Some people hold the King James Version (KJV) translation of the Bible is a kind of holy grail of Christianity and they object to or find fault with all the more recent translations for various reasons.
There are several original source documents for the Bible and that raises questions about some of them and how reliable they are, plus there are many variations in translation on some key points.
As a result some people become quite passionate about the issue and are so committed to the original KJV translation that they campaign against all others.
Contention for the KJV is an interesting area.
I was raised on the KJV and it’s my go-to Bible, since I know most Bible verses in that version. If I think of a Bible truth I am most likely to think of the KJV text, because I am so familiar with it.
In my young years I was taught to despise all non-KJV versions as a virtual attack on the truth.
I personally have great regard for the KJV and am happy to put it ahead of all the popularised translations for my own use, but at the same time I love the clearer translations for their ease of understanding.
In this article I want to note a few things about the ‘KJV Only’ mindset.
It seems that some KJV devotees buy into an Us-Them mindset and carry Fear about how fragile God and God’s Word is. They seem to think that if someone uses the KJV they are the good-guys, and those who use a different translation are the bad-guys. And they fear that the newer translations are poisonous.
That is not consistent with what God says in the Bible – including in the KJV translation – about God’s Word being living and powerful.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NKJV)
Living and Powerful is also translated as ‘alive and active’ ‘effective’.
Sadly many Christians have insecurity and a feeling that the Devil is winning the war against God and the Bible. They see modern translations as evidence the devil is winning against God.
Yet God’s Word is living and powerful, even when in a different translation to the KJV.
2. Love of Text rather than Love of the Living Word.
All who have tried their hand at translating scripture, such as to translate for tribal people, realise how hard it is to provide a direct word-for-word translation of the Bible from the original Koine (New Testament) or Hebrew-Aramaic (Old Testament) languages.
I have several friends who translate the Bible into tribal languages who have to make all manner of considerations to find local expressions that convey the Living Word to the culture they cater for.
God’s Word is alive, while the letter is only a carrier of that word.
The Bible even says ‘the letter kills’ – “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2Corinthians 3:6
Devotion to a text is missing the power of God’s truth released into human hearts by the Spirit of God.
3. Magical Notions / Superstition
Some KJV devotees talk and act as if the KJV language is somehow magical. They jealously guard the printed text and quote it accurately, anxious when someone quotes it wrongly, rearranges word order or the like.
This is a form of worship of a text (idolatry), thinking it to be magical in its own printed form.
It would be like keeping a Bible under your pillow as a lucky-charm.
These people don’t intend to be superstitious but they act that way.
This, coupled with their fear that the devil has power in any variation of the text, is highly superstitious thinking.
If perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18) then there is no perfect love delivered to these people by their devotion to the KJV, since they live in fear.
(Note that I love the KJV – I am not disparaging that text, but the idolatrous worship of that text, which idolatry I find in people caught up in Translation Fear)
4. Lack of Love for the Lost
As a preacher, my desire is to put God’s Word into people’s hearts, so I look for ways to explain, illustrate and illuminate Bible Truth. That means modern words and concepts and current reference points, so people catch the living truth into their hearts. Increasingly, with our dumbed-down society, I have to put more effort into explaining things, and I find KJV language is like speaking a foreign language to many people. They don’t catch its meaning.
So, in love for the hearer, I give them God’s Word. They may or may not catch it in the words of a century ago, but by all means I aim that they will catch it in the language they understand.
Sadly, those who insist on KJV language can leave people ignorant of what was said – so the enemy can snatch the word away from them, as Jesus described in his Sower parable (Luke 8:12).
Note that having the Bible explained is something that has been done for thousands of years, going back to the days of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.
“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8
5. Denying the Power of God’s Word
KJV devotees seem to lack any confidence in the power of God’s Word. They have great confidence in the specific word order and word choice of the KJV, but little confidence that the same truth explained in common language could have such power. How sad that they think God and His Word are so lame.
Thus they deny the power of God’s Word, the Truth and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2Timothy 3:5).
Rather than know that God, by His Word, His Truth and His Spirit, is powerfully at work, they think only the correct broadcast of KJV language can have power, and they fear that any rearrangement of the language robs God, His Word and His Spirit of power.
That’s blasphemous. And it’s idolatry of a text.
6. The Word Preached – despite the wrong motive
Paul encountered a situation where others preached the Gospel for wrong motives, yet he wasn’t the slightest disturbed by that.
He simply rejoiced that the Gospel was being preached, despite wrong motives in the preachers.
“What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:18
Praise God there is an abundance of the Word of God made available through the many translations.
Praise God these translations reach the reader with words they can understand.
Praise God the Sword of the Spirit is readily at hand (Ephesians 6:17) – and the gospel is preached in so many voices.
7. What’s the Problem?
For those who are fearful of diverse translations, what’s the problem? What do you really fear?
Do you actually think the Devil can defeat God, Christ, the Gospel, the Truth and the Word of God? What do they really believe if they can only imagine God at work through a particular printed book?
Don’t they at times have to translate KJV language into something that makes sense to today’s reader? Don’t they find that they read a verse and immediately start explaining the meaning? So why not speak the meaning in the first place? What is so dangerous about speaking God’s revelation truth in words that can be understood?
8. There is no Universal KJV
As an international preacher I am often translated and often the translator relies on a KJV based translation in their own language.
Yet there are still many times when we have to sort out shades of meaning.
The KJV as loved by KJV devotees is an English translation which has been updated several times with out of date words and spelling changed.
Even those places where KJV has been faithfully translated into a foreign language there are many points of meaning that change.
So why should the exact KJV wording be so highly regarded by English speaking Christians?
In New Zealand I once heard a man read from his Swiss Bible, translating into English as he read.
He read Jeremiah 17:6 “For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”
As he translated from Swiss to English he used the word ‘tumbleweed’.
I knew that a heath was some kind of dry bush in the desert, but the word tumbleweed gave a whole new sense for the fate of those who trust in man.
So, when I read that verse to someone am I allowed to use ‘tumbleweed’ or would I be offending God?
Is the word ‘heath’ magical and the word tumbleweed somehow devilish?
What sin is committed when I celebrate insight into God’s truth using a word that is not in the KJV?
9. Gospel Tracts
Consider that Christians often use Gospel Tracts to witness to people. They use selected Bible verses and usually some testimony or explanation, in hope God can use His Word to speak to the reader.
Many KJV devotees happily accept and approve of Gospel Tracts.
These tracts don’t contain the whole Bible, but only tiny snippets, yet that’s OK.
So, consider a modern Bible translation, filled with accurately translated Bible verses, many times more than you would find in a Gospel Tract.
Can God use those modern Bible translations, just as He would use a Tract?
Sadly, KJV devotees shun the idea God can use His Word printed in a modern translation, while they are sure God can use His Word printed in a Gospel Tract (if the verses are quoted in KJV).
That’s inconsistent and nonsensical, showing that there is something else at work in the mind of the KJV devotee – maybe fear, idolatry and superstition.
10. Finding an accurate translation
The original words of the Old and New Testaments are often open to various translations. Many words are translated in the KJV into different meanings depending on what the verse is saying.
So each translator has to select what they think is the most fitting translation of a word, while at the same time leaving out some of the meaning of the word.
Eg: the New Testament word for save is sozo. That word is translated as ‘save’, but also as ‘safely’, ‘cured’, ‘preserved’, ‘recover’, ‘restored’ and other words. The word ‘save’ leaves out the idea of being cured, restored or preserved.
When we compare various translations we can get the richer meaning that was intended in the original language.
The same is true for the sense of a sentence. Eg: Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This sounds like a command to “Go”. Translators advise, however, that the actual meaning is not a command to go, but “as you go”. It could be translated, “as you are going about your life in the world preach the gospel”.
There’s a great difference between the sense of those translations.
So all those who rely on the KJV only miss out on getting any glimpses of the wider meaning in the original language.
That is why good Bible students try to understand the original language and meanings, and many compare translations from various bibles to find the wider and richer meaning that God intended.
The idea that we must base our faith and Christian living on the KJV is a distraction.
I personally uphold the KJV, but I put my faith in God’s Living Word, not the printed text.
I rejoice in sharing the truth of God’s Word, even if I have to dumb it down and find ways to get the message through.
So, let’s enjoy God’s Word, celebrate it and release it in all its forms.