The Great Inconsistency Of King James Onlyism

 

by James May[1]

 

There are many Christians who do not understand the very serious nature of the King James Only heresy. They suppose that KJVers prefer the 1611 Bible over all other translations, believe that it is the very best of English versions, and perhaps use the KJV to the exclusion of all other Bibles. Unfortunately the King James Only movement goes far beyond such a moderate belief and practice. Instead it teaches that the KJV is the one and only perfect Bible and that all modern translations are corruptions of the Word of God. Christians who do not exclusively use and defend the KJV as the perfect Word of God are viewed as disobedient and/or ignorant. King James Onlyism teaches that true blue KJVers should separate from their less obedient brethren, or at least diligently seek to win them to “The Truth.” Those who teach these false views frequently display a smug confidence that they alone are the true defenders of the Word of God. More extreme forms teach that people can only be saved through the words of the AV 1611. Some KJV advocates teach that foreign language Bibles which were not made directly from the KJV or which do not closely conform to the KJV are not the Word of God and should not be used on the mission field, in some cases destroying people’s faith in the only Bible which they have.[2] Various forms of such false doctrine have run rampant in conservative Christian churches, and especially so among fundamental Baptists. The result has been division, strife, and in some cases, discontinued ministries. In the last years of his life, famous soul-winning Baptist pastor Jack Hyles adopted an extreme KJV position. His serious error is reflected in this statement:

 

I have a conviction as deep as my soul that every English-speaking person who has ever been born again was born of incorruptible seed; that is, the King James Bible.[3]

 

These words are plainly heresy. They deny the genuine salvation of many true believers and add a manmade requirement to the simple message of the gospel of Christ. They stem from an attempt to solve a somewhat difficult theological problem rooted in an historical fact, namely, that God’s Holy Word has been neither perfectly copied nor translated through the centuries.

 

It is quite easy to imagine how various errors arose in the copying of the books of the New Testament when those books could only be reproduced manually. Prior to the invention of the movable type printing press in 1452, no other means was available for their reproduction. Human frailty ensured that the sacred books were not reproduced without error as scribes with no aspirin for their headaches, no glasses for their poor vision, only flickering light for their darkness and little rest from their labors copied the Scriptures. It is no surprise that they made mistakes. Indeed, under the very best of circumstances, men are not capable of copying a lengthy document manually without introducing errors. Even using today’s modern technology it is all but impossible to type a long paper without making at least minor foibles.

 

It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the extent, nature and significance of the variants that are thus found in all Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. It should be observed, however, that there is overwhelming agreement among scholars of the text that the fundamental character of the New Testament has not been compromised by the blemishes that arose from copying.[4] F.F. Bruce, a leading conservative biblical scholar, has stated:

 

In view of the inevitable accumulation of such errors over so many centuries, it may be thought that the original texts of the New Testament documents have been corrupted beyond restoration. Some writers, indeed, insist on the likelihood of this to such a degree that one sometimes suspects they would be glad if it were so. But they are mistaken. There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.[5]

 

Given the doctrinal stability of the manuscripts, the variants present only a minor problem for most serious students. However, for King James Only advocates, who believe that God must have preserved his Word in absolutely perfect form if he were to preserve it at all, the variants present an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

 

False Presuppositions

 

King James Only defenders have two false presuppositions behind their belief that there must exist an absolutely perfect copy of the Bible upon the earth. They assert (1) that God has promised a perfect transmission of the Bible and (2) that a copy of the Bible with any blemishes cannot be trusted at all. Quotations from Mickey Carter and Lloyd Streeter espouse the first assertion:

 

Those saying no one has a perfect Bible are really saying that God left us without His preserved Word. The only group claiming to have the perfect Word of God is the King James Version believers. God has not given us the Bible, unless we have it in the King James Version. The other versions are different, and things that are different are not the same. If they are not the same, one is right and the others are wrong; or all are wrong, and God failed to keep His promise.[6]

 

God gave promise concerning His Word that He would preserve it perfectly.[7]

There is no promise to preserve Scripture in which God has defined the exact form or location of such preservation. He has not guaranteed that copies precise in every detail would always exist upon earth. King James Only advocates have dictated how God must fulfill his promise, not the Bible itself. The Bible does not identify one particular manuscript, version, or translation as the one and only perfect Bible. Anyone who chooses to call the KJV the one and only perfect Bible does so without any instructions from the Bible itself about how to make his decision.

 

The second false presupposition behind the belief that God must always preserve a perfect copy of his Word upon the earth, namely that a copy of the Bible is of no value unless it is perfect in every detail, is reflected in the words of Streeter:

 

If there are errors in the Bible then you can not trust anything that it says because you will not know what is error and what is truth, (Streeter, p. 259).

 

Here Streeter sets up a straw man. His opponents are not claiming that errors exist in the Bible as originally given, but only in the subsequent copies. It is a favorite ploy of those who believe in a perfect KJV to accuse all who disagree with them of believing that there are errors in the Bible, instead of errors in the copies. In fairness they should  accurately state that their opponents believe that the biblical writers made no errors and that God has preserved his Word such that it is sufficient for all practical matters of doctrine and life. The blemishes contained in extant copies do not overthrow the Bible’s fundamental trustworthiness. How can believers know that the Bible is trustworthy if errors have occurred in transmission? They can know it by faith, and a faith which is consistent with the observable facts. There is no need to play word games to make preservation into something that it plainly is not. History does not need to be falsified in defense of an indefensible theory.

 

Is Streeter’s idea valid that anything, including a copy of the Bible, which cannot be trusted in every detail cannot be trusted at all? He surely would not claim that his King James Only book is free from all error. Does this mean that nothing in his book can be trusted since we do not know what is error and what is truth? While Streeter’s book cannot be trusted at all, it is not because of a few scattered errors. The book is filled with them from start to finish. Does Streeter claim inerrancy in his sermons? Do the mistakes that he certainly makes discredit all else that he says? Does he inform his congregation that they should not trust anything that he says because he does make errors? Does anyone really believe that if a book cannot be trusted in every detail, it cannot be trusted at all? And there is no need here to say that the Bible should not be compared to sermons or to merely human books. This discussion concerns the impact of generally minor errors in copying, not the quality of the original document. This argument can be taken much further, however. In Ezekiel 24:7, either the KJV of 1611 or the current KJV is in error:

 

For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock; she poured it upon the ground, to cover it with dust; (Ezekiel 24:7, KJV of 1611, spelling modernized)

 

For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock; she poured it not upon the ground, to cover it with dust; (Ezekiel 24:7, current KJV, emphasis added)

 

One of these two King James Bibles must wrong: She either did or did not pour “it” (her blood) upon the ground. According to Streeter’s reasoning, we cannot trust anything that one of the two says. So which one is faulty? Is the KJV of 1611 totally untrustworthy or is the current edition totally untrustworthy? Streeter would no doubt claim this as a printing error in the 1611. Perhaps. Everyone agrees that there were many printing errors in both printings done in 1611, but the documents from which the printers worked no longer exist, which simply means there is no way to infallibly identify such errors. They can be discerned and corrected only by human reason, not by documentation from the original copies. In their theoretical impact, printing errors are no different than errors made by copyists. Errors are errors. For those who seek to defend the KJV as a perfect Bible, what difference does it make how the errors arose? It must be that the KJV printed in 1611 was an imperfect Bible, or that the KJV as printed today is an imperfect Bible, or that they both are imperfect Bibles.

 

The Bible teaches that the biblical authors made no errors. Those who made copies down through the ages were preserved from making errors such as would alter the fundamental character of Scripture. The copies and translations that exist today faithfully teach what Christians are to believe and how they are to live.[8] If God has preserved the Scriptures with a degree of accuracy sufficient for all practical issues of theology and Christian living, the people of God have no right to question his wisdom.

 

Preserved or Restored?

 

In one of many inconsistencies, defenders of a perfect KJV almost uniformly argue for a doctrine of infallible preservation, while frequently presenting material in support of a doctrine of perfect restoration. They do not appear to perceive the inherent contradiction in these mutually exclusive concepts. If they argue for perfect preservation, they cannot account for the variants in the majority manuscripts and in the various editions of the Textus Receptus and the King James Version. If they argue for perfect restoration, they can no longer appeal to various Scripture passages that allegedly teach perfect preservation. The fallacy of the argument is easy to see. For God’s Word to be perfectly preserved, it must be preserved just as it was inspired, that is, in regard to every detail, (Matthew 5:18). For this argument to be valid, it must be thus preserved during its entire history, which precludes completely the idea of any restoration whatsoever.[9] If God’s Word has to be restored in any sense for a perfect copy to exist, then by definition, it was not perfectly preserved. The dilemma is illustrated in the following self-contradicting quotations from King James Only[10] apologist David Sorenson:

 

The contention of this author is that the Word of God is inerrant in its original inspiration and that God has providentially preserved an infallible transmission of it to this very hour.[11]  

 

Furthermore, hand-copied manuscripts were prone to unintentional slips of the pen by scribes. Thus, no two manuscripts are identical. . . . However, scribes would on occasion make variant spellings or unintentionally leave out a word. There also were other discernable types of scribal variants of this nature which will not be noted here, (Sorenson, p. 21, bold added).

 

Because there are literally thousands of New Testament manuscripts and because no two of them are exactly alike . . . , (Sorenson, p. 22, bold added).

 

Opponents of the Received Text position will quickly point out that each of these Renaissance scholars [Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza] practiced textual criticism. And that they did. However, in each case, these scholars were all strong believers in the verbal inspiration of the Bible and its infallibility. Moreover, their basic rule when dealing with the relatively few variants found in the manuscripts of the Received Text was that the Received Text had been providentially preserved by God. They therefore fell back on the usage of the text by believing churches in the centuries long before the Reformation, (Sorenson, pp. 70-71, bold added).

 

Passing over the statement concerning the textual methodology used by Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza as well as the unproven and unprovable claim of usage by believing churches, it must be noted that Sorenson admits that a process of restoration was necessary for the production of the Textus Receptus. While details of this restoration will receive some treatment under a latter heading, for now it is obvious that Dr. Sorenson cannot have it both ways. If no two Greek manuscripts are identical because scribes made mistakes and if the supposedly perfect Textus Receptus was the synthetic product of Textual Criticism, then God did not infallibly preserve his Word in every detail.[12] This is no small point. Their inability to apply a standard to themselves which they apply to every other viewpoint on Bible manuscripts and translations is the great undoing of King James Only advocates.

 

Some KJVers attempt to deal with this very obvious problem by supposing that the KJV (and the TR?) gained its perfection over time as it went through various editions in which errors were removed. Since the Textus Receptus also had its wording changed through various editions, the same purifying action of God would, no doubt, be alleged for it as well. David Sorenson, in response to the question, “Do you believe that the KJV translators made errors in their work?” stated,

 

They may have, though I am not specifically aware of such. The early editions of the KJV certainly had errors of printing. However, with succeeding editions, these errors were corrected. I believe that preservation of God’s Word, in part, is a process whereby God corrects and purifies human errors whether by translation or typesetting. The KJV today has no errors because God has providentially seen to it that they were all cleaned up by the several editions over the years.[13]

 

So where is Sorenson’s perfectly preserved Bible prior to the fabrication of the Textus Receptus and translation of the KJV, in all or any of their respective editions? While even the smallest deviations cannot be tolerated under Sorenson’s theory of the text (“infallible transmission”), it should not be supposed for one moment that all of the variants occurring in the Greek manuscripts that he favors are insignificant or that all of the variants between editions of the Textus Receptus are insignificant. They involve entire verses such as Acts 8:37 and I John 5:7, as well as the blood of Christ in Colossians 1:14, being washed from our sins in Revelation 1:5, and having our names in the book of life in Revelation 22:19. Each of these verses contains important variants which will be examined later in this paper, and variants which a King James Only view of the text cannot consistently harmonize with the false theory. Sorenson leaves out many details in his misleading book, as he certainly must to maintain his arguments.

 

Sorenson is only one of many authors who fill their King James Only books and correspondence with self-contradicting paragraphs. Edward Hills, who perhaps did as much damage as any individual in laying the groundwork for the KJV heresy, writes as follows:

 

Through the influence of the Latin-speaking Church Erasmus and his successors were providentially guided to follow the Latin Vulgate here and there in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather that the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Hence the Textus Receptus was a further step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe.[14]

 

Of course to “correct” something is every bit the opposite of “preserving” it, Hills’ inconsistency notwithstanding. Erasmus by 1516 had synthesized a Greek New Testament that in the fullness of its wording had never before existed as a discrete entity. He borrowed usually from several Greek manuscripts; sometimes from Latin Vulgate copies. He thus created a text supported by a minority of Greek manuscripts in many readings and by no Greek manuscripts in others. Even granting for the sake of argument that the resultant Textus Receptus in later editions became a perfect copy of the New Testament, it is anything but a “preserved text.” Given the false assumption of its absolute fidelity, it is a restored text.

 

The series of events related by Hills becomes no more pious or biblical by attributing it to the providence of God. God’s providence encompasses not only what he causes, but also that which he allows, and he most certainly does not approve of all that he allows. Today’s modern Bibles also exist only under the providence of God.

 

In May of 2003, Pensacola Christian College continued its “noble defense of the KJV” by granting an honorary doctor’s degree to Lloyd L. Streeter. He was noted for writing a book which supposedly answers Central Baptist Seminary’s book, The Bible Version Debate. Two quotations from the doctor display typical KJV inconsistency:

 

The doctrine of verbal-plenary inspiration necessitates the doctrine of perfect preservation of the text, (Streeter, p. 126, underlining added).

 

Most “King James only” advocates would agree that God did not preserve all of His words, with no omissions, in one manuscript, and maybe not in one text-type or one group of manuscripts. However, we certainly do believe that God has perfectly preserved all of His words among all of the witnesses. We believe that all of the words of God were found by the translators of the King James Bible, so that the King James Bible has everything in it that God wanted in it, (Streeter, p. 124, underlining added).

 

Once again, the only way that God’s Word could be “perfectly preserved” “among all of the witnesses” is for each of the individual witnesses to be a perfect copy of the Bible! There is no way around this obvious fact. If the true readings are scattered throughout diverse, imperfect manuscripts as Street admits, it is nonsense to speak of God’s Word as “perfectly preserved.” In order to have “perfect preservation” the correct words must all be together in the correct order in one document, otherwise one could argue that “all of the words of God” were preserved in a dictionary! With the correct readings scattered throughout various manuscripts and preserved perfectly in no single manuscript, no person anywhere on this planet had access to a perfect copy of the Bible. Can this be termed “perfect preservation”? When Streeter asserts that all of the correct words were found and incorporated by the KJV translators, he describes a process of restoration, not one of preservation.

 

Preserved in Diverse Manuscripts

 

Those who believe that God has fully preserved his Word must either believe that all of the true readings are preserved in one or more perfect manuscripts or that the true readings are preserved scattered throughout diverse, imperfect manuscripts. This important fact is very rarely observed, let alone discussed, in King James Only literature. KJVO advocates generally believe that there have always existed perfect copies of the Bible, although as shown above, there are many inconsistent statements in KJVO writings. They usually make their claims in sweeping terms, choosing to avoid the details that would quickly entangle them in a mess from which they could not escape.

 

Leaders in the KJVO movement make many false statements to support their contention that the text has been transmitted in perfect form. While the following overstatement by KJV defender James Sightler concerns the Old Testament text, which this paper does not discuss, it nevertheless demonstrates the kind of “documentation” typical of his book:

 

It [the accusation that the Jews corrupted their Hebrew manuscripts] was disproved by the discovery in 1947 of the Isaiah Scroll at Khirbet Qumran on the Dead Sea. This scroll was copied about 200 B.C. but proved to be identical to the Masoretic Hebrew text of Isaiah which we have in the King James Version.[15]

 

Of course the King James Version does not contain the Masoretic Hebrew text, but this is only the most obvious flaw in this quotation. More to the point, Sightler is completely wrong in his assertion that the Qumran Isaiah Scroll A is “identical to the Masoretic Hebrew text.” F.F. Bruce states the true situation:

 

It [Qumran Isaiah Scroll A] differs from the Masoretic text especially in matters of spelling and grammatical forms, but also to some extent in wording. The variants in wording are due for the most part to the substitution of familiar for less familiar words.[16]

 

As two examples, Dr. Bruce cites readings in Isaiah 21:8 and 53:11. In 21:8 the KJV reflects the Masoretic text with “And he cried, A Lion.” Isaiah Scroll A reads, “Then he who saw cried.” In 53:11 the KJV again translating the Masoretic text has “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Isaiah Scroll A says, “He shall see of the travail of his soul light, and shall be satisfied.” Sightler’s unreliable and drastic overstatement is typical of KJV Only literature in general and of his A Testimony Founded For Ever in particular. KJVers may wish that manuscripts transcribed 1000 years apart could be identical, but such is not the case. The unavoidable variants are the reason all printed Bibles, including the KJV, are the product of Textual Criticism.

 

Dean John Burgon, a knowledgeable textual scholar often quoted by KJV Only advocates who nonetheless refutes their position, recognized the distributed nature of the true readings:

 

But I would especially remind my readers of Bentley’s golden precept, that ‘The real text of the sacred writers does not now, since the originals have been so long lost, lie in any MS. or edition, but is dispersed in them all.’ This truth, which was evident to the powerful intellect of the great scholar, lies at the root of all sound Textual Criticism.[17]

 

Obviously and counter to his professed followers, the Dean did not believe in either a perfect Textus Receptus or KJV. He says clearly that the true readings do not reside in any one manuscript or printed edition. This point cannot be reconciled with the false teaching that any manuscript or printed edition is perfect in every detail.

 

And Textual Criticism for All

 

If the original readings are scattered throughout diverse manuscripts, a most accurate edition of the New Testament can only be constructed by some method of distinguishing the true readings from false ones. Any method of distinguishing true readings, regardless of all protestations to the contrary, is some form of Textual Criticism. King James Only advocates propagate the false notion that modern Textual Criticism is a villainous process whereby the pure text of Scripture is corrupted by men of wicked intent. In reality, it is a process in which many godly men have sought an even purer form of an already accurate text. There are fine Christian men, outstanding scholars who love the Word of God, who engage in Textual Criticism in order to remove every possible blemish from the text of Scripture. To be sure, they do not all share the same perspective nor practice the same methodology in regard to either internal or external evidence, but they do share the common goal of the most accurate copy of the New Testament. Such is not to claim that men of deficient theology and character have never engaged in Textual Criticism. Indeed, such have participated in the transmission of the text behind all Bibles, but regardless of who did the work, all printed editions of the Greek New Testament and all versions of the English Bible exist as the product of Textual Criticism in one form or another, and Textual Criticism does not preserve, but rather corrects and restores.

 

Textual Criticism According to the KJVO

 

The method of determining which reading among the variants is correct is obvious to King James Only advocates. A simple reading of the KJV provides all that really needs to be known. With this approach KJVers are accepting the decisions made by the Roman Catholic priest Erasmus and by Anglican bishops of the least-reformed of the reformed churches. This procedure by itself settles the issue, but of course does not appear to be very scholarly. Hence the second step, in which whatever evidence is found in Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic literature is listed. At this point, regardless of its actual weight, the evidence for the KJV is declared to be “overwhelming.” Insulting remarks are perhaps made concerning the scholarship of those who do not agree. It also helps the cause to add a few derogatory remarks about the unbelief of those who do not accept the “providentially preserved Word of God.” The only sad thing about this biased description is that it is so largely true.

 

This author was recently told by someone that when he reads the KJV, he just “feels” that it is the Word of God. This author also “feels” that the KJV is a most blessed book, an accurate transmission of the Word of God, but he also realizes that such “feelings” are not an accurate guide to truth. The person who made this claim is, without realizing it, performing textual criticism in mass by the method of “the more familiar reading.” Whatever he has become familiar with and comfortable with must be the truth.

 

The few among the KJVers actually willing to discuss the role of Textual Criticism in the production of the Textus Receptus and of the KJV do so at their own peril. It is not a topic that they should greet with enthusiasm. With little discussion of the actual mechanics of the work done by Erasmus et al., great assurance is given that he and his followers, including the KJV translators, were guided by the Holy Spirit. Of course the advocates find no need to prove this unbiblical assertion. It is enough to declare that their detractors cannot prove otherwise.

 

Nor can Glenny and his colleagues prove that God did not guide and teach Erasmus, Beza, and Stephanus, in their reconstruction and refining of the Greek Receptus so that we have the Word of God without omissions or additions, (Streeter, p. 122, bold added).

 

No, and Dr. Streeter cannot prove that a 900 foot Christ did not appear to Oral Roberts and instruct him to build a hospital either. Most students, however, would like to hold to positions that can be proven with a reasonable degree of certainty, not just to positions that cannot be disproved. There is a word in Streeter’s quotation that should be most troubling both to him and his followers. That word is “reconstruction.” The obvious question is, “Why did Erasmus and his followers have to engage in Textual Criticism at all?”. If God has perfectly preserved his Word throughout all of history, why did not the great scholar simply secure one of the 5,200 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament[18] and have it reproduced?

 

Sorenson falsely tells his readers that Erasmus had many MSS available for his work:

 

Contrary to popular misconception, Erasmus had more than a handful of manuscripts at his disposal. Preserved Smith, the noted expert on the life of Erasmus, comments, “For the first edition Erasmus had before him ten manuscripts, four of which he found in England, and five at Basle. . . . The last codex was lent him by John Reuchlin . . . (and) appeared to Erasmus so old that it might have come from the apostolic age,” (Sorenson, p. 188).

 

He makes it sound as if each of the ten manuscripts covered the entire NT. Such is not the case. To state the matter accurately by the actual coverage of the NT, Erasmus had two MSS of the Gospels, three of the Book of Acts, four of the Pauline Epistles, three of the General Epistles, and one of the Revelation. He also freely drew readings from the Latin Vulgate and thereby introduced words into his text that have no support whatsoever from any Greek manuscript.[19] Dean Burgon also denies Sorenson’s false position:

 

Erasmus in 1516 edited the New Testament from a very small number of manuscripts, probably only five, in repute at the time.[20]

 

Why does it matter that he had or did not have many manuscripts? All he needed was one perfect one. But alas, no perfect ones existed.

 

In the view of the KJVO, modern scholars set themselves up as judges of the Word of God when they make choices among various readings, thereby deciding what is or is not Scripture.

 

The closest that Central and other Critical Text advocates can come to having a final authority is to trust in the human brain. They must DETERMINE in their OWN MIND what the Word of God is and where it is, (Streeter, p. 36).

 

No man has the right to judge which Bible is accurate and if it is the preserved one, (Carter, p. 79).

 

It does not appear to bother Streeter and Carter that they have done exactly what they condemn in others. In their own brains they have decided that the readings selected by Erasmus and the King James translators are the Word of God. Streeter knows that the best copies of Scripture had errors that had to be detected and corrected:

 

The remaining question is, “How good of a job did God do caring for His Word?” Did He preserve it perfectly, as we believe; or did He allow errors which could not be found and corrected? If God allowed undetectable and uncorrectable errors, then how much error was God willing to keep in His Word? (Streeter, p. 78)

 

It is certainly twisted logic to say that if God allowed errors that could be found and corrected, then he preserved his Word perfectly. No, if God allowed errors, whether they could be found and corrected or not, he did not perfectly preserve his Word. And further, found and corrected by whom? By scholars? Could laymen with no knowledge of Greek and Hebrew find and correct the errors? KJVers often speak of what great scholars Erasmus and the KJV translators were (which no one denies). Was it their great scholarship that allowed them to find and correct the errors? How does this match up with these words from Streeter:

 

However, if believers have to go to Beacham, and scholars like him, in order to know what the Bible says, then those scholars will be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, NOT THE BIBLE, (Streeter, p. 66).

 

Two more quotations confirm that Streeter believes that Erasmus and the KJV translators made textual decisions (thereby setting themselves up as judges over God’s Word?):

 

However, Erasmus understood (what all of us should realize) that there were places where the Vulgate preserved the correct reading even when the Greek church did not, (Streeter, p. 105).

 

If the King James translators kept a verse which Erasmus had put in (even though Central Seminary does not think the verse should be there), or if they kept a passage which Erasmus had translated from the Latin Vulgate (even though Central Seminary abhors this), we should assume that the King James translators looked at all the evidence (not just Erasmus’ text) and decided the verse or the passage belonged there, (Streeter, pp. 99-100).

 

The evidence seems irrefutable: By Streeter’s own standard, Erasmus and the King James Version translators were a bunch of arrogant Bible correctors![21]

 

Westcott & Hort and the Critical Text

 

Greek manuscripts are generally classified into one of three families based upon their particular variants. The families are named Western, Alexandrian and Byzantine according to geographical considerations. While the King James Bible is based mainly upon manuscripts from the Byzantine family, most modern Bibles (the NKJV excepted) rely heavily upon the Alexandrian family. As a result, KJVers expend much of their energy attacking the Alexandrian manuscripts as well as two men, B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, who greatly popularized the Alexandrian family with the publication of their edition of the Greek New Testament. It is important to note that the falsity of King James Onlyism has nothing to do with the Alexandrian copies of Scripture. Nowhere does this paper argue that the KJV position is wrong because the early Alexandrian MSS are right. Those who actively oppose the false cult of the KJV share a variety of differing views concerning the theory of Westcott and Hort and of the value of the earliest papyrus and uncial manuscripts. These differing views do not hinder them from seeing the utter folly of King James Onlyism. The clearest historical example of this is seen in the case of KJV favorite Dean John Burgon. While he opposed the Critical Text of Westcott and Hort in the strongest of terms, he did not believe in the perfection of the Textus Receptus, which is derived from Byzantine manuscripts, nor by extension, of the KJV.

 

Readings without Majority Support

 

Anyone who reads widely in King James Only literature, at least without a knowledge of the truth, will gain the impression that the Greek text upon which the KJV is based is a virtually uniform text of the New Testament, a text all but identical in all copies, that has existed from the time of the Apostles until today. It may be termed the Traditional Text,[22] denoting its supposedly uniform use by Bible-believing Christians through the ages. Its numerical superiority has resulted in the title Majority Text. As it became a printed entity through the work of Erasmus, Beza, and Stephanus, it assumed the moniker of the Textus Receptus. To express the situation in mathematical form, one would be lead to believe that in all but the most minor of details, TT = MT = TR. The truth is much different than such an equation would suggest. Before the printing press (1452), there was no such thing as TT = TR. That is to say, the Textus Receptus, and hence the Traditional Text, is a synthetic text that in the fullness of its readings had no existence prior to Erasmus. The Majority Text represents the form of text found in the large majority of manuscripts, but these manuscripts differ from each other in many particulars. For example, if one could go back in time to the year 1450 and examine freely all of the Greek manuscripts in existence, I John 5:7, Acts 8:37, and Luke 17:36 would not be found in most of the copies. There would also be a vast number of much smaller differences among the various manuscripts and between the manuscripts and today’s Textus Receptus and KJV. There has never been found a Greek manuscript identical in all of its words to the hypothetical Traditional Text nor to any edition of the Textus Receptus. KJV advocates gloss over these facts and present the picture as much simpler than it actually is:

 

Curiously, though the vast majority (99 percent)[23] of extant (existing) manuscripts support the Received Text, they are set aside and discounted as not having significant textual value, (Sorenson, p. 27).

 

Rather than seeing this [the similarity of most manuscripts] as an evidence of preservation of the Received Text, the critics altogether reject these MSS as evidence, (Sorenson, p. 27).

 

Ninety-nine percent of all extant (existing) New Testament Greek manuscripts support the Received Text. This is prima facie evidence that God has preserved His Word in this lineage, (Sorenson, p. 30).

 

Another term generally synonymous with the Received Text is that of the majority text. This is because the vast majority of extant manuscripts support the Received Text, (Sorenson, p. 39).

 

Of the 5000 plus Greek manuscripts for the NT, over ninety percent of them are in consentient agreement with each other. It is from these 90% or so manuscripts that textual scholars in the “TR Tradition” (Byzantine Text) based their TR editions.[24]

 

The truth of Dr. Strouse’s statement depends upon what he means by “consentient agreement.” If he means that the manuscripts of which he speaks have differences that include the omission of entire verses, then yes, he has spoken accurately, but left out many important details. Dr. Streeter must also neglect a multitude of inconvenient facts as he boldly claims to have discerned a divine oracle in the events of history:

 

Why has God in His providence made the Traditional Text the majority text for the last 1,000 years? Obviously God is telling the world something, (Streeter, p. 133).

 

If Streeter is correct in his divination, then God is telling the world that there are several verses, numerous clauses, and various words in the King James Bible that are not part of the Word of God. For one who demands absolute technical perfection, the situation with the majority text manuscripts is much messier than one would ever guess by reading Sorenson, Strouse, or Streeter. Dr. Maurice Robinson, a textual scholar who is one of the editors of a printed Greek New Testament based upon the majority text, has stated:

 

In numerous places the manuscripts of the Byzantine Textform are nearly evenly divided among two or more variant readings.[25]

 

“Byzantine” is simply another designation for Majority Text manuscripts. Again as indicated by Dr. Robinson, the situation with the Book of Revelation presents a particularly difficult problem for anyone seeking to defend the TR/KJV by appealing to the Majority Text:

 

Second, the Greek text of Revelation does not have a single unified Byzantine text as tends to be the case elsewhere in the NT. Rather, the Byzantine-era MSS of Revelation tend to split into two almost equal groups, one aligned with a MS known as Q (otherwise called 046) and the other aligned with the commentary on Revelation prepared by Andreas of Caesarea, known as An. Where Q and An agree, there is no question regarding the Byzantine text; where they differ (which is frequent) then one or the other is correct, and the problem is determining scientifically which one in each case, based on sound principles of internal and external evidence.[26]

 

In King James Only literature one will read over and over of the large majority of manuscripts that support readings found in the TR/KJV and of the small minority of manuscripts that support alternative readings found in modern Bibles. It would appear that clear majority support for any reading provides powerful, indeed decisive, evidence for the reading. But once again a terrible inconsistency presents itself: KJVers defend the large number of readings found in the King James Bible that are not supported by the majority of Greek MSS. In other words, evidence from the majority of manuscripts is to be highly regarded and given all due respect until such evidence contradicts the KJV. The obvious problem here is inconsistency. If Majority Text arguments are valid, they are as valid when they do not support the KJV as when they do. Several examples will exhibit the inconsistency of those who support the KJV with Majority Text arguments:

 

Matthew 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead [omit], cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

 

A variety of sources may be consulted to document that “raise the dead” in this verse lacks the support of the majority of Greek manuscripts, but none can match the words of Dean John William Burgon for pertinence and impact:

 

‘Very nearly--not quite:’ for, in not a few particulars, the ‘Textus receptus’ does call for Revision, certainly; although Revision on entirely different principles from those which are found to have prevailed in the Jerusalem Chamber. To mention a single instance;--When our Lord first sent forth His Twelve Apostles, it was certainly no part of His ministerial commission to them to ‘raise the dead’(nekrous egeirete, S. Matthew x. 8). This is easily demonstrable.[27]

 

And by parity of reasoning, I altogether decline to accept as decisive the verdict of any two or three of these in defiance of the ascertained authority of all, or a majority of the rest, (Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, p. 31).

 

So Burgon, demonstrating the consistency which King James Only apologists lack, rejected words found in both the Textus Receptus and the King James Version of the Bible because those words lacked support in the majority of Greek manuscripts.

 

Luke 17:36: Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. [omit entire verse]

 

David Sorenson has an appendix to his book in which he attacks the New International Version. He informs us that,

 

The New International Version deletes seventeen entire verses outright from the New Testament when compared to the text used by the church of Jesus Christ for nineteen centuries. These include the following, (Sorenson, pp. 236-37).

 

Among other verses he then lists Luke 17:36. Is it an indication of unbelief to suggest that this verse is not part of God’s Holy Word? Have scholars who make such suggestions set themselves as judges over the Word of God? Perhaps not. Sorenson neglects to inform us that there is a marginal note in the original KJV of 1611 as follows:

 

This 36 verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.

 

It is interesting that the KJV translators, but apparently not Sorenson, wanted readers to know this. When Desiderius Erasmus prepared his editions of the Textus Receptus (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?) he did not include the verse. It is lacking in the majority of Greek manuscripts and in the Latin Vulgate. Once again, no matter how weak the evidence is for any reading, if it found its way into the King James Version, KJVers will argue that it is Scripture. Inconsistency causes them no difficulty.

 

Acts 8:37: And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. [omit entire verse]

 

The verse was eliminated by Vaticanus, probably because it teaches the baptism of believers only. The NASB, by following one or two corrupt manuscripts, weakened the doctrine of the deity of Christ as well as the doctrine of believer’s baptism, (Streeter, p. 193).

 

It is difficult to know how to respond to statements that are so bold and yet so wrong. Streeter displays little knowledge of the verse and of the issues surrounding it. It is lacking in the vast majority of MSS, which means that the NASB was following far more than “one or two corrupt manuscripts.” Streeter believes that any reading supported by the Syriac Peshitto is “at least 200 years older than Vaticanus,” (Streeter, p. 106). He apparently does not know that the Syriac Peshitto does not contain Acts 8:37.

 

Colossians 1:14: In whom we have redemption through his blood [omit], even the forgiveness of sins:

 

Since the NIV lacks this phrase, which is also not contained in either the Critical Text or the majority of manuscripts, Perry Rockwood intimates that said version always omits the blood of Christ.[28] Never mind that the NIV has forty references to the blood of Christ while the KJV, with this phrase added, has forty-one. Perhaps readers are expected to believe that each new revision of the NIV will remove one more reference until they all are gone. But then again, perhaps both the Critical Text and the majority of Greek manuscripts are correct here.

 

I John 5:7: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. [omit entire verse]

 

Are the above codices [Vaticanus and Sinaiticus] really reliable? One will do well to remember that these are the same 2 codices which attacked the doctrine of the Trinity by removing the Johannine Comma (I John 5:7f).[29]

 

Mr. Khoo can blame the removal of this verse on Vaticanus and Sinaiticus if he wants to, but many would wonder why almost every Greek manuscript follows their lead. No, Khoo’s comment is just another bit of misinformation from a misinformed KJV defender. The verse has only the slimmest of support. It too is missing in the Syriac Peshitta, which according to Streeter above, indicates that the verse was gone two hundred years before the existence of either the “villainous” Codex Vaticanus or Sinaiticus. Streeter informs us that,

 

Neither Glenny nor anyone else has yet proved that Erasmus or the KJV translators made a mistake by including I John 5:7 in the text, (Streeter, p. 107)

 

That may all depend on what is meant by “proved.” It has certainly been proved that the defense of the verse by the King James Only is an inconsistent mess. Those wishing a painless discussion should read Doug Kutilek’s A Simple Outline Regarding I John 5:7 at KJVOnly.org.

 

Revelation 1:11: Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and [omit], What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

 

According to Sorenson’s misinformation, the “omission” found in Revelation 1:11 represents part of a “shocking” “doctrinal declension in the critical text and translations based thereupon” as a “dilution and weakening of the doctrine of Christ,” (Sorenson, p. 248). He did not bother to inform his readers that the majority of manuscripts also lacks the phrase, which misrepresentation of the facts is “shocking.”

 

As is the case over and over, minority support is acceptable if the reading is found in the KJV. The methodology used by the KJVO is obvious: They begin by assuming that which they are asked to prove, that is, that the KJV is a perfect translation of the original texts of the Bible. They then evaluate the evidence by working backwards. If they find evidence which they believe supports their position, they latch on to it. If they find material that disproves what they believe, they look for ways to explain it away. It may be surprising to some to discover that the KJVers do not like the Majority Text as a printed edition. The reason is easy to discern. It allows Greek students to see firsthand the inconsistency of the Textus Receptus, of the King James Version, and of those who use a majority text argument to support readings found in the TR and KJV. So King James Only supporters are all in favor of the Majority Text until it is expressed as a printed edition and thus exposes the folly of their position.

 

Readings Found in No Greek Manuscripts

 

There are indeed readings in both the Textus Receptus and the King James Version of the Bible that are not contained in any Greek manuscripts whatsoever. They are non-majority variants taken to the extreme. These foibles occur mainly where Erasmus, influenced by his Roman Catholicism, chose to follow readings supported by the Latin Vulgate rather than the Greek text. In several places the Renaissance scholar had little choice: His Greek manuscripts had holes in them and were missing at least one page.[30] The defense of such readings by the King James Only renders any complaints about the fewness of the ancient Egyptian manuscripts rather empty. It also demonstrates the falsity of the assertion that Erasmus consulted a large number of manuscripts and that he was the textual scholar par excellence. Three examples, with Kutilek’s comments upon Revelation 22:19, are sufficient to make the point:

 

Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? [no Greek support] And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

 

Rev 22:19   And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book [all Greek MSS read “tree”] of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

 

Revelation 22:21  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you [no Greek support] all. Amen.

 

One of those readings produced by Erasmus that lacks any Greek manuscript support is the reference to the "book of life" in Rev. 22:19. All Greek manuscripts read "tree of life"; not a single one reads "book of life." The corruption of "tree" into "book" occurred in Latin when a careless or sleepy scribe miscopied the correct ligno (tree) as though it were the similar-appearing libro (book). When Erasmus back-translated from Latin, he introduced for the first time ever in Greek the reading "book of life" in Rev. 22:19, and by the slavish reprinting of Erasmus' text by later editors, the reading "book of life" found its way into the textus receptus and the King James Version, even though it is completely without support of any kind in any Greek manuscript.[31]

 

With the thought in mind that one irrefutable error is sufficient to completely disprove the position held by most King James Only defenders, the reader is invited to consider very carefully the implications of Revelation 22:19. It is altogether obvious that the error arose in Latin (libro = book for ligno = tree). The Greek word for “book” is much different than the Greek word for “tree” (biblos = book vs. xulon = tree). The further observation that no Greek MSS read “book” and that Latin manuscripts are divided between “book” and “tree,” makes the origin of the false reading “book” obvious to anyone open to the truth. Streeter said that no error has ever been proven in the KJV. What he should have said is that no amount of evidence is sufficient to convince a King James Only supporter who is not willing to accept the truth.

 

Various Editions of the Textus Receptus

 

In his King James Only book, Mickey Carter reproduces the ubiquitous “tree of corrupt bibles,” (Carter, p. 104). It contains all of the usual suspects, including the codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus, the Greek New Testaments of Griesbach, Lachmann, and Westcott and Hort, and three modern English translations. At the very top of the tree is the inclusive “All other Bibles departing from the Textus Receptus.” It is probably a safe assumption that Carter had no intention of snaring the KJV itself with this last phrase. Carter has, as the saying goes, painted himself into a corner by the radicalism of his KJV Only position. He believes that the KJV is perfect (and inspired) in its most minute details. He must, by extension, also believe in the perfection of the Textus Receptus, for it is sufficient to condemn “all other Bibles” that depart from it. What Carter fails to inform us is that there are various editions of the TR that differ from each other in their wording and that the KJV is not completely translated from any one edition. So Carter may choose any edition of the TR that he desires and crown it as “THE” Textus Receptus, and the King James Version will itself depart from it in some details of its wording.

 

The material to clearly document differences in the wording of various TR editions and the failure of the  KJV to follow any one edition, has long been available in Scrivener’s The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611).[32] Oddly enough, the Dean Burgon Society distributes a photo reproduction of this work, which clearly discredits its position.

 

Carter, apparently unaware of the numerous differences in wording among the various editions of the Textus Receptus, makes the following statement:

 

It [the Masoretic text] is from what [sic] we get the text used in the King James Version, as well as other classic Protestant translations, such as Luther’s Bible and the Geneva Bible. All these came from the same source, the same text, and are trustworthy, (Carter, p. 121, bold added).

 

Carter also includes Luther’s Bible on the tree of good Bibles, (p. 112). He further supplies, in two chapters, a list of verses that have been perverted by modern Bibles and notes the omission by most of I John 5:7, (p. 186). He neglects to tell his readers that Luther’s German Bible, being translated from the second edition of the TR by Erasmus, does not contain the disputed verse. Erasmus did not include the verse until his third edition when he was pressured to do so by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther never included the verse.[33] So while modern Bibles are condemned for failing to include I John 5:7, Luther’s Bible, which also does not include it, is commended as a trustworthy version. As in the hand-copied Greek manuscripts, so also in the printed editions of the Textus Receptus, KJVers cannot consistently deal with the variants. We agree with Dean Burgon that no edition of the TR is perfect:

 

Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction, (Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 21).

Perfect in translation?

 

Not only does the KJV fail to follow any one particular Textus Receptus in every detail, but there are a variety of places where it is not an accurate translation of any Textus Receptus, or any other Greek text, for that matter. These consist mainly of instances where the Greek text in all editions of the TR plainly says one thing, and the KJV plainly says something else, not because the translators used a differing Greek text, but because they failed to properly translate what was before them.

 

Matthew 14:9. Earlier in this paper there is a quotation from David Sorenson in which he states his belief that although the first edition of the King James Bible contained errors of punctuation and printing, over the years these errors have been corrected so that the KJV now contains no errors whatsoever. This assertion can be easily disproved:

 

And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's [1611: oaths] sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. ~ Matthew 14:9

 

All editions of the Greek NT in this verse have the reading, “dia de tous orkous,” “nevertheless for the oaths’ sake.” The word “oaths’” (orkous) is plural in Greek. The KJV 1611 failed to insert the necessary apostrophe for the possessive of its translation (“nevertheless for the oaths sake”). This makes it impossible in English to determine if “oaths” is singular or plural. Later editors “corrected” the problem by inserting the apostrophe in the wrong place, thus rendering “oath’s” as singular. Under Sorenson’s view of the KJV, we must believe that God made an error when he had this corrected, for he had the apostrophe inserted such that “oath’s” is now singular in current editions of the KJV, “nevertheless for the oath’s sake.” All editions of the Textus Receptus have the plural. The King James Bible (current edition) has the singular. The KJV is in error.

 

John 2:4. Translators often face the problem of words possessing meaning on more than one level. A word may have both a denotative meaning and a connotative meaning. The denotative meaning relates the objective reality that the word describes. The connotative meaning denotes the subjective attitude of the speaker. For example, in English the two words “cop” and “police officer” may have the same denotative meaning but reflect entirely different attitudes on the part of the speaker. Sometimes it is impossible to translate a Greek word into English such that the denotative and connotative meanings are both most accurately relayed.

 

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. ~ John 2:4

 

Would any reader of this paper address his dear mother as “woman”? To do so would be rightly considered the height of disrespect. The problem here is that “woman” in this context is an excellent translation of the denotative meaning of gune, but a most horrible translation of the connotative meaning. The Lord Jesus was never disrespectful to his mother (Exodus 20:12). The English word “woman” carries a connotative meaning of disrespect here that the Greek gune does not. On the denotative level the KJV is correct; on the connotative level it is in error (along with many other English versions).

 

John 4:27. On his journey through Samaria, Jesus stopped for a rest at Jacob’s well while his disciples went into the city to purchase food. When a woman of Samaria came to the well for water, Christ witnessed to her about eternal life. Upon their return, the disciples were surprised at the conversation. In the words of John’s Gospel:

 

And upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? ~ John 4:27

 

That first century Jews held a low view of women is reflected in one of the daily thanksgivings in the Synagogue: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord . . . Who hast not made me a woman.”[34] They also had a saying that it would be better to burn the Law than to give it to women. The disciples of Christ were not surprised that he spoke to this particular woman (“the woman”), but rather that he would so speak to any woman in public. This is clearly indicated in the Greek text, which does not possess the definite article (“the”). The correct translation of the text should indicate the surprise that “he talked with a woman.” The Textus Receptus does not have the Greek article here, and there is no reason to supply one in English.[35] The KJV is in error in doing so.

 

Romans 8:16. In this verse, the King James Bible refers to the Holy Spirit of God as an “it.” KJV Only advocates defend this degrading mistranslation as indicated:

 

Actually, the KJV translators correctly translated the Greek word at this point. Here, the word was neuter in Greek and "it" correctly rendered the thought. People today try rather to impose interpretation rather than accurate translation.[36]

 

Strictly speaking, the exact and literal translation is what the KING JAMES translation has, “itself.” … So, “Spirit itself” is what is actually in the Greek language. … That would not be considered a translation error because that is exactly what it says.[37]

 

If Waite and Sorenson are correct, here are some more “exact and literal” translations:

 

Matthew 5:15: Neither do men light a candle, and put him under a bushel,…(because the Greek word for “candle” is masculine).

 

Matthew 5:29: And if thy right eye offend  thee, pluck him out, and cast him from thee …(because the Greek word for “eye” is masculine).

 

Matthew 5:30: And if thy right hand offend thee, cut her off, and cast her from thee…(because the Greek word for “hand” is feminine).

 

Matthew 5:34: Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for he is God’s throne…(because the Greek word for “heaven” is masculine).

 

Any Greek student could fill page after page after page with such nonsense.  This is not “exact and literal” translation.  It is FOOLISHNESS of the most ridiculous sort.  The defense of the KJV here is born of desperation, not of sound linguistic understanding.  It is also misleading in a technical discussion to say “’Spirit itself’ is what is actually in the Greek language.”  No, in the Greek language it actually says, “auto to pneuma.”  Anyone with even an elementary knowledge of linguistics knows that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between words in two different languages.  In no case does an English word “equal” a Greek word.  The correct observation is that in a given context, a particular Greek word may be correctly translated by a particular English word.  So the Greek “auto” is not equal to the English “it.”  In some contexts, “it” would be a proper translation of “auto,” but in others (such as Romans 8:16), “it” is a disastrous mistranslation. In translating a particular Greek word into English, no one should imagine that the gender of the English construction is automatically determined by the gender of the Greek. Any number of examples can be given to easily prove this beyond all contention. To say otherwise is not scholarly, it is silly.

 

A final observation:  Although the Greek word for “demon” (“devil” in the KJV) is a neuter noun, in its “exact and literal” translation, the KJV calls a demon “he”:  Luke 4:35:[38]  “And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.”  So the Holy Spirit (neuter noun) is an “it” while a demon (neuter noun) is a “he.”  Should we honestly believe this is the English Bible at its best? No, this is an error, and perhaps the most serious one in the KJV.[39]

 

I Peter 3:1. In this verse, because of an error by the King James translators and a change in the meaning of an English word, the text of the KJV gives an instruction to a modern reader that is the exact opposite of what is commanded in the Greek New Testament:

 

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; ~ I Peter 3:1.

 

A natural reading of this verse would suggest that a woman who has a husband who does not obey the Bible can with her own speaking (“the conversation of the wives”) win her husband without the Bible. The problem is simple. In the second occurrence of “the word,” the translation should be “a word.” There is no word “the” in Greek (in any edition). Most readers of this paper also recognize that the old English word “conversation” does not mean “speaking,” but rather “conduct.” The New King James Bible gives a correct rendering:

 

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, ~ I Peter 3:1.

 

Once again there is an error in the King James Bible, and one that could cause a godly woman to do the exact opposite of that which God desires of her. Is it even conceivable that an unsaved husband could remain without Christ because of this flaw?

 

Various Editions of the KJV

 

The King James Version is the plenary, verbal inspired Word of God. Word for word, the very minute details (jots and tittles) were God-breathed into man, who wrote it, (Carter, p. 74).

 

Some critics will further argue that we do not have the 1611 King James Version but, in fact, a 1769 King James Version, which is the version where changes were made. However, upon examination, it would be found that the only changes made were in the spellings of certain words and the form of some of the letters, (Carter, p. 173).

 

Things that are different are not the same. Bibles that are different are not the same. There is only one preserved Word of God. . . . So where is the Word of God? We have it in the King James Version! Not only is the Bible inspired of God and is the Word of God, but we have a copy of that Word of God. God has preserved His Word (100% of it) for every generation, and that includes us! (Carter, pp. 77-78).

 

Carter’s entire book rises or falls on the truth of these statements. If any one is false (which must be the case if they cannot be harmonized), his argument utterly fails, and all that remains is a series of bold assertions devoid of all truth. Carter’s inconsistent logic is not difficult to detect. He claims that the KJV, in its most minute details, was given by inspiration. He further specifies that any Bible that differs from this perfect standard is false and cannot be God’s Word. Of course, as he defines the perfection of the KJV, even changes in spelling would be a corruption of that which was given by the Holy Spirit. Anyone may purchase a copy of the 1611 KJV[40] and observe that many words are not spelled as they are in current editions. Is it acceptable to change the KJV by bringing the spelling to modern standards? Carter voices no problem with this in spite of the contradiction that it poses to his position. But what about “things that are different are not the same” and the KJV being inspired in “the very minute details”? If modern readers are expected to learn the meanings of old words in the KJV, why not also have them learn the old spellings? Who has the right to change the spelling in an inspired document? And if the spelling can be brought to modern standards, why cannot the vocabulary? Where did God give to any man the right to change anything about his Word? Carter has created a mess for himself here for which there is no remedy.

 

It is easily proven that Carter’s  statement that “the only changes made were in the spellings of certain words and the form of some of the letters” is entirely false. While many examples could be given, two are sufficient to make the point:

 

And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the LORD (1611 version omits “of the LORD”) ~ II Kings 11:10

 

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God (1611 version omits “of God”) hath not life. ~ I John 5:12

 

These examples, which again can be examined in the Thomas Nelson reprint of the 1611 KJV, are more than sufficient to refute Carter and others who claim that the KJV was inspired in its most minute details. Some KJVers will claim that these are printing errors, as if that would solve their dilemma. Calling anything in the 1611 KJV a printing error is to “pass judgment upon what is and what is not the Word of God.”

 

KJV advocates take two different approaches to the inspiration and perfection of the King James Bible. Some, like Carter, insist that the version was directly given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and was therefore, from the very beginning in 1611, perfect in all of its details. This group must then either gloss over or even deny the many word changes that have been made through various editions (does anyone actually use the version of 1611?). Others, as is the case with Sorenson and Streeter, believe that although the original KJV did possess some errors, at least in regard to its printing, these mistakes have been corrected in stages so that the current edition is perfect. This latter group denies that they believe that the KJV itself was given by direct inspiration. They can deny all that they want to, but what they describe is nothing less than a supernatural working of the Spirit of God that has resulted in inerrant documents. They can assert that perfection was gained in stages, and call it whatever they like, but it is still inspiration, and it is still an unbiblical doctrine. Once again there are variants, and once again King James Only advocates are unable to consistently deal with them.

 

Textual and Translation Notes in the KJV

 

KJV Only advocates frequently fault modern translations for having marginal notes which give alternative readings in either the Hebrew or Greek text. By the inclusion of such notes the translators are acknowledging that the Greek and Hebrews MSS do not all have the same wording, and in effect are saying that they are not completely sure which readings among the variants are correct. They are confessing their belief that the words which they have included in their text are not always precisely the ones which God gave by inspiration. In other cases, marginal notes are used to alert the reader that while there is no variety in the Hebrew or Greek text, the translators are uncertain as to the correct translation of the text into English. Either type of note indicates uncertainty in the English translation, and uncertainty is exactly what King James Only advocates deny for the KJV.

 

We believe that all of the words of God were found by the translators of the King James Bible, so that the King James Bible has everything in it that God wanted in it, (Streeter, p. 124).

 

With this statement Lloyd Streeter expresses an assurance concerning the wording of the text underlying the KJV that the King James translators themselves did not possess. He may be sure that they found all of the words of God, but they themselves were not so sure. Streeter, and others of his persuasion, are not so fond of telling their readers that the King James translators themselves, both in their preface and in their marginal notes, indicate a lack of certainty both in regard to the Hebrew and Greek texts and in regard to the translation of those texts. The KJV translators knew much more about their work than Streeter does. They were indeed, as KJVers are fond of repeating, outstanding scholars, some of the finest who have ever lived, no doubt. Two quotations from the preface to the 1611 KJV indicate the uncertainty which the translators had in regard to various readings:

 

Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound on this point, (1611 KJV, “The Translators to the Readers”).

 

They that are wise had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other, (1611 KJV, “The Translators to the Readers”).

 

The original 1611 KJV also contained a large number of marginal notes, some giving more literal translations, some alternative translations, and some indicating variations in the underlying Hebrew and Greek texts. The following examples all reflect different readings in either the Hebrew or Greek:[41]

 

II Kings 23:33 ~ And Pharaoh-nechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign [1611 margin: Or, because he reigned] in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.

 

Psalm 24:6 ~ This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob [1611 margin: Or, O God of Jacob]. Selah.

 

Romans 5:17 ~ For if by one man's offence [1611 margin, Or, by one offence] death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

 

Hebrews 4:2 ~ For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in [1611 margin: Or, because they were not united by faith to] them that heard it.

 

Hebrews 11:4 ~ By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh [1611 margin: Or, is yet spoken of].

 

James 2:18 ~ Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works [1611 margin: Some copies read, by thy works], and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

 

It is neither the quantity nor the doctrinal impact of the variants cited which gives them significance. It is rather their recognition at all by the 1611 translators. Here is undeniable proof that they did not consider the Masoretic text, the Textus Receptus, or the KJV itself to be absolutely certain and perfect in every small detail. In other words, the KJV translators were not themselves King James Only.

 

Conclusion

 

While every believing student desires perfect certainly concerning every word of the New Testament, such certainty is not available. King James Only advocates demand that God give them that which he in his wisdom has not. Their unbending commitment to this unobtainable goal has driven them into a heresy which denies the most undeniable facts. While many KJVers claim him as their hero, the knowledgeable textual scholar John Burgon refutes their error:

 

Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.[42]

 

I will venture to make only one more postulate, viz. this: That hitherto we have become acquainted with no single authority which is entitled to dictate absolutely on all occasions, or even on one occasion, as to what shall or shall not be regarded as the true Text of Scripture. We have no one infallible witness, I say, whose solitary dictum is competent to settle controversies, (Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, p. 28).

 

The problem that KJV supporters have is not with the Alexandrian manuscripts that add, omit, or change words relative to the KJV, but rather with any source that does the same. In reality, the perfection of the KJV is contradicted by the majority of manuscripts, the Majority Text as a printed entity, the various editions of the Textus Receptus, the various earlier editions of the KJV itself, and by the translators of the KJV, both in their preface to the reader and in their textual and translation notes in the 1611 edition. The defense of the KJV as a perfect translation may sound very noble and biblical when presented in broad and sweeping terms, but the position thoroughly unravels when examined in detail. To state the matter plainly, the so called “perfectly preserved text,” first in the Greek and then in the English, is a moving target that changes over time. The variants are the irrefutable facts which prove that while the text of the New Testament has been preserved in accurate form, it has not been preserved in the absolutely perfect form alleged by King James Onlyism.

 

 


Definitions

 

In response to feedback, a few brief definitions are included for readers who may be unfamiliar with Textual Criticism and the King James Only movement. Terms are listed in the order in which they first appear in the paper.

 

Textus Receptus ~ A Latin term used to designate a series of printed editions of the Greek New Testament, the first one of which was published in 1516 after being assembled by the great Roman Catholic scholar Desiderius Erasmus. These editions rely on a few late Greek manuscripts. Several later editions of the TR were used by the King James Version translators.

 

Received Text ~ The English meaning of “Textus Receptus.”

 

Critical Text ~ Any one of several editions of the Greek New Testament which, in contradistinction to the Textus Receptus, give significant weight to the early papyrus and uncial manuscripts.

 

Erasmus ~ A brilliant Renaissance scholar who produced the edition of the Greek New Testament that would later be termed the Textus Receptus.

 

Textual Criticism ~ The science that seeks to restore imperfectly transmitted documents to their original form.

 

Vulgate ~ The Latin translation of the Bible made by Jerome around 390 A.D.

 

Westcott and Hort ~ Two 19th century Anglican scholars who edited the first Greek NT to displace the Textus Receptus.

 

Masoretic Hebrew Text ~ The Hebrew text of the OT as it was restored and carefully transmitted by Jewish scribes between about 500–1000 A.D.

 

MSS ~ Manuscripts.

 

Alexandrian Manuscripts ~ The earliest extant copies of the NT, preserved in the dry climate of Egypt.

 

John Burgon ~ An 19th century Anglican scholar who opposed the Greek NT of Westcott and Hort and argued for the superiority of the MSS tradition that underlies the Textus Receptus.

 

NASB ~ The New American Standard Bible. A conservative, modern translation made from the Critical Text using a word-for-word or formal equivalent method of translation.

 

NIV ~ The New International Version. A conservative, modern translation made from the Critical Text using a meaning oriented or functional equivalent method of translation.

 

Codex ~ A manuscript in book-form (as opposed to a scroll).

 

Vaticanus ~ One of the earliest and most complete of the Alexandrian parchment manuscripts.

 

Sinaiticus ~ One of the earliest and most complete of the Alexandrian parchment manuscripts.

 

Syriac Peshitta (or Peshitto) ~ An early translation of the Bible into Syriac. Generally conforms to the type of text represented by the Textus Receptus.

 

 


[1] Copyright 2004, James Richard May. All rights reserved. For the benefit of readers less familiar with this subject, some terms are defined at the end of this paper.

[2] For examples see Rick Norris, The Unbound Scriptures (Fayetteville, NC: Unbound Scriptures Publications, 2003), pp. 287-97.

[3] Jack Hyles, Enemies of Soul Winning (Hammond, IN: Hyles-Anderson Publishers, 1993), p. 47.

[4] King James Only defenders are committed to denying this truth as part of their assault upon the Critical Text.

[5] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (3rd ed. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), p. 178.

[6] Mickey Carter, Things That Are Different Are Not The Same (Haines City, FL: Landmark Baptist Press, 1993) p. 196, underlining added.

[7] Lloyd L. Streeter, Seventy-five Problems with Central Baptist Seminary’s Book The Bible Version Debate (Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2001), p. 110.

[8] We should remind the reader that in the overwhelming majority of the New Testament, the Critical Text and the Textus Receptus agree word for word.

[9] KJV Only literature is filled with Scripture passages interpreted to mean that God would preserve his Word in perfect form. Rarely are any verses claimed to teach that he would restore the Bible after all perfect copies had perished.

[10] Dr. Sorenson denies being “King James Only,” claiming to hold to the “Preserved Text Position.” There is virtually no practical difference, despite his protests.

[11] David H. Sorenson, Touch Not The Unclean Thing (Duluth, MN: Northstar Baptist Ministries, 2001), p. 13, bold added.

[12] According to Daniel Wallace, the closest Greek manuscripts average from six to ten variants per chapter. See Daniel B. Wallace, “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism”, Grace Theological Journal, 12:1 (1991), p. 32.

[13] Personal correspondence with this author, dated January 15, 2004.

[14] Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended (Space Age Edition, Des Moines, Iowa: The Christian Research Press, 1973), p. 107, bold added.

[15] James Sightler, A Testimony Founded For Ever (Greenville, SC: Sightler Publications, 1999), p. 172, bold added.

[16] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (3rd ed. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), p. 122.

[17] John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller (1896; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Dean Burgon Society Press, 1998), p. 26.

[18] Of course very few individual manuscripts contain the entire NT, so at best several would be needed.

[19] “Bible Text,” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. Samuel M. Jackson (1907; rpt. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), Vol. II, p. 106.

[20] John Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. Edward Miller (1896; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Dean Burgon Society Press, 1998), p. 3.

[21] This represents the logic of the KJV position, not this author’s view.

[22] The Traditional Text, at least when used to describe any perfect Byzantine text before Erasmus, only exists in theory. The KJVO cannot produce an ancient copy. Burgon used this terminology, but not to describe a text identical to that which underlies the KJV.

[23] Scholars less prone to exaggeration generally give the preponderance at 80-90%.

[24] Thomas M. Strouse, The Lord God Hath Spoken: A Guide to Bibliology (Virginia Beach: Tabernacle Baptist Theological Press, 1998), p. 18.

[25] Maurice A. Robinson, “The Case For Byzantine Priority,” Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, ed. David Alan Black (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), p. 133.

[26] Personal correspondence with this author, dated February 5, 2004.

[27] John Burgon, The Revision Revised (1883; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Bible For Today, 1984), pp. 107-08.

[28] See this author’s Another Bloodless Bible? at KJVOnly.org.

[29] Jeffrey Khoo, Kept Pure in All Ages (Singapore: Far Eastern Bible College Press, 2001), p. 79.

[30] Bruce Manning Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 99-100.

[31] Doug Kutilek, Erasmus, His Greek Text and His Theology (Internet article at KJVOnly.org, nd), p. 2. [Page numbers not present in original. Added by Microsoft Word.]

[32] F.H.A Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611) (Cambridge: 1884), pp. 243-62.

[33] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1888; rpt. Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), Vol. 7, pp. 357, 412-13.

[34] Various commentaries on John 4:27 relate this information, including Westcott’s.

[35] Greek students will notice that we are avoiding a technical discussion of this point. The interested reader may consult Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pp. 208, 247.

[36] David Sorenson in personal correspondence with this author dated January 15, 2004.

[37] D.A. Waite, Defending the King James Bible, (Collingswood: The Bible For Today Press, 1998), p. 240.

[38] The same situation occurs in Luke 8:28. In Acts 16:18 the KJV refers to a demonic spirit (pneuma, neuter noun) as “he” rather than “it” as would be required by KJVO logic.

[39] See also Doug Kutilek, “The Spirit Itself,” or The Greatest Defect in the King James Version, available at KJVOnly.org.

[40] A word for word reprint has been produced by Thomas Nelson Publishers and is currently in print (February 2004).

[41] F.H.A Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611) (Cambridge: 1884), pp. 40-42, 58. Scrivener garnered sixty-seven references in the OT and thirty-seven in the NT where the KJV translators included marginal notes to designate variant readings in the original language texts from which they translated. The examples above were taken from Scrivener and checked against the Thomas Nelson reprint of the 1611 KJV. The spelling has been updated.

[42] John Burgon, The Revision Revised (1883; rpt. Collingswood, NJ: The Bible For Today, 1984), p. 21. As stated earlier, Burgon was not himself King James Only. He is obviously highly regarded by members of the Dean Burgon Society and by many other, but not all, King James Only advocates.