Beware of King James Only Extremism

There are many divisive topics in churches but one that keeps coming back is the “King James Only” or “KJVO” Bible version debate. To me, the problem stems around going to extremes that the Bible does not itself go to. KJVO proponents will go so far as to say that the King James 1611 Bible is a perfect preservation of the original Hebrew and Greek texts into English. Along those lines people may say that a person cannot be saved out of any other translation. So they say the KJV, not the original is the new standard. Some may even say that the KJV is to be used now for translations into other languages, not the originals. Recently I have heard some saying that to say the KJV is not perfect is to deny the infallibility of the Word of God itself. Does the Word of God itself promise a perfect preservation of the Bible into English?

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says itself about the preservation of the written Word itself.

Isaiah 40:8 – The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Nothing here is tied to an English or other translation of the written word. But God’s truth stands. What He has said lasts forever.

Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

God’s words are not constrained by time as neither is He. His words endure whether spoken or written.

Psalms 119:89 – LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

God’s truth is established. It is not earthly.

Psalms 12:6-7 – The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  

I have seen that these are common go to verses for KJVO support but the context of the passage really is not about the written Word or translations. It is a contrast to the ungodly. It is necessary to know the whole context of the passage and not pull out “proof” texts that sound differently when standing alone.

Psa 12:1  To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. 

Psa 12:2  They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. 

Psa 12:3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: 

Psa 12:4  Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? 

Psa 12:5  For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. 

Psa 12:6  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (This is in contrast to those that “puff” at the faithful. God’s words instead are pure.)

Psa 12:7  Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. 

(“Keep them” refers to the faithful. Look back at verse 5 relating to the safety the Lord will provide. The “faithful” is what this passage is talking about. KJVO advocates often say “Keep them” is referring to the words that God spoke and that were written. And they extrapolate that therefore the KJV is the preserved pure Word of God and that it is also as perfect as the originals. That strikes me as a lot to assume simply based on a verse taken out of the passage that has a different context.)

Psa 12:8  The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. 

Again, this passage is about the faithful being surrounded on every side by the wicked and God providing them safety even in their mist. His words are pure whereas the wicked speak words of impurity. Using this for Bible translation arguments is a gross feat of eisegesis. From Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines eisegesis as: “the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas.” That process has to take place for someone to come up with the notion that fallible men that are not inspired can make a perfect translation from Greek and Hebrew into 1611 English.

Matthew 5:18 – For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

This one is used often as well by KJVO advocates. But it has nothing to do with Bible translations. What it says is true. God’s plan will be carried out.

Nowhere in any of these verses is it promised that God’s written Word will be made available to all people in all languages. The “law” is not the same as “God’s complete written word.” Basically, what God says stands.

The KJVO advocate has to reach to a verse such as Psalm 33:11 which says, “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” They will reason then that God’s written word will have to be perfectly preserved into all languages for all generations to come. But the application of this is that the counsel of the Lord is applicable to all. It is forever established and profitable. This compares well to other verses already mentioned.

As seen, there is not a lot to really hang a KJVO hat on. There certainly is not enough actual Bible references to declare with any scripture backed authority that the KJV is as perfect as the original texts. Beyond that, there is no reason for people to insinuate that those who realize the KJV isn’t perfect are saying the Word in it original languages isn’t infallible.

Here are some issues with the KJV. They are not at all reasons to avoid using it but rather reasons to see that it is simply a very good attempt by men to translate the Bible. The KJV uses archaic words. It uses words like “unicorn” and “satyr”. It uses words that are not in use today. It likely misinterprets some words such as “Easter”. The directive behind it made it clear that is was a revision of several already existing English translations none of which were exactly perfect either. I believe the KJV is a good product but it is not the only decent translation. If the KJV were perfect as a translation then there could not even be one mistake. Notice that Jeremiah 49:1 in the 1611 says: “why then doth their king inhereit God.” But the KJV revision later corrects it by saying “why then doth their king inherit Gad.” There is a big difference. The former doesn’t even make sense. And as is the nature of translating work, it can be perfected more and more over time. KJV 1611 readers should be able to understand this as the 1611 KJV was an attempted improvement over the earlier Bishop’s and Tyndale translations. Even the KJV translators themselves didn’t claim they had achieved perfection. Their preface to the reader made it clear that they understood the progression of work on making better translations.

The problem is that people simply are not often diligent enough to study and compare scripture with scripture. In doing so, it is often helpful to look up original tenses and word meanings. There is no perfect way to make complex languages like Hebrew and Greek transition into English. The English language doesn’t have the same complexity or even the full range of words for direct perfect translation. Sometimes the translators used a word that was somewhat close to the root word meaning such as “repentance” from the the root “metanoia.” This doesn’t mean that one has to fret that they cannot trust the KJV etc. but they do need to know that it is wise to let clear passages clarify unclear passages and to take a look at the meanings of words especially when English didn’t have an exact equivalent. The worst thing one can do is eisegesis and make it out as if the Word is saying something it isn’t saying. Being diligent in study is a good way to go toward not letting any translation fool you into something God didn’t say. For example, if anything contradicts the clear truth of the gospel or makes it confusing then look a little longer at other comparable passages, the extended contexts, and word meanings. Don’t lean on the wisdom of men but rather allow the scriptures to speak. You don’t have to become proficient in Greek and Hebrew but you do need to take care to be disciplined to look at the whole picture.

With all that said, I personally still prefer the KJV. I have memorized verses from it and it has a good flow to it. There is a benefit to the difference between words like “thee” and “ye” etc. When studying though it isn’t that I couldn’t once in a while look at other English translations. Remember, you never base whole teachings or doctrines on one word here or there. Scripture needs to agree with itself for doctrinal matters.

The bottom line is that we can be thankful we have not only God’s word but we even have translations into English that make it much more accessible and easier to understand for those of us that don’t read and write in Greek and Hebrew. Don’t let people shame you into thinking you are an enemy of God’s Word if you do not agree that the KJV is perfect in and of itself. Don’t put God’s stamp of perfection on the best efforts of men. Rather let God’s perfection stand as it will anyway for all time. That is what we are to stand on.

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12 Responses to Beware of King James Only Extremism

  1. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks DJ, welcome.

    I sparingly with at times refer to the nkjv just to see more modern english especially when there is archaic language. That or I look up the definition which gives me a more modern description anyway.

    I do like that the KJV is not copyrighted.

  2. DJ says:

    It is good to meet more “KJV preferred” folks here! I too, have no illusions about its shortcomings, including mistranslations and the underlying TR text. Also, I do admit that I find the archaic English difficult to read.

    However, I have yet to find a translation that offers the same level of doctrinal purity, and word-for-word literalness. I have tried to get myself into the NLT and just can’t do it. It destroys the word “repent” just about every time it appears, rendering it “repent of your sins and turn to God.” I grew up on the NIV but it too, has some major whiffs (like Hebrews 6:1). And perhaps my favorite feature of the KJV is that it keeps “seed” in Genesis, thus matching the doctrine in Galatians. Not even the NASB does that.

    So I joke that I don’t use versions with New or Standard in their name. I’m curious to see where the Berean Literal Bible goes with the seed thing in Genesis, but so far it only has the New Testament…and there are no plans for a print version. Ugh.

    Lastly, from a practical standpoint, since the KJV is not under copyright in the US and doesn’t require royalties to a particular publisher, it tends to be much cheaper 🙂

  3. jimfloyd12 says:


    I agree. Inconsistencies show when arguments are more based on the opinions and speculations of men. The bottom line for me is that, even before they get to verse translation comparisons, there is no scripture that gives reason to their premise that there has to be a perfect English translation.

  4. chas says:

    There’s also the issue of leaving out ‘Christ’ and ‘Lord’ from some verses. For instance, it’s claimed that the NASB “dishonors” the Lord because it leaves out “Christ” in a few verses where the KJV includes it in the Lord’s name: “Jesus Christ”. Yet I never read any KJV advocate mention where the KJV omits “Christ” such as Matt. 16:21, where the NASB reads “Jesus Christ” and the KJV reads only “Jesus”. That’s only one example. There’s also 1st Cor. 6:11. KJVO arguments are riddled with inconsistencies.

  5. hollysgarcia says:

    Jim & Chas, yes, that troubles me too regarding attacking the motives. I can understand knowing the beliefs, could they have played a role, etc., but then we have to do that with every translation.

  6. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks Chas,

    I totally agree. Some will attack the motives and beliefs of those that worked on the Nestle-Aland text but yet ignore any issues or biases with other texts and translators.

  7. hollysgarcia says:

    I saw one today bring up the ‘corrupted perversions’ leaving out the blood of Jesus. Now I investigated that claim myself, I remember long ago first being shocked and thought this of course, is important. One place said 23 times they ‘removed’ the blood.
    In the NT, NKJV has 95 usages of blood, KJV has one less. Should I claim that they removed the blood?
    One of their arguments for NASB ‘removing the blood of Jesus’ is Col 1:14 where it doesn’t use ‘through his blood’in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, but the older manuscripts do not have ‘through His blood’ in that passage.
    It is believed this is just a copyist’s attempt to harmonize Scripture with Eph 1:7. If NASB or others tried to ‘remove Jesus blood’, as they claim, it would seem they forgot to get all the other verses. Is it possible the translators were actually trying to be true to the originals? Do these people even consider investigating before blindly believing the claims and bearing false witness against those people?
    Here is the passage it is believed they attempted to harmonized and actually added the words (vs. taking away.
    “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Eph 1:7
    Here are more they claim were removed.
    One of the places was Gen 9:5, lifeblood vs. blood of your lives is used in NKJV. Another one I thought was actually clearer in the NKJV was Lev 19:16, in these two differences.
    NKJV: nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
    KJV: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the Lord.
    And in Acts 29:9, NKJV uses dysentery. Again, 1) has nothing about Jesus blood being removed, and 2), the word KJV translated ‘bloody flux” is dusenteria (or dystentary).

  8. hollysgarcia says:

    Jim – I wish some of the grace-based believers might see that the arguments they make without credibility actually hurt a great translation.

    Chas, Right. Many have spelling or grammatical errors that as you say, the differences are so slight that no doctrine is affected. One simple example is cherubim(s). Cherubim is already plural. I don’t want to make another stumble for any of their choices, and love the KJV, however, I am not going to say it’s without any translation errors, because I know better. I do believe it has no errors that cause doctrinal issues, but some are kind of nice to know.

  9. chas says:

    I think one of the worst aspects of the controversy is not just the issue of translation, but of supposedly “corrupt” manuscripts. Most KJV advocates tend to dismiss the earliest manuscripts as bogus because it is supposed that they don’t match the “majority” (Byzantine) text or the Received text used for the KJV. But the differences are so slight that no doctrine is affected. Most of them are spelling issues.
    The tragedy is that God has given us evidence of His preserving His written word over thousands of years, and some would throw out the ancient evidence of that.

  10. jimfloyd12 says:

    Hi Holly,

    Yes I have noticed the amped up rhethoric on places like Facebook even among believers that also understand grace salvation. It is extremely sad to that people can be divided over a extreme position just because a person like Peter Ruckman or Gail Riplinger decided to push it.

    The problem is that it leads to a cult like atomsphere where the extreme of the teacher or guru must be followed at all costs. When the teachings of said person are not Biblically supported or warranted, then it might as well be a cult. And in my view it is a particularly dangerous and sticky one that is hard to come out of. It is best not to dabble in it. Just use the word for word translations that we have.

  11. hollysgarcia says:

    Another interesting study is the Septuagint quotes. Why would Jesus quote the Septuagint over the Hebrew if the Hebrew was His only approved version? I feel since the intent was preserved, He obviously didn’t have a problem with that. Some of the KJVO’ers might consider that too.

  12. hollysgarcia says:

    Thanks for this. I still prefer the KJV for beauty, flow, and also as you, I memorized a lot of these Scriptures from my youth. But when I am talking to the world, I purposely do not use Thee or Thou, or believeth, etc. I will use God, or Jesus, or believes to share the gospel. Both grace based believers and lordship types will use KJV, and unfortunately some of the IFB extremists (like Steven Anderson or Westboro) give everything a bad name that they touch.
    Some words are archaic or outdated, the worst sometimes are archaic phrases. Some you can probably guess what it means, like ‘bishoprick’. It does challenge you to study. What some KJVOnlyists don’t realize, is we have those Strong’s helps, those lexicons we can look up and contrast, and there is nothing wrong with that. But many of the extremists deride the Greek and the Hebrew for some reason. Others people just wouldn’t recognize the word no matter how it’s translated because it might not be in their wheelhouse, I remember there one on farm implements and I wouldn’t know either. Again, studying helps.
    There are lists on some of the archaic words, that would help others too, but KJVOnlyists would take umbrage with that, claiming you are changing God’s Word. And there are some words that just need to be changed, like Joseph to Jesus etc. I don’t like the argument that it’s the same name, because if Joshua (son of Nun) was referred to and understood as Joshua, then Jesus (son of David) should be referred to rightly as Jesus and not just explained away as the ‘same name’. Likewise, a teacher of the Bible should be able to explain a word in the Greek. I saw a KJVO pastor the other day do just that. Why can’t we discuss that in 2 Cor 4, god of this ‘world’ would be better said god of this ‘age’?
    I know you do not have a problem with KJV preference, and only consider the originals inspired, and I am the same. I even understand preferring people using the same translation in a church, but the division I’ve seen and experienced lately seems to have ramped up. Have you noticed? Either way, I hate that it maligns His Word in general. Yet it’s harming a lot of people too. Talking about it should be done without using fabulous claims that often come via the Gail Riplinger or Ruckman route, and neither one should be quoted.

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