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You are Here: BibleSanity.org >> Bible History and Versions >> Validity of King James Version

King James Exclusive

The Legitimacy of Exclusive Use of the King James Version

by Daniel Stanfield, 1999, revised 2024.

Part I: The Most Important Aspects

The Trust with which we hold the King James Bible

There are many people, like myself, who have an extensive familiarity and tremendous appreciation for the King James Version of the Bible. There are many churches and individuals who will not use, or cannot trust, any other translation. There are two very good reasons for this which are irrefutable.

The first reason is because the translation is a literal rendering of unprecedented quality by the very best scholarship of that day, as well as the culmination of the life work of many individuals who created the translations on which the KJV was based.

The second reason is that the King James Version has proven itself to be the effective, reliable, Word of God. For over 400 years, it has been used almost exclusively by millions of people throughout their entire lives. It is the only universal standard in the English language.

Familiarity and Memorization

I grew up with the KJV as the only Bible there was. I knew the Living Bible existed, but everyone knew it was a paraphrase, and nobody I knew used it. I was in my 20's before I ever touched another version. All those verses I'm familiar with, hundreds of verses I've memorized, all King James. Over 20 years ago (in 1999), I started using some other versions, but the KJV will always be my 'Home' version, and there are still times I just need to see a verse in KJV.

Uniformity in Services and Teaching

Uniformity is also a thing. I've been in churches where everyone uses the KJV, and I've been in churches where everyone has there own version. The comfort level, and even confidence in Scripture is so much better when everyone is using the same version, and I've never seen a church be exclusive to any other version than King James.

Fundamentalism Characterizes King James Churches

Churchs who demand or practice exclusive use fo the King James Bible are inevitably Fundamentalist churches, that is, they believe in verbal, plenary, inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture, and are about the business of evangalism, discipleship, prayer and ministry. I don't mind saying that a King James church might be, in 2022, your best bet on finding a church with these characteristics.

It is important to note that there are many solid, fundamentalist churches which are not King James exclusive churches, but my point is that a King James exclusivity is typically an indicator of a fundamentalist church.

The Importance of Literal Translation

Most modern translations are NOT literal translations. The use of 'Dynamic Equivalence' or "Thought-for-Thought" translation style lends itself to selling lots of Bibles. They can be easy to read, they can be written in gender-neutral language, and they can be extremely interpretive, based on the opinions of the editors. While it is true that even rough paraphrases of Scripture can be useful, even unto salvation, this cannot be the preferred method when we believe in verbal inspiration. The doctrine of Verbal Inspiration means that the very words the writers used were inspired of God, not just the conceptual ideas.

Part II: Manuscripts and Translations

The Highlighted Conflict

The distinction between the Textus Receptus or Critical Text translations is a matter selecting the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which we choose to translate the biblical text. Critical text versions attempt to compile more accurate representation of the original writings, using older and more diverse manuscript sources. So, the results are different, and of course, the content of the Bible varies by source. But the sucker-punch is: There's really very little difference. Anyone who has studied the distinctions will know that the differences exist, knows how relatively few there are, can understand why the differences exist, and knows that none of the differences have doctrinal impact.

The Larger (or "Real") Conflict

The much more significant problem with Critical Text Bibles is that there have been (and are) really bad translation issues. Most people don't know how good of a literal translation the KJV really is, and there are few English translations of similar quality. The RSV, for example is infamous for translating 'virgin' as 'young woman' in the prophecy of the Birth of Christ. This is not a text issue, but a poor translation. Many such issues are the fault of poor or biased translation.

This is a situation which has gotten even worse with gender-neutral language and dynamic-equivalent translation becoming the norm. This means that even if we could agree on source texts, we still have to carefully investigate and evaluate the quality of translations - hence the lack of trust of modern translations.

Part III: Elizabethan English

The Difficulty of Elizabethan English

While there is no denying that the KJV is more difficult to read, and that this has special impact to children and to people for whom English is a second language. We're really not talking about a lot of new words to learn, add some extra th's and play with sentence order - you get used to it pretty quick. The real difference in difficulty is that some Bibles using non-literal translation make specific word-choices to reduce the overall reading level to 7th or 3rd grade levels. That makes new translations easier to read, but cannot be done without using dynamic paraphrase translation - which violates the doctrine of Verbal, Plenary Inspiration (the words, not the ideas, and all of them, are inspired).

The Pronoun Benefit

Elizabethan-age English made finer distinctions with pronouns than modem English. That is, "thou," "thee," "thy," and "thine," were used for the second person singular, whereas "ye," "you," "your," and "yours" were the corresponding words for the plural. If the person reading the Elizabethan English is aware of this distinction, then this 'archaic' distinction actually adds clarity to the readings - just remember 'th' pronouns are singular, and 'you' pronouns are plural. The only other English versions that use these pronouns are the RV (1885) and ASV (1901).

The Majesty of the Language

The language of the KJV Bible is a reminder of the divine authority of the Word of God. While this is a factor of age, not style of translation, it does have that effect. Furthermore, when someone quotes or reads from the KJV, it is automatically identified as Scripture. That's worth something. Anyone familiar with the KJV who reads a modern version will notice the missing 'feel' of reverence, especially when reading in the Psalms, for example. The first version of the NASB Bible (1977) actually retained Thee and Thou when addressing God, and honestly, it's quite nice that way.

The Hymnal Problem

Practically all of the old classical hymns have phrases from Scripture running all through them. When modern language Bibles became popular, suddenly churches started replacing all their hymnbooks to match their new Bibles - but when you already know almost 400 songs (All American Hymnal) which all use KJV, that's kind of a blow. And what happend to all the Maranatha songs of KJV scriptures made into guitar choruses? Just gone. When you keep the KJV Bible, you get to keep the classic songs!

Part IV: KJV by Association

Bible Schools, Mission Agencies, and Associated Churches

Many associated Bible schools, mission agencies, and associated churches have made the well-justified choice to reject all other translations of the Bible, and use the KJV exclusively. Some of these institutions include other versions based on the Masoretic Text and the TR (New King James, Young's Literal Translation). This is obviously the perrogative of any body of believers.

King James Only - Christians Divided

Sadly, there was a point in time (mostly in the 1990's), when divisive separation of colleges and church associations based on 'King James Only' exclusion could be seen as 'harsh and mean-spirited.' It was a time of breaking fellowships and church splits, when mission boards, Bible colleges, and seminaries redefined their associations. These decisions did not follow denominational lines, but rather, decisions flowed down from associations with Bible schools, parent churches, and mission agencies supported, with individuals and local churches following the lead of these other trusted institutions, or else finding themselves at odds with them.

Because of the importance of the Scripture and the importance of these associations, King James Only, or not, became a defining stance which separates believers to this day, even when they share the same saving faith in Jesus Christ and they agree on every other area of doctrine and practice.

(C) Copyright 1999-2024 Daniels Stanfield. This document may be distributed freely, but may not be sold or modified.