Last time we looked at some of the reasons why one should not hold to a view that the KJV is the only version Christians should use. Today I want to go deeper into the issue and look at the KJV itself. We will note some of the corrections that have been made from the original publication to the modern version.
The KJV was originally published in 1611 by translators who followed 15 principles of translation. However, as the years past, the KJV (also known as the Authorized Version) was in serious need of an update. Because English grammar and spellings had changed, in 1762 a Cambridge printer, Joseph Bentham, made many revisions. These revisions updated the spellings, punctuation, and the like. However, this version never caught on because the printing impressions were largely destroyed by fire.
In 1769, however, Benjamin Blayney, took Bentham’s revisions and incorporated them into his own revision of the KJV at Oxford. Blayney updated the spelling, added italics, parentheses, punctuation, and over 30,000 marginal notes on Hebrew name meanings and the like. These kinds of revisions are expected, especially in light of the vast changes that languages can undergo over that amount of time.
Yet, there were also many changes of content to the KJV because the translators had made mistakes while translating. This is an important point against those who claim the KJV is inspired. If the KJV is inspired, then one would expect no errors to be found. However, there have been a multitude of changes from the 1611 KJV to the modern KJV.
The following list is a sample of the many examples that William W. Combs gives in his journal article, “Errors in the King James Version?” (DBSJ Fall 1999).
|Passage||1611 KJV||Modern KJV|
|Jer 38:16||So the king sware secretly||So Zedekiah the king sware secretly|
|Jer 49:1||why then doth their king inhereit God||why then doth their king inherit Gad|
|Joel 1:16||Is not the meat cut off before your eyes||Is not the meat cutt off before our eyes|
|Rom 3:24||through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ||through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus|
|1 Cor 15:41||another of the moon||and another glory of the moon|
|1 Tim 1:4||rather than edifying||rather than godly edifying|
|1 John 5:12||he that hath not the Son hath not life||he that hath not the Son of God hath not life|
As this table clearly demonstrates, there are verifiable changes between the 1611 KJV and the modern KJV. Thus, one cannot claim that the KJV translators were inspired.
My goal in this post is not to beat up the KJV. It is a great translation and a superb accomplishment in its own day and age. However, I simply want to state what I think becomes obvious when examining the evidence: if the KJV was inspired by God in 1611, then one would expect no need for “correcting” the obvious errors in it.
I can sympathize with those who hold to the “KJV only” position. As humans we long for a stable foundation which will help us avoid some difficult questions. It is a zeal for the truth (in most cases) which causes people to proclaim the KJV as the only version Christians should use. However, like the Jews of Paul’s day, this is a zeal which is based on ignorance, not on truth.
When one looks at the evidence, we are faced with the fact that the KJV was a human translation, done to the best of the ability of fallible human beings. The resources which were available to the KJV translators made the KJV translation a marvelous work. However, it is not the end-all of translations. There are some English translations today that translate the meaning of God’s Word in a more accurate way than the KJV. One should not attempt to limit someone’s ability to understand God’s Word, for the power of God’s Word is found in reading and understanding.
This post is part of a series on the KJV. If you are interested in more, you can look at the other seven posts I wrote about the King James Version.
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