by T.L. Hubeart Jr.
© 2001, 2003-2006, 2010, 2011 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.
Readers of my web page’s assortment of material will notice that I have several items defending certain passages in the King James Version of the Bible. But I have not attempted a comprehensive response to all the “mistranslations” which anyone at any time has alleged in the KJV. I do not pretend to have answers to all questions on this or any subject, nor are all questions equally worthwhile to answer, especially when the person proposing the questions is either willfully ignorant or simply wants to argue (as one finds frequently on the Internet, sadly enough). Not having infinite knowledge or vast amounts of time, I have contented myself with pointing out some instances for the reader’s consideration, where the KJV has been pronounced “in error” based on reasoning that the casual reader may perceive as sound, but which deeper examination reveals to be based on the evidentiary blindness of the critic(s).
However, what is sometimes as interesting as these various KJV “problems” has been the attitude of a growing party of Christianity-professing persons who oppose the time-honored translation, and who are linked mainly by a desire to find errors in it or ridicule those who support it. Most of them will not directly admit to holding the KJV in contempt, as that would scandalize many of their brethren; therefore, to define themselves, they must redefine those who adhere to the KJV in a pejorative manner. A term for this redefinition, “KJV-Only,” was advocated (and, as far as I know, coined) by James R. White, an Arizona professor whose 1995 book The King James Only Controversy, a smooth but superficial and error-ridden polemic against KJV advocates, used this unfair term incessantly. This term has gained currency among those who agree with this professor, as well as those who simply like to argue, and now one can find multiple sites on the Internet entirely devoted to opposing what they have defined as “the King James Only Movement” and pointing out its alleged instances of ignorance and heresy. Indeed, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which bills itself as the encyclopedia anyone can edit, even has an entry on the so-called KJVO “movement,” no doubt added by one of Prof. White’s admiring acolytes. [See disclosure note below.] (The same Prof. White “Amen Corner” has also provided Wikipedia with a separate entry for “James White (Theologian)”—to which I can only comment, “Heaven help us when the mantle of ‘theologian’ is so lightly conferred on anyone!”) As this activity clearly demonstrates, the parties perpetuating the idea of such a “movement” have been extremely busy during the last decade trying to ensure that the notion takes hold in the collective Christian mindset.
Personally, I find it ironic that the idea of a "KJV-Only Movement" has gained such currency--or, perhaps more accurately, such propaganda value--in this and other forums, on numerous websites, and in polemic literature. (Well, maybe the literature part is not so surprising given that "controversy" is what sells books!)
I find no reason not to concede that there are those who attempt to defend the KJV through wrong motives, or with erroneous information; on any issue that people care about, not everyone is equally informed. I also find no reason to disbelieve that there may be some out there who wish to disrupt church fellowships on this basis, just as many claim noble motives for ignoble actions—for example, those who claim to be “pro-lifers” who have killed doctors for providing abortions. However, it is also to be observed, by anyone whose bias does not preclude the observation, that there is a countering "King-James-Anti Movement" afoot. I coin this term tongue-in-cheek, fully realizing that it may be unwelcome to those being designated and probably oversimplifies their position(s)--which is also undeniably true of the “KJV-Only” label. If the “KJV-Only” side uses terms like “Alexandrian Cult” and “apostate fundamentalist” to describe the other side, the “KJV-Anti” side can throw the “cultist” and “apostate” charges back with equal force. If the “KJV-Onlies” have certain prominent figures who are criticized for using “crude and rude language” against adversaries, the “KJV-Antis” have vitriol-mongers to shout just as loudly and abusively at foes. If the “KJV-Onlies” have foot soldiers who hand out tracts that point out omitted verses in modern versions, the “KJV-Antis” have special battalions who do nothing but comb the KJV for translation choices that can be second-guessed, or quote what someone else said someone else thought about Erasmus or King James. Both sides have taken to the web avidly. If one is to designate one side as a “KJV-Only Movement,” there is little reason not to recognize that the countervailing “KJV-Anti” side is just as fully a “movement” to all intents and purposes.
The only difference that may make the “KJV-Anti” side not a “movement” is the fact that it essentially rests not on an affirmative position, but on the negation of someone else’s position. The KJV adherent who wages war on this issue is trying to tell others that “you can't trust the modern versions, but you can rely on the KJV as God's Word.” One can argue this claim endlessly, but if certain Christians believe this and practice this, what is the worst that can befall them? Does this belief lead to churches where these alleged “cultists” worship the KJV, make sacrifices to the KJV, offer prayers to the KJV? Or is there doctrinal error in the KJV's text, which by following these poor souls may be led astray to their own damnation? Or will God be highly displeased at the Judgment Seat of Christ because someone took his or her KJV at face value--heard the Word of God and did it (cf. Luke 8:21), and knew nothing of any Hebrew or Greek underlying the English text, or any interpretive subtleties drawn from the original languages?
On the other hand, the opposition to “KJV-Onlyism” has its own “evangelists” intent on spreading the good word that “Your Bible has mistakes! Don't trust the KJV! Look at all these ‘errors’!” Again, what is the worst that can befall the Christian who is taught according to this position? Regarding this I will simply say that I personally find it less likely that God at judgment time would condemn someone for believing that the "Johannine Comma" in the KJV was inspired scripture when it was not, than that He would condemn someone for believing John 3:16 in no version at all.
Nevertheless, I must confess that there is a certain amount of entertainment value in the productions of such people, particularly because they claim a greater base of historical knowledge and perspective than so-called “KJV-Onlies” enjoy. One humorous facet of some such web sites is the almost-hysterical assertion that the “real” KJV is not the same as the KJV as published today, accompanied by scans of what is said to be the pages of the original edition—but which are actually from the Thomas Nelson reprint of 1982! (This reprint actually derives from an 1833 re-typeset edition by the Oxford University Press--"An Exact Reprint Page for Page," as the title page puts it--, which was also reprinted by Hendrickson in 2003.) Compare the difference in the linked scans below, and notice the black-letter (often called “Gothic”) type of the original vs. the Roman type of the reprint. By the way, I cast no aspersions on the Nelson reprint, which I myself have and use quite often (and mention in my essay on useful source materials for study of the KJV), but those who bash KJV lovers as being ignorant of the “original KJV,” and then exhibit pages from a 20th century reprint of a 19th century typesetting as the “original,” seem to me to be demonstrating a classic case of hubris.
Click this link to see scan #1
(comparison of KJV 1611 and Nelson KJV pages; GIF, 327 kb).
Click this link to see scan #2
(close up of Matthew 1:18-20 in both editions; GIF, 129 kb).
Click this link to see scan #3
(Here is a screen shot of a site* that thinks it has the real 1611 edition—but nope, it’s actually the Nelson! JPG, 91 kb).
* (Addendum 1, 3/27/2010: Our friends at the linked site have now figured out their mistake and replaced their illustrations with images of the actual 1611 KJV—although of course their earlier blunder remains documented in the screen capture above!)
Along similar lines is this page where an author named Robert M. Bowman, Jr. attempts to cite "facts" to "prove that the extreme KJV-Only belief that even the slightest deviation from the wording of the KJV results in a false Bible is completely unrealistic." Unfortunately, the two "facts" he is citing are not factual:
I trust I have said enough to show that misinformation is not a characteristic specific to those James White and his followers stigmatize as "KJV Onlies." If people like White choose to seize on instances of factual incorrectness among KJV supporters as evidence of how "uninformed" and "ignorant" the "KJVO movement" is, what will they say to these clear examples where their own "movement" is clearly and resoundingly wrong on the facts? This would be a good question if I did not already have a fairly good idea of the answer.
I have elsewhere on these pages commented at length on how excessively rude electronic communication tempts people to be. I must acknowledge--with sadness, since I am a Christian myself--that I have seen especially blatant rudeness from some professing Christians.
An instance I endured not long ago is that of a “Christian” web page proprietor in Canada who has published a series of letters allegedly between himself and an eminent departed saint who was a KJV advocate. The proprietor annotated the exchange by charging the deceased with making “unmitigated false statements” and causing “harm” to Christians. I will not name this proprietor, or the man he chose to defame posthumously, as it is not my intent either to embarrass the former or to perpetuate his defamation of a man no longer able to defend himself.** In any case, since I was acquainted with the deceased, I wrote an extended response and, as politely as I could, suggested to this man that he was perhaps mistaken. I also took up the challenge he had purportedly extended to the deceased to respond to five alleged KJV mistranslations. On reviewing what I wrote, I cannot see any grounds for offense in the letter I sent him; I complimented what I could honestly commend on the man's web page, addressed him as “Mr.” rather than by his first name, and tried to reason with him without sounding accusatory or talking down to him.
Alas for attempts at politeness! Several weeks later, I received a response which did little beyond reasserting his earlier position, full of capitalized ‘shouting’ boasting about his activities of “preaching on community TV” and other matters of no particular relevance, and concluding with an admonition to “get the facts straight and be helped to stop causing harm to gullible, trusting saints.” (He also assumed the familiarity of referring to me by my first name—not one I mind, as long as it is reciprocal, but here it clearly wasn’t.) Not being the kind of person to be intimidated by rudeness, I replied painstakingly to every “point,” so to speak, in his response. The only thing which might have been slightly impolite in my reply to him was the length; my answer required two e-mails to send, which I took pains to apologize for in advance. (I thought it was more important with an individual like this to answer fully and completely than to be accused by him of “avoiding issues.”) I also attempted to be as gracious as possible even when telling him that I resented his ignorant accusation that I was “causing harm” to anyone. Here is how I concluded the letter:
I would prayerfully beseech you to step back for a moment and consider whether such wild accusations are Christ-like. Such insults certainly diminish your credibility with me--which admittedly is not very important, but what should carry more weight with you is whether or not such words are pleasing to God. . . . I commend the consideration of all this to your more temperate moments, when you do not feel the need to accuse those you do not know of “causing harm to gullible, trusting saints” in an attempt to bolster your ill-judged position, but can instead “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
One might assume that the response I received from this would be more calm and rational than the previous e-mail. The assumption would be wrong. I received a brief answer accusing me of using what he called “twisted ‘KJV only’ typical arguments without regard for the facts” but offering no specifics, and concluding that the discussion was closed. However, not being the kind of person to allow someone else to end a discussion unilaterally—especially when that someone is a contemptible bigot like this man had shown himself to be—, I replied with a brief acknowledgement of his response, remarking:
With all due respect, Mr. ------, I have not considered myself to be "debating" with you. I simply presented some things for your consideration. That you choose not to consider them is your privilege; that you chose to attack me instead of dealing with them is a far more serious matter, but one I am content to refer to a Higher Authority. I am only a little astonished that, if your mind was already made up on the matter, you responded to my first letter at all; in all candor, did you really think your insults and bluster would intimidate me, sir?
Such boorish behavior as that of this web page proprietor--a scoundrel in every sense of the word for whom I have no remaining respect given the intemperate way he reacted--is unfortunately all too common in the “King-James-Anti Movement,” whose partisans wink at unchristian antics and errors of fact and judgment by their own side—while continually charging the other side with these very things. Nor is the behavior unique to this issue, or even to Christians. George Orwell observed in 1943, regarding the Spanish Civil War, that “atrocities are believed in or disbelieved solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence” (“Looking Back on the Spanish War,” in George Orwell, A Collection of Essays [San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1981], pp. 191-2). This kind of phenomenon is also observable in the literature attempting to discredit the “KJVO Movement” with vague allegations of churches split and fellowships disrupted by those who support the KJV. Human nature being what it is, no doubt there have been church splits somewhere that have been helped along by unwise KJV advocates (and probably some by unwise modern versions advocates, too). But none of the “King-James-Anti Movement” writings I have seen cites any specific instances of such splits; instead, the claim in James White’s book that the “controversy” has been bringing “disruption and contention right into the pews of the local Christian church” is typical of the unverifiable allegations that characterize this literature, which like war atrocities are apparently to be taken on faith by those who share a prejudice against KJV advocates.
**(Addendum 2, 2/20/11: This individual, as of the year of our Lord 2011, is still spewing his slander on the internet, with a section on "KJV-ONLYISM" (capitalization as in source--more 'shouting,' perhaps) that links to his own vitriolic pieces, an audio presentation by James R. White,--and a couple of items by the individual I discuss in Exhibit #3 below. Given the many, er, shortcomings of the latter, the fact that Mr. Exhibit #2 would associate himself with a name such as his says more eloquently than I ever could how very deficient in the matter of intellectual integrity this website proprietor happens to be.)
As indicated before, much of this literature, both in print and on the Internet, features allegations of KJV “errors” as an easy means of “proving” that their opposition is wrong. Some of these are admittedly more difficult to answer than others, but many are preposterous and plainly indicate the attacker’s erroneous understanding rather than that of the KJV translators. I have dealt with several “errors” of both kinds on my web pages; my concern here is to discuss one of the personalities who specializes in alleging them.
As in my previous example, I will not name this individual because I have no intention of embarrassing him personally. However, he is the same individual I mentioned in my piece on e-mail as the religious spammer who tried to force-feed unwanted essays into my mailbox a few years ago. In the spring of 2000, a pastor friend who supports the KJV told me that he would be debating this individual regarding the KJV issue on a newly-created message board forum, and I went to the forum to see how this individual—whom I will designate as “The Scarecrow” for the purposes of this article—would conduct himself. Well, the debate was a fiasco for the Scarecrow. Time and time again my pastor friend would make points, respond to challenges, and ask questions of his own, only to have the Scarecrow reply with a series of quotes and citations out of books, tied together with a few sentences of poor writing and blatant illogic. (From the fact that the Scarecrow subsequently refused permission to my pastor friend to republish the unedited debate on the latter’s web page, I can only conclude that even the Scarecrow realized on some level that his performance was poor.) What is more remarkable than this is that the Scarecrow has something of a reputation on the Internet—at least among those who agree with him—for his prolific essays, though I cannot truthfully say that these essays are any better written or more logical than what he offered in the debate.
After the debate ended, I was extremely curious to see whether or not anyone on the Scarecrow’s side would applaud his atrocious performance. So I entered the forum and opened a thread asking if, even post-debate, anyone truly understood what his “position” was. (I should also mention that I was careful not to reveal my e-mail address or web page URL to avoid a resumption of spam from the Scarecrow.) When the Scarecrow himself decided to respond to my message, he was less than forthcoming regarding the vagueness of his position. I detected several erroneous statements, including a seriously flawed interpretation of James ch. 2, and pointed these out—perhaps a bit overzealously, I admit, but I don’t like being jerked around rather than given a straight answer, which it was clear to me the Scarecrow was doing. Responding at an even more visceral and less rational level than before, the Scarecrow then accused me of “trying to belittle and attack” him; some of his accusations against me were so ineptly stated as to be almost comic, particularly his overuse of the weasel word “seems” (“Apparently you seem to recognize that the Bible translation view of the early translators is better than the KJV-only view so you seem to smear it as being ‘no position at all.’ Your seeming attempt to belittle and ridicule me personally . . .” [emphasis added]) to avoid making a direct accusation.
The Scarecrow did not fare too well with others, either. No fewer than six other individuals stated on this forum that the Scarecrow had not articulated a clear position. Just in case the reader is curious, only three of these participants were KJV advocates; one of the others had even entered the discussion attacking me to help the Scarecrow out, but eventually wound up stating, “. . . I believe you need to give an answer, brother [Scarecrow]. I believe it is a matter of integrity for you to do so. Present your position in a more particular sense. I would like to know it myself.” Besides this person, no one else ventured onto the thread to say a word in the Scarecrow’s defense.
At this point, the Scarecrow managed to procure a new weapon: somehow he convinced the person who had founded and hosted the forum (a friend of his) to give him co-moderator powers. Just before this, the Scarecrow claimed publicly that he had not sought these duties, but that the founder of the forum had approached him, trusting that the Scarecrow would be “fair.” For several reasons (including the fact that the Scarecrow was already a moderator on another forum, proving he has a taste for such duties), I found such a claim hard to believe. I therefore posted a message that concluded:
. . . as you exhibit no concern to discriminate between criticism of your position and personal attacks on yourself, freely accusing those who do the first of doing the second, are you signaling to us that you as moderator will be throwing out any post that you dislike, or that "seemingly" attacks your position and/or makes it look bad? . . . I think you owe it to the readers of this forum to make a statement reassuring them that you do not intend to censor anyone simply because they disagree with you or criticize your statements. Will you do this, or will you rather leave the readership to infer what they may from your silence?
The Scarecrow’s answer to this, as soon as he had secured his new powers, was to delete this message and several other messages of mine and of other participants from the forum, without any notice or warning stating whether or how these violated the terms of the forum. I also caught one egregious instance of his deleting a line from a message over a month old by another participant, which reflected poorly on him but was not in any way against the forum’s rules. These antics and others turned the forum for about a week into the modern-day equivalent of the heavily censored Soviet-era publication Pravda, with the Scarecrow as censor-in-chief. I reported the most flagrant of the Scarecrow’s shenanigans to the founder of the forum, suggesting that its integrity had been seriously compromised. He responded in less than three lines, claiming that he was “really uninvolved in the whole process” at that time. However, others obviously complained about the Scarecrow as well, since only a week after announcing the Scarecrow’s elevation to moderator status, the founder placed a notice on the site noting that “disagreement . . . on both sides about who should be assistant moderators and such” had contributed to his concluding that “it is in my best interest, and the interest of those close to me, that this forum be closed”!
This struck me as an honorable solution on the founder’s part and, although he worded his official statement so as not to embarrass his friend the Scarecrow, something of an admission that the latter was less than qualified to moderate the forum. But even though the forum is now closed, the Scarecrow at this writing retains his outlets for disseminating his poorly written essays, which are widely available on the web sites of his friends. So to those who are either uninformed about the issues he writes about or as obsessively fond of attacking and stigmatizing “KJV-Only” people as he is, his reputation remains intact. Nevertheless, although he took pains to avoid the substance of my criticisms, he clearly felt frightened by them, judging from the lengths to which he went to censor and obliterate them as soon as he was able. Although he had accused me of trying to “silence” him and to “force [him] to yield [his] Christian liberty” to disagree, ironically he proved to be the one who moved to silence me and to take away the “Christian liberty” of others (including some of his allies) to speak on the forum. The lengths to which the “movement” to which the Scarecrow belongs will go to oppose those who believe and support the KJV are great indeed, and do not necessarily exclude blatantly unchristian actions like his.
However, I do not “silence” as easily as the Scarecrow thought, as evidenced by this essay. For some time I also considered posting some of the exchanges from this forum, with the appropriate name-deletions, on my web page. (The forum where they appeared, to the best of my knowledge, no longer exists, but I have a good portion of them archived.) I was reluctant to do so at first, but on rereading them recently, I perceived that the unvarnished words of the Scarecrow are the best possible illustration of how intellectually impotent many segments of the “KJV-anti movement” truly are. (After all, if writers like James R. White feel it is fair to define the so-called “KJVO movement” by individuals like Gail Riplinger, it is at least as fair to define the “KJV-anti movement” by people like the Scarecrow. Right????) I have therefore added a large unbroken stretch of them on this page. I have made no changes in these posts other than to delete or obscure all names and web links that might cause personal identification and/or embarrassment to any of the participants. As the farir-minded reader of the posts will see immediately, the Scarecrow’s lame-brained attempts to argue were so easily demolished by me and others that the only recourse he finally had was to delete what he was unable to refute.
Anyone who encounters this man’s work on the Internet (or reads his feeble efforts at the page linked above), and who goes over his farragoes of quotes from dead Puritans and old Bibles—joined together with writing that is often so clunky and graceless as to be almost unreadable—can only feel sorry at the waste of energy that he expends. Additionally, I discovered in November 2003 that he has announced on a friend’s site “A new 540+ page book that can be used as a sourcebook to examine many claims of the KJV-only view” written by himself. (It appears to be a self-publication as it was not available on Amazon and the only option for ordering given on the friend’s site was “Send order and write check to” the Scarecrow himself!) If this book exhibits the same qualities of reasoning and intellect as the following, which comes from the conclusion of one of his innumerable web essays, I somewhat doubt it will become very widely available:
Considering this evidence . . . , does the KJV have the best and most accurate translation of this word? Would not a perfect translation have the most accurate and best translation of every Hebrew or Greek word in God's preserved Word? Can it be proven that the KJV is better, more accurate, and clearer in every verse than every other English translation? It takes only one example of a clearer, more accurate, or better rendering in another English translation to prove that the KJV is not a perfect translation . . . .
Notice the infantile threshold of proof that the author demands—not only that the KJV have “the best and most accurate translation” of “every Hebrew and Greek word,” which might be a subject allowing fair-minded debate between two honest interlocutors, but that it be “proven” that such is the case. And, implicitly, it must be “proven” to the satisfaction of people like him and must leave no room for even “one example” where a “clearer, more accurate, or better rendering” (in whose opinion???) could be alleged. The argument has therefore been defined in a way that will never allow the KJV side to win—as long as even one objection, no matter how unfair or unreasonable, can be made against the Authorized Version—and always allow the Scarecrow to claim victory, since of all the thousands of words in the English translation he only has to object to one to “prove” (to his own satisfaction!) that “the KJV is not a perfect translation”! Therefore his task is simple: throw enough mud and see if anything will stick.
Given the obvious limitations of his mind, one can perhaps understand why he constructs such a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ paradigm for his arguments. He plainly does not have the ability to formulate or articulate a reasoned argument, as demonstrated at length when he debated my pastor friend (and the quote I gave above is in fact something he reused in his debate). If you know your limits, why not make things easy on yourself by framing the argument so the entire burden is on your opponent to defend anything you choose to attack—while you state no position of your own and therefore risk nothing?
Epictetus said that “only the act which proceeds from correct judgments is well done, and that which proceeds from bad judgments is badly done” (Discourses IV.8.3, trans. Oldfather [Loeb]). Obviously the “KJV-Anti” side would not agree, given the embrace by several of its partisans of a man who has so little judgment. If he were arguing for the KJV, they would no doubt condemn and ridicule his shoddy thinking (and they would be justified in doing so if his pro-KJV writings were equally bad). But since he’s on their side and can look up a few dead Puritans for them, they promote his atrocious writings and let slide his refusal to articulate a clear position of his own. Their philosophy is obviously that ‘the act which proceeds from bad judgments but helps our position is excellently done’!
All I want to know is if they can honestly say this is a God-honoring approach. Is God more happy with the “KJV-Only” who believes every word of the Authorized Version and lives it, or with the “KJV-Anti” who encourages people like the Scarecrow to fill the Internet with attacks? I think that everyone in the recesses of his or her innermost heart knows the true answer to such a question, although some may not want to acknowledge it.
As I said above, I am not wholly serious about tagging people like this as components of a “KJV-Anti-Movement.” But anyone who cares to visit various message boards and forums relating to this issue will find out that such people are deadly serious about stigmatizing their KJV-supporting opposition. As with other controversies in all areas of life, many who debate are more interested in victory against their immediate foes than in seeking the truth. Clearly, wisdom is not to be found in the babbling and shouting of such people; at most, as one participant in the forum that the Scarecrow destroyed wrote to me just before it was closed, the proceedings have entertainment value, but that is all. The most that the honest seeker can hope in such places is to encounter one or two people of sense with whom one can discuss and exchange ideas in private—away from the noise of people like the blustering defamer of the dead or like the Scarecrow—in order to increase his or her own knowledge.
(August 12, 2001; last updated Feb. 20, 2011)
(Note to 2nd paragraph: In the interests of full disclosure, Yours Truly has also contributed some “editing” to the Wikipedia “KJV Only” article to make it more objective and less a parroting of James White. This was done in July 2005 and the revision should now be available at Wikipedia, unless some of White’s disciples have already come across it and chopped it up to reinstate their one-sided perspective!)
Addendum 3, 4/18/06: Since my writing of the above, the chopping and changing of that article has taken place repeatedly, to such an extent that I have decided to offer a PDF file of my revision of July 17, 2005 (which I created immediately after revising the article) here on my own site. The file has parallel columns of the previous version of the article and my revised version, followed by the revised text alone. This should allow the reader to have a point of comparison with the current version on Wikipedia, which at this writing has gotten way off track (including discussions of Hebrew vowel-pointing!) as many have attempted to add their "two cents" to the entry. [Back to essay text.]