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King James Version
by Shaun Willcock
In the year 1611, an English version of the Bible was published, more accurate
than any English version that had ever been produced before it, or that has ever
been produced after it: the Authorized or King James Version. There are
those who would challenge that statement; but not one could ever prove it to be
false. The evidence supporting it is simply overwhelming.
This being so--that the King James Version is the most faithful, most accurate
translation of the Word of God into English--no other version of the Bible in
English should be used by the Christian who loves the Word of God, and who
desires to read it and study it in its purity and entirety. Unlike the King
James Version, the many modern versions contain serious errors, omissions, and
additions, and should be rejected. Why settle for less than the best? Why, in
fact, be satisfied with an incomplete, inaccurate version, when a complete and
accurate version is available? It is important not to be misunderstood. We
are not claiming that the King James Version is divinely inspired, as some
critics of our position often attempt to lead others to believe. We are well
aware that there are certain heretics who make such a claim.
We are not to be numbered amongst them. Let our
position be emphatically clear:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim.3:16); "For the prophecy
came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were
moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet.1:21). Holy men such as Moses and David and
Isaiah and Paul and Peter and others wrote by divine inspiration. Their writings
were perfect, free of all error. Miraculous inspiration applied only to the
original writings, and not to the copies of those writings that were made in
However, in addition to the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as originally
given, the Christian must hold firmly to another doctrine, without which the
first would be of no use whatsoever: and that is the doctrine of the
preservation of the Holy Scriptures! That the Lord has promised to preserve his
Word is as certainly taught as that he gave the original writings by
inspiration. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall
not pass away" (Matt.24:35). Peter wrote of "the word of God, which liveth and
abideth for ever...the word of the Lord endureth for ever" (1 Pet.1:23-25), and
he was quoting Isa.40:8. If there was no preservation of the Word of God, of
what use would its inspiration have been? If the Lord had given the original
Scriptures by inspiration, this would have been of benefit to those believers
who originally had them; but of what use would it have been to believers of
later ages? For the original manuscripts have long since perished! They have
rotted away. We, therefore, would not have the Word of God today, if it were not
for the fact that the Lord has kept his promise to preserve his Word for ever.
Now, how has God's Word been preserved? As the various books of the Bible were
circulated (Col.4:16; 1 Thess.5:27), they were copied, and the copies were
copied, and so on. And in the multiplication of copies the Word of God was
preserved. This is not to say that there were no corrupt manuscripts circulated
as well. Just as there were (and are) false teachers among the churches (2
Pet.2:1), so there were (and are) false copies of the Scriptures among the true.
And yet all Scripture is preserved within the body of manuscripts. This brings
us to the subject of the text of God's Word.
This article, of necessity, can only deal with all these matters very briefly.
Much more could be said on each point. There are, in fact, essentially only two
texts of the Greek New Testament: the true and the false. There are over 5000
Greek manuscripts that have been discovered to date. Of these, over 90%, perhaps
as many as 95%, contain essentially the same text. This text has been called
various things, but for brevity's sake we shall call by perhaps its most
well-known name, the Received Text. In the early sixteenth century, this text
was printed for the first time, and disseminated throughout Europe. This
`Received Text' is the TRUE text of God's Word. How do we know?
Just as the Lord led his Church to accept only the truly inspired books of the
Bible as genuine, and to reject all others, so he guided his Church to make
multiplied copies of the true manuscripts. Corrupt copies were also produced,
but not in such large quantities. They were recognised for what they were, and
rejected. And for this reason, the text found, for the most part, in the vast
majority of manuscripts is the TRUE text of the Word of God. It is true that
manuscripts containing this text are not as ancient as those containing the
other text, and some critics contend that the oldest manuscripts are
automatically the best; but this is not so. The manuscripts containing the true
text would have been used far more than those containing the false one, and
would have eventually fallen apart; so that a manuscript may be very old simply
because it was not very accurate, and consequently not much used. The antiquity
of a manuscript is one of the factors to take into consideration in order to
ascertain whether a particular reading is the genuine one or not, but it is not
the only factor. The number of manuscript witnesses to a particular reading, the
variety of evidence from different places in favour of a particular reading, the
context of the reading, various internal considerations, etc., are all factors
which have to be taken into consideration. And in these respects, the Received
Text is found to be far superior to the other text, the text of a very small
minority of manuscripts.
Now we come to the subject at hand: the superiority of the English version of
the Bible known as the King James Version over all other English versions either
before or after it.
There are three things to look for in a Bible
1. Is it based on the true text of God's Word?
2. Is it an accurate translation of the true text?
3. Is it the best translation of the true text available?
Let us take up each one of these matters separately, and in this order: for if a
particular Bible version is based upon a faulty, corrupt text, it does not
matter how accurately it is translated: it is a faulty, corrupt translation. It
cannot be otherwise. And if it is based on the true text, but is inaccurately
translated, it does not matter that it is based on the true text: it is an
inaccurate translation. And if it is based on the true text, and is accurately
translated, but there is a more accurate version available, why should the
Bible-loving Christian settle for anything less than the very best translation
Firstly, then, a Bible version must be based upon the true text of God's Word.
That text is the Received Text. This was the text that was the basis of all the
Bible translation work carried out in Europe at the time of the Protestant
Reformation and afterwards, when the Bible was placed in the hands of the common
man. This is the text that underlies the King James Version. The King
James Version was used by the overwhelming majority of the English-speaking
people the world over until the year 1881. In that year, a new English version
was published. This was known as the Revised Version, and it was the first of a
long line of new Bible versions in English that have been published from then
until now: versions which have caused immense confusion among professing
Christians. The reader will probably be familiar with the names of at least some
of them: the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the
New International Version, the Good News Bible, the Living Bible, etc., etc.
Almost without exception, the versions that have been published since 1881 have
been based, not upon the Received Text, but upon another, corrupt text: a text
found in only a very small percentage of all extant Greek manuscripts.
If a version is based on a corrupt text, the very foundation is faulty, and no
Christian should use that version.
Let the reader not think that the differences between the texts are minimal, or
insignificant! They are neither. The corrupt text is drawn primarily from two
manuscripts, the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts. Let the reader comprehend
something of the differences between the Received Text and the false text by a
consideration of the following: it has been calculated that in the Gospels
alone, Codex Vaticanus differs from the Received Text in the following
particulars: it omits at least 2877 words, adds 536, substitutes 935, transposes
2098, and modifies 1132. This adds up to 7578 divergences. As for Codex
Sinaiticus, it is even worse, with almost 9000 divergences. And a great many of
the differences are very serious indeed, affecting vital doctrines of the faith.
Secondly, a Bible version, even if based on the true text as the King James
Version is, must be an accurate translation of that text. If the translation
itself is faulty, it matters not that it was based upon the true text! When the
King James Version is closely examined, however, it is found to be an extremely
accurate, faithful translation of the Word of God into English. This fact has
even been recognised by its enemies. The King James Version translators were men
of exceptional ability, among the most learned men of that age or of any other,
expert in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and other ancient languages. One of them was
well at home in twenty languages! They approached the Word of God with
reverence, with fear and trembling, and with great care. They produced a
word-for-word translation, a literal rendition of the Hebrew and Greek texts
into English. And in addition, their translation was eminently readable, easily
committed to memory, a melodious and graceful translation. They took the true
text, and they translated it faithfully, carefully, lovingly and reverently. The
result was a Bible version of unsurpassed accuracy and beauty.
Thirdly, a Bible version may be an accurate translation of the true text, as
indeed the King James Version is; but it must also be ascertained whether or not
this version is the best translation of the true text available in English. If,
after all, a more accurate version is available, it would make sense for
Christians to use that version in preference to the King James Version; for it
makes perfect sense to use the most accurate version available.
It can safely be said, however, that a better English version of the Bible has
never been produced. Of this version one declared: "If accuracy and strictest
attention to the letter of the text be supposed to constitute an excellent
version, this is of all versions the most excellent"--and this testimony is
true. Through the centuries its superiority has been acknowledged by many men
well able to judge of such matters.
The King James Version was not the first English version based on the Received
Text. Before it made its appearance in 1611, other versions were published.
Tyndale's Version, Coverdale's Version, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and
the Bishops' Bible, were some of the versions that appeared in the sixteenth
century. They were all based on the true text, and carefully translated; but
without any doubt whatsoever the King James Version superseded them all.
This author has read through, and made a study of, Tyndale's 1526 New Testament,
Matthew's 1537 New Testament, and the 1557 Geneva New Testament. And he can
testify that, while all three are extremely accurate, none of them are as
accurate as the King James Version. They contain errors not found in the King
James Version. These errors are not numerous, nor are they as serious (when
taken as a whole) as those found within the modern versions; but the King James
Version is a definite improvement over them all. It was the crowning achievement
in the translation of the Bible into English.
Nor do any of the versions produced since the King James Version equal it in
accuracy and faithfulness to the true text. As has already been pointed out,
almost every one of the modern versions is based on a corrupt text; and so of
course we can be sure that all of these are far inferior to the KJV, without
even examining them further: the fact that they are based upon a corrupt text is
sufficient. But we are considering, here, whether or not the KJV is the best
translation of the true text available. In recent times a version has been
published which is largely based on the true text, and which has gained
increasing popularity in some circles. It is called the New King James Version,
and it deserves a brief mention here because some are claiming that it fulfills
the three criteria mentioned above: it is based on the true text, the Received
Text; it is alleged to be an accurate translation of that text; it is, in fact,
alleged to be the most accurate translation of that text, superior even to the
King James Version.
When the New King James Version is examined, however, it is found to fall far
short with regard to all these criteria. In the first place, although it claims
to be based on the text underlying the 1611 KJV, in a number of places it most
certainly does not follow that text, but departs from it; for example, in 1
Cor.10:6,7, Heb.10:17, Revelation 14:3, Revelation 5:13, and Rev.16:5. In the
second place, there are numerous changes in the English between this version and
the KJV. It has been calculated that there are about 1500 changes in the English
in just the first eleven chapters of Matthew, suggesting a total of about 30 000
to 35 000 in the entire New Testament, affecting perhaps on average one word in
every five or six. In the third chapter of John, there are 222 changes. The NKJV
drops all usage of the words thou, thee, thy, and thine. This modernisation of
the English actually affects the accuracy of translation, because the Hebrew and
Greek languages contain distinctions between the singular and plural personal
pronouns--distinctions which are not made when the modern you and your are used.
The accuracy is affected in such places as Lk.22:31,32, and Philemon vss.1-3,
There are a number of places where the NKJV rendering affects true doctrine.
Here are a few: Matt.20:20, Rom.4:25, 1 Cor.1:18, 1 Cor.8:11, 2 Cor.2:17, 2
Cor.5:14, 2 Cor.10:5, Phil.2:6, 1 Thess.5:22,23, Heb.2:16, Rev.19:8. There
are many footnotes in the NKJV, indicating manuscript readings which differ with
the traditional text, but these merely serve to confuse the reader who is not
informed about these issues, and to cast doubt upon the authenticity of the true
text at these places.
The above facts, though brief, are sufficient to demonstrate that the so-called
`New King James Version' is not a more accurate translation, but is far inferior
to the King James Version. It should be rejected by all lovers of the Word of
God in favour of the King James Version.
The King James Version is the most accurate translation of the Word of God into
English ever produced; and, we venture to say, no more accurate English version
will ever be produced. Firstly, because there is no need for one. The King James
Version, which has served English-speaking Christians so well for over three and
a half centuries, is perfectly capable of doing so for the time that is left
before the Lord returns. Secondly, because in these days of ecumenism, of
widespread blindness and heresy throughout the Protestant institutions, there
are few whom the remnant of God's people would be willing to entrust with the
Thirdly, because even if men could be found, the version they produce would not,
now, supersede the King James Version in the hearts and affections of all God's
people worldwide. And if it failed to supersede it, we would end up with two
versions, causing confusion. This is not the sixteenth century, when one version
was succeeding another rapidly--and the people wanted it that way, because they
knew it had to be, for the translation of the English Bible was still being
perfected. Today, those Christians who use and love the King James Version do
not, for the most part, believe that another one is needed. They are perfectly
happy with it, knowing that it is the unequalled masterpiece of English
versions, upon which the blessing of God has rested for centuries, in the
salvation of the lost and the edification of the saved.
Once upon a time, English-speaking Christians everywhere used this version, and
no other, and the Church was the better for it. Alas, those days have now gone!
We have a flood of perverted, corrupt versions in use, and yet look at the state
of professing `Christianity'! There can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that
there is a most definite correlation between the flood of false versions, and
the widespread doctrinal chaos and ungodliness that everywhere abounds in what
goes by the name of `Protestantism' today.
At a time of great need, when Popery is slithering in everywhere, when heresies
and cults abound, and when the religions of the east are taking root in the
west, many Christians are attempting to meet these foes with blunted swords:
versions which, although they may contain the Word of God, are not the Word of
God in its entirety or in its purity. Oh, let the Christian reader, who uses an
impure version, return to the Bible of his spiritual forefathers, the Bible upon
which the Lord has placed his blessing as on no other; and let the Christian
reader, who has cherished and cleaved to his good old King James Version through
thick and thin, be encouraged by what has been written here to go on using it
with confidence, knowing that it is the Word of God in English!