King James Onlyism
- Published: Sunday, 19 April 2020 21:09
- Written by Timothy Chapman
King James Onlyism is the doctrine that only the King James Version of the Bible is the "Word of God", and that all other Bibles are corrupted and therefore not the "Word of God". Some KJV only proponents go so far as to specify which edition of the KJV counts as the "Word of God" and label all other Bibles as "satanic" or "counterfeits". Typically, a great deal of emphasis is made on the KJV being the only "authorized" Bible as proof of their doctrine. Other arguments used to support the doctrine range anywhere from using "scholarly" explanations (eg: using manuscript evidence) to circular reasoning (eg: using passages in the KJV to 'prove' the KJV). This article will examine and refute some of the most common arguments leveled against other translations.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on the alleged authorization of the King James Bible, often implied to be from Yahweh himself, but sometimes stated to be from King James of England. KJV only proponents will then claim that all of the other translations were unauthorized. This lack of authorization, according to KJV only proponents, is the reason why everybody should read only from the KJV. However, such claims go contrary to Paul's instructions to "prove all things" [1 Thessalonians 5:21]. Such claims also serve to protect the KJV from scrutiny.
Authorization from King James I of England
On the point of King James authorizing the translation that is named after him, the KJV only proponents are correct. The King James Version is the only English translation of the Bible that King James authorized for use in England under penalty of imprisonment or death. However, authorization of a specific translation of the Bible by a king does not make that particular translation the "Word of God". The rule also does not apply to anyone who is not in England and under English rule.
Authorization from God
There is no Biblical (or extra-biblical) evidence to even suggest that God himself has given his explicit approval of this particular translation of Scripture. And such claims seem to be made for the sole purpose of protecting the KJV from scrutiny.
Attempts have been made by the KJV only group to claim that the KJV comes from the "preserved"line of manuscripts while the other translations come from the "corrupt" Alexandrian line of manuscripts. According to these claims, there are only two lines of manuscripts for New Testament texts. And that the Textus Receptus line is the "perfectly preserved" line of manuscripts from which we get the KJV while the Alexandrian line is the corrupted line that comes from Egypt. Using this premise, KJV only proponents will decide whether a manuscript is from the "corrupted line" based on whether it agrees with the text of the KJV. This is circular reasoning. And there are a lot more than just two lines of manuscripts.
In terms of preservation, the New Testament hasn't been nearly as well preserved as the Old Testament. While the Jewish scribes took great care that they copied their manuscripts perfectly (even counting the letters in the copy to make sure it was exact), the scribes who copied the New Testament manuscripts weren't nearly as careful. Some were outright careless while others added to or subtracted from Scripture. Some of these additions are accidental (eg: copying a footnote into the main body of text) while others were deliberate in order to shape or enforce Church doctrine. See False Scriptures for an idea on what has been changed since the first century.
Proof Using Circular Reasoning
Most of the arguments used to "prove" the KJV only doctrine amounts to circular reasoning, such as what was mentioned in the Dual-Lineage section above. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the person making the argument begins with the conclusion that they are trying to prove.
Quoting King James to Prove King James
There are a few passages within the King James Bible that are used to support the claim that the King James Bible is the Word of God. Proverbs 30:5 and 2 Timothy 3:16 (which is where the inerrancy doctrine comes from) are good examples of this. There are probably a few others that aren't listed as well. What the person making the claim fails to take into account is the fact that anyone can state that their preferred translation is the "Word of God" and use the exact same verses to prove their claims and be just as valid as the KJV only proponent. You cannot use a translation of Scripture to prove said translation of Scripture.
These claims also fail to take into account what the author of the passage is referring to. They are not referring to any translation of what we now call "Scripture". For example, Proverbs 30:5 is referring to God's Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy). When the passage was written, most of what came to be known as the "Old Testament" did not yet exist. And 2 Timothy 3:16 is referring to the Law and the writings of the Prophets if not the entire Old Testament. Most of what came to be known as the "New Testament" did not exist at the time that Paul wrote to Timothy. Any passage in Scripture that refers to other Scripture only refers to what was available at the time, or a portion of what was available at the time. It is rather difficult for King Solomon to refer to Isaiah's writings as being "pure" when Isaiah did not yet exist. Likewise, it's difficult for Paul to call Revelations "inspired" when it also did not yet exist.
Testing Translations Against King James
In an attempt to discredit other translations, KJV only proponents will often cite differences between the KJV and the translation they seek to discredit as proof that said translation is corrupted. This often results in the person making the charge making blatantly false claims about the translation he or she is attacking. For example, they will claim that there are hundreds of verses missing from the NIV. But the NIV didn't remove those verses at all. It simply moved them to the footnotes and explains that not all manuscripts had the verse or that the earliest manuscripts do not have it. This doesn't matter to the KJV only group though. In the end, since the translation does not match the KJV, then it must be because the translation is corrupted. However, turning the argument on its head and against the KJV would prove just as valid.
Another claim is the lack of "Old Testament" and "New Testament" in the newer translations. Ignoring the fact that this argument can be turned on its head against the KJV and be just as valid, the translation of "diatheke" into "testament" is simply incorrect. And the KJV translators weren't even consistent in their translation. Most of the time though, when associated with the word "old" or "new", they translated it as "testament" instead of "covenant". The fact that some translations (like the NIV) have absolutely no references to the "Old Testament" and "New Testament" actually proves that said passages were translated correctly by said translations, for "diatheke" means "covenant".
There is absolutely no validity to the KJV Only doctrine as it relies on circular reasoning, poor and outdated scholarship, and outright lies.