Why I’m not “King James Only” Even Though I Use the KJV

I’ve been having trouble keeping up with the Internet lately.  Someone is always writing something on the Internet — have you noticed?

Between work and ministry piling up, as well as a recent overseas trip, I haven’t written much, let alone read all I might have. But I did wander onto another pastor’s blog yesterday, and discovered my name. 🙂  It turned out someone wanted to know if I am “King James Only.”

That label means different things to different people.  I could have answered there, but thought perhaps some of my readers would like to know the answer, so I’ll answer it here.  (Usually I refer to the Authorised Version, but I’ll use KJV in this article.)

What I Share with Many “King James Only” People

INSPIRATION AND PRESERVATION 

I believe in the inspiration of Scripture.  I believe God has given us a Book which is divine in origin AND divine in nature.  I believe God gave Greek and Hebrew words and has preserved them, and that His preserved words are as fully God-inspired as the words He originally gave.  I believe any accurate translation of those words is also divine in nature, the living Word by which we still receive life, and thus can appropriately be called “inspired” (referring to its divine nature) as well.

The Scriptural basis for the above is laid out in some details in articles I have written previously.  See these articles (and the supporting articles to which they link) for extensive discussion.

The Meaning of Theopneustos

The Scriptures — Inspired or Expired?

The Scriptures — Moved By the Spirit

His Word Will Not Return Void

The above doctrines are not unique to those who call themselves King James Version Only, by any means.  But I do not know of any who take the label “KJVO” who would disagree with them.

RECOGNISING THE PRESERVED WORDS

I believe the preserved words of God are found in the texts which God’s people accepted as God’s words down through the centuries.  I believe God preserved His words through and for those who loved and followed Him.

I believe that those who seek Him find Him, and since we find Him in His Word, as a general rule those who desire to truly know His Word and study it diligently will be able to find it in truth and in whole.  This may be limited in individual circumstances by persecution or other factors, but in general, God’s people who want His Word will have it provided to them, because He is that kind of God.  Thus, His people are the primary means by which He preserves His words.

I do not accept modern textual theories as to the “oldest and best manuscripts.”  Such theories were never accepted before the late 19th century, and they are theologically, philosophically, and logically bankrupt.  The prevalent modern theories are built largely around two very old manuscripts, and most modern compilations of the New Testament Greek text rely heavily on those two manuscripts.

I do not accept the idea that the true text of the Bible existed on two copies that languished in (respectively) the Vatican and an Egyptian monastery for more than 1000 years, while God left His people with inferior copies which did not contain His true words. At the time of the Reformation, when many laid down their life for their faith, there was a great hungering for the very words and very truth of God, a re-awakening among many of the need to study the exact words of God and understand exactly what God had said.

Modern theories tell us that the manuscripts with the true text were buried in Egypt.  These theories require us to believe the inconceivable — that a loving God (who delights in His children when they seek Him) did not make His true words available to those Reformation saints.

I have written some articles on this subject, but not in as much detail as I would like to.  The summary (with links to each article) for this on-going series: “The Oldest and Best Manuscripts”?

THE QUALITY OF THE KJV

The King James Version is a masterpiece of the translator’s craft.  As a beginning Greek student there were many times when I thought they had made a mistake.  The more I learned, the more I came to see that there were always reasons for the decisions they made in the way they translated the text.

I have rarely written on this topic.  It is not the purpose of this blog to examine the skill of the translators.  That said, I’ll mention two articles here.  In Proverbs 5:19, “Ravished Always,” and Marital Intimacy, I discussed briefly the skill of the translators in reflecting the word-play in the original Hebrew.  In The Value of “Thou,” “Thee,” and “Thy”, I wrote on how these older pronouns can be helpful to the person who doesn’t know the original language but wants to be careful in his study of the text.

Not everyone who appreciates the KJV is “King James Only,” of course.

THE VALUE OF A SINGLE TRANSLATION

I’ve not written on this topic at all, but I believe there are good reasons why a church should settle on a single translation and use it.  The use of differing translations can lead to confusion and even a loss of respect for Scripture’s authority.  I won’t elaborate on this point any further right now, perhaps a later blog post.  Certainly, this is something which I would share with those who hold to a KJVO position.

THE CHOICE OF THE KJV

We use the KJV in our church.  The decision was based on my theological understanding of what a translation should be, and also my understanding of how well the available translations fit those theological criteria.

Again, I have not really written on this topic, perhaps another blog series someday. There are certainly those who would agree with everything I’ve said to this point who aren’t “KVJO,” but in general, almost everyone who takes that designation would agree with these things.  So it is fair to say that I share many things with those who are KJVO.

But I’m Not KJVO

While I may have many agreements with many who take the label “KJVO,” I don’t take that label myself.  There are several reasons for this, the most important at the end.

“TONGUES TRANSLATIONISM”

For many people, the label is identified with a view which is not in Scripture — that God miraculously intervened in the translation of the KJV in the same way He intervened in the giving of the Greek and Hebrew words.  IMPORTANT:  Not every KJVO person agrees with this view, but in the eyes of many, this is THE KJVO position.

The Bible DOES talk about miraculous translation through the Holy Spirit.  I Corinthians 12 calls it “the interpretation of tongues.”  This spiritual gift was given for a specific time and purpose, and that purpose was fulfilled.  The “tongues” used in some churches today does not match that purpose and is different from the Biblical gift of tongues.  Bible translation (whether the KJV or any other translation) also does not match the purpose of that spiritual gift.  It is contrary to Scripture to teach that “interpretation of tongues” took place in 1611.  I would be slow to take a label which might make some people think I hold to this mistaken view.

I’ve coined the name “tongues translationism” for this view.  It hasn’t caught on broadly, so maybe I’m not very important or famous :), but I still like it.  I’ve written two articles on it.

“Tongues Translationism” Defined “Tongues Translationism” Evaluated

FALSE EXCLUSIVITY

Again, not everyone who holds to a King James Only view will place the limitation on God’s working that I am going to discuss here.  But the use of the word “Only” sometimes reflects the view that the only translation God will use is the KJV.   The Bible does not teach that, and I do not believe it.

Here, I’ll refer to the first half of Bible Translation — Anchored Authority, specifically the discussion of II Peter chapter 1.  Clearly, Peter was trusting God to use, in the hearts of his readers, an imperfect Greek translation of the Old Testament.  If that is so, then God could have also used a better translation if/when one was made.

There is enough truth in the Roman Catholic versions to convict a Roman Catholic of the error of his church and bring him to the knowledge of the Saviour.  There is enough truth in the Jehovah’s Witnesses mistranslation to prove their errors and show that Jesus is God.  If our Lord can use MY flawed preaching, He surely can use translations which are of mixed quality.

UNANCHORED AUTHORITY

Again, some who call themselves “KJVO” hold to a view which I cannot accept, that the authority of the KJV is superior to that of the original Greek or Hebrew.  Some may say that they don’t care what the Greek or Hebrew says, they care what the KJV says. I cannot agree with that statement.  I only care what the KJV says if it agrees with what the New Testament Greek or Old Testament Hebrew say.  I use the KJV only because I believe it does agree.

Again, I refer to Bible Translation — Anchored Authority.  It discusses the two most famous passages on the giving of the Scripture, II Timothy 3-4 and II Peter 1.  In both of these, the readers are translation-users.  The authority of their translation is strongly affirmed, but in both cases that authority is linked, anchored, to the original giving of the words in the original language.  If the translation doesn’t match the original, there is no authority.  Those KJVO people who say that they don’t care what the Greek or Hebrew says are teaching unanchored authority.

THE “ONLY ONE WAY TO TRANSLATE” FALLACY

The most important reason I won’t accept the KJVO label is because Jesus Himself, our Lord and Saviour, refuted the “only one way to translate” fallacy.  Anyone who has learned another language knows that some things can be translated in more than one way.  In fact, Jesus Himself did it with the Old Testament:

Bible Translation — the “Only One Way to Translate” Fallacy

A text can have more than one translation which is good enough for the Lord Jesus.  He approved three different translations of Deuteronomy 6:5, as that article shows.  If a text can have more than one good translation, then a translation which uses ANY of those good translations is a good translation.

Were there no other reason for me to avoid the KJVO label, this one would be enough.  I believe it causes confusion to say you are “King James Version Only” if you believe there are other perfectly good ways that the original Greek or Hebrew could be translated.  And I do not see how anyone can look at our Lord’s own treatment of Deuteronomy 6:5 and claim that there is only one perfectly good way to translate it.

What About Those Who Are KJVO?

As suggested above, there is a wide disparity of belief among those who take the KJVO label.  For myself, I choose not to take it because I believe it will lead many to think I teach some of the errors described above.  For others who choose to take the label, I am more concerned with what they believe and teach than I am with the label.

I would not allow teaching in our church of these errors — “tongues translationism,” false exclusivity, unanchored authority, or the “only one way to translate” fallacy. A person who does not believe those errors, but who uses the Authorised Version exclusively, and thus decides to call himself KJVO, runs the risk of identifying himself with the errors.  I believe that is unwise.  But I see no reason to reject someone just because he takes the label and I do not — I am more interested in finding out what he really believes.

I am entirely content to have someone label me “KJV” in a discussion about translations.  That is the translation I use, and the only one from which I preach and teach, because I believe it is the best translation we have.  If someone is going to preach in our church, I will ask them to use that translation, because that is the translation people bring and will have open in front of them as they examine the Scriptures and learn from his teaching. But if someone asks if I am “KJVO” I will answer negatively.  It is not a label I take for myself or accept from others.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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29 Responses to Why I’m not “King James Only” Even Though I Use the KJV

  1. Dear Pastor Gleason, Thank you so much for this. All that you have stated represents my own position. I can think of one or two places where KJV could be improved, eg the use of ‘not’ instead of ‘to it’ in Isaiah 9:3, and we must never make Bible versions a test of fellowship. Yet I also feel it necessary to insist on use of KJV in all church services and meetings. It is a very good translation and it connects us with the saints who have gone before us. It is memorable and possesses an authoritative English style. Yes, there are some archaisms which need explaining, but this can be a helpful exercise in its own right.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thank you, Pastor Simpson. Isaiah 9:3 is certainly difficult in the Masoretic text! I’ve just finished preaching through Isaiah and as always, when I came to that verse, I grappled with it. I don’t really find myself completely convinced of any of the proposed solutions.

      But, my brother, it sounds like you DO make Bible versions a test of fellowship within your own church, as far as what will be used when you meet together. So perhaps your “test of fellowship” sentence needs a definition of “fellowship” to define the scope of where and when a translation decision matters. It is appropriate for a church to decide on a translation, and it could be appropriate in other ministry / fellowship situations as well — in which case, it does become a test or a limiting factor, does it not?

      Nevertheless, I know what you mean. A person does not cease to be my brother in the Lord simply because he uses a translation which I do not believe to be the best one available. Nor do I consider him disobedient in such a case. That, I believe, is the point you were making, and we would be in agreement on that.

      May the Lord continue to bless your service for Him.

      • Thank you dear brother. Yes, I should have said “test of orthodoxy” or even “of being a fellow believer”. Certainly in the local church situation, however, I feel it necessary to make a stand on this issue, and would feel most uneasy were a visiting preacher to use a “modern” translation.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Yes, I thought that was what you meant. 🙂 I’ve not been in your church, but I’ve looked around your website and thought I knew pretty well where you stand.

  2. We like to tell people, “We are not ‘King James Only’, but we use only King James.” Thanks for this blog post.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      That works reasonably well. It’s not an eternal statement, though. If a new translation were made that I believed was better, I’d change what I use, and I have no reason to believe that won’t happen. It would have to be translated from the text which I believe to be the true text, however, which eliminates most modern translations.

  3. Pastor Gleason, how would you rate the NKJV?

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I learned Greek from one of the men who helped translate the NKJV and he was a wonderful, godly man. I do not know if he was representative of the others or not, but I would not be among those who impugn the character of the translators. He did not hold to the same textual position that I hold, but he believed the text underlying the KJV to be an important part of the textual evidence, and so believed a more “up-to-date” translation to be of value.

      I have read those who say the NKJV was not faithful to its remit to translate using the same text as the KJV. I am not sure that is true — in every case I’ve checked, what I’ve found is that they were indeed using the traditional text.

      I find the language of the NKJV somewhat watered down, in some cases. If we find something a little embarrassing, apparently so did the NKJV translators. I Samuel 25:22 says in the NKJV, “May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.” “One male” may be a little more comfortable to our sensibilities than “any that pisseth against a wall,” but what does the Hebrew say?

      Every translation has dynamic equivalence in it, where the actual word-for-word translation is replaced with words that convey the meaning better, but here we have dynamic equivalence that obscures some of the meaning rather than conveys it better. This is not just a threat, but also a measure of disrespect is being conveyed in the terminology used to make the threat. This is language that God instructed even His prophet to use to Ahab. The only thing the NKJV has retained is the threat, not the language itself. I believe that is unfortunate. They could have said, “any that urinates against a wall” which would have been more in keeping with what is considered appropriate language today, and still maintained the text.

      In Proverbs 5:19, as I noted in one of my links above, there is wordplay in the Hebrew. The KJV translators at least tried to bring that out. The NKJV translators just used “enraptured.” But shahgah never means “enraptured,” not even close. It means to go astray, if it is going to be translated literally, but if it is poetical, at least they should have tried to bring out the poetic force. Does what they did convey the overall sense of the passage? Well, Hebrew poetry is very difficult, and it seems to me they’ve done pretty well. But is it as good a translation as the KJV? I would say not even close. Others may differ.

      Isaiah 40:1. “Comfort, yes, comfort my people! Says your God.” vs. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” This is the “thee, thou, thy, you, ye” question. The NKJV tells the reader that God is sending someone with a message of comfort, reiterated for emphasis. The KJV says that it is plural (“ye”), He is sending more than one messenger. The NKJV is a good, accurate translation, and does the best it really can with modern English. The KJV doesn’t have the limitation of modern English, and so for those who know the “ye” is plural (which is easily taught), the KJV tells them more. Sometimes, it adds one more piece of information which is unlikely to impact our understanding of the text. Sometimes, that additional piece of information can protect the reader from misunderstanding.

      As you said, the KJV “is memorable and possesses an authoritative English style.” The NKJV does not have those qualities to the same extent.

      In short, I think the NKJV was translated by those who meant to reflect a text which has not been impacted by a bankrupt textual philosophy. I think it was an honest attempt to do that, and I think at least some of them truly had godly purposes in this. I believe they have put together a good translation, in general. If I were to change from the KJV, that would really be the only option I see at this point.

      Yet, I don’t find their work to be of the same quality as the KJV. If someone believes they should use the NKJV because of the archaisms in the KJV, I don’t see any great reason to object to their decision. But I do not believe the drawback of the archaisms outweighs the benefits of the KJV relative to the NKJV.

      There are many, many phrases in common English today which come right out of the KJV, and which can be remarkably effective in evangelism or teaching when people discover, “That’s where that phrase comes from?” And you say, “Yes, do you know what it originally meant?” When we move to a different translation, we may lose the benefits of that. To me, that alone probably outweighs the negative (and it is a negative) of the archaisms.

      Someday, Lord willing, I really will write at length on the translation decision. You’ve drawn me further down that path than I’d intended to go on this post. 🙂

      • I thank you for this well thought out and helpful reply. Let us take an example of a very minor translation change. Yes, we of course can live with either, yet somehow, “except a man be born again” carries a little more gravitas than “unless one is born again” (John 3:3). Also, the former does justice to the English subjunctive form. Some might argue that ‘a man’ is not a good rendering of the Greek ’tis’, but it surely emphasises better that all mankind has a problem, and that the new birth is a necessity for every descendant of Adam, if he is to see the kingdom of God.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Yes, that is a very good example. Both translations are good and true to the text, but for those who believe in verbal inspiration and thus prefer formal equivalence, the KJV handles the verb better.

  4. Don Johnson says:

    Jon, I appreciate your points. The major quibble I would have with what you say is how you describe the differences between the older mss and the Majority Text/TR (whatever you call your preferred text). The language you use describing the difference is fairly well loaded as if we are talking two different Bibles teaching contradictory things. This is just not the case.

    I think it would be better to use less rhetoric with respect to the texts. There are differences, they must be acknowledged and dealt with, but the differences are not significant. To describe the differences in strong language gives the impression that something evil is afoot.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Don, thanks for the comment! It made me go back and read again. In the process, I discovered that WordPress had somehow collapsed all my paragraphs. Anyway, that’s fixed now, hope it reads a little better.

      I’m not sure I’ve used loaded language about textual differences. The advocates of the modern theories call the traditional texts “corrupt.” I did refer to their use of that word, but I don’t think I’ve used that or similar language about the texts they prefer. If God can use the NWT or the Douay, He can certainly use translations taken from the critical text.

      That said, I HAVE used “loaded” language about the theories. The theories are of more concern than the actual textual differences, because they are basically applied deism. An advocate of the Westcott-Hort theory (or its modern descendants) will say that the Scriptures don’t give help at all to inform us as to how textual criticism should be done. To them, God started the ball rolling and left it, and their job is to figure out from whence it rolled. They say it was a naturalistic process and requires a naturalistic approach. I have a lot of respect for a lot of individuals who advocate these theories, but I have no respect for the theories themselves.

  5. Larry says:

    Jon,

    You say, I believe the preserved words of God are found in the texts which God’s people accepted as God’s words down through the centuries. … Thus, His people are the primary means by which He preserves His words and then I do not accept modern textual theories as to the “oldest and best manuscripts.”

    Can you help me reconcile these statements because they seem contradictory. The modern textual theories are based on texts that God preserved and are widely accepted by God’s people as God’s word. So it seems that if your first sentence is true (that God’s preserved words are found in texts God’s people accepted), then your second statement must, of necessity, be questionable at best. How can you reject the texts that God’s people accept if you believe that God’s people are the primary means by which God preserved his word?

    Here are some options I see:
    1. God stopped working through his people a few hundred years ago.
    2. People who accept modern textual theories are not God’s people.
    3. Modern text theories are one of the ways that God has used to preserve his Word for his people.

    There may be more options that I am not thinking of, but I have seen your argument before and while I don’t buy the merits of it, nor do I buy the logic of it. It seems like, in order to sustain it, you have question the work of the Spirit of God in a great number of Christians today, or at least question their Christianity.

    My own answer is that the way you have formulated your proposition is faulty. Your conclusion may be accurate, but the argument you used to get there is not. You would be better off leaving out the arguments about God’s people because (1) it isn’t a biblical one so far as I can tell, and (2) it is self-defeating. If the traditional text is better, it is better for a different reason than you have given here, I think.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Larry. We’ve had more than 100 years of being told the traditional texts are corrupt by the “experts.” In recent decades, even the most conservative seminaries and pastors have joined the chorus, and every Christian bookstore is filled with books that use modern translations and refer to the “oldest and best” manuscripts as being superior to the traditional texts. The big-shots of Christianity, the elites, are all telling people to abandon the KJV. Seminary professors write articles, not on why other translations may be better, but on why churches should dump the KJV.

      And yet, after all of that, more than half of people who read their Bibles read the KJV. 62% of American homes contain a KJV, and 82% of those who read their Bibles own a KJV. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/march/most-popular-and-fastest-growing-bible-translation-niv-kjv.html.

      See the survey for more details: http://www.raac.iupui.edu/files/2713/9413/8354/Bible_in_American_Life_Report_March_6_2014.pdf

      Why would that be? Everyone tells us it is inferior, the language is certainly more difficult, yet that is the Bible most often chosen when someone wants to read it. It is pretty amazing, unless you think everyone follows Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger.

      But they don’t. Most people have never heard of Ruckman or Riplinger. Yet, they are following something. They still cling to the KJV and NKJV, despite the fact that everyone tells them that something else is better. In the survey, only 40% reported that their church uses the KJV (and many of those won’t be KJVO churches). Yet, 55% reported that they read it.

      53% of KJV readers believe the Bible is “the literal Word of God” as opposed to 39% of NIV readers. The study report doesn’t specify, but correlating the demographics of those who believe Scripture is inspired, those who memorise Scripture, and those who use the KJV, it is pretty clear that a majority of those who memorise Scripture use the KJV.

      In other words, a majority of those who actually read the Bible, believe it is the literal Word of God, and memorise Scripture are still using translations taken from the traditional text. Maybe most of God’s people still like that text, despite the fact that the elites are telling them to dump it.

      And the “three hundred years ago” argument you presented is simply mistaken. Traditional text translations were unchallenged in the English language until approximately 100 years ago. Despite the huge marketing push in recent decades for the NASB and now the NIV and ESV, traditional text translations are still the preferred among those who actually read their Bibles and believe it is literally God’s Word. There is no naturalistic explanation for it.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Second response, to the assertion that the argument isn’t a Biblical one.

      I’ll make this brief, because I have written on this before. God’s sheep hear and know His voice. The Spirit indwells believers and bears witness with our spirit. Conservative apologetics claims that the Scriptures are self-authenticating. There is a power in the very words of God that strictly human words lack. This is all very clearly Biblical.

      Spirit indwelt sheep of the Saviour will know His voice, they will recognise the power in His words. When they hear a preacher, even if they lack the ability to intellectually identify exactly why and the Scripture that applies, they will often know whether what he says rings true with Scripture or not. This is not perfect, for individual believers are not as tuned to Scripture as they should be, sin gets in the way, etc. But more often than not, true believers who want the truth will be protected from error, protected from substituting man’s word for God’s.

      Similarly, when confronted with a choice of which words to copy, or which manuscript to copy, more often than not true believers, who after all would have loved and studied the Word, would choose the better manuscript, the better words. If they copied a flawed manuscript, and they knew the text and knew this manuscript was flawed, they would go check other manuscripts to get it right.

      It is not logical, or consistent with the work of the Spirit in the hearts of Christ’s sheep, to assume that they would, almost en masse, choose the wrong words, rejecting the true words. One could understand how there could be a division among believers as to what are the true words. But when there is a consensus, as there was for at least 1500 years, and that consensus is still supported by the majority today, what the Scriptures tell us about the work of the Spirit leads us to believe the consensus has been right.

      In contrast to that, many educational elites have adopted a philosophy which simply is not consistent with Scripture in any way.

      That’s a lot of words to say, Larry, that I do believe the position I’ve suggested is Biblical, though I was not trying to present it in great detail in this post. I wanted to affirm what I believe, but my purpose was not to deal with the textual question in any depth here. I’ve written some on that, but there is a lot more to be said.

  6. laran says:

    Thanks, Jon. I hope I didn’t hit a sore spot with you. I know you didn’t intend to give a full defense here, but I can’t help but notice you didn’t address my question summed up in the three options. Which of those do you affirm, or is there another that you would affirm? I am open to other options to reconcile this.

    A quick response to your other comments, if I might:

    First a gentle correction: I didn’t say three hundred years ago. I said a few hundred. It was the 1800s. I was writing quickly, not doing math. The point is that it was not yesterday. It has been a significant amount of time and has been well tested by many godly and devout believers. But to counter your point, in only 100 or so years, the KJV has seen a large decline, mostly in the last few decades. If that trend continues (as I think it will), how will your argument go then? If God’s people continue to accept the eclectic or critical text/translations, will you not have to change your position to be consistent with your own premise that God’s word is accepted by God’s people?

    Second, I think the number of people reading the KJV has a fairly easy and naturalistic explanation (or several components of an explanation): (1) people who regularly read the Bible are probably older Christians who grew up on the KJV; they read the KJV not out of principle primarily, but by default; and those who do read it out of principle can’t articulate a principled reason for that; it would be interesting to know the age breakdown of that poll, (2) the easy availability of the KJV (virtually everyone has one somewhere because they are cheap, all over, and passed down; if you want an NIV or ESV you have to buy one, and if you want a NASB you have to search hard because they did a horrible job marketing it in spite of its very obvious strengths as a translation).

    I also noticed you skipped over the poll’s finding that 70% of NIV readers read 4x a week or more while only 54% of KJV readers read that often. In other words, the NIV has more regular readers than the KJV. That seems more significant, doesn’t it? And it stands up in my experience. Those in my church more likely to read and study the Bible use a modern translation. In the end, the poll doesn’t tell us much. We all know that the KJV has a long and venerable history and certain passages are well known. We also know that the KJV is harder to read.

    You bring up the belief about the “literal word of God,” but what do people think that means? That would be an important thing to know. I don’t even know what the poll means by that, so I couldn’t answer it. There are a lot, as you know, who are ignorant about the Bible and translation and believe the KJV is the literal word of God (e.g., Ruckman or Riplinger). But we know that definition of “literal word of God” is false. So there’s a lot of assumptions there. But none of that is really the point of my questions.

    Third, regarding the biblical nature of the argument, I don’t think you actually offered a biblical argument for the text issue. I agree that God’s sheep hear his voice. I think we all do. And that is exactly why I raise the issue. In context, that verse is about salvation, not Bible text transmission. But the inner testimonium, as I think it is called, is not text specific. You seem to believe that people like myself are not one of God’s sheep because we are not hearing his voice in regard to the text. I would think you don’t want to say that, and don’t intend to. But what other option do you have? (That’s not a “gotcha question”; I would like to know another option.) Am I not one of God’s sheep hearing God’s voice because I differ on the text issue with you? I don’t understand how you reconcile that.

    Isn’t it true that the Bible doesn’t address the textual issue? The only arguments that can be put forth on a text are logical arguments and historical arguments. There are no biblical arguments that I have seen. The Bible doesn’t tell us which text to prefer, or how to decide between variants. It doesn’t really even give principles aside from inspiration and preservation of some sort. Your idea that people would have taken great care in copying is likely true. But there are still a number of variants even in a particular text type. It’s considerably more complex than you seem to be letting on, though I am sure you know that. There are a lot of explanations that don’t involve maliciousness on the part of people.

    In the end, an awful lot of godly, devout, faithful Christians differ with you on this, and as the Lord tarries, that number will likely grow. So in the end, I don’t understand how you reconcile those statements I initially referenced.

    Thanks and blessings to you and your ministry there.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Larry (I’m assuming this must be Larry :)). No sore spot at all. Though I thought if I was going to be pressed on this post it would be from a different direction. Sorry about the “three hundred” — I guess I conflated “several hundred” with your three points, or something. I did think you were going back further than 1881, that’s only 130 years.

      Anyway, I thought I answered your three possibilities by implication. But I’ll be specific.

      You said:
      “Here are some options I see:
      1. God stopped working through his people a few hundred years ago.
      2. People who accept modern textual theories are not God’s people.
      3. Modern text theories are one of the ways that God has used to preserve his Word for his people.”

      1. I don’t believe that. God is still working through His people, and those who are most committed to His Word are still, by majority, using traditional text translations, despite years of people trying to influence them to the contrary.
      2. I don’t believe that, either. I would have thought that was clear from the post talking about God being able to use other translations, and from what I’ve written on translations earlier. I think it is also clear from what I wrote above. “But more often than not, true believers who want the truth will be protected from error, protected from substituting man’s word for God’s.”
      3. I don’t believe that, either. In fact, it’s illogical. If I believe your #3, I will be forced to believe that until modern text theories came along to sort out all the poor misguided people, they didn’t have His truly preserved Word.

      We all hear His Word imperfectly, you and me both. But it’s not credible to say that all believers, for 1500 years, would have rejected the true text of the Word of God and chosen a counterfeit. That’s what the modern theories tell us. I’m quite prepared to say some believers, even a lot of believers, maybe even a majority, can get this wrong. After all, a lot of those Bible readers have all kinds of bizarre ideas.

      I wrote this a while back, and will probably include it in a coming post: “If God promised to preserve His Word, and He did, and the primary means of preservation was through the copying of His Word by believers (and it was), the attesting work of the Spirit was an aspect of His providential preservation by which believers, when confronted with a choice between two readings, would recognise the true reading and copy it. As with canonicity, this was uneven, for the same reasons. There is certainly no guarantee that the majority will be correct. Yet, it is not enough for a few people, only one or two manuscripts, to say, “This is Scripture,” for if there are only a few, the attesting work of the Spirit has not been present.”

      You say it is complex, and I agree, for the reason I just stated. I don’t affirm that God’s people will be unanimous or even have a large consensus for the true text. But if there has been an overwhelming consensus for a long period of time, I can’t see my way to rejecting that text.

      To compare to the attestation for the traditional text, the critical text would have to be accepted by more than 90% of believers, real believers who really read their Bibles, for hundreds of years. Then, we might say the critical text is beginning to have the weight of attestation that the traditional texts have had through the centuries. As messed up as modern evangelical Christianity is, it would take a lot more than 50% of evangelicals using the NIV or ESV to really hold a lot of weight.

      The traditional texts were the texts of the reformers, the texts that men quoted as they burned at the stake, the texts of the Great Awakening and the great missionary endeavours. Now, the modern evangelical church sinks into a morass of compromise with people like Jakes and Driscoll and Osteen, and almost every church is hit by divorces or pornography or child abuse. The pews are full of people who have hardly witnessed to friends or neighbours, who are more committed to their bank balance than their Bible. It would be hard to say that the practices of the churches of the last 40 years are compelling evidence of anything godly. No doubt there has been a move towards critical text translations in that time frame, but given the condition of evangelical Christianity, I’m not sure it proves anything. If there is anything to it, it will be strongly sustained even when persecution purifies, which is no doubt coming unless our Lord returns first.

      The Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about the transmission of the text, but it is not silent. And it certainly has some things to say about modern textual theories. I suppose I’m going to have to do some posts to address that soon. 🙂 I should have known.

  7. Dr Thaddeus Irvine says:

    Excellent points, Jon.
    I read the KJV, but also teach biblical languages, so have an appreciation for other translations.
    Interestingly, most KJVO’s I’ve met would see me as an heretic.
    God bless,

    Thad

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thank you for the comment, Thad. Perhaps I’ve been more fortunate than you in many of the KJVO people I’ve met — I’ve met many who are gracious. Of course, there’s the other kind, too — I’m surprised none of them have commented here yet.

      Anyway, I’m thankful that our Lord gave me the ability to learn the Biblical languages.

      • Dr Thaddeus Irvine says:

        Many thanks for your reply, Jon.
        Unfortunately, I’ve met a handful of KJVO, who believe that a person can only be saved if they’ve been preached to from the KJV and have accepted the ‘authenticity’ and ‘veracity’ of its text. These have been from the Independent Baptist (American Bible Belt) sector.

        God bless,

        Thad

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Hello, Thad. Yes, there are those out there, I’ve encountered them, too. It almost becomes another Gospel (note Galatians 1). Not only do you have to believe in the work of Christ, you have to have perfect Bibliology. Even if their Bibliology were true, that would be a false Gospel.

  8. Rod says:

    It seems this issue with the KJV v Modern bibles or Textus Receptus v Westcott and Hort Greek text will never go away with some christians.

    It would be fair to say that most christians who read a bible (KJV or modern version) neither have the time or interest to involve themselves on this matter anyway.

    Greek mss evidence and text comparisons etc, are just to difficult to understand for the lay person.

    Yes, I’m a KJVO person, meaning I only read that version for my faith. But do I view the NIV or NKJV etc, as perversions of the Greek scriptures ? NO!

    I have yet to to be convinced that these versions present another gospel and another Jesus (2Cor 4:4 and 11:4 KJV) Imagine if you were a christian living in pre- KJV 1611 times, then what translation would have been available for your faith ?

    Were they reading bible perversions ?

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Rod. You are correct that most don’t have the time or interest to involve themselves in Greek mss and text comparisons. To be honest, I’d rather not deal with it, either.

      But people in our church have the inspired Word of God in their hands when they pick up their Bibles, as much as Timothy did when he picked up the Word that he was told to preach (II Timothy 4:2). And those who are constantly referring to the “oldest and best manuscripts” are undermining confidence in that Book in your hand. So I’ve written some on the topic, and will probably write more.

      But you are correct. It is both logically obvious and Biblically demonstrated that there can be more than one way to translate the Scriptures. The textual differences rarely strike at doctrinal truth, and when they do, the evidence for the true doctrines can be clearly found in many places. Other translations, while maybe of lesser quality in some ways, can be and have been mightily used of God.

  9. laran says:

    Jon, if it’s not too late, can I respond here? Yes it is Larry. My son is Laran. That’s his picture from years ago, but not sure why his name is there. He is 9 now. Not quite ready for this conversation.
    But nonetheless, a couple of quick cherry-picked responses and then I will go away …

    I agree that God’s people want God’s word, not man’s substitutions. That is why I hold my position. I want God’s word and, based on what we know from the Bible (what God has said) and the world around us (what God has done), I believe that is the best way to have it. You hold to the traditional text position because you agree with me about wanting God’s word, not man’s substitution. So I don’t think the issue is God’s people vs. not God’s people, and I understand your disclaimer about that. I just don’t see how your point can be reconciled. If I, as one of many of God’s people hold to critical text translations, then your point seems to fall. If you agree (as you seem to) that people who hold to the critical text position want God’s word, then again, your point seems to fall. If you hang your point on the “majority of God’s people,” that seems a weak argument for truth and one that is quickly (even now) becoming against you.

    The Bible does not give us specific instruction or direction on this issue, so faithful people can disagree. That doesn’t mean both are right. In fact, both may be wrong. But the issue is not that one side wants God’s word and the other side doesn’t. That’s where I think your argument is the weakest, perhaps even illogical or non-existent as an argument. All of God’s people want God’s word. To distinguish one text as being held to by those who want God’s word against another text is hard to reconcile.

    I don’t know what’s illogical about #3, but I will wait on that one. To me, it’s pretty simple. Modern textual theories are based in the providential reality of textual transmission. It’s not as if God didn’t preserve these texts. He did, and presumably, for a reason. And the use of the OT in the NT gives us ample reason to not believe in a perfect preservation type of theory.

    Much is made of the text of the Reformers, but there is still no solid evidence that I know of that that was a studied choice. The modern text discoveries were not until years after that, and it is very reasonable to think that the Reformers would have considered those texts as well. The same is true of the people using the KJV or traditional text/translation today. For the vast majority, it is not a studied choice. It is one of tradition, or convenience, or habit, or faulty theology. I am not even sure that a majority prefer a traditional text translation.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you say in your comment to Rod that those who are constantly referring to the “oldest and best manuscripts” are undermining confidence in that Book in your hand.

    I don’t know anyone who is “constantly” referring to these texts; it is at best a relatively side issue most of the time. I can’t remember the last time I did that in any conversation, message, teaching, or writing. However, I think it is you/your side who are undermining confidence. You would at least tacitly tell the people in my church they cannot have confidence in the Bible they hold in their hands. I would never tell them that. In my pastoral experience, the only questions I have ever had about the trustworthiness of various versions are from those who have been influenced by a KJV type of teaching. I have never had that question from a new believer or from a mature believer who hasn’t been exposed to what you teach.

    And I think that is the greatest danger of your position. I think you are (with sincere intentions and good conscience) undermining the very authority of the Christian faith by teaching people to doubt it, and I think you are doing so without biblical warrant. As I noted previously, I don’t think you have provided any actual biblical evidence for a particular textual choice or method of textual criticism. I think that remains a major weakness.

    Thanks. Blessings to you and your ministry there on this Lord’s Day (whenever it starts over there).

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Larry, thanks again for the comment. You sort of give the impression that you think you are bothering me. 🙂 For the avoidance of any doubt, I greatly appreciate your comments.

      Now, I need to say this. I’m not sure who you are talking to, but I’d like to meet the guy you are talking to and try to help you straighten him out, because if he believes what you are describing, he’s probably confused, at best. 🙂

      I’ll try to put it as simply as I can. Sincere Christian people will get things wrong. It happens a lot. Sometimes a lot of them will. But the Scriptures are self-authenticating. (People who accept and affirm that in the field of apologetics seem to ignore it in this area.) If the Scriptures are self-authenticating, if Jesus’ sheep hear His voice, then a lot of the time, I believe more often than not, when given a choice between two texts, true believers are going to recognise and accept the true one.

      Now, maybe I’m overly optimistic about that “more often than not.” Because even sincere believers can get a lot of things wrong. But I’m very sure that they won’t ALL get it wrong every time, so that the true text would completely drop out of circulation for more than a thousand years. And that is what the prevalent modern text theory believes.

      To hold the critical text view, you have to believe that all believers got it wrong, and that the providence of God didn’t intervene to correct it for over a thousand years, until the mid to late 1800s. And that suddenly, when German rationalism and atheistic evolution, and a lot of other false philosophies were on the rise, God used an apostate like Hort (who believed a lot of those philosophies) to restore the true text to the churches.

      Finally, you said: “You would at least tacitly tell the people in my church they cannot have confidence in the Bible they hold in their hands.” Now I KNOW you are talking to someone else. 🙂 Here’s what I say:

      Paul can tell Timothy to “preach the Word” from his Greek translation of the Old Testament because it is theopneustos and profitable. Just as Timothy’s imperfect but reasonably accurate translation was theopneustos, so any reasonably accurate translation in any language is inspired today. Neither Timothy’s translation nor ours were “immediately inspired.”
      https://mindrenewers.com/2011/11/15/the-scriptures-inspired-or-expired/

      Peter’s attitude towards the Old Testament translation his readers were using indicates that this “autographic distinction” is not particularly relevant for translations, either. He said that they had a “sure word of prophecy,” and based that confidence on the divine authorship of the original.
      https://mindrenewers.com/2011/11/11/given-by-inspiration-theopneustos-context-revisited/

      This divine nature of the Scriptures, living and life-giving, is present in translations (as implied by Romans 16:25-27). It lived in Timothy’s Book-in-hand, and it lives in “That Book in Your Hand.”
      This should not be understood as stating that any one translation has been perfectly done. Timothy’s Book-in-hand, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, was far from perfect. However, its roots were divine, and despite the imperfections of the translators’ work, it was still a living and life-giving Book, and God called it theopneustos.
      https://mindrenewers.com/2012/02/18/the-meaning-of-theopneustos/

      In light of the knowledge that Peter’s readers were using an imperfect translation, his wording is stark: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.” His intent is obviously to include them when he says, “We have,” so he is talking about their “Book-in-Hand,” what they have. Peter doesn’t caution them about translational errors, or tell them they need to learn the Hebrew — he tells them to have confidence in “That Book in Their Hands,” a “more sure word of prophecy.”
      https://mindrenewers.com/2012/09/27/bible-translation-anchored-authority/
      (You commented on this post, by the way.)

      From the same post:
      The tone of Scripture, when speaking to those who used translated Scriptures, is NOT to say anything that lessens the confidence of the readers in “That Book in Their Hand.” You simply can’t find Scripture where anyone is told to doubt what they hold in their hand. There may have been differing manuscripts and translational difficulties, but the Scriptures always affirm Book-in-Hand authority.

      And finally this, again from the same article:
      Note: I have not yet addressed “which translation.” It is a very important question, but the principles in this post applied to the Greek translation of the Old Testament, so they also apply to any reasonably accurate translation today.

      ***
      I’m presuming you have taught the people in your church to use a “reasonably accurate translation,” one at least as accurate as the Greek translation Peter’s readers, and Timothy, were using. I wouldn’t be the one to undermine their confidence in it.

      The Lord’s Day starts in an hour, so I’ll call it a night. 🙂 Blessings to you, and may the Lord work richly in your service tomorrow, whichever reasonably accurate translation you are using.

  10. Codex B says:

    Many are suspicious of newer translations. They reason that for us to use a translation that is 400 years old, that has many words that have changed their meaning and which is hard to understand, the kjv must be the only valid translation. They reason why else would we use a translation like the kjv when there are ones that are easily read? My grandmother was a christian most of her life and couldn’t read well. She was never told that any other translation besides the kjv was the word of God. I think that is a shame and breaks my heart.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Well, as noted, I use the KJV. As I said, I am not KJV only. But there are many reasons to still use the KJV, and perhaps I will write a few articles on that someday. For now, I’ll just say that I believe the KJV remains the best translation, and I have no hesitation in using it. There is some archaic language, and that is a drawback, but the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages.

  11. Codex B says:

    I find it strange that some people believe that God speaks in old English and that old English is more powerful than plain English. That puzzles me. I wonder if those people are aware that if you don’t believe, for example the NASB, is the very words of God than no wonder it’s not powerful to them. With out faith in don’t think any modern translation would do anyone any good.

    This subject is very personal to me. I have a religious type of OCD, like John Bunyan and Martin Luther. Because of that I have studied how the bible came to be and how it came to the English language. I use to be KJV only. The pastors that were my friends were too. They had a small bible school to help pastors who couldnt afford to go to seminaries. They never did bring up and Greek or Hebrew but they were and are KJV only. They believe that it is better to use a translation which average people here in the south at least, have a hard time with. All the while The Lord has provided many good English translations that mean what they say, they don’t have a words like the KJV’s “conversation” which doesn’t mean speaking but behavior or lifestyle.

    I’ll never understand why so many well meaning people encourage men to read something that is so hard to read when we have readable accurate translations.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I believe that “the very words of God” that God gave are Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words. I don’t think I’d use that description of any English translation, NASB or KJV or anything else. I’d say rather that we should use a faithful English translation.

      I believe the KJV is more powerful because it is more faithful to the words God originally gave. But certainly, the Lord can and does mightily use other translations.

      Yes, the KJV may be more difficult to read for many modern readers, wherever they live. The measure of a translation, though, is not how easy it is to read but how faithful it is to the words God gave.

      Thank you for your comments.

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