King James Only—Refuted
Part 2: Is the King James Version a Perfect Text?
Those holding to King James Only-ism often say that the King James Version of the Bible is a perfect text. They will go so far as to say that the King James is the most correct rendering of the Bible in all existence, that it alone is the inerrant Word of God. Therefore, many King James Onlyists say that an individual must learn English if they really want to learn the true Holy Bible. In addition, their assumption that the King James is infallible and correct in everything that it has translated leads them to correct other Bibles and even other manuscripts against its “holy” standard.
This second blog addressing the unnecessary and irrational conclusions of the King James Only Movement will focus on the limitations and fallibility of the King James Version. It will involve looking at texts that are translated better elsewhere. Later, I will also look at some of the words that make the King James unique to see whether those words should be there. Along the way, I will examine the limited origins of the KJV. As I pick apart some of the nuances of this argument, please realize that if you are devoted to reading a King James Bible, I don’t mean to lead you to stop. What I do desire is there would be unity established through understanding the limitations and limitlessness that we are embracing as we read our Bibles. If we are living what we read, we must read our Bibles humbly and with a hunger for personal and communal growth.
If the King James alone is a perfect text, then there must be no errors in its translation. Everything in it must perfectly reflect what the original writer wrote under inspiration. Is every Greek word perfectly translated? (Unless otherwise noted, I am using the KJV and the Textus Receptus Greek.)
Matthew 23:34- “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” In Greek, this reads: οδηγοι τυφλοι οι διυλιζοντες τον κωνωπα την δε καμηλον καταπινοντες . I have underlined the mistranslated word. Διυλιζοντες means literally means (plural subject) straining out/ filtering out. The KJV implies swallowing, while the Greek implies expelling. The NASB renders it accurately: “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
Acts 12:4- “…Intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” The Greek reads: βουλομενος μετα το πασχα αναγαγειν αυτον τω λαω. Everywhere else—28 times—in the New Testament the word πασχα is translated “Passover.” It is inexplicable that it would be translated “Easter” here, possibly reflecting the culture of the day (1600s) rather than the original text.
The King James Version translated Hebrews 4:9 to say, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” The Textus Receptus Greek says, αρα απολειπεται σαββατισμος τω λαω του θεου. The Greek word σαββατισμος is translated “Sabbath” (for obvious reasons) elsewhere. “Rest” is used in the following two verses, as well as in many other places, but is from the Greek word καταπαυω. If verse 9 was supposed to read rest, καταπαυω would have been the appropriate Greek word used. This is a mistranslation that has been more correct in newer versions.
Matthew 14:8, in the King James has the strange name “John Baptist”. The Textus Receptus has the typical name of John the Baptist in this verse, ιωαννου του βαπτιστου. “John Baptist” wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, but there is no reason to be inconsistent with the rendering of his name in this verse. This inconsistency is a sign that there were occasionally simple oversights in the writing of the KJV.
There is a mistake in translation in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in the King James Version. The phrase, “Let no man deceive you” is taken from the Greek, μη τις υμας εξαπατηση. The word “man” is absent from the Greek. Ανθροπος or ανηρ are the only words that can be translated “man” (with ανηρ being gender specific). This phrase should instead read “anyone.” (The word “let”, permit or allow, is also not present in the Greek, but is included so that the sentence could make sense. The translation does not keep the subjective mood that is present in the Greek; but I’m not sure if this could be done. This helps to show the limitations of translation, which the translators were most likely aware that they were up against.)
Luke 18:12 in the King James Version can easily be read to misrepresent the principle of tithing among the Hebrews. The man in the lesson prays saying, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” The Jews were not instructed to pay tithes on all their possessions, but on all their earnings. The Greek word translated “possess” is κταομαι, which is a verb meaning “I get/ acquire.” Other translations appropriately translate this as paying tithes on what is earned. (“Possess” could be stretched to mean the appropriate thing, but it certainly not the clear reading.)
Hebrews 13:16 in the KJV is mistranslated and confusing: “But to do good and to communicate forget not.” The Greek text reads: της δε ευποιιας και κοινωνιας μη επιλανθανεσθε. Κοινωνιας is a fairly familiar word among Christians and means “fellowship and sharing.” It says more literally, “Do not forget/neglect fellowship and sharing.” It is a much richer depth than communicate. Then again, “communicate” might have meant closer to the true meaning at the time that the KJV was written. If it is misleading now, should we not clarify the term so that it means the closest to the original intended meaning?
I want to briefly address the translation of hades and gehenna. King James Onlyists will say that modern translations soften the doctrine of hell. The fact is that the King James inserts the term “hell” an unnecessary number of times. James White calls the KJV’s sometimes unnecessary usage of “hell” a barrier to convincing people of eternal conscious torment. The NASB translates “Gehenna” (γεεννα) as hell (and once translates “tartarus” as hell). This results in 13 New Testament usages of the term “hell”. The KJV uses “hell” 23 times in the New Testament, translating all usages of “hades” as hell. This can confuse the reader about the literal nature of hell, since the term is used when referring to “death” or “the grave”. This becomes a more blatant mistake in Acts 2:27, 31 when Peter says that Jesus Christ was not left in “hell”. Jesus makes two statements that indicate that he did not go into hell following his crucifixion: “Today you will be with me in paradise,” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Hades is not hell; it is the abode of the dead. Jesus did not go to hell. He had no reason to go to hell, since the work of the atonement was finished at the cross.
There are plenty of other passages that prove to have a not-so-great translation in the King James Version of the Bible. None of these KJV shortcomings in translation is utter heresy; and I don’t think any of the mishaps appear to be from intentionally poor motives. I think that the translators, and Erasmus before them*, used what they had to write what they could in the limited time that they had. Naturally, there were some things that could have been done better—and that’s understandable and forgivable. What not fine is claiming that the King James Version is something that it never claimed to be, nor was ever intended to be. The King James Version of the Bible is clearly fallible, and is not the standard by which we are to judge all other translations and manuscripts.
These things have been brought up, not to insult anyone that prefers reading a King James Version Bible, but in order to show that there are several places which plainly demonstrate that translational blunders do exist in the KJV. This shows that, against the claims of some, the KJV is not God’s perfect Bible translation. No one ought to take the step to over-glorify the KJV. It is in fact guilty of the very things that KJV-Os accuse of other Bible Translations. May these simple facts increase your hunger for His word of truth and His presence in your life.
*I would say that there were some poor motives in Erasmus’s inclusion of the comma Johanneum in 1 John 5:7, which trickled into the King James Version.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 23:24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Stephen’s 1550 Textus Receptus: with morphology. (2002). (Mt 23:24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 23:24). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ac 12:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Stephen’s 1550 Textus Receptus: with morphology. (2002). (Ac 12:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Heb 4:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Stephen’s 1550 Textus Receptus: with morphology. (2002). (Heb 4:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Lk 18:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Heb 13:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Stephen’s 1550 Textus Receptus: with morphology. (2002). (Heb 13:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.