Translation Should You Trust?
Defense Of The Authorized King James Version Of 1611
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE KING JAMES VERSION?
The Time Of Its Publication Must Every Language Have A Perfect Bible? The Ability And Character Of Its Translators The Qualification Of Suffering Their Attitude Toward The Scriptures Were The Translators Inspired?
That the King James Version
is still being published 380 years after it first arrived in history is
amazing. Since its introduction, there have been dozens of new "Bibles"
put on the market to replace it, but none have succeeded. This alone is
strong evidence that it is the version God has placed His stamp of
approval on. One time a person of prominence asked a Christian for one
reason why he should believe the Bible is the word of God. The believer
responded with two words: "The Jew." His reasoning was since the Jewish
people have been severely persecuted for most of their history, and
many other nations have targeted them for complete annihilation, the
fact they still exist with the same religion, culture, and language
they began with proves
the Bible to be true. This can be said of no other ancient nation. The
Bible predicted in several places that the Jews would never be
completely wiped from the face of the earth, and it also predicted
their return to their land (Jeremiah 30:11, Ezekiel 34:13, 36:24, etc).
Unlike the Philistines, Moabites, Amorites, and many other cultures which were once neighbors with Israel, the Jew remains unto this day.
The same can be said about the King James Version. Much like the Jew it has undergone persecution, slander, attempted corruption and annihilation, constant criticism,
and the like since the day it was first proposed. That it has endured
through the centuries unscathed has much to say about the authority
behind it. The Revised Version,
which came out in 1885, was published primarily to replace it as the
English Bible. To my knowledge, no publisher prints it today! The American Standard Version (1901) is an "Americanized" version of the RV, and it has nearly passed into obscurity also. Why has the King James Version
endured while others published to replace it fall by the wayside? What
is so special about it? In this chapter we will examine some reasons
why we consider it the "King" of Bibles.
The Time Of Its Publication
When the King James Version
was translated the English language was at its peak. By the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries English had already passed
through its formative years and had become one of the richest and most
expressive languages the world has ever known. The book, The Story Of English, written by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil says on page 91 concerning this period:
I came to the throne in 1558 at the age of twenty-five. William
Shakespeare, her most famous subject, was born in 1564. Her successor,
James I, who gave his name to another English masterpiece, the
Authorized Version of the Bible, died in 1625. During their reigns,
about seventy years, the English language achieved a richness and
vitality of expression that even contemporaries marveled at.
The authors go on to say on page 109 that the King James Version of 1611 is "probably the single most influential book ever published in the English language." Not the RV, ASV, NIV, etc., but the King James Version.
Does this statement in itself not make it worthy of very careful
consideration? Ever wonder WHO is responsible for it being so
It is fascinating that English
language experts, who make no claim to Christianity, have in some
respects a higher regard for the King James Version than many saved Bible scholars! Though these men may not consider the Authorized Version
the pure word of God (they may not believe God's word ever existed),
they do consider it a "masterpiece" of supreme influence. And who in
his right mind would attempt to correct, revise, or in any way tamper
with such a masterpiece? One that millions past and present believe to
be the very word of God? No one but a professional Bible corrector
(Genesis 3). In universities, seminaries, and Bible colleges all over
the world there are "scholars" and teachers who systematically tear
apart the King James Version
and revise it (many of the new versions claim to be a revision of it),
claiming to be correcting its (supposed) errors. They would never think
of changing or revising the masterpieces of Shakespeare, Bacon, Jonson, or other masters of literature of the period, but they butcher the King James Version
under the guise that it does not accurately translate the "original
Greek," or that it is based on corrupt manuscripts. As we have pointed
out before, there is no "original Greek" in existence, and the
manuscripts they charge as "corrupt" represent the majority and are
covered with the blood of countless believers. Clearly the Bible
corrector's excuses for "improving the King James Version" are nothing but more opinionated HOT AIR!
At this point you may be thinking: "Am I to believe the King James Version
is the pure, preserved word of God just because of its richness,
vitality, and literary excellence?" No, not entirely, but the fact it
was translated when the English language was at its climax is a very strong indication
that God was behind it. Who knew that in the early seventeenth century
the English language would peak? Who knew that after this period it
would become weaker and less able to convey the meaning of Greek and
Hebrew words? Why no one but God! Let's take this a step farther. Who
knew in 1611 that English would later become the predominate language
of the world when in that year less than TWO PERCENT of the world's
population spoke it? Again, no one but God (Acts 15:18). The
translators themselves did not realize that God was using them to
prepare a standard Bible in the "universal language" of the future.
Now, English is spoken by one-fifth of the earth's population—over one BILLION people!
In fact, English is not only the standard for absolute truth (KJV), but also the standard for absolute timeabsolute location (longitude and latitude), and absolute temperature (Kelvin system). So the final authority for time, temperature, location, and TRUTH is ENGLISH!
The little island country of England has, by God's favor and grace,
supplied man with standards to show him his standing in relation to
other people, to the world, and most importantly, with God. (Greenwich, England; the prime meridian),
Must Every Language Have A Perfect Bible?
Frequently, when Bible believers say the King James Version
is the pure, inerrant word of God, someone will object and say: "If God
gives the English speaking people a perfect Bible as you claim, is He
not obligated to give one in every other language?" The answer is a
resounding NO! Bible correctors and ignorant Christians often use this
type of "logic" to try and intimidate the believer into thinking it is
impossible for the Authorized Version to be pure and inerrant. Actually, they are saying either the King James Version
has errors in it or God is unjust in not giving all other nations a
perfect Bible in their own language. With this kind of either/or
reasoning, they try to force the Bible believer to concede that the Authorized Version
has errors in it by insisting that if it does not, God's integrity is
in question. What a devious tactic: trying to pit the believer's love
and respect for God against God's word and promises. These people did
not learn this type of reasoning by studying the Bible; it is purely
human, if not Satanic.
Nowhere in the scriptures does
God make any statement or implication that there must be a perfect
Bible in every language. He has promised to preserve His word for every generation
as we have seen, but He has not promised to preserve it in every
existing language. Let's look at the language of the original
autographs for a moment. Nearly all of the Old Testament was written in
however, no nation spoke Hebrew except the Israelites. God was not
obligated to give His word in Egyptian, Syrian, Chaldian, or any other
language. His word was available to the people in these nations also,
but they had to go to the Jews to get it. To the Jews were committed
the oracles of God (see chapter 2), and there were provisions in the
law to allow strangers (foreigners) to convert to Judaism. Look at Ruth
the Moabite for example. She was David's great-grandmother, an ancestor
of Jesus Christ.
The same can be said about the New Testament language, Greek.
Though it was a more widespread language than Hebrew, there were still
millions of people who could not understand it when the New Testament
was written. Again, God was not then, or now, obligated to give His
word in every existing language, and those who argue He must are
ignorant of history and of the scriptures.
God, who will not be intimidated by modern "scholarship," decided to combine His word into one universaldiplomacy, finance, and airlines, as well as of absolute time, temperature, and position.
By his grace, God has made His word more available, readable and
understandable by putting it in English; much more than it ever was in
the "original languages."
language to make it more accessible to all men. He knew how English
would circle the globe under the British empire and American influence.
He knew how in the twentieth century English would be the second
language for millions. He knew how it would become the world language
Another thing we should note here is the King James Version was translated before the great movements of unbelief swept the world. German rationalism, French skepticism, and English deism
were not yet in force to affect the mentality of the translators. These
philosophies have since then done more harm to the cause of Christ than
will be known this side of Heaven. They have turned the majority of
educated people into practical atheists. That nearly all the Bible
translators since 1611 have been infected by these viruses can be seen
by the doubt ("Yea hath God said") they spread by saying there is no
infallible Bible on earth. This is one reason why God had His word put
in the future universal language in 1611. The King James Version
translators had a much more Biblical outlook on God and His word than
the translators of today, and this will become apparent in the next
Before we move on, let's look
at something Dr. William Lyon Phelps, Professor of English Literature
in Yale University said as found in the book, Which Bible, edited by
David Otis Fuller:
as the English-speaking people have the best Bible in the world, and as
it is the most beautiful monument erected with the English alphabet, we
ought to make the most of it, for it is an incomparably rich
inheritance, free to all who can read. This means that we ought
invariably in the church and on public occasions to use the Authorized
Version; all others are inferior.
The Ability And Character Of Its Translators
The men King James picked (Ecclesiastes 8:4) to translate the Bible we now know as the King James Version
were some of the most learned and gifted men in the world. There were
fifty-four men chosen for this task, but a few either died or dropped
out, and forty-seven were left to see it to completion. There are
several profitable books the reader can consult (we will list some in
the bibliography) that give many details of the scholarship, ability,
humility, and overall character of these men, but in this brief section
we can only mention a few of their most notable virtues.
Many Christians today are lead to believe that the scholarship behind the new translations is superior to that of the King James Version. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Authorized Version translators were of unparalleled ability, and
one would be hard pressed to find a group of translators today of any
size who could even equal the ability of FIVE of the men King James
selected. It is said of one of them: "his memory and reading were near
to a miracle" (John Reynolds). Another was called "mighty in the
scriptures" as Apollos was (Thomas Holland). Another was disinherited
by his father for leaving the Roman Catholic Church and becoming a
Protestant (Laurence Chaderton). One began to read Hebrew at the age of
five and attended college at fourteen (John Boys). He sometimes studied
in the library from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m. Even while suffering from
smallpox he would not neglect his studies. Another (Lancelot Andrewes)
had advanced knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, plus fifteen modern languages.
He accomplished all of this while "a great part of five hours every day
he spent in prayer." This only begins to mention the great ability,
accomplishments, and devotion of these men.
Great ability and education can
be a curse, however, without meekness and humility, and the translators
had these virtues also. They were not men who were "puffed up" and who
flaunted their education, but men who were governed by a pious and
humble spirit. This can readily be seen in the dedicatory of the Authorized Version written by Miles Smith:
that, if on the one side we shall be traduced by Popish persons at home
or abroad, who therefore will maligne us, because we are poor
Instruments to make God's holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto
the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness:
or if on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited
brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing but what
is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil: we may rest
secure, supported within by the truth and innocence of a good
conscience, having walked the way of simplicity and integrity, as
before the Lord....
He also says in the translators to the reader (preface):
that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men's
eyes then in their own, and sought the truth rather than their own
The Qualification Of Suffering
Not only were the translators of great ability and character, but many
of them knew what it meant to suffer for Christ. They endured
persecution, hardships, and mistreatment by the hands of the enemies of
the gospel. This, however, only refined them, making them more like
their Saviour. They not only BELIEVED the words of comfort in the
scriptures, they KNEW they were true. As the biographer of William
Tyndale (a man of like character who translated an earlier English
Version) said as found in, Which Bible, page 259:
Tyndale thought; but God had ordained that not in the learned leisure
of a palace, but amid the dangers and privations of exile should the
English Bible be produced. Other qualifications were necessary to make
him a worthy translator of Holy Scripture than mere grammatical
scholarship... At the time he bitterly felt what seemed to be the total
disappointment of all his hopes; but he afterwards learned to trace in
what appeared a misfortune the fatherly guidance of God; and this very
disappointment, which compelled him to seek his whole comfort in the
Word of God, tended to qualify him for the worthy performance of his
One qualification that modern day translators cannot meet is this qualification of suffering. Compared to Tyndale and the Authorized Version translators, they DO assemble in the "learned leisure of a palace" with no threat of persecution to "qualify" them.
Furthermore, in 1611 there were
none of the "modern conveniences" such as radio, television, and
telephones, to steal the translators time (not to mention corrupt their
minds). They were able to meditate and study upon the word without many
of the distractions believers endure today. They used their time to
carefully examine every variation between the Greek texts and to
consider every possible translation for each word. All is clear, God
knew what He was doing when He chose the time for His word to be
perfected in English and the men to do it.
Their Attitude Toward The Scriptures
Another significant and essential quality of the King James translators
was that they ALL believed the Bible to be the word of God and without
error. Though they were from varied backgrounds and differed on church
order and administration and some other matters, each one had the
highest regard for the scriptures and believed them to be the very
words of the living God. Again, Miles Smith states in the preface
now what piety without truth? What truth (what saving truth) without
the word of God? What word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the
Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search....
(good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we
should need to make a new Translation, nor yet make of a bad one a good
one...but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principle good one, not justly excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark.
Mr. Smith says above the scriptures ARE the word of God. And since he
was one of the translators, he knew the scriptures could not be the
lost original manuscripts (2 Timothy 3:16) because we ARE (present
tense!) commanded to search them! (This cannot be said about many of
the translators of the new versions. Westcott and Hort, the two main figures behind the Revised Version
of 1885, never stated they believed the Bible to be given by
inspiration of God. Not even the famed original manuscripts! Another on
the committee openly denied the deity of Jesus Christ! Would God use
lost people to preserve His word?
Furthermore, Dr. Smith states
that the intention of the translators was to make a good translation
better so the English-speaking people could have "one principle" copy
of the scriptures. Also, in a previous quotation from the preface we
saw that they wanted to help the common man out of "ignorance and
darkness" by making the Bible more accessible and understandable. The
aforementioned book, The Story Of English, also mentions this on page 113 from a secular viewpoint:
King James Bible was published the year Shakespeare began work on his
play, The Tempest. Both the play and the Bible are masterpieces of
English, but there is one crucial difference between them. Whereas
Shakespeare ransacked the lexicon, the King James Bible employs a bare
8000 words—God's teaching in homely English for
In this the humility and integrity of the translators is seen. Their
goal was not to impress people with their vast learning, or "brow-beat"
the less fortunate with their superior intellect, they only wanted to
produce a version of the Bible that was as accurate, readable, and
simple as possible. How God has blessed their labors. (The translators
of the "new Bibles" try to use this same reasoning to justify their
"perversions," but later we will see this is not their primary motive
Were The Translators "Inspired"?
At this point some may take
issue and say: "No where do any of the King James translators, in the
preface or in other writings, claim to be inspired or claim perfection
for their translation." This is true, but biblically it has nothing to
do with the issue. First of all, they did not have to be "inspired" to
be used to preserve the already "God-breathed" word. Bible believers do
not claim inspiration for the translators; only the WORDS (scripture)
are "given by inspiration." Also, that they did not claim perfection
for their translation does not mean that it cannot be so. God does not
have to reveal to people what He is doing through them (1 Peter 1:10).
For example, does Matthew say anywhere in his gospel that everything he
is writing is scripture? How about Mark in his gospel? Does Paul say in
Romans (and many of his other epistles) that he is penning (or
speaking) only the very words of God? No they do not. God was using
human writers to pen His words, but they did not always know (if many knew at all) He was doing it! Likewise, God could use the King James translators to preserve and perfect His word in all its purity in English WITHOUT THEM KNOWING IT.
The Translation Undertaken
When these men began to translate in 1604 they were divided into six
committees, each one working on a section of the Bible. Every member of
each committee worked individually, and after he finished with his
section, he brought it to his committee for group examination. They
would then all go over it together, and once they agreed on the
reading, they would send it to another committee for their examination.
In this manner the whole Bible was carefully gone over at least
FOURTEEN times. If there was any special problem with a word or
passage, they would send a letter to every learned man in England for
assistance. This process took over seven years to complete. It is
obvious these men were devoted to making the translation as perfect and
complete as possible. In 1611, after a final examination by a small
group of translators, the text was completed and sent to the printers.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Go To Chapter IV