King James Onlyism, generally speaking, asserts that the Authorized Version, known in America as the King James Version, is the only English translation of the Bible that has God's blessing on it. In its more extreme forms, KJVO advocates assert that the English KJV Bible is verbally inspired itself (ie...in contrast to the doctrine of inspiration usually reserved for the original Greek/Hebrew manuscripts). This erring ideology views with disdain the modern English translations mainly due to their use of the Wescott-Hort Greek NT textual as the basis of translation. There are some valid arguments in regard to the underlying Greek text question, yet the way this plays out within the KJVO camp, is a real concern.
This is an examination of a few bad arguments used by those holding to that which is commonly called King James Onlyism. We agree with the KJV-only crowd in one way, in finding no value in the Wescott & Hort Greek text tradition; and with that in mind, will limit this expose' of the KJV Only position to a comparison betwen the KJV and the NKJV, both of which have as their translation basis the same Greek text stream (TR/MT). Examples:
1 Corinthians 1:18
KJV For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
NKJV For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Discussion: Two complaints are often made about the non-KJV translation here.
That the translation "message" (sometimes 'word') should not replace "preaching". Answer: The Greek word is "logos" which we are familiar with from John 1:1 "in the beginning was the word...." We believe that "message" is a superior translation for 1 Corinthians 1:18, being better than "word" (being more literal) or "preaching", which is a bit of a stretch to use. Preaching is not in view here, but the message that is preached is in view. Note that the proper Greek word for preaching is used in verse 17 as a compounded word. Here in verse 18 the message of the cross is in view, rather than the preaching of it. In verse 17 Paul tells us he was sent to preach the gospel, here in verse 18 the emphasis is on the message itself, not the preaching of it. Some think the message is foolish, some know it is the very power of God.
That there is a serious error in using the phrase "are being saved" instead of "are saved." Answer: The Greek New Testament has here has present passive participles. Grammatically there is no doubt that "are being saved" is technically very correct. Also, the context of the passage is not discussing nor teaching that salvation is a "process" nor that a person is (or is not) able to say "I am saved" right now. We suspect the argument is raised due to a perceived Roman Catholic inference where surety of salvation is missing here. This is never a safe reason to hold a position, though it is understandable. What the passage is contrasting is two groups of people, those in the sphere of perishing, and those in the sphere of salvation. The message of the cross to one group seems foolish, these are perishing ones. Those that are being saved by God see such a message as being the power of God. To look at one person is to see they are perishing. To look at the other, is to see they are being saved.
2 Corinthians 2:17
KJV For we are not as many which corrupt the word of God
NKJV For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God
Discussion: It may to the casual reader seem odd to even argue this variation in translation, but it is one frequently used, so we offer a reply. Answer: The Greek word here is kapeleuontes which means "adulterating for gain." Since the underlying meaning of the term has to do with the user's doing so for gain, it is evident that "peddling" is a more precise translation, and implies a mis-use of the word for personal gain. Of course the person doing this is also corrupting it, so the fullest meaning is caught by the NKJV.
NKJV But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
KJV But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name
Discussion: A KJVO missionary to Eastern Europe that we know, was working with Christians there to obtain a copy of what was considered a very good and old Romanian Bible. In a sense, this Bible would have been the Romanian equivalent of the English KJV, and one of the "test" verses used to determine a good version was John 1:12. This is because in the Romanian language it translated John 1:12 with the Romanian word for "sons" instead of "children." The challenge here is that the translation they sought was probably a very good one, but the absurdity was the litmus test/demand for the male gender word "son" in translation here at this point, when the Greek word underlying all texts of the NT at this spot is teknia...meaning children. This is an example of finding a good Bible for all the wrong reasons...the tinge of the bad logic of KJVOnlyism.
KJV All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made
NKJV All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made
Discussion: The KJV-onlyist sees this as a denial of Christ as Creator or weakening of His absolute Deity. This is a common method of disputing, demonizing the translation. Answer: The Greek word here is dia (through) and not en (in/by), so "through" is appropriate. The Greek prepositions en, dia, and eis are all used in Colossians 1:16, telling us there that by Christ, through Christ, and unto/for Christ were all things created. Here in John 1:3 the Holy Spirit directed John to write "through" and we are quite right to read as does the NKJV.
Now for one look at the Old Testament.
KJV And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil.
NKJV Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.
Discussion: The KJV-onlyist complains that to use a capital "G" here is blasphemy. Answer: Yes it is, and the one speaking is a blasphemer (we will use a capital, and say the Blasphemer), it is the serpent speaking here, instigating by his deception the Fall of Man. Are we really being spiritually minded in even arguing this point?
Now to balance the discussion a little, not being merely defensive, here is just one example of the superiority of the NKJV over the KJV, keeping in mind that this is certainly not a promo for the NKJV over the KJV (we actually recommend the latter for reasons outside the scope of this blog). Also, we do not recommend for primary use any of the English translations based on the NA/USB (Wescott Hort descendants) text such as NIV/ESV/NASB:
NKJV looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
KJV looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ
Discussion: Here the Granville Sharp rule (as wonderfully explored by Daniel Wallace in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics) helps us identify that the additional word "our" in the KJV is incorrect, and masks a beautiful verse concerning the Deity of Christ. Jesus Christ is God and Savior. The KJV reading makes one think that God -and- our Savior are in view for appearing, attaching the words "Jesus Christ" to "Savior" but separating Him from "God" by the insertion of the word "our". 2 Peter 1:1 does the same. Of course we who are not in the KJV-onlyism camp point this out due to the undesirable but felt necessity of debunking KJVonlyism. We recognize that 2 persons can be in view here within Trinitarian orthodoxy, since the Father and the Son are both God. Yet the blessed hope, the appearing, is of one Person, who is God and Savior.
In Romans 5:8 we prefer the KJV "commendeth" over the NKJV "demonstrates" because the former catches in inflection of the Greek word, where God's love is being presented to the conscience, rather than merely demonstrated for analysis. What this should mean to the reader is not that we have an unsure word in the English Bible or have to be questioning it constantly, but instead, that we have a rich heritage. The KJV tradition, we believe without hesitation, is the right one because of its underlying Greek Text. We can find value in other translations when appropriate, as well (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV (gasp) - all scripture is God-breathed...is beautiful but not found in a KJV tradition Bible).
Despite academia's almost slavish use of the Wescott Hort tradition, this blog isn't merely a critique of KJVOnlyism, but hereby includes a denial of such modern translations as being valid or primary texts - too many cracks in the foundation. To the KJV-onlyist, we plead for a change from the demand and need your position has, of an English Bible perfection apart from spiritual scholarship, reason, and debate. Scholarship can be a pied piper, but so has KJV Onlyism proven to be, by standing on weak ground indeed.
Recommendation: KJV and NKJV.
WBC is not by this blog seeking to take a public position on Bible Translations, nor is this the offficial position of WBC oversight. Instead this blog is offered to the reader for education concerning misguided, but well intentioned KJV Onlyism.
1. Textual Criticism in general
2. The English Bible: How we got it