Why the King James Version?
The Bible came into being as God, at times, moved men by the Holy Spirit to pen His word. The scriptures call this ‘inspiration.’ (2Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:) This means that God breathed scripture into man. Every person who claims to know Jesus Christ as Saviour should wholeheartedly accept the inspiration of the Bible.
Most professed believers would readily and assuredly acknowledge inspiration. However, very many of these individuals would also say God gave to the writers of scripture the thoughts, ideas, or basic material and allowed them to “fill in the blanks” with their own words. Those who profess this would still call it ‘inspiration.’ However, it is not. The Bible quotes Jesus as saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Furthermore, the Bible says in Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” According to scripture every word of God is pure, and we MUST have His every word by which to live. If we believe that God allowed man to add his own ideas, thoughts, or even words to what He said, then the question is, which words are God’s, and which are man’s? Which words are inspired and which are not? We have only two choices – believe God inspired every word of the Bible, or believe that man inserted some of his own words. If we believe the later, our Bible becomes a book no different from any other religious writ upon the face of the earth.
True biblical inspiration is God giving to man His divine word – perfectly, purely, and completely, without any admixture of human design or error. Remember, 2Timothy 3:16 says that ALL scripture is inspired. If we believe that “all” means “all portions” of the Bible which are scripture, we have already established ourselves as authority over what is and is not the word of Almighty God. This is abominable. The Bible must be the final authority, not us!
To acknowledge biblical inspiration, one must accept that God breathed His word into human beings who, by God’s power, conveyed it EXACTLY as they received it. No private interpretations or personal decisions or determinations were allowed by God. The scripture says in 2Peter 1:19-21, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” There is no true reception of biblical inspiration without this conviction.
We believe in the inspiration of God’s words. It is our strong position that God breathed His very words into the writers of the Bible. We further believe the writers of scripture were even inspired at times when they did not know it. This is the miracle of inspiration. God promised His absolute, perfect, faultless word. This is the Bible – every WORD as He originally spoke it!
It is plain to see from scripture that God indeed promised the inspiration of His word. However, the originally inspired writings are gone. They no longer exist. This does not mean that God’s words have been lost. God’s promise of inspiration is not His last promise regarding His word – IT IS ONLY THE FIRST.
God also promised to PRESERVE His word; He promised to preserve that inspiration. This means that God promised to maintain, keep, protect, and safeguard the words He inspired. Consider just a few passages from the Bible on the subject of the preservation of God’s word:
- Psalm 12:6,7
6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
(NOTE: Doubtless, some detractors will say that we are mishandling this scripture. Nevertheless, we believe these verses clearly refer to Bible preservation. Furthermore, these verses are not the only ones in the Bible teaching the doctrine of preservation.)
- Psalm 78:1-7
1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
- Psalm 105:8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.
- Psalm 119:152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
- Psalm 119:160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
- Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
- Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
- Matthew 5:17-18
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
- Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
- John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
- 1Peter 1:23-25
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The preceding passages are very plain. God promised that His word would continue forever.
Some people have suggested that heaven is the only place where the words of God are perfectly preserved. They refer to Psalm 119:89 (For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.). However, there are two basic problems with this perception of this passage. 1. The context of the verses in Psalm 119 still indicates that the Psalmist had the words of God in his possession. 2. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4, in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:3, that man must have the word of God by which to live. If those words are only preserved in heaven, then we who dwell upon the earth are in most serious trouble. According to the Bible, we must have every word to live. Therefore, we praise the Lord that His word is settled forever in heaven. For if it is settled in heaven, then there is a standard by which that same word is maintained for us upon the earth. This is in perfect harmony with the pattern for prayer, as given by our Lord. (Matthew 6:9, 10, After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, AS it is in heaven.)
God has promised to preserve His word FOR US. The question is, will we take God at His word regarding this promise?
Even Jesus, Himself, communicated the preservation of God’s word in His teachings. As you read the New Testament (N.T.), you will never find Jesus saying things like, “copyist error,” “in the original it said,” or “evidence suggests” when referring to the word of God. The Lord Jesus actually said such things as, “it IS written,” “have ye never read,” “have ye not read,” “ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.” All of these indicate that Jesus pointed the people of His day to the extant scriptures. For example, after He read from the book of Isaiah in Luke, chapter four, Christ said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (vs. 21) This was not the original writing of Isaiah. It was a copy. However, Jesus called it scripture. He did NOT question whether or not the scribes got it right. He, as the Word of God, had promised the preservation of His word in the Old Testament (O.T.), and He stood by that promise as He proclaimed the scriptures in His earthly day.
Let us think about this carefully. If God had the power to inspire His word using sinful man, overcoming his sinful nature, does He not have the same power to overcome man’s sinful nature and preserve that same word? Surely He does! Therefore, we also ask, if God inspired His word PERFECTLY and CLEARLY, would He not do the same in preservation? It is our firm belief that God did this for us. He preserved His word in English in our King James Version (KJV). When the KJV adherent says “the Bible,” he knows exactly what he means, and precisely where the Bible is. When he says “the Bible says,” he is completely sure that it is the Bible he quotes. There is no guess work, no wondering, no “most likely,” no “hope so,” no “I think so.” It just is so.
We wholly believe God has miraculously worked through the centuries and millennia to preserve His word for us in English. It is our belief that the Hebrew Masoretic Text is God’s text for the O.T. We also believe the Byzantine manuscript family, which contains the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and its ensuing Textus Receptus or Received Text is God’s text for the N.T. We believe the Alexandrian manuscripts and their successive texts and translations to be unreliable. We further believe that any particular reference which detractors attempt to criticize in the KJV (e.g. 1John 5:7,8) is the result of the divine intervention of God to preserve His word perfectly. It is our very strong belief that God powerfully moved in the translation of the KJV and in its subsequent editions, including the 1769 edition which we utilize today.
Certainly, there are people who would accuse us of being narrow-minded. In response to this, let us look at the other side of the issue. We have stated what our final authority is. Let us ask, as gently and as kindly as we can, what is your final authority?
- Could it be a different translation in English? Most likely not. Most English speaking believers who reject the KJV, as the preserved word of God, would never consider another English translation to be the perfect, inerrant, and infallible word of God.
- Could your final authority be some or all of the modern versions? But, don’t all versions have some strong word variations between themselves and the KJV? They do indeed. Some would argue that the differences are NOT doctrinal. We would have to disagree, but for the sake of avoiding another discussion entirely let us concentrate on what we have said since the beginning. The doctrines are not our concern at this point, it is the WORDS of God. So again, we ask, don’t all versions have some strong word variations? Yes, they do. So which words are right and which words are wrong?
- Could it be that your final authority is the original autographs. This would seem to be the choice of the majority. Yet, the original autographs are gone. The convenience of this final authority is immense. No one can view them. No one can read them. No one can utilize them as spiritual light, the sword of the Spirit, or spiritual nourishment. No one can use them for comfort in distressing times. No one can employ them in evangelization. No one can truly know what they say. To argue that we can know what these writings say, based on extant manuscripts, and then proclaim that the original autographs are the final authority is unreasonable. Simple logic would suggest that this individual’s final authority was largely the EXTANT MANUSCRIPTS. Everything they profess to believe is based on them. These proponents usually accuse the KJV adherent of circular reasoning. What is this, but circular reasoning?
- Could it be that your final authority is the Koine Greek and Hebrew languages? If so, from what manuscript family? And if so, what text?
- Or could it be that your final authority is all the families and texts? But again, there are variations between them. Which one is right, and which one is wrong; which one is God’s word, and which one is man’s? Must you be the one to decide which are God’s words and which are man’s words? If you decide, whose rules of textual criticism will you use? If you know Greek and Hebrew, and you translate what you believe to be God’s word, will your rendition be the right one – the one that can NEVER be improved upon. Will you know for sure that it is God’s word, without doubt or fear every time you translate?
- Or could your final authority be your pastor, professor, or some scholar. Will you trust him completely, and believe that his translation is perfect, errorless, and cannot be improved upon? Will you believe that his rendering is the preserved word of God? If another man comes along with an even better argument for a different rendering, will you change your mind?
Does any of this sound like Bible preservation? Who could ever call this the preservation of God’s word? All who will be honest and sensible about it, will have to admit this is not Bible preservation. Remember, God inspired His word perfectly, and He also promised to preserve it perfectly.
In light of such statements, many people accuse KJV adherents of trusting the translators of the KJV 1611. Wrong! We trust that GOD, in fulfilling His divine promise of preservation, used these men to preserve His word perfectly in English. To date, we have not heard of anyone, who trusts the modern versions in much the same way. We have not heard anyone say, in full trust, and without EXCEPTION, that any other committee, scholar, or bible society’s translation is perfect! We have not heard of one person today who will form their own translation and then proclaim it to be the preserved word of God. People speak of “accuracy,” but they will not proclaim their “accurate work” to be the perfect, inerrant Bible. However, the KJV adherent trusts that God has kept His promise to preserve His word. Therefore, he or she believes that God divinely used faithful men to keep His word perfectly intact.
Some critics may call this a “blind faith.” It is not. It is a faith in God’s promise of preservation, which is grounded in His fulfilled promise of inspiration. The same accusation of “blind faith” could be laid before ALL who trust the Bible to be inspired. Furthermore, the same accusation could be made against those who trust that God’s word is “somewhere” amidst all the manuscripts, texts, lexicons, etc. etc.
As we previously mentioned, some would argue that the KJV only group has arrived at their conclusion through circular reasoning. Yet, the same standard must be applied to every believer’s trust in the concept that the Bible, in its original autographs, was inspired. How can any Christian today say they CONFIDENTLY know that the Apostle Paul was inspired by God in his writings? They may cite the depth of his words, the power of his letters, or the effects of his writings. Nevertheless, these are all lesser reasons. All of these reasons are “after the fact.” Moreover, we do not rely upon human evaluation of the writings of Paul to say they were inspired. The scriptures themselves inform us that they were inspired (2Peter 3:15,16; 2Corinthians 12:7). Like it or not, this is still clearly circular reasoning.
The truth is, no matter how many pieces of evidence we employ (fulfilled prophecy, historical accuracy, archeological verification, scientific correctness, etc.), to supposedly support our trust in the inspiration of the Bible, the number one reason why we believe the Bible is inspired is because the Bible says it is inspired. Consider this: when people disbelieve the word of God because of some lack of visible evidence as to its authenticity, the Bible still stands as inspired with or without the supposed evidence. This understanding of the Bible is “absolute truth” for all who accept it as inspired. Therefore, we know that the strongest reason by which to accept the inspiration of the Bible is provided by the promise of God that HE HAS INSPIRED IT – which promise is found IN SCRIPTURE.
(Note: There is no intention here to scorn the evidence of history, archeology, science, or prophecy. All of these have been indisputably used by God to further verify the divine authorship of the Bible. It would appear that God has done so because of His great love for souls. Nevertheless, God does not need these evidences, and His word does not rely upon them.)
Therefore, we conclude that the KJV advocates can only be guilty of circular reasoning regarding ‘preservation’ as far as any other Christian who professes the Bible’s ‘inspiration.’
Some argue that a belief in inspiration is rooted in an acknowledgment of God through creation. We agree entirely. The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself to us through creation. When we recognize this, we seek His will and His words to us. We find the Creator on the pages of the Bible (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 148:5, Isaiah 45:12, and Revelation 4:4 are just a few passages). In this blessed book, we also find His words to us, “…Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me (Psalm 40:7; also Hebrews 10:7).” One could very easily say, that by creation, we have a basis for trusting the inspiration of the Bible.
However, the believer in the Bible’s preservation also has a foundation for his or her trust – INSPIRATION. It is scriptural evidence. Therefore, those who now have the security of inspiration may certainly trust and proclaim the preservation of that inspiration. With a confidence in inspiration, KJV exponents have the groundwork firmly laid for belief in the preservation of God’s word. Then, after the fact the depth, power, and effects of the KJV may be viewed or cited as further evidence for its station as the preserved word of God in English.
This again is where some people will ask, “But why the KJV?” In response to this, let us ask again, if not the King James Version, then what will your final authority be? Many professed believers would still say, “The Bible.” What Bible? No one has any of the original autographs, and no one can attain them. All of them have been lost to time. Amidst all the manuscripts and copies, translations and versions, renderings and more renderings there are major differences. Who or what will be the monolith standard by which all this must be tried? Who or what will you trust as your final authority? The only sensible thing to do is accept the doctrine of the preservation of scripture, and seek the God who promised it as to where He has preserved it for you.
The question is asked: why the KJV? Just as creation speaks for inspiration, inspiration speaks for preservation. Just as inspiration speaks for itself, so does preservation. How was the Bible inspired? Perfectly and without any admixture of error. How must it be preserved? Perfectly and without any admixture of error. Within the pages of the KJV, one will find the excellence of the word of God INTACT. We believe the perfect continuity of the KJV proves its absolute harmony with the claims of inspiration and preservation; it claims to be the word of God and confirms this claim by its comprehensiveness, reliability, and character. In addition, the KJV’s manuscript families (O.T. and N.T.), texts (O.T. and N.T.), and translators, its effectual power, its persevering authority, and its endurance through time and constant persecution all aid in validating it as the word of God. The King James Bible is the word of God preserved in English.
It is true that the translators of the KJV did NOT claim to be inspired. That was not what God called them to do in their work. Such callings ended with John the Apostle and the book of Revelation. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the translators of the KJV knew they were commissioned by King James to produce an EXACT translation of the word of God. Miles Smith was one of the translators of the KJV. On behalf of the translators, he composed the preface letter of the KJV, addressed to King James. He stated in this letter, “There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.” The KJV was and is just that: an EXACT TRANSLATION of the word of God. Therefore, we may boldly say, it is the word of God. The translators of the King James Bible were indeed used by God to preserve His word in English.
What about the older manuscripts which have been discovered in more recent times? Some suggest that these “new finds” give us more insight into what God said in the original writings. This type of suggestion should alarm us! Does this mean that we do not yet KNOW what God originally said. Are we only certain about “the basics?” How do we know “the basics” are sure if we are still waiting on “new discoveries?” If the Lord tarries in His return, and 200 years from now another set of manuscripts or papyri are unearthed, will that generation finally DISCOVER WHAT THE WORDS OF GOD ARE? When they translate into the English language, will they have it right at that point in time? Will they, at last, have the words of God in English? What if more papyri turn up later? Will that finally settle the matter? Will we ever know, this side of heaven, EXACTLY what God said in those original autographs? Will we ever know what those words are which the Lord Jesus said are so imperative for us to live by?
We believe in the preservation of the word of God, just as much as we believe in its inspiration. If God perfectly inspired His word without error, then He can and has preserved His word without error. We believe that God has done so in our King James Bible.
If you believe differently, that is your prerogative. As adherents of scripture and as Baptists, we have always believed in and advocated freedom of conscience. We will not be guilty of Romish or Protestant persecution, forcing others to our doctrinally held convictions. Each person has been given a ‘right’ by God to choose. As we respect that right of others to choose – and especially in our brethren – so we plead with them to allow our freedom of conscience. Please, let us not persecute one another.
We do not wish to, nor will we battle with our brethren in Christ who do not hold the KJV to be the preserved word of God. We believe that all who are in Christ should love, edify, and exhort one another. However, because we trust that our God has perfectly preserved His word in English for us today, we will unreservedly, but lovingly stand upon that word. Many of our brethren, who are not KJV advocates, are outspoken about their persuasions regarding what is and what is not the word of God. We, in sincere affection for the body of Christ, shall also remain just as outspoken.
We love the word of God with all our hearts, and we treasure that word as preserved for us in our KJV. However, this love must never be misconstrued as worship. We do not worship the KJV. The Bible teaches us that such worship is idolatry. Let us be truthful here, and look at all sides. Could not the same accusation be laid against those who speak so often and so highly of the “originals.” Certainly it could. An idol can exist in the heart just as it can in the hand. However, we lay no such charge upon them. We do not believe those who consistently refer to the original autographs worship the Bible. Consequently, they also know that we do not worship the KJV simply because we believe it to be God’s word preserved. The KJV adherent simply believes that God has preserved His word for us in English. Therefore, we are truly affectionate towards it.
We hope this article has been helpful. It has not been our intention to offend anyone. Rather, our heart’s desire and endeavor has been to explain our position on the KJV as plainly and as concisely as we can.
We appreciate the time you took to read this article, and we thank you for your concern and patience. May the Lord bless you as you continue to seek His lovely face and fulfill His will. To Him be glory! Amen!
Written by Pastor David Moyer