Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Critical Analysis Of The King James Only Movement

        Members of the King James Only Movement believe that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to every other translation that we posses. A number of these loosely associated, autonomous sects maintain that it is the only reliable translation because it is believed that the King James translators were inspired by God in the same sense as were the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts (with some going as far as to say that a person cannot be saved apart from reading the King James Version). Others use it because it is based on the Textus Receptus. For some, it is simply the preferred translation for reading. Moreover, this ideological framework has resulted in many bitter, unnecessary contentions throughout the body of Christ, which is the church. It has been the cause of unwarranted concerns behind the scholastic verdicts upon which modern Bible translation renderings are established. This essay aims to highlight the major issues existing with embracing a King James only mindset.

        The first and foremost objection that should be raised against belief in the King James Version being inerrant is that it has no scriptural support. Jesus Christ, the apostles, prophets, and their closest associates never cited from this translation. Never does Scripture teach that God would someday perfectly preserve His Word in a non-Hebrew or Greek language in the form of a seventeenth-century English translation by authorization of King James. In fact, the English language did not even exist during the time that both the Old and New Testaments were written. It thus follows that the King James only position is merely an extra-biblical doctrine. It is not of divine origin. It is strictly a man-made tradition and has no place being a standard of orthodoxy. How is it not self-contradictory for one to profess belief in the self-sufficiency of Scripture while upholding an extra biblical doctrine?

        The logic employed by members of the King James Version only camp is faulty, as well as it is irrational. Even if we could conclusively demonstrate that one modern Bible translation is doctrinally corrupt, that would still not build a case for King James onlyism because that does not prove the King James translation to be of divine origin. Accomplishing such a research project on one translation does not prove all to be poorer than the King James. What is even more, is the vicious circularity that exists in the argumentation articulated by people who promote the view that the King James Version is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It is merely assumed that the King James Version is inspired by God. It is merely assumed that the King James Version is the standard by which other translations be judged. Why should we use it in that manner? Why not do the same to the King James Version with older English translations such as the Coverdale Bible, Tyndale's Bible, Bishop's Bible, Geneva Bible, and the Great Bible? The point is that all translations should be evaluated in accordance to the best available manuscript data. King James onlyism is impossible to verify, since we do not have access to the original manuscripts. There exists no perfect set of manuscripts to develop a perfect translation of the Bible. Why is there not a King James Spanish, German, or Chinese Bible? Where was the Word of God prior to the publication of the King James Version?

        What needs to be understood is that errors in the process of translation will inevitably occur because we are imperfect beings by design. This includes both the scribes who translated Scripture and our up to date technology. No two sets of ancient manuscript are identical in every jot (the three primary manuscript families are the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Western), which accounts for the differences in Bible translations. There are literally thousands of manuscripts and papyri fragments lending incredible support to the overall veracity of the New Testament canon. Although copies contain minor spelling errors, grammatical errors, and textual variations, none of those are problematic for the Christian church because they do not change the historical data recorded in Scripture or endanger any article of the Christian faith. Scholars can correct most of the textual variants simply by comparing them to other renderings. The New Testament alone is almost one hundred percent textually pure. It has much wider and earlier source attestation than any other document of antiquity. Unlike the translators of the King James Version, modern translators of the New Testament have knowledge of Koine Greek. It cannot be denied that we now have access to much older and better manuscripts. This is the underlying basis for us being able to trust the Bible translations available to us today. There are literal, dynamic, and dynamic equivalence translation, all of which can prove beneficial to those who study Scripture with an open heart.

        The King James Only Movement severely endangers the integrity of New Testament. It is outrightly slanderous against conservative Christian scholars who love God with all their hearts and minds. This movement which was originally dedicated to the noble cause of maintaining the purity of the gospel has actually proved injurious to the Cause of Christ. It has resulted in much bitter contentions throughout Christendom. The King James Only Movement has made Christians become skeptical of their faith, as well as puffed-up against each other. The King James Only Movement has given certain Christians a false sense of security that they are greater than other believers in the eyes of God. It has assisted greatly in the spread of the, "We are the only ones who have the truth, whereas all who disagree are utterly lost," mindset. This also reveals to us that the King James Only Movement is in a sense rooted in Gnosticism: people who reject this position have simply not been "enlightened" as to the "secret truths" regarding tainted manuscripts and conspiracy theories.

        One would have to be severely misguided in order to believe that the King James Version is error free. The 1611 King James Version originally contained the Roman Catholic deuterocanonicals, along with marginal notes making reference to them. Ironically, King James Version only advocates absolutely refuse to accept these books as inspired. What is even more, is that the King James Version has been modified ten times since its original publication. Which one is correct? Take into consideration a handful of illustrations of the King James Version containing textual ambiguities. It calls the Holy Spirit "it" rather than "He" (Romans 8:28). It makes God sound as though He needs to "repent" (Exodus 32:14). John the Baptist's name is not "John Baptist" (Matthew 14:8). What about "unicorns" (Psalm 22:21)? Would that not cause an unwary reader to start doubting the validity of the Judeo-Christian worldview? Would not the reference to "gay clothing" (James 2:3) confuse the average modern reader? Can God be "limited" (Psalm 78:40-41)? The King James only view is just as unfounded as the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate only view, as both use similar tactics in order to reach their conclusions. The idea of there being a perfectly preserved translation of the Bible is just as mythical as there being an infallible teaching authority called the Magisterium (both rest on the assumption that one must have infallible certainty to know anything).

        In conclusion, the King James Version of the Bible should be viewed as an excellent translation, but nothing more. It truly is a great contribution to modern biblical scholarship and has unparalleled literary quality in English. However, only the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were breathed out by God. Every set of manuscripts has a number of imperfections. There is no reason to remain in the King James Only Movement, considering the overwhelming evidence that can be pitted against such a point of view. The people who are dogmatic on this issue ought to feel ashamed of themselves and repent before God. All faithful Bible translations can be considered the Word of God. The issue of Bible translation preference is something that Christians can and do disagree on. The best translation for a person is the one that he or she chooses to read. Those who cast judgement on fellow Christians for not reading only the King James Version should be more focused on serving the God of the Word, rather than debating over the Word of God. 

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