What does the question mean?
There are some people who believe that the only version of the Bible that is the true and accurate is the King James Version (KJV). Some go further and state that not only is the King James Version of the Bible inerrant (has no errors), but it is the actual inspired word of God. Therefore the question is about whether Christians should only use one version of the Bible – the King James Version. Some may take this further and say any other language translation must come from the English KJV.
Put another way, the question asks whether modern English (or by extension any other language) versions of the Bible are true and accurate.
The short answer to this question is no – the King James Version is merely a version of the Bible written in 17th Century English. Each person needs to read the text of the Canon of Scripture – the Bible (the Word of God) – in the language they best understand. In this 21st Century, modern English versions of the Bible are true and accurate, unless they are paraphrased versions – you do not need to use the King James Version, nor an English version.
The King James Version (noting there are various editions) of the Bible although quite accurate cannot be said to be the translation by which the Word of God will be preserved because;
- There is no verse in the Bible that states the KJV is the translation that God will preserve His Word.
- There is no verse in the Bible that states that English of the 17th century (or any other century) is the method by which God’s Word will be preserved.
Although the some prefaces to the Textus Receptus, which contains some of the Greek manuscripts used, and the KJV may indicate or allude to the text or translaters as being inspired, the King James Version is not the inspired word of God because it is the actual words each writer wrote down on parchment that are inspired. We know this because:
- The words in the Bible were written by about 40 authors as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit in the language they spoke being Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek (2 Tim 3:16). This means these words are inerrant and authoritative. Thus the original words are the inspired words; we have renditions of this text which are accurate to various extents, but we do not have the actual texts that Moses, Daniel or Paul etc. wrote.
- The King James Version is written in a language that came 100’s to 1000’s of years after the various authors of the books of the Bible wrote their texts, thus the KJV cannot possible be thought of as the inspired word of God. It is a mere translation of copies of the original texts.
- The King James Version has errors.
Note that the extent of this answer is limited to a few pertinent points. Vast amounts have been written to refute the ideology of the King James Only movement which can be found in various sources. The answer could detail how the Scripture came to be, with 66 books authored by 40 authors writing in one of three languages, along with the history of the English Bible that transformed a large portion of the world in the 17th century. It also does not go into detail of the errors in the KJV – there are errors in every translation; few of these will cause a Christian to stumble.
Arguments to support the answer that the KJV is not the best translation nor the inspired word of God
The word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit to the original authors
One point of confusion caused by the KJV Only people is they can claim that the KJV is the actual inspired Word of God, when in fact neither the KJV nor the Greek copies of the manuscripts used are inspired – they are copies. The prefaces of the various versions of the KJV nor the Textus Receptus do not help. The assertion is simply wrong – it was the authors of each book that were inspired – the KJV is a translation of a copy (of a copy, multiple times) of these words.
To understand why this is an incorrect view, you need to understand the process God used to develop the Scriptures. The Bible clearly states that authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. Peter tells us that these men were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak the things they did (2 Peter 1:21). Paul tells Timothy, when encouraging him to stick to the Scriptures his mother had taught him, that the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). This means the words that were originally written down on parchment, whether Moses some 3500 years ago, or Paul only 1950 years ago, are the inspired words; inspired by the Holy Spirit (which means the words of the individual under guidance of the Holy Spirit). This means that everything we have today are copies, or translations of copies, because the original manuscripts do not exist.
Does the Bible say anything about the language the Word of God (the Bible) will be preserved in?
The Bible does allude to the language that the Word of God is to be preserved.
Jesus states that the Law will not cease to be (Matthew 5:18) and emphasises this by stating that not one letter or part of any letter will be taken away from the Law. He does this by saying that no tittleor jot will be removed from the writings that form the Law. There is only one language that those who were listening to Jesus (Jews along with the Jesus’ disciples) would have understood as having tittles and the letter jot (jodh) – and that is Hebrew. Therefore, it is reasonable to state that the Law, at least, is to be preserved in Hebrew.
What is not reasonable is to assimilate the meaning of tittle and jot as being a device used in the English language and draw the incorrect conclusion that it English that preserves the Word of God. This is Bible interpretation at its worse. English was not invented when Jesus spoke therefore he cannot possibly have been referring to letters in the English language. The alternative argument is to say Jesus was prophesying. Again this is very bad (and corrupt) interpretation – Jesus was not prophesying but stating the truth as an imperative; he is giving an instructive sermon; and emphasises “the Law will not be done away with”. He is saying that not one Hebrew letter will be removed from the Law, and going even further, not one part of any letter (the tittle) will be removed, for in doing so would make the Law undecipherable; the Law, written in Hebrew, is immutable.
Why Hebrew? It was the language used by the original writer, Moses, who wrote down the words was given by God himself (e.g. Exodus 34:1, 27). The Bible indicates that the ‘pure’ language will be spoken in the future (Zephaniah 3:9) – and the pure language is Hebrew. Furthermore, there are verses that indicate the world will be of one language (Isaiah 19:18) – this being Hebrew. Thus from these prophecies, it is not unreasonable to assume that the Old Testament of the Bible, at least, will be preserved in Hebrew.
One can also ask this in a different way; what language will be spoken in the coming Eternal Age? The current diversity of languages is a reminder of the wickedness of man and is a penalty for sin. Originally, at creation, the world had one language (Genesis 11:1), but mankind decided to usurp God, by banding together. In order to obfuscate this, God confused the participants by making them speak different languages – and in doing so humans where scattered across the face of the earth (Genesis 11:9). There is a good argument that this diversity of language will be reversed when sin and death are abolished and when the New Heaven and New Earth are established (Revelation 21). This is because this penalty for sin will have fulfilled its purpose and therefore, all of mankind will be able to speak the same language. Indeed the prophecy of Zephaniah states that the Lord wants, in the future, for all men to call upon him in one accord – and this will involve all speaking the same language (Zephaniah 3:9).
What language texts should be used to translate the Bible?
It is unreasonable to translate the Bible into other languages using the KJV of the Bible. Scientifically this is horribly flawed. Translating from the original language to English cannot be perfect, therefore, all translations (thus versions) have minor errors and flaws in them. If then you take the translated version and translate it into yet another language you compound the errors (you multiply them). This is particular difficult for certain clauses or phrase or words for which the language has no similar concept or understanding. One attempts to write what the clause or phrase or word means, rather than a one to one translation. For this reason any translation of the Bible must be done from the original texts.
But as stated above, we don’t have the original texts. Therefore, the translators go to the oldest texts possible. Why?
The original text written by each author under divine instruction was copied and passed around. These copies were then subsequently copied and passed around, and so on and so forth. Each time any text is copied there can be errors or additions or deletions made. The more times anything is copied, the higher the probability that an error or flaw will occur. Thus it is much safer and more accurate to the take the first copy, rather than the 100th.
And this is where the KJV Only ideologues get it so wrong – they insist, for the New Testament at least, on using certain recent copies of the Greek texts. Yet, since 1600, there have been discovered much older manuscripts, that may not vary by much compared to those used by the KJV translators, but are clearly closer in age to the original than the newer manuscripts, and therefore contain fewer flaws.
Should I use the KJV?
Yes, by all means; but like all English versions beware of its limitations.
- The KJV is a version created by translating more recent copies of the original manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into 17th century English. There is no perfect means to exactly translate from one language to another without losing some information. This does not mean the Bibles we read today are so inaccurate to render them useless – see below – on the contrary, they are highly reliable and accurate. It is interesting to see that Jesus did not always use the most accurate version of Scriptures, which would have been a Hebrew version, but rather there is strong evidence he quotes from the Septuagint which is a Greek version of the Hebrew.
- There are errors, some deliberately introduced due to cultural and religious influences in the KJV. For instance the use of the word Easter, which is clearly a Catholic word, is used in Acts 12:4 rather than Passover (from the Greek pasha).
- The language used is often too obscure to be understandable in the 21st century. In some cases we have no simple means to translate the KJV English into something comprehendible – thus although in English there will be some words or phrases you will simply have to look up a dictionary to understand. For instance “bruit” in Jeremiah 10:22 – the Hebrew word meaning something heard, an announcement including news, report or rumour.
- Modern English is wayward with verbs whereas the Greek is fastidious, thus translating Greek into modern English can result in loss of information. Older English was more fastidious with verbs, thus generally the KJV provides a more accurate Greek to English view of the nuances around each verb.
- The early version included books that were not the inspired Word of God; this fact alone tells us to reject any notion the KJV is somehow superior to any other version before or after.
- The prefaces are not part of the Canon of Scripture – the first was about 11 pages long; in essence it is an advertisement for the Bible but did contain important views of the translators about the translation.
Also understand the KJV strengths – don’t reject it because it is old or too many have made it their religion to argue the KJV is somehow the true inspired word of God, when it cannot possibly be.
If there are errors in versions of the Bible how can I trust the Bible?
Most of the flaws in the modern versions we read today are small and will not lead to wrong doctrine. This does not apply to paraphrased Bibles like The Message which is mainly the words of men based on the thoughts of men and thus such translations are not the Word of God and should be avoided.
I am confident you can read a modern version of the Bible that suits your language and education level, all your life, and you will not stumble. These versions are based on the very best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. If you decide to teach Bible – perhaps to small groups or Church - then you must go a little further – always read important passages in more than one version. Not only does it help you get a better feel for the nuances of the original language and what the author intended for the hearer to understand, but helps to find whether translators have had difficulty in conveying the true meaning. If there are differences, find out why. For me, I try and use a few versions that uses the older and more reliable Greek Manuscripts – often relying on John Darby’s NT as the backstop, but includes NASB, NAB, NIV, Darby NT or ESV and I compare these with the New KJV or King James Version. Having some understanding of Greek does help, hence I will parse the Greek in order to get a better understanding of what information the author intended the reader to understand.
There are many sources on the internet that provide information about controversial verses, and about the differences between versions. A good study Bible will have footnotes or central references that tell you why a particular word or phrase or clause should or should not be present in the text. Commentaries abound and they can be very helpful; but be careful. Commentaries are men’s thoughts about God’s Word – they are fallible and thus can be erroneous to the extent they are cause apostasy. Older does not make them better, but as a rule of thumb older (non-orthodox) commentaries are less prone to some errors.
Also be aware that the World Wide Web (internet) is also mostly full of charlatans and evil & wicked men& women whose only desire is to have you fall. Ensure you know about the authors you use – know their doctrines and weaknesses and always read their statement of faith. If they cannot tell you why they believe what they believe – avoid them:
Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:15)
 A tittle is a small stroke applied to some letters of Hebrew letters to distinguish them from other (compare resh “ר” with daleth “ד”) – it has come to mean ‘the very least point’.
 Jot (better spelt jod or jodh) is the 10th and smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet (י). It is where the English get ‘iota’ from (and is the word some translations use for jot, taken from the Greek). The phrase “not one iota” means “not even the smallest amount”.
 Note that Hebrew spoken in Israel today is not the ancient Hebrew in which the Bible was written.
 One check on the accuracy is to take an older copy and compare with a newer copy; in the case of the Biblical Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, there is remarkably preservation; something owed to the providence of God.
 The extent of this silliness goes as far as stating the Greek manuscripts the KJV translators used are somehow superior to all previous copies by calling them the “received text” or in Latin – the language of the Catholic Church - “Textus Receptus”. It is fair to say that the collection of manuscripts making up the Textus Receptus were superior than the Latin manuscripts, insisted upon by the Catholics, but this does not make up for the accuracy of the older Greek manuscripts, closer in age to the original texts. What the KJV Only ideologues fail to realise is that there are multiple versions of the Textus Receptus – some better than others, but as a whole did not exist when the KJV was translated. A 1550/1 version of a collection of Greek manuscripts along with various Latin manuscripts were used for the New Testament, and oddly enough the so called Textus Receptus was not published until sometime later.
If one reads history – the term Textus Receptus was in fact an advertising gimmick used by the Leiden printers to boast sales.
What Christians don’t want to believe, but is true, is that the Bible translation enterprise was driven by money not the desire to evangelised the world; it was however, under the hand of God who allowed the Bible to be made cheaply enough for the average person to own one.
 Note that the KJV you read today is very different from the first or even third versions – their spelling used is completely different. The first editions had some remarkable errors; understandable given the technology used to create the printed book. This alone refutes the divinely inspired theory of this version. Further, the book only contains 66 divinely inspired books – the original had books that were not inspired by the Holy Spirit.