Where are they coming from? KJV Onlyism

19 Apr

Although some evangelicals prefer the KJV for the sake of tradition and style of language, other fundamentalist-evangelicals insist that the King James Version of the Bible is the only translation that can rightly be considered the Word of God.  They believe that just as God infallibly inspired the original manuscripts, He also infallibly preserved them and eventually infallibly translated them into English in 1611.  To make that case, KJV-Only folk have to demonstrate that there was a single line of manuscripts going back to the originals.  This claim is simply wishful thinking and factually untrue.

Now, critics of the KJV Only movement or theory do not disparage the KJV or its tradition.  They simply allow for (in most cases prefer) the modern translations of the Bible and insist that they too for all intents and purposes can be called the Word of God (though recognizing that the only infallible inerrant scripture are the original autographs, which have disappeared from history).  In a Sunday School lesson a few years back, I had this to say regarding the KJV Only theory:

 After destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, Christians dispersed throughout the region and continued or began copying the original manuscripts and/or their copies.  There is no one set or family of copies which can clearly be identified as the line of succession from the originals.  A word about the KJV Only movement – While some KJVO advocates ignorantly take this position for unsophisticated reasons (‘If it was good enough for Paul, it was good enough for me’ or for sake of tradition/custom), there is a somewhat more sophisticated rationale for others.  The 1611 ‘authorized version’ (KJV) is based upon a 16th century Greek translation of the NT called the ‘Textus Receptus,’ which in turn is based upon a small group of Greek manuscripts from the Byzantine family of manuscripts (modern day Turkey).  Modern translations are based on recent Greek translation called the Nestle-Aland.  The Byzantine family makes up about 4/5s of all existing Greek manuscripts of the NT (5700 documents), but these 4/5s are virtually all from the 10th-15th centuries.  On the other hand, modern translations are based on Greek manuscripts from the Alexandrian family of manuscripts (closer to Egypt) and more recently discovered.  Fewer in number, but these are much older (first few centuries) and much more representative of manuscripts from around the immediate region.  The modern translations are much more consistent with the early church fathers’ sermons and commentaries as well, indicating their earliness.  The Byzantine family is sometimes called the “majority text” & the Alexandrian are sometimes called the “primitive text.”   The KJV or Textus Receptus (TR) contains more additions, more words, more attempts to harmonize, more embellishments, which makes sense because it was transcribed later.

In addition to what I said then, I make one additional comment.  It is simply absurd to think, as some hardcore KJV Only advocates do, that Christians with no access to an English KJV Bible (let alone speak English themselves) do not have access to the Word of God when they use translations of the scripture in their own language.

Resources on KJV-Onlyism:

Debate between Dr. James White and Dr. Jack Moorman: 

D.A. Carson – The King James Version Debate

James White – The King James Only Controversy

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