THE KING JAMES VERSION [only] foolishness

Roy Greenhill: Review of THE KING JAMES ONLY CONTROVERSY by James R. White, Bethany House Publishers, 286 pp, 1995

A great book about the silliest of issues: the Immaculate Conception and magical perfection of a translation of the Bible. But, a must read for all Bible believers because of the widespread distribution of the divisive works of Wilkinson, Ray, Ruckman, Riplinger, and Waite, et al. It is important to note that Bob Jones University, and many others, are under fierce and hateful attack for holding to the view of the KJV translators, who, themselves, vigorously exposed the ridiculous nature of such ideas.

It is embarrassing to acknowledge that churches are being confronted by such a foolish and mindless controversy. Christians have always acknowledged that error might be made by a copyist or translator engaged in transmitting the scriptures, which are themselves held by all believers to be free from error -- inspired. And it was, and is, common for the most faithful preachers to point out their choice of a better rendering while presenting the King James (or any other version) to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. And there are most exacting methods that reassure all that the translations are indeed true representations of the lost originals. If the hand written originals of the US Constitution should be lost, it would not mean that we no longer have a sure Constitution. Faithful copies are as good as the original. This is not a new idea. Any reasonable copy of the Word of God is the Word of God, even with its minor disputed areas.

The inspired autographs have been providentially misplaced (their presence could engender all sorts of idolatrous problems). So since there are no originals to enshrine and worship, certain men (beginning in 1930 with Seventh-Day Adventist Wilkinson) and Ms Riplinger (who has written the magnum opus of foolishness) have decided to give that position to copies of the King James Version, the hand written original of which has also been lost.

But the Greek and Hebrew originals did exist--- as surely as the lost original of the KJV. And we have the fruit of extremely careful workmen who have copied and translated through the centuries. Their goal was clear: reliable and as near-perfect as possible representations of the autographs. Another goal that was shared by all until recently was a reliable and perfect version in the language of the people --- the current idiom of the day--the vulgar tongue as King James called it. This was the stated purpose of the King James revisors ( they were commissioned by the king only to revise and update the then existing versions, though they did do quite a bit of translating also). Actually the KJ translators did not obey the king in the pursuit of the vulgar tongue as they discarded many then current idioms in favor of beauty, cadence and impact. They were amazed by what they produced -- clearly exceeding their individual abilities. (This was also the case with the writers of the US Constitution, and probably with the craftsmen of the NIV.) Contrary to popular canards, committees can accomplish great things.

Is ignorant gullibility a prerequisite for being a fundamentalist believer? I hope not, though there are a significant number of individuals who are banking on it.

Is it reasonable to find spiritual satisfaction with a translation of a copy, and is it accurate to refer to that translation as the very "Word of God" while recognizing that there probably are minor errors gathered through the processes. A dogmatic "NO" is given by the KJ-only advocates. To them the King James is not a version as its editors thought; it is the only "Bible" and without error of any kind, source or degree? At this point a ironclad sinister logic takes over:


Anyone who endorses the NIV, NASV, NKJV or any other translation is a conscious tool of a conspiracy to destroy everything, especially the United States of America.

There is no refuge in the position that condemns modern translations while rejecting the position that the KJV is not a version but actually THE ONLY Inspired Word of God---occupying the position always given to the originals by every one of the nearly 60 men who labored on the KJV. Those who take this halfway position are condemned just as strongly by the KJ-only leaders.

I do not know whether King James was a grossly immoral man or not as some have alleged. Sir Winston Churchill, in his HISORY OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLE,  gives much deserved praise for the KJV and strongly hints that the King was what his detractors claim.  Whether James I was a homosexual or not has nothing to do with the reliability of the Version he commissioned. It is the greatest product of the English language and no person can be fully educated without familiarity with its vocabulary and style as well as its content. To treat it as the focus of a divisive cult is to cast an undeserved shadow on it. It is a shame that it is being mistreated so sadly by some. But it is much more a tragedy that many laymen are apt to be misled into the world of illogical, contradictory, and destructive circular thinking that is being promoted. Personal attacks on the translators of the NASB or the NIV are no more relevant that attacks on the reputation of King James I of England.

Those who deprive themselves of the comforting phrasing and rhythms of the King James do so at great loss to themselves. Likewise those who would miss the wonderful experience of hearing the same truth in the beautiful modern phrasing of the New International Version also do a disservice to themselves. And they do a disservice to their friends who are frightened by the Elizabethan phrasing of the King James. Those who are introduced to Christ through a version in our own vulgar tongue will later find the KJV and perpetuate its best-selling status.

The King James Version will live forever. Shakespeare will endure (but it is not of eternal importance that the ploughboy and dishwasher understand the great bard). The 23rd Psalm, KJV will not be improved upon (though some words and phrases in other passages must be revised by explanation every time they are read). It does not need the protection being offered, and NO ONE IS ATTACKING IT. The would-be protectors have no more claim upon the KJV than pornographers have on love. The leaders should be rejected as the divisive, arrogant and willfully ignorant forces they are.

These are my thoughts after being reinforced by THE KING JAMES ONLY CONTROVERSY.


James R. White is a scholar of the first order and a writer of skill. He covers relevant history and many technical details of immense interest and importance. You will be enlarged by his careful work and gentle attitude. Please get his book and profit from its careful reading. --REG