by Al Maxey
There are many people who feel that the KJV is THE Bible; that it constitutes the STANDARD by which all other versions and translations must be measured. Some have even gone so far as to state that the KJV itself was "inspired by God," and that it is 100% free of any errors or imperfections. Such attitudes have led some of the supporters of the KJV to condemn all other translations of the Bible as either inferior, or the intentional efforts of "Satan and his servants" to subvert the Word of God. Others, in turn, have accused the admirers of the KJV of virtual "idol worship."
It should never be overlooked that this version, like all others both before and after it, is the work of mere uninspired, fallible men to provide the people with God's Word in their own language. It is a noble effort, and one which has captured the hearts of countless people, but it also has its weaknesses as well as its strengths, as will be seen in the following study.
PARAPHRASE IN THE KJV
Some supporters of the KJV have maintained over the years that this version of the Scriptures is quite literal --- i.e.: It is a virtual word-for-word translation of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. They claim that NO paraphrasing of the text exists in the KJV. A paraphrase is "a rewording of thoughts or meaning expressed in something that has been previously written." ALL translations, however, make use of paraphrase. It is simply a fact of translation. When translating from one language into another, paraphrase will always be employed to some extent to make the meaning more understandable. It is the unwarranted use, or abuse, of paraphrase that must be avoided by the translator. Notice the following examples of paraphrase in the KJV:
It should be pointed out that paraphrase in a version is NOT wrong. In fact, it cannot always be avoided. However, it becomes a problem if the paraphrase violates the meaning of the text, or promotes a concept inconsistent with the clear teachings of Scripture elsewhere. If the meaning conveyed by the paraphrase to present day readers is the same as would have been conveyed by the literal reading to the original readers, then the paraphrase is acceptable.
INACCURACIES IN THE KJV
Although some have very heatedly, and even unkindly, contended that the KJV has NO inaccuracies, that it is absolutely PERFECT, that it always accurately renders the original Hebrew & Greek texts and never misses the intended meaning of the original, this is simply not true! Notice the following examples:
#1 --- In Psalm 8:5 there is a very familiar quotation in the KJV: "For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels." The Hebrew word here is actually "Elohim" which means "gods." The KJV translators were aware of this fact, for they correctly translated this word in Psalm 138:1 --- "Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee."
#2 --- Genesis reads, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife." The Hebrew text actually says, "I took her." By changing the verb tense, the KJV has also changed the meaning!
#3 --- Psalm 77:2 reads, "My sore ran in the night, and ceased not." This isn't even close to what the actual text says, which is: "At night I stretched out my untiring hands." Their mistranslation would almost be humorous if it were not so seriously flawed.
#4 --- In Acts ; the KJV, in speaking of Jesus' death, reads, "Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree." The word "and" is not in the Greek text, and by adding it to the text at this point in the verse it leads to some confusion on the part of the readers. The conjunction "and" indicates grammatically that one action followed another (i.e.: two separate actions independent of one another). Some unbelievers have tried to use this verse to demonstrate that Christ was killed first, and then His dead body was hung on a tree. By inserting the word "and," numerous complications have arisen which could have been prevented by a correct translation of the original text.
#5 --- In Romans 3:25 the KJV speaks of "the remission of sins." The Greek word actually refers to "passing over" sins, not the canceling or remitting of them. The KJV translators confused two similar Greek words here.
#6 --- II Corinthians reads, "corrupt the Word of God" in the KJV. The Greek word actually means "peddle" the Word of God. It refers to men who proclaim the Good News only for what they can get from it; a "huckster."
#7 --- There are two errors in James 3:2 in the KJV: "For in many things we offend all." This should read, "For we all stumble in many ways." In the Greek, the "all" modifies "we," it is not the object of the verb's action. Also, the Greek word employed here means "to stumble," and does not mean "to offend" someone. The KJV translators made two major blunders in just one short phrase. By means of these errors, they have presented a teaching other than the one intended by the inspired writer.
#8 --- The Greek word agape (a self-sacrificial love) is used over 300 times in the New Testament writings. The KJV translates it "love" in most places. However, the KJV renders it "charity" in 26 different locations. Since "charity" conveys a different meaning today than it did in the 17th century, this has led to some confusion among readers. Some have assumed that "charitable acts of benevolence" are being referred to, rather than "love." Such could easily have been avoided by consistent translation of the word in the KJV.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INACCURACIES IN THE KJV
The translators of the KJV lived and worked over 400 years ago. This is a considerable length of time, especially considering the many important discoveries which have been made since then. These discoveries have shed considerable light on areas of the text that they simply did not understand at the time they made their translation. They did the best they could with what they had to work with, but through their lack of knowledge they made many unintentional errors in the text. The following are just a few examples:
#1 --- In Joshua the translators of the KJV rendered the text as follows: "....the cities that stood still in their strength." Actually, the Hebrew speaks of cities "standing on their mounds." These "mounds" are known as "tells" in archaeology (the accumulated rubble of past cities on that site; cities built upon rubble from cities). Not understanding this, the translators sought some meaning from this idea of a city on a mound. They arrived at the figure of strength. This is an interpretation of the original text, NOT a translation of it. It is more commentary than translation, and not even a correct commentary at that.
#2 --- In I Kings 10:28 the word "Kue" is translated "linen yarn" in the KJV. This is incorrect. Actually, "Kue" was a location in
#3 --- The translators also did not know what the "Asherah" was (a wooden idol representing a Canaanite goddess), so they translated the word repeatedly as meaning a "grove" of trees. In I Kings they state, "And Ahab made a grove," which provoked the Lord God to anger. In point of fact, Ahab made an idol here (the Asherah); his sin was idolatry, not planting a grove of trees!! People got enraged when the NIV put "cypress wood" (Genesis ) instead of the traditional "gopher wood." Where are the similar "cries of outrage" over this blunder in the KJV?!!
#4 --- In I Chronicles the KJV translators present Pul and Tilgath-pilneser as being two separate kings of
#5 --- In II Kings 23:29 the KJV reads, "In his days Pharaoh Nechoh king of
#6 --- In
LACK OF UNIFORMITY IN THE KJV
A great deal of unnecessary confusion is created in a translation when a name or place is spelled in more than one way. This leaves the reader wondering who or what is meant when a name or place is rendered three or four different ways in a translation or version. Notice the following examples in the KJV:
Most modern versions simplify the matter by adopting one form of a name or place and using it consistently throughout the translation. This use of variety by the KJV translators, however, was done intentionally. They felt it made the Bible more interesting for the reader. Although variety of expression can indeed be good at times, and even necessary on occasion (some Greek and Hebrew words have many different shades of meaning, which should be reflected in a translation), yet this variety can be carried too far. Variety for variety's sake can lead to unnecessary confusion.
For example: In the OT, the word "dabhar" (meaning "word, thing") is rendered by 84 different English words in the KJV. "Panim" (meaning "face") is translated by 34 different words in the KJV. "Sim" (meaning "to set, place") by 59 different English words. "Nasah" (meaning "to lift up") by 46. "Abhar" (meaning "to pass over") by 48. And on and on we could go. In the NT, the Greek word "katargeo" (meaning "to make void; bring to nothing") appears 27 times, and in the KJV it is rendered by 17 different English words. The Greek word "logizomai" is translated "counted" (Romans 4:3), "reckoned" (Romans 4:9), and "imputed" (Romans -23) "for righteousness" --- and all of this within the limited context of just one chapter!
UNDERSTANDEST THOU WHAT THOU READEST?
In the Preface to the KJV the translators themselves pose the following question: "How shall men meditate on that which they do not understand?" Their goal was to give the Word of God to the people in a form that could be readily understood by the common man. That was almost 400 years ago! The English language has undergone tremendous changes since that time (as does any language). As a result, there are places in the text of the KJV that are simply impossible for the vast majority of people today to understand. See if you can fill in some of the blanks by providing the meaning in the following examples:
There are some words that were in use in the early 17th century that are still in use today, but their meaning has changed drastically. These words in the KJV can become "hidden rocks on which the ship of understanding runs aground" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis). Notice the following examples of KJV wording, and what they actually meant to them then:
"Would it not be simpler and better to have a translation which would at the first reading, without comment, suggest the meaning the writer intended? Is it not time to do what the King James scholars said they were attempting to do: 'To deliver God's book unto God's people in a tongue they understood'?" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis).
TEXTUAL MANIPULATION IN THE KJV
The scholars who worked on the KJV were also not above manipulating the text so as to include something of their own devising. One example which demonstrates this well is the manipulation of Psalm 46 to include a personal tribute to William Shakespeare (1564-1616), who turned 46 years of age just a few months before the publication date of the KJV. It was dedicated to him in honor of his influence upon the English language of his day.
DOCTRINAL PROBLEMS IN THE KJV
The word "doctrine" simply means "teaching." Thus, "any failure to present the Word of God accurately, completely, and clearly in a translation is a doctrinal problem!" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis). Many people claim that the KJV is "totally free" from any doctrinal problems. Again, this simply is not true. Like any and all other translations and versions produced by mere men, it too has its problems.
In the early 17th century there were many religious struggles going on: Catholics vs. Anglicans ....... the Prelate Party vs. the Puritans... Calvinists vs. the Non-Calvinistic theologians... and many other such conflicts. These translators brought with them to their work of translation and revision their various religious biases and backgrounds. In fact, no matter how careful a translator is, or how honest and sincere, or how objective and unbiased he tries to be, his biases and beliefs will still affect his work to some noticeable degree. For example, certain passages in the KJV clearly reflect a Calvinistic point of view:
#1 --- In Acts the KJV reads, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." The actual Greek verb form here is: "the ones who are being saved." The rewording of the KJV (from "are" to "should be") is felt by some scholars to reflect the doctrines of election and predetermination.
#2 --- In Galatians 5:17 the KJV reads: "...so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." This particular verb appears in the Subjunctive Mood in the Greek text; thus, it is a conditional statement, not an absolute statement! Its correct translation would be, "so that ye might not do..." By failing to correctly translate this verb form the KJV implies a lack of free will, which is another strong Calvinistic doctrine.
#3 --- In Hebrews 6:6 the KJV reads, "If they shall fall away." The word "if" is not in the original Greek text; it has been added by the KJV translators. The text actually reads, "and having fallen away." This is a statement of absolute fact, yet the KJV translators have changed it into a conditional statement. By making it hypothetical, the implication is left with the reader that the statement is unlikely at best, thus upholding the Calvinistic doctrine of The Eternal Security of the Believer or "Once Saved, Always Saved" (the "P" in TULIP theology --- Perseverance of the Saints).
#4 --- In Hebrews 10:38 the KJV reads, "Now the just man shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." The words "any man" have been added to the text. The actual subject of the verb "draw back" is "the just man." The Calvinists, however, do not believe that the "just man" can draw back after having drawn near, so the wording of the verse was changed to better reflect their doctrine. The correct reading of the verse is: "...but if he draw back," with the antecedent of "he" being "the just man."
#5 --- There are seven passages where the KJV has the phrase "be converted" (Passive Voice), when these verbs are actually in the Active Voice. This changes the meaning of the verb. Instead of the person performing the action of the verb, the action of the verb is performed upon the person. The Calvinists believed that conversion was passive on man's part. The individual was acted upon from an outside source: the Holy Spirit. Thus, if God chose to save you, you were saved regardless of what your will in the matter might be. This is the "I" in TULIP theology --- Irresistible Grace of God. Acts is an example of this.
Notice some other passages associated with the animal kingdom and various mythological beings, and how the KJV translators failed to perceive the true meaning of the original text:
There are also a great many other doctrinal problems connected with the KJV. The following list of ten is merely representative, and does not even scratch the surface of the flaws and failings of this version with regard to sound doctrine:
#1 --- In Exodus 20:13 the KJV reads, "Thou shalt not kill." This rendering has become quite familiar, since we have all memorized the Ten Commandments, and usually from the KJV wording. However, it is incorrect. The actual word used here in the original language is "murder," NOT "kill." The command is against murdering someone, not against killing someone. This is an important distinction since God many times ordered His people to kill others for one reason or another.
#2 --- For hundreds of years the KJV has confused people over the state of the dead through its poor handling of several key words. It translates the word "Sheol" as "grave" 31 times and as "hell" 31 times! Which is it?! The grave or hell? "Hades" is always translated "hell" in the KJV, but so also is "Gehenna" and "Tartarus." Thus, the KJV has all but effectively wiped out all distinctions between these various words (and the distinctions are extremely significant in the original languages). A great many false doctrines about the afterlife and the so-called "intermediate state" can be at least in part blamed on the confusion generated by this extremely poor handling of these key words and concepts. It would not be until almost 300 years later that these distinctions would again be brought to light by more correct renderings in more modern and scholarly English translations. By that time, however, the damage had been done!! False doctrines arising from or bolstered by these false renderings had already planted themselves firmly into the hearts and minds of men. It is with great difficulty that such false teaching is eradicated, even with the use of correct translations. It is simply too deeply ingrained in our Western Theology, and any challenge to it is viewed as heresy.
#3 --- In John the KJV reads, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold ..... there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (the NIV makes the same mistake here, by-the-way). There are actually two different Greek words used here in this passage: "fold" and "flock." There is only "one flock" (the church) and "one shepherd" (the Lord), but the "folds" of which Jesus speaks are the Jews and Gentiles. Individuals from both folds shall be added to the one flock. This verse does not imply, as some contend from this incorrect translation, that there are many routes (folds) which lead to God.
#4 --- In Luke 18:12 the KJV reads, "I give tithes of all that I possess." The Law did NOT require one to tithe a tenth of all that he "possessed" (all his capital holdings), but rather a tenth of his increase (that which he acquired in addition to his possessions). This is clearly stated in the Greek word used in this passage. The KJV, by not translating this correctly, has left a false impression concerning the practice of tithing.
#5 --- In Matthew 26:27 the KJV reads, "And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it'." This is an example of a problem caused by poor sentence construction. Does this mean: (a) they were all to drink from this cup, or (b) they were to drink all of the contents of the cup? Either meaning is possible from the grammatical construction. Some individuals within the church who hold to the second of these two interpretations, for example, teach that it is a sin to leave any of the grape juice in the cup when partaking of the Lord's Supper!! Why? Because the Lord "clearly commanded" that we are to drink "ALL of it."
In the original Greek of this passage, the word "all" agrees in both number (both are plural) and case (both are Nominative) with the word "you." It differs in both number and case with the word "it." Thus, "all" refers to the people to whom Christ was speaking, not to the contents of the cup. To reduce confusion, this passage should have been translated, "Drink from it, all of you."
#6 --- In Isaiah 14:12 we read the following in the KJV: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning." The teaching that "Lucifer" is a name for "Satan" comes from the KJV. The Hebrew word here actually means "bright one," or "bringer of light." The word "lucifer" is simply the Latin translation of this Hebrew word. The mistake of the KJV translators was in not translating the Latin word into English. By leaving the Latin word in their version, the implication was left in the minds of a great many readers that it was a proper name. The text actually refers to King Nebuchadnezzar of
#7 --- The KJV also fails to distinguish between the two different Greek words "daimon" and "diabolos." The former is where we get our word "demon," the latter is the word for "slanderer." The KJV translates both of these words as "devil." Our word "devil" actually comes from the Middle English word "devel" and the Anglo-Saxon word "deofol," which mean "slanderer." Again, by not giving the meaning of the word, we have arrived at another proper name: "The Devil." Further, nowhere in the NT writings is anyone ever said to be possessed by "devils" ....... rather, they are possessed by "demons." Many present day doctrines concerning exorcism arise from this confusion. Although this has led to many notable plots in movies, it has no basis in biblical fact. It is confusion generated by the KJV.
#8 --- In John the KJV reads, "For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." The words in italics have all been added to the text by the KJV translators. They do not appear in the original text of the Bible. By adding these words the KJV translators make it say something entirely different from the original text. This has led to the false doctrine that Jesus alone receives the Spirit without measure, whereas men only receive very limited measures of God's Spirit. This simply is NOT what the text says. It clearly states, "He gives the Spirit without measure."
#9 --- In Isaiah 35:8 (speaking of the Highway of Holiness) the KJV says, "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." This has left two false conclusions in the minds of some who have read this: (a) fools will be found traveling the highway of holiness; actually, the text says they will not be found traveling upon it, and (b) these foolish travelers are unable to sin while traveling the highway of holiness. This sounds very Calvinistic. Actually, the text simply states that wicked fools will not be found walking in the Way that leads to life! The wording of the KJV leaves just the opposite impression.
#10 --- In Acts 12:4 the KJV reads, "...intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people." The Greek word here is "Pascha" which means "Passover," and refers specifically to the day upon which the Passover lamb was slain. "Easter," as defined by Webster, is "a Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus" --- a much different event than the Jewish Passover! This was something which the KJV translators were well aware of, and for them to render "Passover" as "Easter" is inexcusable!
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of other examples that could be cited, but these few will have to suffice to illustrate some of the major areas of concern with the KJV. Even though there are some obvious problems with this translation, it should not be rejected --- after all, there are problems with every translation and version! These are simply the efforts of mere fallible, uninspired men to render the Word of God into the current language of their own people. Flawed men will produce flawed translations and versions!
The most obvious positive quality of the KJV is the beauty of its language and the dignity of its expression (at least to our modern day ears; it probably did not have that same effect upon its original readers in 17th century
The major concern of those embroiled in the "Translation Debate" that is raging today, however, is that far too many advocates of the KJV place undue importance upon this one translation. It is almost literally worshipped!! The concept of "one translation for all people for all time" is simply ludicrous, and displays only the foolishness and ignorance of those who make such ridiculous claims. Even the KJV translators themselves wrote, "Variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures." Such a limited view also does not take into consideration all the other languages of the world. What are the non-English speaking peoples of the world to do?! Must they relearn English (17th century British English, of course) so as to have access to the one true version of the Bible? And what is to become of the millions of English speaking peoples of the future when our language evolves to the point where 17th century English is no longer understandable to the common man (as if it were now!!)? Must all people everywhere become fluent in a "dead language" in order to understand the "living Word?"
Dr. Jack P. Lewis sums it up this way: "Those who feel they can escape the problem of translations by retreating into the citadel of the KJV have a zeal for God that is not in accord with knowledge. There are no valid reasons for one to insist fanatically that everyone should read only the KJV; to declare that it is a mark of orthodoxy to use the KJV as a standard, consulting other translations only for comparisons; and to look with suspicion on the person who calls attention to the shortcomings of the KJV or who has other preferences in his reading.
"Were the KJV the form in which God first gave the Bible (as some have actually thought) there would be justification for the insistence that everyone must learn its brand of English in order to learn the will of God. But it is NOT the original Bible. The translators worked neither by inspiration nor with special Divine approval. There is no valid reason why God's Word should be frozen in 17th century English by those who have educated themselves to understand it, while men perish for want of understanding. The KJV Preface asks, 'How shall men meditate on that which they do not understand?'" (The English Bible From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation).