KJV 1611 Only?

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?KJV
By James R. White
Bethany House, 2009, 364 pages

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior way back in 1983. There were many people and things that pointed me to the Savior along the way, including a couple of guys at work. Jose and Ray knew I was interested in God and spiritual matters and would eagerly stop me in the hallway to strike up a conversation. I must admit, sometimes when I saw them coming from a distance, I turned and walked the other way. Can anyone else relate? But the Lord had been drawing me to Him for quite a while, and I eventually accepted Christ as my Savior.

Jose and Ray were thrilled that I had accepted Christ but cautioned me that I needed to immediately plug into a good, Bible-believing church that only used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. They advised me that all of the modern Bible versions were corrupt. Although I had just received Christ, I was no stranger to Christianity. I had done much reading and was already aware of the claims of the KJV 1611-only advocates.

Jose and Ray invited me to their church, First Bible Baptist* in Rochester, NY, and I visited a couple of times, but the church’s strong stance on the KJV bothered me. I asked Ray, “If the KJV is the only legitimate translation, then what about all the other people in the world who can’t read English? What do they do?” Ray answered that if modern translators used the KJV as their source-text for non-English Bibles then everything would be fine. Well, no translator is going to translate a translation when the ancient manuscripts are available. I also knew enough about translating to know that no two individuals would translate the KJV’s 17th-century English into another language using the EXACT same wording. Who then would judge which of the translations would be the “authorized” one? If the KJV 1611-only view was correct, then it appeared that God preferred English-speaking Christians over non-English-speaking Christians. We Americans often have a myopic view when it comes to the rest of the world and I saw the KJV 1611-only mindset as another example of that.

Not wanting to attend a KJV 1611-only church, I looked through the yellow pages and chose another independent Baptist church close to our home. The pastor there used the King James Version but he wasn’t dogmatic about it. Not once in the 8 years we attended did he preach about the sole legitimacy of the KJV. I used the KJV at church like most everyone else in the congregation but I read from my New American Standard Bible (NASB) at home. The archaic 17th-century English of the KJV seemed to me to be unnecessary baggage to have to carry while reading the Bible.

I observed the KJV 1611-only controversy from a distance. Peter Ruckman spoke at week-long services at First Bible Baptist a couple of times. Anyone else remember him? Pastor Ruckman was based down in Florida and was one of the standard bearers of the KJV 1611-only movement. Ruckman’s weekly church services were televised in our area and his sermons always seemed to bring up the inerrancy of the KJV and the corruption of the modern translations. His messages usually included ad hominem attacks on anyone who didn’t agree with his KJV 1611-only viewpoint. Ruckman even went so far as to claim that if a particular text was found in the KJV but not in the Byzantine manuscripts (and there are examples), then the additions to the KJV were divinely inspired!

So, I’ve been aware of the KJV 1611-only controversy for quite some time but never gave it too much attention. After having walked away from the Lord for a very long “season,” I returned to Him two years ago. I continue to use the NASB in my daily Bible reading but also have a New International Version (NIV) since that is the translation used by our pastor. I began this blog last July and I’ve noticed from reading other blogs that there are still very strong advocates of the KJV 1611-only viewpoint. To educate myself a bit better, I recently read “The King James Only Controversy” by apologist, James R. White. I was already familiar with White because of his outstanding work defending the Gospel against the errors of Rome.

I enjoyed “The King James Only Controversy” and found it to be very informative. I sincerely doubt those who hold to the KJV 1611-only viewpoint would consider it, but the reader who is curious about the controversy might find White’s book as helpful as I did.

Some thoughts from the book:

  • The English language Bible has a long history. The KJV translators relied heavily on the previous work of earlier translators such as Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. The KJV translators never considered their work to be inerrant and inspired but only the best possible translation at the time. Early KJV Bibles referenced textual variations in the margins.
  • KJV 1611-only advocates are actually using a revision published in 1769.
  • Several passages in the KJV are shown to be errors or extremely poor translations.
  • Variations in the ancient manuscripts can and should be examined objectively.
  • Modern translations (NASB, NIV, ESV, NKJV) are dependable. There are good reasons for the differences between the KJV and modern translations but no translation is perfect including the KJV.

Emotions run high on this issue. This post will surely offend some. Because KJV 1611-only advocates see the KJV as the inerrant, inspired translation of the Bible, they see any disagreement with their view as a direct attack on God’s Word and an attack on God Himself. There are actually many in the KJV 1611-only camp who go so far as to claim that anyone who does not use the KJV exclusively is not a genuine Christian. I’m not a Bible manuscript scholar, far from it, but I offer White’s book as a thoughtful rebuttal to the KJV 1611-only argument. This post is NOT an attack on God’s Word or an attack on God although, if you’re a KJV 1611-only advocate, I’m sure you’ll see it that way.

I’m not claiming that all translations are equal. Christians need to be discerning and must do a little homework. I would never recommend that anyone use a paraphrase Bible as their primary Bible but I occasionally check a paraphrase Bible as a resource.

The Pilgrims and Puritan Protestants came to America with the Geneva Bible, not the KJV. The translators of the KJV were high-church Anglicans and the Puritans viewed the KJV with great suspicion. The article below gives an interesting history of the English Bible for those who don’t want to go to all the trouble of buying and reading White’s book.

* The pastor of First Bible Baptist church at the time was James Modlish, a key figure in the KJV 1611-only movement.


41 thoughts on “KJV 1611 Only?

  1. Hi again Tom, this is such a coincidence (although we know there are no coincidences with God), I have spent the last few days listening to debates by James White and earlier today I was thinking of mentioning him to you to see if you’d heard of him! So you have answered my question. I’m interested in reading his book The Forgotten Trinity, have you read that one? There’s a fascinating debate between James and a KJV-onlyist pastor on YouTube, you’ve probably already seen it but here’s the link if not: https://youtu.be/xJrptikLjq8

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Steven. Yes, God’s “coincidences” are amazing! I very much enjoy reading and listening to White although I’m probably smack dab in the middle of the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Haven’t read TFT…but will keep it in mind. There’s some other books from White I’ve been meaning to get to as well. Thanks for the You Tube clip and I will watch it tonight or tomorrow. I started to watch a video of another White vs. KJV-only debate yesterday but ran out of time.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hey Steven, I worked from home today and listened to the entire You Tube video. I feel sorry for Pastor Anderson and his congregants. Listening to him reminds me of my fundamentalist days 30 years ago (even though my old Baptist church was much more moderate than Anderson’s teaching). Here’s another “coincidence”: I watched this video a couple of days ago of Anderson preaching against women wearing pants.

      Both men and women of Bible times wore tunics, which differed mainly in length and color, but Anderson wastes an entire Sunday sermon telling women they can’t wear pants!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I like what Hope said, Tom. I really like it a lot, the KJV, and it’s what I carry to church, because that is what will be preached. I’m ok with that. But, I a have a lot of translations and use them all. I blog a lot with the ESV, for some reason I have started liking it. Really, people need to chill

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Wally. It’s unfortunate that some have made the KJV a litmus test of Christian faith. Yes, I’m also very familiar with the KJV after using it for 8 years but I no longer have a need for it. I wasn’t trying to smear the KJV and neither is White but the claim that it’s an inerrant translation is misguided. I was planning on downloading the ESV to my Kindle after I finish the NASB again in another month.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It seems easy to read to me Tom, and I like it so far. Ha…KJV innertant eh? Sadly some will state flat out that one can only be saved by preaching from the KJV. Guess it sucks for all the non English speakers. I am not putting it down either. I teach from it at church, as that is what we use. Everybody likes it and has used it for years, and probably always will. I do love the language in it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maria. I obviously recommend White’s book highly to anyone interested. While he does go into some detail regarding textual criticism as you might expect, the book as a whole is non-academic and very readable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tom,

    It amuses me how some people seem to have taken it as their life mission to defend a particular Bible translation. I think there is more to the Christian life than that!

    King James, NIV, ESV, etc.–however imperfect its translation may be, it still talks about God’s love for us, his death and resurrection, the empowering of his Holy Spirit, how we’re to live in God’s kingdom, his second coming, judgment and the new earth–thankfully, I don’t think this message has been lost in any of the translations! I suppose when people during the Middle Ages didn’t own Bibles, much less an English translation, the King James version was heaven-sent. God’s power is bigger than human error, and even with the King James version a lot of people have met their Saviour.

    There are now many tools for us to cross-check Bible passages with the original Hebrew/Greek. Some bloggers are introducing the [online] Blue Letter Bible, and the Discovery Bible–I still have yet to explore them though.

    Have a blessed day. I’m only starting to go through your blog–you have an amazing testimony! Glory be to God!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, M. Yes, it’s so sad that the KJV has become the raison d’etre for KJV-onlyists. Yes, many great tools online for believers now. All the glory to God for His grace and mercy! Have a blessed day as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob, might this be a rhetorical question? Catholics use the same type of “argument” to “prove” the assumption and immaculate conception. The original manuscripts were infallible and inerrant. Despite the errors of scribes we have enough manuscripts to have confidence that we have God’s Word.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No not at all. So I guess your position is that God could have but He didn’t? That being the case there has never been a Bible without error because there was never a time when all the original mss. were available to place in one book-right? You say that “Despite the errors of scribes we have enough manuscripts to have confidence that we have God’s Word”. But obviously not in it’s entirety and not without error-is that your position?


  5. p.s. A couple of KJV-onlyists who had never written to this blog before sent in comments defending the KJVO position and attacking James White. One accused me of doing the work of Satan. I decided not to post their comments because I don’t intend for this blog to be a soapbox for the KJVO movement. There’s already many of those out there. One of the individuals brought up the alleged superiority of the Byzantine manuscripts over the manuscripts of the “demonic Alexandrian cult” as Peter Ruckman used to refer to them so below is link to an article by White on the topic for interested readers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always used the NASB for my daily Bible reading which I know is a bit “stilted” compared to the more “fluid” versions. I downloaded the ESV a month ago and will start reading that when I complete my yearly Bible read-through in a few days but I’ll keep the Holman in mind for the future.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Growing up in a household that promoted deep thought and questioning when it came to religion, I was exposed to numerous versions of the bible. I have found that the old(er) NIV is pretty solid, but a number of versions that have come out recently tend to remove/change wording so that a lot of wrongs that believers should feel conviction over have been softened. Given that I am also an English person, it is not surprising that I love the King James version for its clarity, strength of stance, and poetic beauty. On the other hand, it would be a difficult read for those who do not actually enjoy reading. My conclusion? Do read a bible that works for you, but make sure you always question what it says to understand whether it is a solid text.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comments. White’s book points out that the KJV has some problems as well. I will never read the KJV ever again because of the 17th-century English. But I definitely don’t mean to bash the KJV, only the viewpoint that the KJV is the ONLY credible translation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It is my FIRM belief that Almighty God can and does speak to the hearts of all his children, through whichever translation touches their heart. Honestly, I just LOVE the NLT, which some might vehemently argue upon, but the KJV is certainly beautiful for its rhythm, cadence, and theological stance, and much of what I learned as a young child and grade-school age child was from the KJV. But being only about 6 when I began to read the Bible, I also loved the Living Bible, which back in those days, as we know, was a paraphrase. But what would you expect from a young child? The Word of God did make its holy way into my young heart, and I gave my life to Jesus and was baptized at the tender age of 7. (1981)
    I own about 10 different translations, and refer to them continually when practicing lectio divina. I am no less a believer for doing this, nor do I fail in my hope for Heaven with our Lord. Yes, I love the KJV, but refuse to put on airs and the snobbery stance that excludes any other versions of the Word of God.
    Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks. But I guess I’m not too weak to trash your bromide about the KJV being the only version authorized by a king – a king by the way who was a crypto-Catholic and a closet homosexual.


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