Is the King James Version of the Bible the only one we can trust as some contend?
This is becoming a serious concern for some Christians which can lead to anxiety in others. I find that as I read on the internet that one person says one version is best and then others state the opposite, that just leaves me feeling confused!!
You can go from the vehement King James Version Onlyists to the those who are happy with the Message
translation (per) version. Then there are hundreds of other versions too. Are some more trustworthy than others? Are any the “inerrant word of God,” as some claim? Are some actually dangerous to our faith, as others strongly contend?
I was a while ago, looking into the differing texts and methods that bible translators use. I was attempting to understand things that really felt rather complex. In order for me to satisfy myself that I could, at the very least, trust the Bible in my hands I ended up doing a parallel, line-by-line reading of my preferred version, a New King James Version Bible (NKJV) with a King James Version Bible (KJV). I read the letters James, Peter, John & Jude in both and found these two versions to be pretty much the same. I found no discrepancies of particular concern between them at all. Where the KJV differed, I would just write a note in my bible to this effect, so I could consider the differing renderings of the words and phrases as I read my bible.
I was trying to relate this to a blogger who stated that he wasn’t a King James Onlyist but a ‘Greek Textus Receptus / Majority Text onlyist’. But as I do not have such manuscripts at my disposal, nor could I read and understand them, even if I did possess them, I must instead choose which “translation” is the best one for me to read.
I discovered that there are some vital points of concern regarding missing and strange renderings of some passages of scripture in some Bible versions. And so due to the anxiety this caused me and pressure to attempt to conform to such KJV-Only-ists I had bought and tried to read such a Bible. If I am honest with you, I frequently ended up not understanding the meaning of what I had just read as well as I did with my NKJV – it was a struggle. It reached a head on the day I read a sentence in the KJV Bible that was completely archaic, and I had absolutely NO concept of what it was talking about! End of experiment and back to my NKJV with joy!
Now let me make clear at the outset, I am not knocking the KJV Bible. I am just saying that I have not “grown up” with it, as some folk have, and that as it is written in 16th century archaic English I struggle to understand some of its meanings. As words and phrases have become obsolete or even changed to a different meaning in the intervening centuries it is difficult to read and to fully understand what you are reading. So as there are about fifty other English translations to choose from it makes sense for me to use one of those.
King James Version Only?
I have just found the following on another blog which has got me thinking about the Bible versions controversy once again. Here is what the writer says about the matter.
“Satan wants to convince you that there is only one translation of the Bible that is inspired, and the rest are erroneous. If Satan can’t stop you from reading the Bible, he will convince you to read the hardest one to keep you from truly grasping the full meaning of the text. He will say that it doesn’t matter if you can’t understand the English words, God will still use you.
No, my friends, God’s purpose is to get you His Word in your language for your understanding so that you may do what it says. In the English speaking world we are blessed with various Bible translations that cover any reading level, so no one is without excuse for not reading His Word.”
It was such a blessing to me to read this today, as it confirmed what I had concluded over a year ago; that is that God wants us to understand what we read. I feel that the above blogger was correct in comparing those who want to force believers to read translations that are too difficult for some readers (due to their archaic language) to being caged-up, away from the life the Lord wants us living. If I am honest, that is what it felt like to me during the time of my considering the KJVists claims that I ought to read that version only. Some of these advocates appear to deny the NKJV’s benefits but simply seemed to keep banging the same old drum, which was feeling like a straight-jacket of constraint to my faith.
I have learnt a lot during the time of consideration about the Bible translation methods which I will outline for you very briefly here. In the end, most disagreements come down to what you believe about:-
(1) translation philosophy, or techniques and
(2) which printed, Greek New Testament text is the best.
Here is a simplistic outline of those basics that are up for discussion in the world of Bible translations.
- Formal equivalence – a word-for-word translation method that translates the meanings of words and phrases more literally; attempting to retain the original word order of the Greek and Hebrew.
- Dynamic equivalence – a sense-for-sense translation that translates the meanings of phrases or whole sentences to render the overall meaning clearer to the modern reader.
- Paraphrases – a thought for thought method. Examples are The Living Bible (TLB), the Contemporary English Version (CEV) & the Message version.
You can read Wikipedia here – a bit more about where your preferred version lies on the scale of these translation techniques.
It seems to me that if you wanted to do deeper Bible study and wanted to get into the meaning of words then perhaps you ought to choose a version that followed the “formal equivalence” translation method. And yes, the KJV is on the list of such versions, but so is Young’s Literal Translation, the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), and the NKJV and others too.
Below the Line of Acceptability
The Message version, however, is entirely composed of extensive paraphrasing and as such I personally feel that it ought not even to be termed as a Holy Bible. I have just looked up a couple of Amazon reviews of The Message for you.
“I will stick to the Bible’s that don’t dilute and confuse some of the core truths of the Bible…”
Another said: “If you ONLY read The Message, you’re not reading the Bible.“
Another blogger calls this book, “an incubator for heresy and foolishness”!
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that this paraphrase also appears to have an occult phrase in the Lord’s Prayer which I have highlighted for you in bold below. I have checked this out and discovered this to very sadly be true.
“Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what’s best — as above, so below.” !!!!
(The Message (per) version of Matthew 6:9-13)
OK, so I won’t be reading that one. I do believe that such a “version” could actually be dangerous to your faith beliefs!
Now to The Other Issue – The Manuscripts or Texts
There was another issue, however, that those contending for the KJV-only brought to my attention; and that is the manuscripts that are used as the basis for the texts. Some Bibles use Textus Receptus (Latin for “received text”), which is the name given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament. Then others use the 19th century Westcott / Hort Revised Greek Text (based upon the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) and this appears to be where the problems really get deep.
The KJV onlyists contend that the “modern Bible versions” are full of partially or totally missing verses and verses altered into completely different meanings, primarily due to using this latter, revised text.
This assertion was exceedingly alarming to me! Could this be true? I went into a bit of a tail-spin, reaching for the “panic button”, as I read more and more into this matter! Help? Who and what was I to believe? Could I trust my Bible?
I understand that the Bible publishers can only produce “new versions” if they are substantially different from all that have gone before due to copyright legislation, and that this is one reason for the differing renderings of words and phrases that we find in the Bibles. But also I found that the original words don’t always have one exact English word equivalent to translate into.
In the end, I decided to do the parallel reading of my NKJV Bible against a KJV Bible, as I have mentioned above. And that is how I have settled the matter for myself. I concluded that the NKJV, is trustworthy enough; more to the point it is both readable and understandable for me.
I read in the front notes of my NKJV Bible (1982);
“…the editors decided to retain the traditional text in the body of the New Testament and to indicate major Critical and Majority Text variant readings in the translator’s notes.”
So I finally felt free to continue to read with confidence my NKJV Bible. It was such a relief to come to this conclusion. It truly felt like being set free from a stressful cage of constraint. It seems to me that not only was the “enemy of my soul” at work to some extent, in the Bible translating and printing industry, but he was also at work to fill me with fear and mistrust in God’s Word in my hands! But what else can be expect from such an adversary of all truth!
How Logical is the KJV-Only Logic?
It seemed to me that when attempting to discuss things with those of the KJV-Only type camp that the logic in their responses becomes rather confusing. They may say that they would be happy to accept any Bible version that follows the Textus Receptus, but pay no heed to the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), for instance. This version was published in 1994 apparently, and is a KJV with minimal changes to update obsolete words. Why are they not recommending this version?
It seems to me that the KJV-Only camp seems to intimate that if there are any 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. This seems to be the key to being set free from this debate as this is not true at all!
Let’s think about that for a moment. If these people have been through the different versions with a fine-tooth comb (and some claim to have done that for us) then the listed differences could simply be written into the margins of your own Bible translation, for you to consider. If you felt that the word/phrase rendering of one translation was better than the one you currently read, then just get a biro and cross out what you feel to be inaccurate or misleading and write the new word or phrase nearby. That would save you money in having to buy another Bible and it would give you freedom and confidence to continue reading your own Bible. Simple really!
Some even state that “reading tests” show that the KJV is easier to read than X, Y, Z versions. Yet common sense tells you that the KJV is difficult to fully comprehend, and no “supposedly scientific” reading test is going to alter this fact! Then when you say this to them, you are just told to go away and learn all the archaic words and phrases, man-up, and stop whingeing! They tell you that someone who could hardly read has learnt to read the KJV Bible, so what’s your problem?!
I will just add a quote from Richard Wurmbrand that helps us to remember that regardless of where we each end up in this matter, that it is the Lord God Almighty who will speak to us, as He is The Word and The Truth. He is well able to teach and lead me, even though there may be some translation-type issues with the Bible in my hands.
“God is the Truth. The Bible is the truth about the Truth. Theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. A good sermon is the truth about the truth about the truth, about the Truth. It is not the Truth. The Truth is God alone. Around this Truth there is a scaffolding of words, of theologies, and of exposition. None of these is of any help in times of suffering. It is only the Truth Himself Who is of help, and we have to penetrate through sermons, through theological books, through everything which is ‘words’ and be bound up with the reality of God Himself.”
I am glad to be able to walk away from the KJV and the Greek Textus Receptus/Majority Text onlyist controversy and to enjoy reading and understanding my NKJV Bible in my own language. I thank God indeed that such Bibles exists for me. I am very blessed to no longer be entangled by the fear tactics of the enemy of my soul that would bind me up in a heavy burden of reading a book that I could not fully understand. I praise the Lord for such liberty indeed. Praise the Lord that we are blessed with various Bible translations that cover all reading levels, so that everyone can read and understand His Word.
I hope that this brief look at these matters has been of some help to you. If it sets you into a tail-spin, as it did me, then please do remember to keep praying as the Lord will lead you into all truth, as He has promised.
May God bless you,
PS. Since writing the above post I have started reading a book called, “The King James Only Contoversy – Can You Trust Modern Translations?” I am leaning more and may come back to this issue again in the future.
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