2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. Many of us, certainly myself included, were raised with the flowery Shakespearean words comprising our memory verses:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalms 23:1-6 KJV)
Certainly no one can dispute its distinct place in history or even number the times its words have been preached or quoted. Most people recognize that it is a very good translation and the folks who translated it 400 years ago did a very good job.
Yet, there is a disturbing trend taking place called the King James Only (KJVO) movement/cause/cult. In my estimation, people have begun to nearly worship
the KJV making it a form of idolatry. Adherents to this movement do so out of blind allegiance to the written Word of God without regard to the facts of history.
Hear me well; I do not find fault with the King James Version. But that is all it is: a VERSION.
Most who blow the KJVO trumpet do so with an added caveat; the KJV-AV1611. Or the King James Version-Authorised Version of 1611. They do this in complete ignorance thinking the KJV they use is the ORIGINAL TRUE TO TEXT version that was first issued in 1611 by the British King, James I. The work began in 1604 and was completed 7 years later by the Church of England translators.
Adherents of KJVO proudly state that the KJV has not changed in 400 years, except for font or spelling.
|1611 Hebrews (click to enlarge)|
This isn't true.
The first edition of the KJV-AV1611 contained the Apocrypha, an entire section that is still considered Scripture by the Roman Catholic church. (For an explanation of the apocrypha, click here
|Index Page of 1611 Edition (click to enlarge)|| || |
Most likely, KJV-AV1611 adherents are using the 1769 revision. Most Bible printers fail to mention that on their copyright page. The apocrypha wasn't removed from the KJV until the 1896 revision. The KJV has been changed or revised in one form or another in: 1611, 1613, 1616, 1617, 1618, 1629, 1630, 1633, 1634, 1637, 1638, 1640, 1642, 1653, 1659, 1675, 1679, 1833, 1896, & 1904. [REF
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of corrections to the original 1611 ranging from gender and tense, to actually saying "Judas" instead of "Jesus" in the 1611 version of Matthew 26:36.
I found a KJV translation mistake (I'm not the first) when I was preparing a sermon in I Samuel. In the KJV, it reads:
Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. (1 Samuel 13:21 KJV)
In the New American Standard, it reads:
The charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to fix the hoes. (1 Samuel 13:21 NASB)
So, was it a file (KJV) or did they have to pay 2/3 of a shekel (NASB)? The answer comes from the original Hebrew word "פים
" or "pim." The translators of the KJV and other early English versions, (including the Geneva) did not know what this was. From the context, they assumed it was a file to sharpen the blunt implements. However, later archeological discoveries showed that a pim was a unit of measurement [REF
] which renders the earlier translation assumption inaccurate (wrong).
And don't forget the current edition KJV use of the word "unicorn" a total of 9 times: Num 23:22, Num 24:8, Deut 33:17, Job 39:9, Job 39:10, Ps 22:21, Ps 29:6, Ps 92:10, & Isa 34:7.
Here is Ps 22:21 in the Original:
Saue me from the lyons mouth: for thou hast heard me from the hornes of the vnicornes.
(Psalms 22:21 KJV-1611)
and the current:
Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
(Psalms 22:21 KJV)
and the same in the NAS:
Save me from the lion's mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
(Psalms 22:21 NASB)
The translation was authorized by King James I in the Church of England's response to the Puritans who were questioning the Anglican stance on the ordination of priests. King James' instructions were to translate it in such a way as to strengthen the Anglican position and weaken the Puritan position. Puritans had been using the Geneva Bible and the Church of England had created a previous English translation in 1568, but was inadequate to quell the common use of the Geneva Bible.
The puritans charged that the "Great Bible" and "Bishop's Bible" failed in at least these areas:
First, Galatians iv. 25 (from the Bishops' Bible). The Greek word susoichei is not well translated as now it is, bordereth neither expressing the force of the word, nor the apostle's sense, nor the situation of the place. Secondly, psalm cv. 28 (from the Great Bible), ‘They were not obedient;’ the original being, ‘They were not disobedient.’ Thirdly, psalm cvi. 30 (also from the Great Bible), ‘Then stood up Phinees and prayed,’ the Hebrew hath, ‘executed judgment.’ [REF]
In my opinion, Americans have embraced the KJV because of the small print on the title page that says, "Authorized Version." Ask them what it means or who authorized it and the reply will likely be "God did."
|Title Page from 1909 Cambridge Edition|
proposes that it stems from a 1930 Seventh Day Adventist publication, “Our Authorized Bible Vindicated”
by Dr. Benjamin Wilkinson who believed the new modern translations were undermining the Sabbath worship and soul sleep/annihilation doctrines maintained by the Seventh Day Adventists. Later, a Baptist minister reproduced 16 chapters of the book without footnote references to any SDA affiliation. All, or most, KJVO proponents directly, or indirectly, cite these references to this day.
Criticism of the KJV back when it was introduced, included complaints of the formal, flowery language used, already being archaic and outdated to English speakers. It wasn't widely accepted, even in England, until the 1660's, when they added "Authorised Version"to the title page.
Today, fundamental, independent Baptist churches, along with many other kinds of Baptists, Charismatics, and brand-X churches, are King James ONLY. If you aren't aware of the controversy, just Google, "King James Only" and look-out.
The "scholarship" that KJVO proponents use to defend their positions and criticize newer versions are interesting, at best. Some of them are down-right silly. I remember reading (many years ago) some KJVO preacher saying that "yes, a person could get saved under a different version BUT HIS SALVATION WOULDN'T BE AS STRONG AS UNDER THE KING JAMES." This is often the kind of thinking that goes along with this blind allegiance to the KJV. Well meaning, but way off base.
However, my caution to you: do not get caught up in reading ABOUT the Bible instead of reading the Bible. If the KJV is too hard to understand, then try a different version. Personally, I use the New American Standard which is a very accurate translation, supplemented with the English Standard Version. I enjoy looking at MANY different versions, especially when I'm trying to get my feeble mind around a concept that I'm having trouble understanding. I recommend a free download from esword.net
. It has MANY free versions, including the KJV1611, Bishops Bile, Geneva Bible, ESV, and many others. There are also some versions available for purchase.
Speaking of purchase, you can buy a High-Quality Facsimile KJV 1611 here
. It'd make a nice gift for your friend or pastor (hint, hint). :)
The bottom line: There is no doubt in my mind that God has used the King James Version. It is the best selling and hence the widest read version today. It is a very good version. But that is all it is - a version; a translation. To use it, memorize it, and preach the message it contains is one thing; to hold it up as the only accurate preserved Word of God is naive at best, generally misleading and, at worst, a form of idolatry.