Throwback Thursday: KJV 1611-Only?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 19, 2016 and has been revised. I don’t usually dwell on disagreements over secondary issues, but sometimes they can’t be avoided, especially when proponents of a particular view insist it’s a salvation issue.

capture30

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

5 Stars

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior way back in 1983. There were many people and circumstances 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 awhile, and I eventually accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Jose and Ray were thrilled that I had accepted Christ, but they 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 people over non-English-speakers. We Americans often have a parochial, 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 that 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 deal with 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 early 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 Roman Catholicism.

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 first 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 and His Word, 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 (NLT) 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.


http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

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

**Note from 2021: I’ve been using the ESV the last several years.

***Another note from 2021: KJV 1611-Onlyism is still a popular paradigm within what remains of independent Baptist fundamentalism. Because of this book, KJV 1611-Onlyists view James R. White as a pawn of Satan.

22 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: KJV 1611-Only?

  1. Hi Tom, I agree with your summation. Years ago I also did quite a bit of research and came away with the same conclusion, but like you have said, there is quite a history behind this and people can indeed get very dogmatic about it. There definitely are good translations available today and what with comparison options and all the Bible tools available, rendering an accurate understanding and interpretation is usually not that difficult. And, I am of the mind that God can get His message across to us, even with minor translation imperfections. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Bruce. I think this is much less a controversy than when I first started out as a Christian 38 years ago, especially because of the decline of independent Baptist fundamentalism, but KJV-1611 Only-ism still has its adherents.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Tom. I’ve had a lot of interaction with KJV-only folks. I have no tolerance for them. Now, keep in mind, I recognize the big difference between those who simply love the KJV and are not KJV-only (such as the pastor you referenced at the independent Baptist church), and the KJV-only. They are two totally different creatures altogether.

    Here at our ministry of Zion’s Hope, we have had to deal with many KJV-only folks. The nicest thing I can say about them is that they are a rare breed. I’ll leave it at that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Crissy! Maybe I’m not hanging out in the right circles at WordPress, but I’m definitely not seeing as much discussion about the KJV as I did when I originally published this post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tom, I would be like the other pastor you mentioned. I do use the KJV because it’s like an old friend to me… something I was brought up with and which means a lot to me but I have friends who use other versions. To make it a salvation issue is wrong. There are, as you indicate, many thousands of different languages in the world and I would just be glad to see those people trusting in the Lord Jesus as Saviour. I would speak in general about such matters but I think it’s wrong to attack someone on a personal level.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So much for the KJV being the one true text. 🙂

      Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
      2 Kings 24:8 KJV

      Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD .
      2 Chronicles 36:9 KJV

      Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.
      2 Kings 8:26 KJV

      Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.
      2 Chronicles 22:2 KJV

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The cult of the KJVO will exist until Christ returns.

    Textual criticism and the KJV meaning nothing to those folks. What cracks me up about the KJVO folks who are anti Israel/anti dispensational along with being anti Calvin, are using a pro using a corrupt framework as their sole authority for understanding Scripture. It is to the point I would rather debate the Bible with a JW or Mormon than the KJVO.

    Hope you are feeling better and can schedule some reading/relaxation/rest time before work tomorrow!! Love, hugs and blessings to you and Corinne!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, KJVOers are generally not open to reading something like White’s book. Textual criticism is a threat to them when it needn’t be.
      I know KJVO is still prevalent among independent fundamental Baptists, but I wonder if you know if it’s still popular among any other groups?

      Thanks! I haven’t had a lot of zip this week so mostly R&R today, 82 and sunny in ROC and reading & blogging under the patio umbrella. We’re taking Corinne’s elderly aunt out to dinner at 5.
      How is your day going?
      Love and blessings to you and Nathan!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So much for the KJV being the one true text. 🙂

    Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
    2 Kings 24:8 KJV

    Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD .
    2 Chronicles 36:9 KJV

    Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.
    2 Kings 8:26 KJV

    Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.
    2 Chronicles 22:2 KJV

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s