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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.