prevailed before us [previous translators of previous versions] in this kind, either in this land or beyond sea … that we acknowledge them to have been raised up of God, for the building and furnishing of his Church, and that they deserve to be had of us and of posterity in everlasting remembrance. … Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one … but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principle good one …”

The 1611 original had numerous margin notes that offer different possible translations of words and phrases. The translators wrote in the preface:

“Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, less the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point. … It hath pleased God in his divine providence, here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness. … Variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded. …We have not tied ourselves to a uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done. …Why should we be in bondage to them [words or syllables] if we may be free, use one precisely when we may use another no less fit, as commodiously? …We have … avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans.”


KJV-Onlyism runs the gambit from moderately reasonable advocates (David Cloud, E.L. Bynum, John R. Rice), to the wacked-out, stone throwers (D.A. Waite, Jack Hyles, Samuel Gipp, Walter Bebe, Texe Marrs, Peter Ruckman, Gail Riplinger, etc.). A couple of years ago, Gary Hudson launched a website devoted to exposing the errors of “King James Onlyism”—“The King James Only Resource Center.” Gary has a number of articles and reports posted. This site has become a “one stop” resource center for all questions related to “King James Onlyism.” 

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 12/2003