KJV and Orthodoxy

Unfortunately, some Christians view Bible translation preference and use as a test of orthodoxy.  Probably the most notable example is the KJV-Only view.  Years ago I met a person who doubted someone could “get saved” by using the NIV; this person also believed that the most conservative Bible-believing Christians used the KJV.  From Baptist churches to Reformed churches, some people sadly make Bible translation a major issue and refuse to budge an inch.

In light of this discussion, I appreciate James White’s The King James Only Controversy (which I’ve blogged on before here, here, and here).  White rightly notes that Bible translation preference and use is a matter of Christian liberty:

“The use of a particular English translation of the Bible should come from one’s study of the relevant issues and from one’s involvement in the local fellowship of believers.  Many factors can, and should, go into your decisions as you purchase translations.  Whether you like a more literal, formal translation or a more dynamic, free-flowing translation will impact your choices.  Study editions, companion volumes, concordances, even print style and size are all issues to take into consideration.  What translation is predominant in your local church is important as well, especially if you will be teaching or leading Bible studies.  But one thing that should never be a factor is intimidation.  You should never have to wonder if you are going to be accepted by others if you use an ESV rather than a KJV (or vice-versa).  Fellowship should never be based upon the English translation one carries and studies.”

“I firmly believe that if people wish to use the KJV, they should feel free to do so.  If they find its poetic form, its rhythmic beauty, to be preferable to ‘modern language,’ let no one be critical.  God made us all differently, for which we should be very grateful.  But while we are to be quick in granting this freedom to others, we cannot expect that it will be given by those who have joined the KJV Only movement.  For them this is not an issue of freedom but of doctrine, belief, and faith.  They often make the use of anything but the KJV an impediment to relationship with others.  That sharing in the gospel of Christ can be disrupted by such an issue should cause anyone a moment’s reflection, and more than passing concern.”

James White, The King James Only Controversy, p. 28-9.

shane lems

6 thoughts on “KJV and Orthodoxy”

  1. I was raised with the KJV only mindset and it took some time to get around that thought process, until one day someone asked me which version of the KJV and found there were many revisions. There are passages that I much prefer in the KJV like Psalm 23. I have found that I like to compare and see if they have the same meaning in the way each verse is stated. I would like to have one version that is correct without man’s twist in the translation.


    1. Thanks for the note, Brenda. It is good to compare translations, since all of them have various strengths and weaknesses. In the preface of the original KJV, the translation committee even said, following Augustine, “…variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.”

      Also, it is impossible to find a translation “without man’s twist,” as you put it, since all translators and translation committees have to make judgments and decisions based on various factors. Furthermore, no translator or translation committee is perfect. Thankfully, we have a handful of good translations that we can trust and use for our Christian benefit.



  2. It’s not about translations, it’s about underlying manuscripts.

    There have been no revisions of the KJV that did anything other than change spelling and punctuation.

    This subject is non-negotiable for many because of the presuppositions adopted and attitudes adopted when approaching a text constructed by scholars vs. a text received from the invisible Church and the Holy Spirit. Counter-Reformation Jesuits knew how damaging to the faith opposing non-received manuscripts to the traditional/received manuscripts could be, Hebrew and Greek. Nothing has changed but the spiritual battlefield wariness of Christians.


    1. Thanks for the notes, Michael. As far as underlying manuscripts go, a proper view of them is that we cannot just count them, but we must also weigh them; there isn’t an infallible argument for the Majority Text (for example).

      Secondly, the KJV has gone through quite a few revisions that were more extensive than spelling or punctuation. As White wrote, “Editions with textual changes came out as soon as 1612 and again in 1613, followed by editions in 1616, 1629, and 1638. …Most modern KJVs follow the revision made by Benjamin Blayney in 1769.”

      Anyway, thanks again for the comments.


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