I live in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. That’s about an hour and a half from Canton, North Carolina. Canton’s Amazing Grace Baptist Church, with its pastor Marc Grizzard, has made a little ripple in the national news recently by announcing plans to have a book-burning on Halloween night. “Burn what books?” you ask. Oh, just some really radical stuff: Bible translations other than the King James translation and books written by popular Christian authors who use translations other than the King James. We’re talking about authors such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and Chuck Swindoll. You know, some real subversives who’ve never done a thing for the cause of Christ.
If my words are already dripping with sarcasm it’s because I’ve studied this “K.J.V. only” issue for years. I’ve listened to sermons from Jack Hyles, who ruled as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, for decades. I’ve spent time online at David Cloud’s website. I’ve read The Sword of the Lord publication, which is edited by Shelton Smith. I’ve even attended two Sword of the Lord conferences in Walkertown, North Carolina. I tell you all of this as evidence that I’ve heard the arguments for the K.J.V. translation being a “perfect” Bible. Here are three of those main arguments.
#1: God has promised to preserve His words. The supposed text for this is Psalm 12:6-7, which says in the K.J.V.:
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
According to the “K.J.V. only” folks, the K.J.V. is God’s preserved word for the English speaking people. Evidently God doesn’t have a preserved word for the billions who speak languages other than English!
Really, though, if you will sit down and read Psalm 12 as a whole you will find that the word “them” in the line “thou shalt preserve them” refers to the oppressed “poor” and “needy” of verse 5, not the “words of the Lord” of verse 6. The Psalm is about God preserving the godly weak in a world of the ungodly strong. This explains why I’ve read that 95% of Hebrew scholars agree that the word “them” in verse 7 should, in reality, be “us.”
#2: God’s word is settled in heaven. The so-called proof text here is Psalm 119:89:
For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.
I once heard Jack Hyles say in a sermon that the “word” that is settled in heaven is the King James translation. He said that when he got to heaven he would see a King James Bible there. I guess all those people who can’t read English will have to take the time in eternity to learn.
Then again, God might just instantaneously give them that ability. Sure, that makes sense. Of course, Hyles also twisted 1 Peter 1:23 to make the K.J.V. the “incorruptible seed” that was necessary for anyone to experience salvation. Say, perhaps there won’t be anybody in heaven who’ll have to learn to read English after all!
Would you believe that the most extreme of the “K.J.V. only” group even contend that the K.J.V. is actually superior to the Old Testament’s original Hebrew and the New Testament’s original Greek? Peter Ruckman goes so far as to teach that the K.J.V. is advanced revelation over the Bible’s original texts!
#3: The men who served as the translators of the K.J.V. were all godly men who believed they were handling the word of God. With all due respect to the translators of the K.J.V., those men weren’t even “K.J.V. only” themselves. In the original K.J.V. there are eleven pages in the front that serve as the Preface. This Preface is labeled “The Translators To The Reader.” In that preface, the translators actually argue for the use of other translations by saying, “a variety of translation is profitable for finding out the sense of the Scriptures.”
They also praise translations that came before theirs by saying:
Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better or out of many good ones, one principal good one.
Finally, those translators argue that scripture must always be in the most current, up-to-date language so that the common people can easily understand what they are reading. The direct quote is:
But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.
Ironically, even the meaning of that word “vulgar” has changed since those translators wrote. During their day it meant “common, simple, or uneducated.” Now it typically means “crude, lewd, offensive, or profane.” Does that make the translator’s argument or what?
Furthermore, it’s hard to defend the clear readability of the K.J.V. when it uses such archaic, obsolete words as:
“aceldama”; “almug”; “ambassage”; “amerce”; “blains”; “brigandines”; “chambering”; “chode”; “churl”; “cieled”; “clouted”; “collops”; “cotes”; “crookbackt”; “glede”; “habergeon”; “neesing”; “nitre”; “ouches”; “purtenance”; “suretiship”; “sackbut”; “scall”; “tabret”; “trow”; “wen”; “wimples”; and “wot.”
In addition to these outdated words, there are also those various instances where the meanings of certain words have changed. For example, the word “fetched” in “fetched a compass” (Joshua 15:3; 2 Kings 3:9; Acts 28:13) doesn’t mean “went and got a compass.” It means “to turn around” or “to go around.” Likewise, the word “without” in “without the camp” means “outside.”
I certainly mean no disrespect to the K.J.V. translation. I grew up reading it. After I went into the ministry, I preached from it for many years. It has been used in God’s service more than any other translation. But let’s not go off the deep end here. The K.J.V. is not “perfect.” The fact is, it has many demonstrable translation errors. Here are some of them:
-Genesis 49:6: “they digged down a wall” should be “they hamstrung an ox”
-Genesis 42:27; Genesis 43:21; Exodus 4:24: “inn” should be “the lodging place” or “the encampment”
-Exodus 20:13: “kill” should be “murder” (This clears up an apparent contradiction between this verse and passages such as Exodus 21:12-21.)
-Judges 15:19: “in the jaw” should be “in Lehi” or “at Lehi.”
-1 Kings 10:28: “linen yarn” should be the Egyptian town “Keveh”
-Psalm 77:2: “my sore ran in the night” should be “my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing”
-Mark 6:20: “observed him” should be “kept him safe” or “protected him.”
-Acts 5:30: “and hanged” should be “by hanging”
-Acts 12:4: “Easter” should be “Passover”
-Acts 19:2: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” should be “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
-Romans 8:16,26: “Spirit itself” should be “Spirit Himself”
-1 Corinthians 4:4: “For I know nothing by myself” should be “For I am conscious of nothing against myself”
-1 Thessalonians 5:22: “all appearance of evil” should be “every form of evil”
-James 3:2: “For in many things we offend all” should be “For we all stumble in many things”
You see, if even one of these errors stands up to scrutiny and proves to be factual, it means that the K.J.V. loses the claim of perfection. You can’t be wrong in even one way and still be “perfect.” Please understand now, by in large the K.J.V. is a reliable translation that does an excellent job of translating the Bible’s original Hebrew and Greek into English. We’re talking about just a few problems here and there in the translation’s vast universe of words. But those problems are there. And that’s a big reason why we don’t need to be burning translations that aren’t the K.J.V.
According to Romans 10:2, it’s possible to have a zeal for God that is “not according to knowledge.” The zeal is sincere, but it is either uninformed or ill-informed. In the case of Marc Grizzard and Amazing Grace Baptist Church, I’d say it is ill-informed. Obviously, they’ve studied the “K.J.V. only” issue in great detail and are “informed” on the subject. But their information is not only severely lacking but also downright wrong. It’s a shame, really, because I’m sure there are some good people in that congregation. I just wish they’d find a more productive and Christ-pleasing way to spend Halloween night.