Scripture

Are there Errors in the King James Version (KJV)?

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.

KJV text

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).

Passage1611 KJVModern KJV
Jer 38:16So the king sware secretlySo Zedekiah the king sware secretly
Jer 49:1why then doth their king inhereit Godwhy then doth their king inherit Gad
Joel 1:16Is not the meat cut off before your eyesIs not the meat cutt off before our eyes
Rom 3:24through the redemption that is in Jesus Christthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 15:41another of the moonand another glory of the moon
1 Tim 1:4rather than edifyingrather than godly edifying
1 John 5:12he that hath not the Son hath not lifehe 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.

photo credit: gwilmore (I HATE THE NEW LAYOUT!) via photopin cc

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He is a husband, father, and sports enthusiast.

7 Comments

  • Dwight Osborne

    People claim the KJV to be based on the supposed inspired textus receptus. Yet even this showsignorance on the part of the KJ onliers. The TR itself was a translation of a tranlation and so on, and it being copies of copies. The author of the article did an excellent job. Not having read his other articles I don’t know if he gave an exhaustive list of errors in the KJV but they are many. Just a few are Isaiah 14:12, Luke 1:35, Acts 2:24 and Revelation 22:19 and these aren’t just minor errors, but are extremely significant and important.

  • Jon M

    There are bad actors in all facets of life, even the Jews who were given the Oracles fell short in the desert. Slamming people is like shooting fish in a barrel, attacking God is blasphemy. He is his word! If there is no book to attain faith and 100% trust in its word, then we are but vain men and God is a liar who says “all scripture is given by inspiration of God. So remove that one amongst many others and we are left with the scholars to lead the sheep and the plowman is to sit down and shut up for he knows no Greek or Hebrew.

  • Jon

    There are bad actors in all facets of life, even the Jews who were given the Oracles fell short in the desert. Slamming people is like shooting fish in a barrel, attacking God is blasphemy. He is his word! If there is no book to attain faith and 100% trust in its word, then we are but vain men and God is a liar who says “all scripture is given by inspiration of God. So remove that one amongst many others and we are left with the scholars to lead the sheep and the plowman is to sit down and shut up for he knows no Greek or Hebrew.

  • Jonathan Shelley

    This blog post is seriously disingenuous in claiming that there were changes in content and alluding to there being 30,000 changes when most of these “changes” were spelling updates which have no impact on the text. Changing from ‘sonne’ to ‘son’ does not change the text. Additionally, the author of this article is apparently ignorant of the fact that the supposed changes in content are due to printing press errors and not corrections to the translating work of 1611. It seems like you have a presuppositional bias against the KJV Only position and decided to make ignorant claims against this view.

    • Peter Goeman

      I assure you I am willing to engage on the issue since the evidence is simply overwhelming. Regarding a presuppositional bias, I suppose it is ironic you would accuse me of being bias when you have the KJV title as part of your email and church website.

      • Steve Blurton

        KJV is based on the TR whereas most modern bibles today are based on the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codecs. Dean Burgon who collated both the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus manuscripts personally lists numerous examples of textual errors between these manuscripts. Here’s what he wrote below.
        “ not only from ninety-nine out of a hundred of the whole body of extant mss. besides, but even from one another. In the gospels alone B (Vaticanus) is found to omit at least 2877 words: to add 536, to substitute, 935; to transpose, 2098: to modify 1132 (in all 7578): – the corresponding figures for Aleph being 3455 omitted, 839 added, 1114 substituted, 2299 transposed, 1265 modified (in all 8972). And be it remembered that the omissions, additions, substitutions, transpositions, and modifications, are by no means the same in both. It is, in fact, easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two mss. differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree.”
        I’m more likely to trust the expert then someone who has no knowledge of these manuscripts and yes I’m willing to go toe to toe with you on your version of any modern bible you want versus KJV.

  • Al

    Either Benthan or Blayney also changed the 1611 “shamefacedness” to “shame fastness”, which is not only the correct rendering but also makes more sense. Women are not be shame-faced, which means to be ashamed or embarrassed. I had a mysoginistic IFB pastor once who loved to tell women they should be ashamed, and loved to humiliate women. Of course, he was KJVO, as well.

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