The King James Only Controversy
To the Reader
If you are convinced that the King James Version (KJV) is the only legitimate English Bible and that all other translations are false then please don’t waste your time reading this article because nothing anyone can say will convince you of the truth.
If however, you are genuinely interested in knowing the truth about the King James Only controversy, I pray that this paper will help you to better understand the issues.
A hot debate amongst some Christians is the debate around the King James (KJV)or Authorized Version (AV).Some people, generally known as King James Only (KJO) people claim that the KJV(1611) is the only “inspired” translation and that all other translations are not true Bibles and that those who use other translation are heretics because other translations are tainted by hidden agendas (conspiracies) designed to destroy the faith. They commonly refer to all other translations as “New Age Versions’.
There is no doubt in my mind that some modern translations are damaging to the faith. These include inter alia The Message, The New World Translation and the feminist and homosexual versions. But many of the modern translations are excellent and worthy of consideration.
Here are a few quotes from one of the leading KJO websites1:
“Only the real Bible will produce Biblical Scholarship--the Authorized (King James) Version of the Holy Scriptures. No other Bible version will work in Biblical Scholarship because the modern versions, written by modern deceived man, are not the word of God.”
“I am sad for any congregation whose pastor misleads them concerning the Word of God. To claim that only the originals are inspired is heresy. To claim that the King James Bible is divinely preserved without being inspired is ridiculous and an utter heresy.”
“By definition, any Bible version that is not the Authorized Version of the Bible is an unauthorized version; all modern Bible versions are unauthorized versions...”
These are very strong words and reflect the ferocity with which the KJO people hold their views.
Note: On jesusassaviour they promote the 1611 KJV. At the bottom of their home page they provide links to download the 1611 version but the version you will download and all the quotes on their site come from a version based on the 1769 version! The 1769 version has over 24,000 changes when compared to the 1611 version!2 This is not just misleading but dishonest. Sadly much of the KJO opinion is colored by similar dishonesty.
History of the controversy
The KJO controversy is a fairly recent invention. Until about 1930 all churches and scholars accepted that the original manuscripts were inerrant and inspired but that no translation was perfect nor inspired.
The roots of the movement trace back to a book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated published by Benjamin G. Wilkinson (1872–1968), a staunch Seventh-day Adventist missionary, theology professor and college president. In Our Authorized Bible Vindicated (1930), he attacked the Westcott-Hort Greek text and expressed strong opposition to the English Revised Version New Testament (ERV, 1881), in particular because it didn’t support two proof texts favored by Adventists. He was the first to apply Psalms 12:6-7 to the King James Bible, claiming that the reference is a proof text for divine preservation of the Scriptures3.
After Wilkinson came a series of writers, amongst others, Fuller, Ruckman, Waite, Chick, Riplinger, Hyles and Bynum. Each of these “borrowed” more or less from their predecessors but ultimately all rehashed the same theories as proposed by Wilkinson. In addition to a common base (Wilkinson), all KJO authors also share a remarkable similarity in their lack of scholarship and logical reasoning.
It must be borne in mind that there are several variations of KJO supporters who each takes the idea to various levels. James White identifies five different variants within the KJO “movement”4.
My purpose and methodology
I had, over the years, written several articles on the topic of the King James Only Controversy. I do not believe that we should be wasting our time on this issue but unfortunately there are many who make it a source of contention and strife and also use it as a means of dividing between “true” and “false” brethren.
Thus recently, I felt the need to combine the various articles and to update the whole in order to produce (for me) a definitive paper on the subject. The problem is that it is almost impossible to fully deal with this question in a paper of a dozen, or so, pages. The topic really needs an entire book devoted to it.
It must be clearly understood that my opposition to the KJO view does not mean that I think that the King James Version is a bad translation. Indeed it is a good translation but the point is that it is not perfect and while the original manuscripts were inspired, we do not believe that any translation is inspired. Is it still the Word of God? Obviously, yes, translations are the Word of God but some convey God’s Word and God’s words better than others.
In order to keep the paper as short, yet as complete, as possible I have resorted to making brief statements and have refrained from proving each point with numerous examples. At the same time I have been very careful to research every point carefully and to check and cross-check every statement. This subject is a highly emotional one and the internet is flooded with all sorts of statements, lies, half-truths and spin. This is true of both sides but especially of the KJO camp. Because of the volume of bad research and false statements on the internet I have attempted, as far as possible, to use original and reliable resources and whenever possible, sources that have no axe to grind in the controversy. Obviously when it comes to stating the KJO views we have quoted from their websites.
Also in order to keep the study to a reasonable size, I have not set out to refute every argument but have confined myself to the major issues. In addition, certain aspects of the controversy has been reduced to a few lines in order to keep the study as brief and focused as possible.
For the sake of “brevity”, I have not entered the discussion on the manuscripts in any length and I have also not discussed the difference between literal translations, dynamic translations and paraphrases. That is an entirely different (though related) topic. For the purpose of this paper when I refer to translations I am primarily meaning literal translations such as the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, ESV etc.
It is not the purpose of this paper to select “the best” English translation or even to defend all modern translations. The conversation regarding the merits of the various translations is for another paper and another day. Again, let me make clear that there are good, bad and ugly translations. I am not defending the bad and ugly but am simply saying that the claims some make for the King James have no substance and that there are good, or even better, alternatives.
History of the KJV
One of the first tasks King James tackled upon ascending the throne of England at the beginning of the seventeenth century was the reconciliation of the various religious parties within his kingdom. So when Dr Jon Reynolds of Oxford suggested a new translation, King James leapt at the opportunity and “authorized” a new translation. He had disliked the popular Geneva Bible because it had references in the margin which he felt to be politically threatening. He also realized that neither the Geneva, nor the Great, nor the Bishop’s Bible could be held up by him as a rallying point for Christians and he saw in a new translation the opportunity to unite all Christians behind a single translation.
He organized the work himself and divided 47 of the best scholars in England into several teams. He also provided strict guidelines such as the new translation was to be based on the Bishops Bible and that certain ecclesiastical words such as church instead of congregation be retained. The work was completed in 1611 and is referred to by many as the “Authorized Version” because it contained a preface which stated that it had been authorized to be read in churches.
The King James Version was not, however, immediately accepted by the general public. The Roman Catholics claimed it favored Protestantism. Arminians said it leaned toward Calvinism. The Puritans disliked certain words such as “bishop,” “ordain,” and “Easter.” But after some 40 years it overtook the popular Geneva Bible.
After 1611, the KJV was revised many times and also many errors crept in as a result of careless copying. Major revisions began in 1760 resulting in the 1769 version which forms the base of most modern printings. It must be noted that the 1760 revision made more than 24,000 changes to the 1611 version. The copy many read today is very different to the 1611 version. Some in the King James Only camp claim inspiration for the 1611 version while others bestow this credential on most KJV versions.
Who was King James?
King James was crowned as King James IV of Scotland when he was 13 months old. He had an excellent education in the humanities and theology but no education in morals and “he became the most learned hard drinker in Europe”5. Scotland was ruled by a series of four regents until James became actual King at the age of 17.
In Scotland he ruled over the church with terror, executing any minister who he saw as a threat or who did not submit to his sovereign authority over both church and state6. Some of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland pastors believed that James was ”the messenger of Satan”.
According to Free Mason records he was inducted as a Free Mason at the Lodge of Scoon, at Perth, Scotland on 15 April 1604. On the wall of the lodge is a mural depicting James kneeling at their altar during his initiation7. (The Mason connection is further strengthened by the incorporation of several Mason symbols in the illustrations that were included in the earlier printings of the KJV.)
In 1603 at the age of 37 James became James I, King of England and Scotland. At this point of his life, Durant describes him as: “Profane in his language, coarse in his amusements… fondling handsome young men… He drank to excess and allowed some court festivities to end a general and bisexual intoxication.”8
His various homosexual relationships are well documented9 and summed up in the infamous saying of the people that “King Elizabeth had been succeeded by Queen James”10.
In a statement to the Parliament of 1609 he formulated his claims to divine imperatives stating that “kings… sit upon God’s throne… even by God Himself are called gods… Kings are justly called gods.”11
The question obviously is, what this has to do with the translation, since James did not do the translation but only commissioned it. The fact is that not only did this evil man commission the translation but he set the ground rules for the translators and then personally selected the 47 (originally 54) men who would do the translation.
This is what the KJO people say about the selection process: “The… translators of the King James Version were providentially chosen by God… the Almighty chose the KJV translators for their sacred task”12. Combining James’s claims that he was a god and the KJO claim that God Himself chose the translators are we then to conclude that God is a drunken homosexual? That is blasphemous but it is the logical conclusion of his, and their, claims. Even if this deduction cannot be made, can we claim, as the KJO people do, that this man whom pious Christians called the “messenger of Satan” was a prophet of God, divinely appointed to this great work? Surely not.
Let me emphasize again, the translation was a good work, but to suggest that James was acting as God’s representative is blasphemy.
Furthermore it is important to note that this same man was the one who “authorized” the translation as the only valid Bible to be used in churches. Since when does a government have the power to tell the church which translation it is to use? The very people who bestow all but sainthood on James would react violently if a modern government dictated to the church in such a way yet these same people revel in the word “authorized”!
What is the Anglican Church?
One of the means by which KJO proponents seek to discredit other translations is by pointing out that sometimes members of the translation committee are of a different brand of Christianity or are not all Evangelicals or that the company behind the translation has commercial interests. They then create the impression that the KJV was conceived in an immaculate way in the perfect environment. It is vital therefore that we examine the environment in which the translation was born.
All the translators were Anglicans (known in the USA as Episcopalians). A significant number of churches in England were Puritan and in Scotland the churches were mainly Presbyterian – tracing a direct line to the Reformation through John Knox. But James only selected Anglican scholars for the work. So what is the Anglican Church and where does it come from?
It is commonly and erroneously said that Anglicanism is Protestant. The KJO people stress the fact that this is a “Protestant” translation. That is simply not true.
The Anglican Church was formed in 1534 when the Pope would not give King Henry VIII permission to divorce. Henry signed the Act of Supremacy which served as a unilateral declaration of independence from Rome and placed the King as the head of the church instead of the Pope. In doctrine and practice the newly formed Church of England was 100% Catholic except for the role of the Pope. For the ensuing 70 year the Church of England oscillated between being Catholic under Rome and Catholic under the King/Queen.
This does not make it a Protestant church. Protestantism generally describes those churches that seceded from Rome for doctrinal reasons as part of the Reformation. Wikipedea’s definition of Protestantism is: “any of several church denominations denying the universal authority of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth”13. The Anglican Church does not fit this definition and except for the first quality holds to the exact opposite of this definition. Anglicans speak of the “English Reformation” as though it is an English version of the European Reformation. But there are no similarities between these two “reformations”. The one was a doctrinal reformation while the other was simply a political realignment.
In later years the Anglican Church moved away from the Roman doctrines of transubstantiation and of purgatory. They also changed the language of the liturgy to English. But other than that they remain an English version of Roman Catholicism in doctrine, practice and hierarchy to this day. They have never been Reformed or Evangelical and on the contrary they are the very antithesis of everything we regard as Evangelical.
The ease with which Roman priests become Anglican priests and visa versa further testifies to the fact that Anglicanism is simply Romanism with a different label. Add to this the fact that the Apocrypha was an integral part of the original (1611) translation and it becomes clear that the translation was not done by Protestants for Protestants but it was Anglican-Catholic at its core.
There is little doubt that the translators were all scholars of the highest order. But were they all believers and even saints as some claim? This is a very difficult question since I have not been able to find a single shred of evidence that points to any of them as being born again. I am sure that some of them may have been truly saved but that is an assumption contrary to the evidence:
The conclusion is obvious: These men taught that you are saved through baptism. This is beyond any doubt another gospel and Paul pronounced those who taught any other gospel as accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9). So who is right, Paul, who called these men accursed, or the KJO people who call them anointed and saints?
Were they inspired?
The heart of the KJO argument revolves around the notion that the translators were inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the original authors were inspired and that this therefore makes the translation without error and perfect. They say: “If I didn't think I had a perfect Bible I'd close this one, walk out that door, I'd never walk in the pulpit again.” —Dr. Jack Hyles”16.
It is vital then that we examine the question as to whether the translators were inspired and whether the translation (as such) is inspired.
To claim that God only gave English speaking people an “authorized” Bible and that all other translations are false Bibles designed to mislead is rooted in the heresy of British Israelism and the sin of bigotry. If the KJV is the only inspired Bible then the millions of people who only read one of the 2800 other languages into which the Bible has been translated,20 have been predestined to go to hell unless they learn English. Also then the Great Commission should have included that we must teach all people to read English.
The KJO people claim that it is not unjust nor strange that God should give the Bible in only one language (English) since the original Scriptures were only written in one of three languages (Hebrew, Greek and some Aramaic). But as you can see, the KJO position equates the Anglo people with the Jews and suggests that God has transferred the covenants from the Jews to the British.
This is neither logical nor consistent with the stated will of God that the gospel should be published amongst all nations.
What was the Translators’ Agenda?
Behind many of the conspiracy theories of the KJO people is the idea that all modern translators have a (New Age) agenda while the King James translators were without any agenda except to produce a “perfect” translation. All translations are invariably colored to some degree by the theology and views of the translators. Obviously the New World Translation and other “niche” translations such as the homosexual, feminist, liberation theology, etc. translations have an obvious agenda.
But to suggest that the KJV translators had no agenda is blatantly dishonest. Their agenda was clearly stated and has never been hidden. Some of the agenda was actually of evil intent and other parts of it were quite innocent. But their agenda is clearly recorded and had two sources. The first was in King James’ commission, and the second was based on their methodology and is mainly recorded in their preface to the translation. There were 15 rules to be observed in the translation of the Bible. We shall only mention the ones most relevant to this discussion (the numbers in parentheses indicate the number applied by the translators – 1-15):
It is abundantly clear that the rules the translators worked under did not gender an approach to the work that would produce as clear a translation as possible. Rather, the rules gave a very specific color to the translation. This has, over the years, resulted in many errors in doctrine and practice. Things like the perpetuation of infant baptism, a Romanist hierarchy and structure in the church and the heresy of Heavy Shepherding all find their roots in these built-in mistranslations, based on these rules.
Mistranslations Because of the Rules
When confronted with the Greek word baptizo the translators had a problem. The only legitimate English equivalent for this Greek word is either “dip” or “immerse”. There are no other options. This however would break rule number 3 and expose the Anglican practice of sprinkling (infants). In order to satisfy rule 3 they used the same device the previous English translators had used called transliteration. This means they simply changed the Greek (and Latin) word into an English word. Thus their disobedience in sprinkling is “hidden”.
The problem with not translating the word as “dip” or “immerse” is not only confined to water baptism but also to passages like Romans 6:3-5. This passage is commonly used by evangelicals and Pentecostals to teach water baptism since it uses the word “baptize”. Yet this passage does not primarily teach on water baptism but teaches that we are immersed into, and united with, Christ in His death and resurrection. This is a key passage when it comes to understanding the process of the new birth and takes on an entirely different meaning when the word “baptize(d)” is corrected with the word “immerse(d)”.
Similar confusion reigns over 1Corinthians 12:13. Because the word “baptized” is used and the assumption is that baptism is water baptism we find the error of baptismal regeneration being taught from a verse that has nothing to do with water baptism. On the basis of the same verse many churches exclude believers from the Lord’s Table who have not been baptized.
When translating Acts 12:4 they chose to use the word “Easter” instead of “Passover”. They translated the same Greek word pascha as “Passover” in every one of the other 26 occasions the word is used in the New Testament. Why did they use the word “Easter” here?
By inserting the word “Easter” here, they were creating the impression that the early church celebrated Easter. This was an attempt to sanctify their perpetuation of the Pagan and Romish traditions. The name Easter has its origin with a goddess of the Anglo-Saxons named Eostre (also Estre, Estara, Eastre, Ostara, and similar spellings in various sources). This is the same goddess the Greeks called Aphrodite and the Romans called Venus – she is the goddess of fertility hence the Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. The word “Easter” has the same root as “estrogen” and “estrous” (cycle) when a mammal is most fertile.
It is very obvious that the translation was used to entrench the practice of the church rather than simply translating the Scriptures in a pure and uncontaminated form.
The Greek word here is “episkopos” which is a compound word made of “over” and “see” or “look” – literally “overseer”. Once again, they used a word which sanctioned their hierarchical structure inherited from Rome. The use of the word “Bishop” is totally gratuitous. In fact they correctly translated the word as “overseer” in Acts 20:28.
Not only does the use of the word give license to introduce an office which did not exist in the New Testament church but the use of overseer in Acts 20:28 creates the impression that this is yet another office (distinct from elders and bishops). Instead of clarifying a very simple matter, the translation has brought much confusion.
The word “minister” (either the verb or the noun) appears 34 times in the KJV. “Minister” has, since the 14th century, been a religious word meaning a clergyman. Several Greek words have been translated as “minister” but all the Greek words have a common meaning – a servant. The most common Greek word is “diakonos” which means a servant specifically in the context of menial work. A few times they translated the same word (correctly) as “servant” and a few times as “deacon” but the in the vast majority of cases the word is translated “minister”.
They obviously chose the word “minister” to entrench the clergy / laity divide which is so typical of the Roman and Anglican churches. The word “minister” is used in the sense of a master, manager or lord when the Greek teaches the exact opposite – that the leaders are to be servants and not masters or lords (1Peter 5:3).
Our understanding of how churches should function would be vastly different if the KJV had correctly translated the word “servant” but the translators’ agenda will distort the view “ministers” have of their self-importance until the Lord returns.
The word appears (singular and plural) 113 times in the New Testament and derives from the Greek word “ekklēsia”. Without going into much detail the word must be translated as “congregation” or “assembly”. It refers to any gathering of people whether Christian or not. The word “church” very obviously is a religious word and in the context of Romanism and Anglicanism means either the Roman church or the Anglican church. Only twice did they translate the word correctly (Acts 19) and that because the reference was to a pagan assembly of people.
Not only is this an imposition of their doctrinal view on all readers but it has forever tainted our understanding of what the “church” really is. Had they translated the word without preconceptions we would have understood that the assembly is not a building, a system or organization but a gathering of the Lord’s people.
Once again the translators purposely sought to obscure the Word rather than make it plain.
Obey and rule
In order to entrench the authority of church leaders the word “rule” is often mistranslated. This is a very broad subject and there are many Greek words that apply here. Here is the very brief summary.
Authoritarian and abusive churches like Hebrews 13:17: “Obey them that haue the rule ouer you, and submit your selues” (KJV 1611 – the translation remains much the same in the modern versions of the KJV). There are two problems here.
The first word “obey”, should properly be translated as “have confidence in”, “trust”, “rely on”, “be persuaded”, etc. The Greek word is mostly (53 times) correctly translated except in Hebrews 13:17 and Acts 5:37. In fact, they translated the exact same word as “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 but as “trust” in Hebrews 13:18 – the very next verse!
The second problem is that “have the rule over you” should correctly be translated as “those who lead you” or “those who go before you”. There is a huge difference between leading and ruling. (Note that there are many Greek words that are translated as “rule” and many of them literally do mean “rule” but this is never used in the context of the assembly)
The same error occurs with another Greek word used in 1Timothy 3:4 and 5:17. Where it speaks of elders “ruling” their homes and the church. The Greek word is a different one to the one above and means “to stand before” once again speaking of leadership and example as opposed to ruling.
This is only a sample of how the translators have dramatically changed the doctrine of ALL English speaking churches and have imposed their Anglican/Roman errors on us all. Also please note that space limitations (and your patience) have dictated that we not go into any of these points in any depth. The reader is encouraged to further research these words should he be so inclined24.
Many English Words for the Same Greek Word
One of the niceties the translators indulged in was that they used many different English words for the same Greek or Hebrew word. They felt that this brought variety and color to the translation, which it does, but at a cost to accuracy. Here is their statement in this regard:
“Another things we think good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that we have not tied ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish that we had done, because they observe, that some learned men somewhere, have been as exact as they could that way.25”
Here are some examples: the same Greek word is translated in Romans 5:2 as “rejoice”, in v3 as “glory” and in v11 as “joy”. In Ephesians 4:1 the same Greek word is translated differently as “vocation” and “called”. A quick look at a good concordance will show the extent of this problem26. Over the years uneducated preachers loved to build entire messages and even formulate doctrines around these variations as though they contained some divinely inspired message.
You will notice in their introduction that the translators admit that by being consistent in the way each word is translated, the translation would have been more exact and that other translators were more exact. Obviously they are simply stating that precision was not their priority (but rather a more poetic reading)! They did indeed succeed in producing one of the most beautiful translations of all time but it is by no means the most accurate translation of the original languages.
We accept that all translators must apply some discretion, especially when it comes to phrasing or else the translation would be unreadable. An interlinear Bible where the English words appear above or below the Greek / Hebrew words is potentially the most accurate translation but it is completely unreadable simply because the structure of each language is very different.
In addition to the above problems, the KJV also contains many other mistakes and weaknesses which could be attributed to several causes. It is interesting to note that many of the so-called “contradictions” unbelievers use to “prove” that the Bible is not inspired are a direct result of mistakes in the King James translation. Some of the kinds of mistakes the translators made are27:
Another part of the debate revolves around the groups (families) of manuscripts that are used as the base for the translation. When the KJV was translated only one set/family of manuscripts was available. This was the so-called Received Text (also called Textus Receptus) which is part of the Byzantine family of manuscripts. Today we have four or five families of manuscripts (depending on who is counting).
The debate over which manuscripts are the best is extremely complex and anyone who suggests that the matter is simple and that there is only one correct set does not know what he is talking about. It is the same as saying in order to put a man on the moon you just need a pipe filled with gasoline and with a garden chair on top.
I freely admit that I do not have sufficient insight into these complexities to even begin to pass a judgment. That does not mean I do not have my preferences but there is just no way anyone can claim the final word in this debate. It is therefore a senseless and futile exercise. In spite of this there are a few things we can learn from the debate:
One of the primary tactics of the KJO camp is that they point to differences between the KJV and others as “evidence” that the other translations are wrong and undermine the faith. They normally do so without examining the facts nor the Greek or Hebrew. They sometimes don’t examine the evidence because they lack the skills, but mostly they don’t because they simply assume that the KJV is perfect. That is just faulty logic. You cannot prove that everybody else is wrong just because they don’t agree with you, just maybe you are wrong and they are right!
There are many examples of this but will confine myself to the most publicized one:
– The only begotten Son of God.
Here is a representative KJO statement: “…there is one doctrine that all the others rest upon. It is the rock bottom, foundation of the Christian faith: Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten Son of God. Without this core belief, all the others are meaningless. Christianity stands upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth as the only begotten Son from eternity past and into the future forever. He is unique because He is the only begotten Son of God… Today the very foundation of our faith is under direct attack. Most of the modern Bible translations have altered this doctrine and shake the very foundation of Christianity.”30
There are actually a number of problems with this statement but I shall confine myself to the issue of the use of the words “only begotten Son” which many modern translations translate as “the only Son”(ESV) or the “one and only Son” (NIV). The phrase appears in John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; 1John 4:9.
The word “Son” is not in dispute so let’s look at the Greek word which the KJV (and others) translate as “only begotten”. The word is monogenēs. In order to understand any Greek word we must look at how the word was understood by Greek speakers of the day, outside of the Bible, and then also at how it is used in the Bible.
Here is what Kittle, arguably the most respected Greek dictionary, says about the secular usage of the term: “In compounds with genēs, adverbs describe the nature rather than the source of derivation. Hence monogenēs is used for the only child. More generally it means “unique” or “incomparable.”31
The word monogenēs is used nine times in the New Testament – the five from John, listed above, that relate to Jesus and four that do not relate to Jesus. The other four are found in Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38 and Hebrews 11:17. In the case of the three Lucan references the KJV translates them as “only son”, “only daughter” and “only child”. If the correct translation is “only begotten”, why did they translate these differently? Hebrews 11:17 says: “By faith Abraham… offered up his only begotten son”. But was Isaac Abraham’s only begotten son? No, Ishmael was also his son in every sense of the word. Is it correct to speak of Isaac as “only begotten”, or would it be more correct to speak of Abraham’s “unique son” or “special son”? I suggest that when monogenēs is used of Isaac, the emphasis is on his uniqueness and specialness rather than on his being the only begotten which is clearly not true. Even a superficial reading of the three examples in Luke will confirm that the Author is emphasizing how valued and special the children were to their parents.
In the same way, Jesus is not the only Son of the Father and God has many sons32. But Jesus is the unique son of the Father. While we are sons, no-one else is exactly like Jesus and no-one else has the relationship with the father that Jesus has. Monogenēs therefore speaks, as in the case of secular Greek and Isaac, of the uniqueness, distinctiveness and superiority of Jesus.
A study of the history of the term “only begotten” traces it back to one of the earliest errors that beset the church – that of Arianism (3rd & 4th century). The Arians taught that Jesus was created/born and therefore not fully God. Amongst others, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons perpetuate the same heresy today. It is no wonder then, that the notion of the “only begotten son” is still a favorite argument by JW’s to show that Jesus is not eternal and therefore not God.
At the same time, I admit that modern scholars are divided on this question and the arguments are much more complex than I have presented here33. But we must ask how changing monogenēs from “only begotten” to “one and only” affects what we believe and “undermines the very foundations of our faith”? The fact is “one and only” does not undermine who Jesus is but rather exalts Him. Removing “begotten” from the translation of John 3:16, etc. does not change the fact that the next word – “son” still retains the doctrine of His Sonship. In addition there are many other verses that speak of Him as “begotten of the Father”. (In the other verses, a different Greek word is used). Thus changing the translation of the five verses in question does not change anything about what the New Testament teaches about Jesus and His relationship to the Father.
On the contrary, the use of “one and only” emphasizes that there is no-one like Him and that the Father did not give any son, but His one and only, unique and special Son –the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not matter how you cut it, by removing “begotten” from the verses in John, Jesus is not devalued, but by (correctly) emphasizing His uniqueness to the Father, He is further exalted and glorified as the One and Only, unique and special Son of the Father.
Why I Don’t Use the KJV
Before I give you my reasons, let me share a bit of the background with you. I grew up with the KJV and the Afrikaans Bibles and later entered the ministry with a denomination which is KJO. I simply accepted the denomination’s policy of KJO and vehemently opposed those who used other translations by using all the classical KJO arguments.
At a particular point in my ministry the Lord began to open doors for me to work increasingly amongst unbelievers and new converts who had no Christian background. It pretty soon became obvious that the KJV was a real stumbling block because of the archaic language and that folk had difficulty reading long sections and fully understanding what they had read. At this point I began to explore the alternatives. I bought copies of three other versions that my research had highlighted as possibly good translations. For about a year I read and studied each of these versions in minute detail. The more I studied the different versions and the issues behind the various translations, I became increasingly convinced that there were other good, possibly even better, translations out there.
I finally settled on the NKJV simply because it was the most compatible with the KJV and it was easy for people to follow in their KJV when I read publically from the NKJV. For several years I used a wide-margin NKJV and noted many of the differences between the KJV and the NKJV. I researched the original languages on each difference and the various factors that influenced the translators to make the choices they did for each instance. The more I dug, the more convinced I became that while the KJV was a good translation, there are better translations. I also became aware that there is not a single perfect translation but that each one has its strengths and weaknesses.
Even though I use the NKJV for public reading and teaching, I still refer to the KJV every day during study and research. I have the KJV open on my computer all the time and when quoting Scripture from memory it is mostly from the KJV.
Here are the reasons I don’t use the KJV when teaching and reading in public:
Modern Translations are not the Source of Heresy
KJO people claim that modern translations are the base of heresy and error. In order to “prove” their point they use extreme paraphrases like The Message and the way certain false teachers use such translations to support various errors.
But the truth is that people don't get into heresy because of translations, they get there because of pride, disobedience and rebellion. The big cults in the world today - Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventism, Christian Science etc etc, were all based on the King James Version! Does that make the King James Version bad? No. The problem does not lie with the translations but the problem lies in how the translation is used. Some of the problems that lead to error are a lack of logical consistency, ignorance, pride, and reading the Scriptures in a reactive way. God can use even the worst translation to bring men to truth if they really want to know the truth. In the same way the very best translations and even the actual documents signed by Paul did not stop men from devising false doctrines.
There were false teachers in Jesus’ day and a number of heresies plagued the church from the latter part of the first century on. These errors were propagated in spite of the fact that the original manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek being available to them. So, if the actual documents that were written under the inspiration and anointing of the Holy Spirit did not guarantee doctrinal purity, then no translation will either.
It should also be evident that the claims made regarding the perfection and inspiration of the KJV are false and that better translations are freely available. At the same time we must note that the actual differences between any of the literal translations amounts to a fraction of one percent.
In spite of the problems elucidated above, the KJV is a good translation. Notwithstanding my grave concerns about the translators and the environment in which the work was done, the translators were very skilled linguists and produced a well-crafted translation. The very fact that it has remained popular for 400 years attests to the quality of the workmanship. But its endurance does not prove God’s protection on this translation as though it were authorized by the Lord Himself. Even though it is a good translation, it is not perfect and does have real shortcomings. If you use the KJV and are aware of its weaknesses, then it becomes an excellent tool to know and teach God’s Word. But if you blindly follow the translators and believe that every English word is inspired and the translators were anointed – you will certainly miss some important truths and could even develop some grave heresy based on these weaknesses.
We must remember that no translation is perfect but today we have access to the most wonderful computer programs that make the original languages accessible to anyone through a whole range of dictionaries, concordances, word studies and other marvelous tools. No student of the Bible has any excuse not to “rightly divide the word of truth” no matter which translation he chooses.
Finally, the KJO controversy is unnecessary and foolish. Let’s be mindful of Paul’s instructions: “nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:4-7). “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9).
9. KJO people claim that the accusations of homosexuality were concocted decades after the death of James. This is not true. There is ample first-hand evidence dating to James’ reign that corroborate that he was homosexual in spite of his marriage and that he generally found women unattractive.
15. “the Infant Baptized is by Virtue of Baptism, before it be signed with the Sign of the Cross, received into the Congregation of Christ’s Flock as a perfect Member thereof…” Article 30 of the Constitutions and Canons of 1604: http://www.anglican.net/doctrines/1604-canon-law/
17. “No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. For whatever was perfect under the Sun, where Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God's spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand? [emphasis mine].
18. They note in their preface to the 1611 version: “Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, . . . but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.”
24. The following paper contains many good examples of problems with the translation as such: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/kjv.html
25. (Modernized English): http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611-Bible/1611-King-James-Bible-Introduction.php
27. The previously quoted paper lists many examples of these mistakes and I urge the serious student to at least read through the list at: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/kjv.html
31. Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995, c1985). Theological dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (607). Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.
33. For a more detailed analysis see:
Köstenberger, Andreas J. John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, MI. 2007. pp40-45. (pay special attention to the footnotes).
Köstenberger, Andreas J. A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters. Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series. Zondervan, 2009. pp381-382.
Pendrick, Gerard. Μονογενή. New Testament Studies, Volume 4 Issue 04. Cambridge University Press, pp 587-600 . (Available from Cambridge Journals Online)
34. Here is one such dictionary: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/king-james-dictionary/