By Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980)
From "The Sword of the Lord,"
 March 30, 1979.

NOTE by Bob L. Ross


A few months ago, I took note of a couple of items in The Sword of the Lord -- Dec. 22, 2000 and April 13, 2001 -- which related to "King James Onlyism."  

In the first issue, Editor Shelton Smith wrote an article in which he commended a certain group of Baptist pastors for taking a "stand" for the "great issues that confront us."  Included in Brother Smith's commendation was a reference to "an exclusive use of the King James Version of the Bible" which characterizes these preachers who have been a part of the Baptist Bible Fellowship.

This group of Baptist Bible Fellowship pastors in recent times became known as "Friends of Heartland,"  and they met at Cleveland, Ohio on November 13, 14, 2000 where some "decisions were made to disengage Heartland Baptist Bible College [in Oklahoma City] from its Baptist Bible Fellowship-approved status and to start a new national fellowship" (Sword, 12/22/2000). 

The new Heartland school is the product of a "King James Only" group of preachers who were involved in the controversy surrounding the sale of the property of Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College in San Dimas, California.  The Heartland school was established in recent times at the Southwest Bible Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, pastored by Sam Davison, former President of the Baptist Bible Fellowship. 

This recent move by the "Friends of Heartland" to set up a "national fellowship" appears to be a division which ironically is similar to the origin of the BBF in 1950 when a group of Fundamentalist Baptist pastors separated from the World Baptist Fellowship and the WBF school at Arlington, headed by J. Frank Norris, to form the Baptist Bible Fellowship and establish a new Bible school at Springfield, Missouri.  Now a half-century later the "Heartland" group of "KJVO" pastors is separating from the BBF and supporting the new Heartland school as the group's Bible college.

The Sword of the Lord's Editor heaps praise and high commendations upon this Heartland group.  All of that type of embellishing palabber is fine by me, but when Brother Smith tries to align the Heartland group's position with "the fundamentalist heritage," he drastically strays from historical facts.  "King James Onlyism" is not part of the "fundamentalist heritage," but is of recent origin in the fundamentalist movement.  Neither J. Frank Norris nor the group of pastors which separated from him in 1950 were "King James Onlys" such as the "Heartlanders."  The "Heartlanders" represent a view of the KJV which is an innovation introduced into fundamentalist circles in the latter half of the 1900s.

Doug Kutilek's book, J. FRANK NORRIS AND HIS HEIRS, demonstrates that Dr. Norris was not a "King James Onlyite," and neither was the BBF's Noel Smith, who for years was the foremost leader and spokesperson on the Faculty of the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri.  Noel Smith edited the BBF's weekly Tribune magazine and was in fact a strong advocate of the American Standard Version of 1901.  [Bro. Kutilek's book is available from us for $10 plus $2 shipping].

As for the heritage of the fundamentalism of The Sword of the Lord, Brother Shelton Smith's advocacy of "the exclusive use of the King James Version of the Bible" (page 5, 12/22/00) was not part of founder John R. Rice's fundamentalism.  Dr. Rice took a stand against the "King James Only" position when this novelty came upon the scene during his lifetime.  He wrote against the views of David Otis Fuller's "Which Bible?" book and against the views advocated by Peter Ruckman of Pensacola, Florida and the views of E. L. Bynum of Lubbock, Texas.  In his pamphlets, books, and the Rice Reference Bible, Dr. Rice advocates the same views about Bible translations as held by J. Frank Norris and Noel Smith and other leaders in the fundamentalist movement of the 1900s -- not "King James Onlyism."

I offer the following article which Dr. Rice wrote and published in The Sword of the Lord of March 30, 1979, as evidence of his standing against the "King James Onlyism" views of those such as the "Friends of Heartland."  The current Sword Editor, Shelton Smith, wrote about "leaning away from the great old Book" in the April 13, 2001 issue (page 3), and he indicated that such "leaning" departs from the fundamentalist heritage.  But the fact is, under Dr. Rice the Sword NEVER even "leaned" towards KJVOism, but rather stood firmly against it.  It was after the death of Dr. Rice that some men associated with the post-Rice Sword not only "leaned" but tumbled into "King James Onlyism." 


By  Dr. John R. Rice

We love the King James Bible.  We use it in all our sermons, our books and pamphlets published in millions of copies, in the weekly SWORD OF THE LORD.  We recommend it as best for daily use.  We have memorized some thirty chapters and thousands of other verses in it.  We have large commentaries on Genesis, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Corinthians and Revelation:  all based on the King James text.  We have written comments on every chapter in the Bible and almost every principle verse in five years of work, all in the King James Version.  My Reference Bible now in preparation by Thomas Nelson Publishers uses the text of the King James Version.  So I am a friend of the King James Version.  I have probably done more to promote the King James Bible than anyone else in America in many years.

But there are people who fanatically insist that the King James Version was perfectly translated with no errors; if there is a single error in the translation we have no trustworthy Bible.  They say God is obligated to have such a perfectly translated Bible which is exactly true to every word of the original autographs.  They are wrong, foolishly and perhaps ignorantly wrong, and they are often guilty of railing and unchristian talk and foolish, slanderous statements.  Now I shall ask all of these to answer some honest questions.

You need not write to argue with me about it unless you answer these questions.  If you don't face these questions honestly, then I am not interested in discussing the matter with you, of course.

1.  What accepted Bible commentary, what statement of faith, of any church or denomination states that the King James Version is without error in translation?    

There is not one such commentary or statement of faith or statement by a reliable authority that the King James Version is without an error in translation.  Not one in the world!

I have a tract before me by Brother E. L. Bynum of Lubbock which claims to be "a resume of Dr. Otis Fuller's book, Which Bible?"  I have that book also before me.  The tract says, "We as evangelicals believe that Bible to be the verbally inspired Word of God, inerrant -- namely without error.  THEN -- we ask, is there one version extant among the multiplicity of versions which is without error today?  If there is not then we worship a God who is either careless or impotent to keep His Word pure thru the ages."

In the first place, that statement, claiming to be a resume of the statement of Dr. Otis Fuller in the book, Which Bible? is not correct.  It misquotes this good man.  Dr. Fuller overstates the case in his book, Which Bible? and is somewhat accountable for all the radicals who rush into controversy on this subject.  But he plainly says on page 33, about the translators of the King James Version,     "No reasonable person imagines that the translators were infallible or that their work was perfect, but no one acquainted with the facts can deny that they were men of outstanding scholarship . . . . "

All right, the translators of the King James Version were men of outstanding scholarship and quality and character.  But "no reasonable person," says Dr. Fuller, would say what Brother Bynum quotes him as saying.  And we think it is almost blasphemous to say that if God didn't guarantee every word translated in the King James Version to be correct, then He is "either careless or impotent to keep His Word pure thru the ages."  God could have preserved all the original manuscripts, but did not.  God is not either "careless or impotent" if He does not do just as some extremist or radical demands.

Again the question, and do not write me on this matter (and I hope you will never say a word to anyone else on the matter) without answering this question honestly: What authorities, commentaries, statements of faith of widely accepted Christian leaders say "that the translators were infallible or that their work was perfect"?  That is not sensible and it isn't true.

2.  Where in the Bible does God guarantee that any translator of the Bible, anyone who copies the Bible, anyone who preached the Bible, or anyone who teaches the Bible, will be infallibly correct?

There is no such Scripture.  The doctrine of infallibility of the translation in the King James is not a Bible doctrine; it is a manmade scheme by some partly ignorant and some partly influenced by bad motives.  But unless you can answer this question, don't write me about it, nor approach anybody else about it.

3.  If the King James Version is the only perfectly translated Version, without errors, in the English language, then what about the Bishop Bible and the others that it superseded in the English language?

If God was under obligation to make a perfect translation of the King James Version, in 1611, then you mean God was either unwilling or unable to guarantee the translation before the King James Version, before 1611?  If God was under obligation to make the King James Version perfect, then why would He leave English-speaking people for 1600 years without a translation they could rely on?

4.  If God has obligated Himself, as some fanatics say, to make one translation in English, that is the King James Version, perfectly translated without error, then would not God be obligated to furnish such a translation in every other language also?

The doctrine won't stand unless it stands for every language where the Bible is translated.  Of course, that doctrine is not in the Bible.  Men made that up.  God's Word is "for ever settled in heaven."  That is true.  And we have God's Word in the King James translation, well translated and reliable and trustworthy, but God did not guarantee there would be no mistakes by the translator.

Now face this:  if you claim God is under obligation to have a perfect translation available for us who speak English, He is under obligation to have a perfect translation for others.  Does He or not?  Do you claim the same for Germany?  for France?  Japan?  What are those translations?  Please don't write to argue with me about this unless you answer this question honestly.

5.  What about the translation in Acts 12:4 that Herod was "intending after Easter to bring him [Peter] forth to the people."

And the Greek word in Acts 12:4 in all the Greek texts is "Passover" instead of "Easter."  There was no "Easter" then, not in the received text or any other.  This church celebration which varies a month or more from time to time had not been taken from the heathen religions and made into a Catholic festival then, and the word was not even in existence when that was written in Greek!

Now, is it no mistake to say "Easter" when God said "Passover"?  Is that perfect?

6.  Again, in Revelation 22:14 the King James Version teaches that one is to be saved and go to Heaven because they "do his commandments."

It says, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."  In that the translation is not correct and that is not really what the Greek says in the original manuscript.  The true Bible does not really teach salvation by keeping commandments.  In that case it Erasmus, who selected and collected the Greek Received Text, had it that way he was mistaken.  I think the correct translation is, "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city, as it is given in the American Standard Version.  But I know that to teach salvation by keeping commandments is contrary to Scripture as truly translated.

7.  One great edition of the King James Version of the Bible left out the word "not" in the commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and had it, "Thou shalt commit adultery."

Did God protect that version from error?  In the first hundred years the King James Version has had many corrections and revisions.  If it was right before, it did not need the corrections.  If it is perfect now, then it was not perfect then.

Why Cannot Fans and Extremists About the King James Version Be Good Christians Also?

It is a sad thing that those in some heresy often err greatly in matters of righteousness also.  They write mean letters; they make slanderous charges; they ignorantly jump to conclusions about people; they have suspicions and innuendoes.  No, if a man is a good enough Christian to be right on the matter of inspiration, he ought to be a good enough Christian to control his tongue.  The Bible says plainly:

"Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul." -- Prov. 22:24, 25.

And again 1 Corinthians 5:11 tells us we are not to eat with "a railer" any more than with fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, etc.  So we invite letters provided you write like a Christian, provided you work for fellowship and truth instead of slander and abuse.

One missionary who gets out a tract on this matter used my picture illustration on its cover for which I paid a Christian artist in Glen Ellyn, Illinois to draw for my pamphlet on Verbal Inspiration.  Don't you think one who makes a great to-do about the Bible should be ethical and Christian?  When one is a railer, a slanderer, or otherwise does not act or speak or write as a good Christian his doctrine is likely to be carelessly or ignorantly wrong, as in this matter.