The King James Only Controversy Explained
To Greatness of the King James Bible
King James only advocates dictate that this exceptional version of the Bible is the most spectacular English translation ever penned, needing no further enhancements.
Previous to the completion of the King James version, a series of other English Bibles were originated in succession gradually improving the quality of English translation.
It is believed by many that this edition of the Bible has more thoroughly influenced the positive direction of Christianity than any other English Bible ever written. Even today, the Authorized Version is still valued as an outstanding translation of the Greek and Hebrew Bible texts into English.
It should be noted that the majority of the controversy regarding English Bible translation issues centers around the New Testament not the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes did a wonderful job copying the Hebrew Bible text over the centuries. Their attention to accuracy was tremendous.
Is the King James Bible Archaic?
Many Christians and Protestant church leaders endorse no other translation of the English Bible for their individual studies and public preaching.
The major reason for many moving away from this version of the Bible to other, newer translations is the drawback of the outdated, 400-year-old English wording contained in the King James Bible. Since languages naturally evolve, English being no exception, over time, older translations become more difficult to understand as the current day speech of that language progressively evolves and becomes more different from the older, written text. It is this natural language evolution that demands that eventually any Bible translation will need to be replaced by a newer version to effectively communicate with the population.
King James only advocates state that with a little extra effort, one can understand the older Elizabethan text contained in the King James version and that the effort is worth the reward. Older dictionaries can be reviewed to learn the definitions of archaic words. Dictionaries of this type are available online.
One should also note that as the King James version is read frequently, over time, the Elizabethan language becomes more familiar and easier to understand.
Was the King James Bible Inspired by God?
Some followers of the King James only movement believe that the King James Bible received a special anointing from God during the translation process making it an ironclad text. For this reason, it should not be forgotten in favor of controversial, watered-down translations.
This attention from God during translation has been outlined as divine guidance by our Lord to produce an excellent rendering of the text up to absolute, inerrant reinspiration of the text, which makes the English King James Bible perfect and superior to the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts.
This last, unorthodox teaching is considered heresy by many devoted, Christian theologians, and uneducated believers should not be swept into this hazardous belief system which might push them off the straight and narrow path.
What Are the Benefits?
One of the benefits of using the King James Bible, perhaps also along with a modern translation, is that there are a number of Bible study tools that link King James text to Greek concordances such as Strongs and Thayers. This is very helpful for examining the underlying Greek and Hebrew definitions of Bible words. A large percentage of modern Bible translations do not have these tools available.
Single translation usage is also considered beneficial because it is easier to memorize portions of the Word of God since the underlying translated text doesn't change over the years or over a lifetime. Bible verses that you memorized as a child can be quoted with the exact same wording decades later. This is one of the reasons that some people do not want to switch to another Bible translation, because they don't want to re-memorize Bible verses that have already been committed to memory.
Using a single translation over the course of a lifetime also makes it easier to search for Bible verses since you know the words contained in the various passages. You are able to use those memorized words to launch the search and find the desired passages quickly. If you change to a different Bible translation, the words of the verses also change, and the search that worked before now doesn't because the keywords being used don't match the new translation of the text. This isn't as much of a problem when modern Internet search engines are used because they have the capability of using synonyms of the search terms.
Church reading is also much more consistent when a single translation is used, especially in participatory meetings practiced by house churches or Bible studies where multiple participants read scriptures out of their own Bibles.
It can make your head spin when trying to follow a dynamic equivalence translation reading when you are using a formal equivalence translation. Dynamic equivalence translating techniques tend to move the sentences around making it difficult for your eyes and mind to follow a reading when you're looking at one version of text and hearing another that scrambles the words.
If everyone in the group standardizes with the King James Version, you are seeing and hearing the same text which makes it easier to focus on the message rather than trying to unscramble in your head the variations between the reader's Bible and your Bible. The problem isn't as bad if someone is reading from another formal translation, such as the New King James Version, and you are following along in the King James Version.
A percentage of King James only supporters believe that unholy hands have been laid on the Bible by unscrupulous people, corrupting the Word of God in the newer translations by using controversial Greek texts as source documents for the translations: documents such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The fact that these two source documents differ in many places throws up red flags when considering them as the basis for a large number of English Bible translations. These Alexandrian texts, though older than the Byzantine texts and considered more authentic by some, do contain at least 2000 fewer words than the Byzantine majority text and Textus Receptus. This is the reason that the modern Bible translations based on these texts are shorter than the King James Bible.
This deletion of Bible words is of significant concern to many Bible believers including the readers of the King James Version. The question is: what if these deleted words are the very words of God, to no longer be included in the newer Bible versions?
Did a number of insidious copyists of the Greek text come under the influence of the devil to delete verses from the Bible, or did the scribes of the newer Byzantine texts accidentally include scribal notes from previous copies into the wording to then read as actual Bible text? This is one of the foundational questions to consider.
Avoiding Modern-Day Corruptions
Another reason for choosing the King James Version of the Bible is the peace of mind of knowing that this translation was created before the onslaught of many modern day cults and heresies that prevailed starting during the 19th century. The King James Bible existed before television, radio, smart phones, the Internet, movies, rock music and many other modern outlets that are viewed by many Christians to be tools in the hands of Satan because of the power they have to influence mass communications. These inventions were not able to influence the minds of the translators as they carefully rendered the text of the Greek Bible into English.
Softening the Text
Another criticism of modern English Bible translations by King James only supporters is that the modern translations frequently use softer words to tone down the power of the Bible text. Words such as damnation, fornication, and sodomite tend to disappear from a number of modern Bible translations.
King James supporters state that using these explicit, pointed words are better than using other less forceful words. The view of the modern translator is that these words are not as common today as they once were and that more up to date, but still accurate, words should be used in their place. Accuracy, rather than forcefulness, is the main consideration for picking a particular word for translation.
Preservation of the Word Of God
If you are examining a portion of Scripture in one translation of the Bible then you notice that the same passage or portion of a passage is missing in another translation, you need to ask yourself, "Which version is the actual Word of God?" How can two differing translations of the Bible text both be the inspired, inerrant Word of God? Either both versions are wrong, or one version is right, and the other version is wrong.
Did God divinely preserve the Word of God, or is the Bible just another text that is subject to the control of man to change or not to change? Was the Bible transmitted to us down through the centuries in a similar fashion to that of any other ancient writing, or did the Bible receive divine protection from God so that no matter how systematically the wicked men of the earth tried to destroy it, it remained in its pure form.
The providential protection of God on the Scriptures is a must-have consideration when selecting a Bible translation. To just pick up a Bible version and buy it because you like the way it reads is not a good way to choose a Bible translation that faithfully represents what the apostles and other biblical writers recorded for us as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
A number of Bible translations have been heavily reworded in paraphrased fashion so that they are very readable, yet you need to determine if that smooth, modern sounding text is really a truthful rendering of the Word of God in its purest form. Is up-to-date, modern verbiage the proper test to use for choosing an accurate Bible translation?
Is the Bible that you hold in your hands missing inspired passages dictated by God to the biblical writers? How much of the Word of God are you not reading because it was cut from the translation you are now using? Once the words are deleted, you will never read them again unless you switch translations or read it from another translation that has not been altered.
Psalms 12:6-7 LITV The Words of Jehovah are pure Words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times. (7) You shall keep them, O Jehovah; You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
God said that he would preserve his words forever. This is a statement of divine protection over the Bible text. If God determined that he would preserve his words, the attacks of man will not be sufficient to interrupt the preservation process. God has many, many ways to sovereignly enforce the accomplishment of his will on earth. Man is unable to stop it no matter how hard he tries. The divine preservation of the Word of God has the omnipotent power of the Trinity behind it. It cannot be stopped.
Isaiah 40:8 LITV The grass withers; the flower fades; but the Word of our God shall rise forever.
Matthew 24:35 LITV The heaven and the earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away, never!
Psalms 119:152 LITV Of old I have known from Your Testimonies, for You have founded them forever.
Psalms 119:89 LITV LAMED: Your Word is settled in Heaven forever, O Jehovah.
2 Kings 10:10 LITV Then know that nothing of the Word of Jehovah shall fall to the earth...
The divine words of God are of heavenly origin and are settled forever. These words were transferred into written form through the process of divine inspiration where the Holy Spirit breathed through the authors of the biblical manuscripts. They are foundational to the Christian life because they are the words of God, not the words of man. Man can do nothing to add to them or take away from them, and we should treat them with the holy reverence that they deserve and not so easily be fooled into accepting counterfeit transmissions of the text.
God is our sovereign creator, and he instructs us to keep his commandments and to live by his words. It is pretty difficult to live by his words if you don't know what they are. The devil has been trying to destroy the works of God and usurp divine authority since the creation of man in the Garden of Eden and even before that when he stirred up rebellion in heaven where one third of the Angels fell. He has been deceiving and tricking man ever since, so why should he stop with the Word of God.
If the Bible is the actual Word of God, don't you think that Satan would have a vested interest in corrupting it? How better to undermine Christianity than to tamper with such a foundational component as the Word of God. The devil is a deceiver and a liar, and he will trick you if you let him.
Byzantine and Alexandrian Bible Text Families
There is much controversy today over which Bible text family represents the true Word of God. The two major families of Bible manuscripts are the Byzantine (Traditional Text) and Alexandrian (Critical Text) Text Types.
After the original New Testament autographs were written by the apostles or their assistants, they were available to the church for instruction in righteousness and duplication through the copying process. Back in those days there was no printing press, so the Bible manuscripts had to be hand copied every time.
Copies could be made for official church use or for private use, and the person making the copies might be either an ordinary person or a professional scribe. A Bible manuscript copy made by a professional scribe would more than likely be more accurate and held in higher regard by the early church than one made by an ordinary person.
Since the early church knew the origins of the ancient manuscripts, many of which have been lost to decay over the centuries, they were in a position to judge the quality of the manuscripts and decide whether or not they were worthy to be used as masters for future copying once the older masters were no longer readable.
A manuscript judged to be of extremely high quality and tied more closely to an original autograph might be copied many more times than a copy judged to be inferior. This can give reason as to why there are many more Byzantine copies than Alexandrian copies available today.
Since the Bible was divinely preserved by God, he would employ methods to guarantee that the correct version of the text survived over the centuries for us to read today. One of the shortcomings of popular, modern textual criticism is that it does not acknowledge the divine preservation of the Bible text by God.
This omission is an important consideration.
The truth of the divine preservation of the Word by God is what separates the spiritual view from the carnal view of scriptural preservation. Being a Bible textual critic does not necessarily make a person a disciple of Christ that views the Bible with spiritual eyes.
A person can be wise in the wisdom of this world and foolish in the spiritual truths of God. The Bible is spiritually discerned, and the natural mind is not able to understand the ways of God which include preservation of the Bible over time. To some textual critics the Bible manuscripts are just ancient copies of writings no different from those of Plato or any other ancient writer.
We need to all open our eyes to the fact that God makes promises in his word that he does not fail to keep. When God says he will preserve his word, he means it. Man is not able to override the sovereign, will of God in these matters.
To choose a reliable manuscript, the early church could determine the location where a particular manuscript was written before deciding whether or not to use it as a master for future copying. Copies that were made in the vicinity where an apostle and his assistants were ministering could be given greater weight for authentic consideration than copies made in an area where an apostle was not present or where heresy was widespread.
Where would you like your Bible to come from, an area where heresy was common or an area where the doctrines of the apostles were upheld and the church was directed by an apostle or one of his disciples?
The Byzantine manuscripts originated out of Antioch which was a main center for apostolic ministry, whereas the Alexandrian manuscripts originated out of Egypt where Gnosticism, a known heresy at the time, was taught. Do you want to use a Bible translation that is based off of manuscripts that were written by copyists that were surrounded by heretics where no apostolic supervision was available?
Over 90% of the Bible manuscripts preserved to present day are Byzantine. Most of them are not as old as the Alexandrian texts because they were not stored in the very dry Egyptian climate which allowed the Alexandrian manuscripts to survive over the centuries.
Because the oldest Byzantine manuscripts that were stored in Antioch and other surrounding areas did not survive the great expanse of time to today does not mean that they did not once exist and provide the basis for the newer copies that are still in existence today.
The more humid climate of Antioch accelerated the decay of the ancient Bible manuscripts that were located in the area. In contrast, the very dry, desert climate of Alexandria slowed the decay of the manuscripts located in that area allowing them to survive for longer periods of time.
It is believed that the dry climate of Alexandria is the reason that the oldest surviving manuscripts are of the Alexandrian text type. It seems that a number of textual critics elevate the Alexandrian manuscripts to a higher level of authenticity due to their greater age forgetting that the Byzantine manuscripts of the same age simply did not survive due to climatic conditions.
It is therefore an assumption to state that the Alexandrian manuscripts are the oldest and best manuscripts of the Bible simply because they were allowed to survive for longer periods of time only because of the climatic conditions they were subject to. It is true that they are older, but it is controversial whether or not they are better.
When examining the Byzantine manuscripts back to the threshold of survivability, the evidence suggests that it was the preferred text of the church, and it continued to be used up through time until the period of the Reformation. The reformers embraced the Byzantine text as the authentic Word of God and used it as the basis for the King James Version of the Bible.
If the Byzantine text type is the most likely version that can be labeled as the preserved Word of God then it stands to reason that the Alexandrian text type is less likely to be the preserved Word of God.
Recording the Bible on Papyrus and Parchment
You might be wondering just how the Bible was preserved over time. Back in ancient days, they did not have paper in the form that we have it today. The most common material used to record the Scriptures in New Testament times was papyrus.
Papyrus is an ancient form of paper made from the papyrus plant which grew in Egypt and other swampy areas. To make the papyrus sheets, the outer part of the papyrus plant is peeled off. Then, the inner part of the plant is cut into strips which are laid overlapping side-by-side into layers, one horizontal and one vertical. The strips are then pressed together and allowed to dry in the sun. The papyrus sheet is then smoothed out to prepare it for writing.
Some believe that the papyrus strips were coated with river water before being laid next to each other and pressed, but this isn't certain.
The papyrus sheets were then glued to each other with a flour based glue to form scrolls which provided a writing surface sufficient to record the desirable text. The ends of the scroll sheet were fastened to wooden pegs which were used to roll up the material.
Papyrus was the standard material used to record Bible manuscripts in the earliest days of the New Testament era. Papyrus was used because it was cheap and easy to make. It provided a durable writing surface, and the ink could be erased with water before it dried if a mistake was made.
Papyrus scrolls made from Egyptian plants were among the best available because the plants that grew along the Nile River were among the largest plants grown in the entire region. The larger Egyptian plants produced wider and longer papyrus strips than the smaller plants in other regions.
The drawback to using papyrus to record Bible manuscripts is that papyrus is susceptible to dampness, and it decays rapidly in high humidity environments. This is why the oldest Bible manuscripts recorded on papyrus are found in very dry climates like Egypt.
Around the eighth or ninth centuries A.D., parchment became the more preferred writing material, and the use of papyrus declined. Parchment is made from processed animal skins, and it lasts much longer than papyrus in more humid climates.
Parchment used to be much more expensive to produce than papyrus, but as time progressed, overharvesting of the papyrus plant drove up the prices so that parchment became a more cost-effective choice as a writing surface.
Since papyrus was the common writing material of the early centuries, it makes sense that copies stored in Antioch from earlier centuries did not survive but decayed from the humidity. We should therefore assume that they did once exist in abundant numbers but just aren't available for us now. We only have the copies from later centuries.
Parchments continued to be used to write Bible copies up until the time paper became the preferred writing material. Advances in paper milling near the end of the Middle Ages caused the gradual decline of parchment use.
Both papyrus and parchment can be made either into scrolls or codices. A scroll, as described above, is a writing surface where the sheets are glued to each other to form a continuous writing surface that is rolled up when not in use.
A codex is an ancient book where the papyrus or parchment sheets are laid on top of each other then fastened together with a binding similar to our modern books today. They are read by turning pages just like a book.
Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus
When tracing the movement for exalting the Alexandrian text type over the Byzantine text type, two anchor manuscripts yield tremendous support to the modern preference for the Alexandrian Bible text. These two manuscripts are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.
Both of these manuscripts were written on parchment and are of very high quality as far as materials and workmanship are concerned. They are also both very well preserved considering their great age. Many believe the modern discovery of these two manuscripts to be a very great biblical find.
When counting up the number of manuscripts that support a particular text type, it should be noted that many of the manuscripts are mere fragments or portions of Scripture and not the entire Bible. One of the special traits of these two manuscripts are that they contain vast portions of the Bible.
Both of these documents date back to the fourth century A.D., so their great age makes them rank very high with a number of biblical scholars who believe that the oldest manuscripts, regardless of origin or textual condition, are the most trustworthy. The completeness of these two manuscripts, and the age of these two manuscripts are what grants them the significant authority in the world of textual criticism that they currently possess.
One of the damaging factors detracting from the worth these two documents is that they are characterized by many corrections and poor grammar. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus don't show evidence of being the preserved Word of God but rather the manipulation of man.
These two manuscripts also differ from one another in many places showing the disharmony between the two documents. The preserved Word of God would not be characterized by the obvious and numerous inconsistencies contained in both of these Bible manuscripts.
Alternatives to the King James Bible
Bible translators have created modern versions of the English bible without using these controversial source documents as the bottom line authority of the translations. The Byzantine Majority Text collection of Greek documents is favored by some translators since it does not include these two Alexandrian documents. The Textus Receptus, based on the work of Desiderius Erasmus, also does not place much reliance on the use of these two manuscripts. Erasmus did review the Vaticanus but found it to be an unreliable source document, so he did not make much use of it when it disagreed with other Greek texts.
Are ALL modern English Bible translations derived from Alexandrian source documents such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus? No. They are not. Below are a few translations that do not use these two source codices:
21st Century King James Version (KJ21) - Based on the Textus Receptus
This translation is a fairly recent update of the King James Version published in 1994 which takes a very conservative modification position. The older Elizabethan language is retained and only archaic words are updated, so this version should sound very similar to the King James Version. It claims that no words have been added or subtracted, so none of the words found in the King James Version should suddenly go missing in this translation.
King James 2000 (KJ2000) - Based on the Textus Receptus
This translation, which is an update of the King James Version, was published in 1999 and like the 21st Century King James Version, it claims to not add or delete any words that are found in the King James Version. This version updates the Elizabethan English to modern form. It also updates archaic words without changing the flow of the wording to deviate from the Authorized Version. The e-Sword module can be downloaded here for free.
King James Version Easy Reader (KJVER) - Based on the Textus Receptus
This translation, which is an update of the King James Version, was published in 2010 and like the King James 2000 Version, it claims to not add or delete any words that are found in the King James Version. This version updates the Elizabethan English to modern form. It also updates archaic words without changing the flow of the wording to deviate from the Authorized Version.
Modern King James Version - Based on the Textus Receptus
Like the New King James Version, the Modern King James Version uses the Textus Receptus as its Greek basis. It is considered by some to be more literal than the King James Version, but book versions are now out of print. It can be read online or using Bible software such as e-Sword.
English Majority Text Version (EMTV) - Based on the Byzantine majority text
This translation uses a newer Greek printed text than the Textus Receptus called the Majority Text. The Majority Text gathers together all of the manuscripts and uses the reading that is represented in the majority of the documents. It doesn't elevate older manuscripts in importance. It takes the Democratic approach and grants each manuscript an equal vote. Since new manuscripts are being found on a regular basis, the Majority Text is periodically updated to reflect these new discoveries.
Updated King James Version (UKJV) - Based on the Textus Receptus
World English Bible (WEB) - Based on the Byzantine Majority Text
The World English Bible (WEB) and the Updated King James Version (UKJV) are both public domain translations, which allow you to freely copy the text without copyright constrictions. They are frequently used online or in the form of electronic, on-screen text since high-quality printed copies are not yet widely available.
Analytical Literal Translation (ALT3) (New Testament Only) - Based on the Byzantine majority text
The Analytical Literal Translation (ALT3) is considered by some to be one of the most accurate English translation of the Bible in existence that uses the Byzantine Greek text. The trade-off for this accuracy is that the readability of the text is not as smooth and velvety as the other versions since the literal, direct Greek to English translation of the words reads in a choppy fashion. There is a devotional version that footnotes the bracketed explanatory information so that the text is easier to read during devotions or public reading. The e-Sword module can be downloaded here for free after you create a free account.
Modern English Version (MEV) - Based on the Textus Receptus
This is the newest Bible translation based on the Textus Receptus, and it was just introduced in 2014. It claims to remain faithful to the Textus Receptus and not remove any words based on Alexandrian readings.
New King James Version (NKJV) - Based on the Textus Receptus
The New King James Version is an update of the King James Version where the text is updated to modern language, but it keeps with the literary style of the King James Version. As with the King James Version, and it uses the Textus Receptus as its Greek basis. This is the most widely available Textus Receptus translation created in the past century. The publication date is 1982.
Literal Translation of the Bible (KJ3 or LITV) - Based on the Textus Receptus
This is a very literal translation of the Bible. It was translated by Jay P. Green Sr, the same person that translated the Modern King James Version. Jay uses this translation as part of his Greek/Hebrew interlinear Bible. This translation is available in book form, or it can be read for free online or by using the e-Sword software program. It is extremely accurate and a top-notch translation rendering the Bible text in explicit detail.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT) - Based on the Textus Receptus and Majority Text (1862 version)
This translation is extremely literal like the Analytical Literal Translation, and it is more suitable for study than public reading due to its choppy form. This is an older translation from the 19th century, so the language is not as modern as some of the newer translations.
The Textus Receptus and the Greek of Westcott and Hort
When the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church back in the early centuries, the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Latin Vulgate written by Jerome as its standard translation, and they used it for the next 1000 years.
The Greek Orthodox Church continued to use the Greek text as its standard Bible throughout the centuries.
During the Middle Ages, also referred to as the dark ages, the Roman Catholic Church made significant attempts to destroy Greek copies of the Bible that were used by non-Catholics in an effort to support the Latin Vulgate as the only authorized translation.
Since the average person could not read Latin, only the priests of the Catholic Church and a few other educated scholars were actually able to read the Bible for themselves. The average person attending a Catholic church had to rely on the priest to tell them what the Bible said. This is the way the Roman Catholic Church wanted it. They did not want the average person reading the Bible and coming to their own conclusions about Christian doctrine.
As the tight grip of the Catholic Church was loosened coming into the Reformation period, progress was made for standardizing the Greek Bible text.
Since a number of the old parchment and papyrus manuscripts were decaying, an effort was made to standardize the Greek Bible into a single, complete volume which contained the entire Bible.
The first major work during the Reformation in this area was completed by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516 when he wrote the Textus Receptus, otherwise known as the received text or traditional text.
Since the printing press using movable type had already been invented by this time, the Textus Receptus could be printed in large quantities since it no longer needed to be copied by hand as was the case for so many centuries in the past.
The Textus Receptus was based on Byzantine Bible manuscripts, and it was the Greek basis for the King James Version. The Textus Receptus underwent several revisions to make improvements by Erasmus over the years and then later by Robertus Stephanus and then subsequently by Theodore Beza.
Originally, Erasmus only had a dozen or less Greek manuscripts to work from when creating the Textus Receptus. Over time, more manuscripts became available for consideration which warranted future revisions of the text.
The Textus Receptus remained the standard Greek text until Brooke Wescott and Fenton Hort, two names that will live in infamy according to King James only advocates, published "The New Testament in the Original Greek" in 1881.
This Greek publication of the Bible introduced the Alexandrian-based Greek Bible text into widespread circulation which created a firestorm of controversy among the churches.
The New Testament in the Original Greek publication initiated the switch for most future English translations from being based on the Byzantine Textus Receptus to being based on this newly discovered Alexandrian Bible text.
The Greek text by Westcott and Hort was based heavily on the very old manuscripts Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament forms the basis for the current Alexandrian Greek texts, Nestle-Aland (NA) and United Bible Society (UBS). These two Greek texts are very similar to one another with the Nestle-Aland version targeting an audience of textual critics. Most modern Bible translations use these two Greek texts as their basis for translation.
Erasmus, Westcott and Hort
No discussion of the King James only movement is complete without mentioning the three founding Greek text authors that separate the two major Greek versions in existence today.
Westcott and Hort are often criticized as being heretics that did not respect the Word of God and therefore were incapable of producing a quality Greek text. They are the targets of scathing rebukes by King James only supporters as they are identified as agents of the devil.
Westcott and Hort are the villains in this controversy as debates and arguments rage on regarding the correct original Greek.
Some of the quotes posted online and referenced in books about these two men turn out to be taken out of context, and as you scrutinize the quotes with the surrounding text included, a different picture is painted that doesn't portray them as the devils that they are frequently characterized as.
The perception to keep in mind is that Westcott and Hort did not author the underlying Greek texts. They just compiled their version of the Greek by applying the available Alexandrian manuscripts.
It is agreed upon by many including their opponents that they were both accomplished scholars in the field of Greek study.
The following quote highlights how Fenton Hort struggled with the idea of scriptural infallibility. Since this is a lengthy quote, it provides sufficient context to capture the feelings and thoughts of Fenton Hort as he wrestles with the issue of biblical inerrancy. He doesn't appear to be this devil that is bent on distorting the Word of God. He might not be saved and therefore unable to view the Scriptures through the same lens as a born-again Christian, but he seems to have a respect for the Scriptures and a desire to review the text to gain further knowledge.
"I do most fully recognise the special Providence which controuled the formation of the canonical books : my only difficulty is to understand how you can have had any doubt about the matter, considering how often we have talked over subjects in which such a belief was implied if not expressed. Certainly the unlucky suggestion, which gave rise to your doubts, seems to me quite consistent with it. But I am not able to go as far as you in asserting the absolute infallibility of a canonical writing. I may see a certain fitness and probability in such a view, but I cannot set up an a priori assumption against the (supposed) results of criticism. So perhaps you would say in terms, at least but you would deny that the fair results of criticism, making allowance for our imperfect knowledge, prove the existence of any errors. I am as yet prepared neither to deny nor to assert it. I shall rejoice on fuller investigation to find that imperfect knowledge is a sufficient explanation of all apparent errors, but I do not expect to be so fortunate. If I am ultimately driven to admit occasional errors, I shall be sorry ; but it will not shake my conviction of the providential ordering of human elements in the Bible. It is perhaps possible that these words might be used in various senses ; but I am sure that, saving my doubts about infallibility, you and I mean precisely the same thing by them. I shall be glad to know whether, after this express explanation, you still are perfectly content to take me as a coadjutor in the commentary. The difference does not seem to me essential ; but you may think otherwise, and will, I am sure, speak freely."
The Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, chapter V, p 422
One of the components that is frequently left out of the discussion when analyzing the qualities of these three Greek text authors is that Desiderius Erasmus is not subjected to this same level of critique as Westcott and Hort by the supporters of the King James Bible.
While Erasmus did place a considerable value on the Bible as a source for education, it is believed by many historians that he was not a born again Christian but rather a Christian humanist that took a neutral stance in areas of theology between the Catholics and the Protestants. Only God knows for sure whether or not he was actually saved.
He was extremely intelligent and was well educated in Greek and Latin. He spent his life in scholarly pursuits and avoided being tied to any employment situations that would curtail his independent study aspirations.
He was offered many well-paying positions, but he declined to accept them so that he would not be intellectually hindered.
Even though he was a lifelong Catholic and ordained as a Catholic priest, he frequently did not see eye to eye with the Catholic Church, and he outlined the need for moral improvement within the priesthood of the church.
The quality of the Greek text written by Desiderius Erasmus was not questioned, but he was not the spiritual angel that would be suspected as being the author of the Textus Receptus as it is held up as a perfect Greek text.
Bible Translation Methods
Part of the confusion when comparing translations of the Bible is not just which text family is used as the Greek foundation but rather the translation method used to generate the final text.
Since Greek word order differs from English word order, there needs to be some rearranging of the words within the sentence structure to produce a readable English text. If English words are merely substituted for Greek words in the exact same order, the text is extremely choppy and very difficult to read.
The formal equivalence method of translation, which was used for the King James Bible, attempts to render the translation as much is possible in a word for word fashion so that the English product follows the Greek as closely as possible yet is still readable.
Bible translations produced with this method can be easily compared side-by-side because the word order is very similar from one translation to the next. If someone is reading from one formal equivalence translation, and you are following along in a different formal equivalence translation, it is easy to follow along as the other person reads. This is because each of the translations are translating the Greek into English following almost the exact same sentence structure.
When studying from a formal equivalence translation such as the King James Version, it is straightforward when matching English words to Greek words using a concordance. Each English word or words corresponds to a Greek word or words in a direct correlation.
One English word in the King James Bible or other formal equivalence translation can be the translation of two or three sequential Greek words because when words are translated from one language into another, there isn't an exact one-to-one match from a single word in one language to a single word in another language.
The same is true in the opposite direction. One Greek word can be translated into two or three sequential English words. Since there is this one to many relationship between the words in the languages, formal equivalence is not a one word for one word translation method.
The goal with this style of translation is to remain as faithful to the original text as possible and not mix in interpretation with translation.
In the middle of the 20th century, a new form of translation known as dynamic equivalence became popular . This new translation style attempted to translate the Greek and Hebrew words into English or another language by examining the meanings of larger portions of text such as whole phrases or sentences then writing equivalent phrases or sentences that described how the original culture would have understood the passages using modern equivalent language.
This translation style is also known as thought for thought translation. The literal meanings of the words are not retained necessarily but attempts are made to retain the meanings of the Bible passages during the translation process.
One problem with this translation method is that shades of meaning are lost as the cultural significance of wording is rewritten into modern equivalent word structures. The distinctive Jewishness of the original wording is sanitized in an effort to rephrase Bible passages into modern equivalent statements.
Part of how we understand the Bible is how it related to the original audience. By rewriting the Bible using dynamic equivalence word structures, the reader is forced to accept modern interpretive meanings of the Bible text as written by the translators. Dynamic equivalence is therefore a combination of translation and Bible commentary.
While some Bible readers consider this a good thing, the serious student of the Word of God should desire to read the Bible in its more literal form and not rely on translators to interpret the passages for them. By solely reading dynamic equivalence Bible translations, you are removing the more literal word meanings from before your eyes, and you are not exposed to the deeper, fuller meaning of the Word of God.
This translation method was made famous by the New International Version (NIV) which achieved great popularity in the mid-20th century and became the standard version for many churches and Christians.
The New International Version (NIV) achieved such widespread use that when articles and books are written about dynamic equivalence, the authors describing the subject are usually referring to this translation.
Many readers prefer dynamic equivalence Bibles because they claim that they are easier to read and understand. This is most likely true since one of the features of dynamic equivalence is smoothly written text. The New International Version (NIV) is a very fluid read, and it tends to be less choppy than the formal equivalence translations.
This is one of the dilemmas for choosing a Bible translation for many Christians. Do they choose the version that is easier to read or the one that is more accurate?
Some Christians get around this problem by using multiple translations. They might use an easy to read dynamic equivalence translation for devotion then refer to a formal translation for more serious study.
Other Christians that don't enjoy reading or that are not very educated choose dynamic equivalence translations so that they can understand the material. I can go along with the logic of this argument if the person has really tried and found that formal equivalence translations are just too challenging to understand, and they feel that if this is what they have to read then they are not going to read anything at all.
I do think, however, that a teacher of the Word of God such as a church elder should seriously consider adopting a formal equivalence translation of the Bible. The Bible states that not many should be teachers, and if a Christian is unable to understand a formal equivalence Bible translation, they need to examine their calling and pray to God if they are really called to teach the Word of God to other people in a public setting such as a church service.
This isn't cut and dry, and the Holy Spirit has the final say on this matter. There are some preachers that preach powerful, simple sermons and don't delve into deep theological subjects. They preach a basic, gospel message and see results.
Another difficulty with the introduction of dynamic equivalence thinking is that the concept has now been taken to another level in that Bibles are being translated in completely paraphrased format.
A paraphrased Bible translation is one where the translator takes great liberties with the wording and makes little or no attempt to remain true to the original Bible wording format of the original languages.
Some of these Bibles read like storybooks and actually distort theological truths that were given to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They may be very simple to read, but they lack a significant amount of truth that was presented in the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages used to write the original Bible autographs.
This Bible translation method is sometimes used to write children's Bibles. The paraphrased method is adopted so that the Scriptures can be made very elementary for young children.
This can be a legitimate argument if the translator makes a serious attempt to remain faithful to the original text and only paraphrase to allow young children to understand the Word of God. Perhaps these paraphrased translations can be used while the children are very young then abandoned as they get older.
Unfortunately, some pastors are using paraphrased Bibles in church services for adults. I don't think this is advantageous for the church. Adults should try to work up to using an accurate Bible translation and not take the easy road and just read simple renderings of God's word.
The King James Version of the Bible is not the easy read that many people desire, but it contains a faithful representation of God's holy word, and it has led the church forward for centuries.
Anointing on a Translation
The original Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew, yet Jesus and Paul quoted more frequently from the Hebrew to Greek translation that was made several centuries earlier, the Septuagint, than they did from the Hebrew Old Testament.
This quoting of a translation provides evidence that the hand of God can direct the translating process of the Bible so that the new version is worthy of being called the Word of God.
This concept provides the foundation for some declaring that a comparable anointing was directed over the King James Version translation process so that the finished product is more than just the work of man, but the work of man as directed by God.
We should keep in mind that there aren't any Scriptures that illustrate this process. The view is derived by observation of how Jesus and Paul quoted the Old Testament when recording the New Testament Scriptures.
In like manner, the anointing over the King James Version is derived by examination of the events that led up to and proceeded subsequent to the creation of the translation.
English Bible translations did progress through a succession of adaptations that peaked with the King James Version being the finest English Bible ever created up to that time. Many believe that all successive translations contrived since then have not been anointed in similar measure and have nosedived into a downward spiral in quality.
The King James Version endured as the definitive standard for English translation for many years until the Alexandrian versions rose in popularity in the late 1800s. By the time the 1900s rolled around, it was recognized that there was a need to update the language of the KJV, but by then, the major publishing companies were only creating translations using the Alexandrian text type.
New Bible versions have been constructed that were updates of the King James Version, but as many King James only supporters emphasize, they don't show evidence of the hand of God upon the translation process to the extent that was applied to the King James Version.
With the bulk of the Bible emphasis today being on Alexandrian versions, new Bible translations made using the traditional, Byzantine text aren't sold in the substantial numbers that the King James Version experienced in the 1600s and following.
This is where one has to decide whether or not popularity indicates quality. Just because God moved in a substantial manner during the King James translation process doesn't mean that newer, updated versions of the traditional text aren't also useful and more appropriate for today's language.
Just because the preaching of Jeremiah was not popular before the Babylonian captivity doesn't mean that he wasn't speaking the words of God and performing the ministry laid before him by our sovereign Lord.
Byzantine Words Changed or Deleted in the Alexandrian Text
Below are a few Bible verse comparisons that display translation discrepancies between Alexandrian and Byzantine text. I bolded the words that were deleted or changed. The Modern King James Version uses the Byzantine text, and the English Standard Version uses the Alexandrian text.
Matthew 8:29 MKJV And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with You, Jesus, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?
Matthew 8:29 ESV And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"
Matthew 25:13 MKJV Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 25:13 ESV Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Luke 2:43 MKJV And fulfilling the days, as they returned, the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know.
Luke 2:43 ESV And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
Luke 9:56 MKJV For the Son of Man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save. And they went to another village.
Luke 9:56 ESV And they went on to another village.
Formal Versus Dynamic Equivalence – Introduction
Below are some Bible verse examples comparing dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence translations. The New King James Version is the formal equivalence translation, which is the word for word type translation, and the New International Version 2011 is the dynamic equivalence translation.
Below each set of verses is an image from an interlinear of the Bible which shows the actual Greek text in Greek letters on the top line, the Greek text as pronounced phonetically in English on the second line, the literal meaning of each Greek word on the third line, and for some of the words, a more appropriate English definition on the fourth line. Sometimes the third line text in its literal form doesn't make much sense in English, so the interlinear includes a fourth line that provides a more appropriate English definition for comparison.
An interlinear is a Bible study tool that allows you to see exactly what the Bible says in the original Koine Greek language so that the words can be compared with any translation in English. As you can see, the Bible can't just be written directly into English without moving some of the words around, otherwise, the text is extremely choppy, and for all practical purposes, unreadable.
By viewing the interlinear for each of the verses, you can visually see where multiple Greek words are translated into a single English word and where a single Greek word is translated into multiple English words. This is done so that the translation makes sense in English.
Formal Versus Dynamic Equivalence – 1 Corinthians 4:9
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
1 Corinthians 4:9 NKJV
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
1 Corinthians 4:9 NIV
As you can observe from reading the NIV that "at the end of the procession" is only represented in the Greek by the word "last." This reading is a bit of an expansion of the text by the translators to help the reader understand the meaning of the original Greek context. Similarly, the NIV also includes "in the arena" which is an expansion of the Greek word which represents "theater." Both translations already contain the word spectacle, so "in the arena" is a dynamic equivalent expansion to help the reader visualize the type of theater that might have been used during New Testament times. Since the Roman Colosseum was a popular place to execute Christians, this phrasing describes a likely scenario, but Christians might have been put on display outside of the arena, so this is not a literal translation of the Greek.
Interlinear – 1 Corinthians 4:9
Formal Versus Dynamic Equivalence – Hebrews 1:3-4
who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Hebrews 1:3-4 NKJV
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Hebrews 1:3-4 NIV
At the beginning of the passage of the NIV translation, the words "The Son" are not represented in the original Greek. The literal Greek meanings of the words are "who being" which is how the NKJV translates the words. The NIV does not misrepresent the Greek in its translation since it is obvious from the context that the passage is describing Jesus Christ, but the phrasing is an interpretation of the original Greek. Similarly, the NIV translation "God's glory" is not a literal interpretation of the Greek since the pronoun "Him" is the word actually used in the original text. Again, nothing earth shattering here but just a technical difference in translation.
A more important difference is where the NIV deletes the words "by Himself" when referencing who purged us from our sins. This change can have theological significance since the work of Jesus alone on the cross atones for our sins. The Greek words "by himself" are represented in the Alexandrian Greek text.
Interlinear – Hebrews 1:3-4
Formal Versus Dynamic Equivalence – Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
Hebrews 3:1 NKJV
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
Hebrews 3:1 NIV
In this verse, the word "brethren" is expanded in the NIV to read as "brothers and sisters." This is an accurate representation of the Greek since references of this type which only reflect the male gender frequently mean both men and women. It is like saying "mankind" today and meaning all humans which includes women.
The word "Christ" is dropped in the NIV since it is not represented in the Alexandrian Greek text. Since the NIV uses the Alexandrian Greek as its basis, it is faithfully translating the words that are there.
Interlinear – Hebrews 3:1
Formal Versus Dynamic Equivalence – Hebrews 4:2
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
Hebrews 4:2 NKJB
For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.
Hebrews 4:2 NIV
Here, the NIV uses the phrase "share the faith" in place of "mixed with faith" which is not as accurate of a translation since the Greek word means "blended together" or "united." Sharing the faith implies telling others about the gospel whereas mixing with faith is something the Christian does internally. Both are important parts of Christianity, but one translation is truer to the Greek than the other.
Interlinear – Hebrews 4:2
Examples of Formal Equivalence Versus Paraphrase
Below are some Bible verses comparing the New King James Bible to the heavily paraphrased translation called, The Message. As you can see, The Message takes great liberties regarding the wording of the Bible passages. The interlinear isn't even needed since the changes are so obvious.
John 1:14 NKJB
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 MSG
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1:29-31 NKJB
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
John 1:29-31 MSG
The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God.”
Modern Bible Attacks
If you have ever considered migrating to a modern Bible translation, examined backstabbing reviews of the translation under consideration, shrieked in fear over the concept of using a corrupt Bible written by devil translators, and then backtracked to the King James Version, you might be in jeopardy of deceptive teaching. Assuming you are considering a modern translation using the Byzantine family of Greek text as the support for the translation, you need to then analyze the negative reviews based on how the modern translation renders the original Greek text. What confuses people and leads them down the wrong path is that those who hold that the King James Version of the Bible is the only godly translation in English fail to compare both the modern version AND the King James Version against the original Greek text. The scandalous accusations that the King James text has been corrupted in the new translation almost always starts with the fact that the words in the King James Version have been changed apart from any consideration of the definitions of the original Greek words. The standard for accuracy is the Greek text not the King James translation. If you start with the King James translation as the original, you have started on a faulty foundation. The King James Bible doesn't correct the Greek, the Greek corrects the King James Bible. God wrote the original Bible autographs in Koine Greek not King James text. Once you start looking up the definitions of the Greek words, you will find that several different English words can be used to accurately translate the words. Oftentimes both the King James Bible and the modern versions are accurate, they just use different words in their translations.
Are You Reading Your Bible?
One of the most important things to consider regarding Bible translations is: are you actually reading the translation and obeying its words? Having a great translation of the Bible doesn't do you any good if you aren't reading it and obeying its commandments. Another consideration, in a group setting such as an organic church, is that different people bring different translations with them, and it doesn't benefit the group if an argument breaks out with accusations about corrupt Bible translations or the Alexandrian cult. Differences in the text can be discussed among group members in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace to spiritually edify one another. A number of Bible translators prefer the Alexandrian texts since they are older.
Each Bible reader needs to decide if the King James Version of the Bible should be retained as the only translation to be used or if it is time to incorporate newer translations. We should all strive to know the Lord better and press into the truth of his Word.
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