Is the KJV the most reliable translation

Is the King James Bible the Most Reliable Translation?


1. God has used the KJV in powerful ways over the years.  It was the only English translation from 1611 until 1901.  We praise God for this!

“The King James Version (called the Authorized Version in the UK) was first published exactly 400 years ago, in 1611. It eventually became the dominant translation in the English-speaking world for more than three centuries.  It won widespread acceptance because of its intrinsic qualities: word-for-word accuracy, unparalleled literary beauty, remarkable oral readability, and an academic precision produced by the best scholarly experts of its age.”  Dr. Wayne Grudem, p. 1


2. We must understand how we got our Bible.

a. Originals:  Old Testament written in Hebrew.  New Testament written in Greek.


b. Manuscripts help us determine the original.

i. Earlier manuscripts are more reliable.

ii. The number of manuscripts supporting something has weight.


c. Translations:  we take the manuscript evidence and put into our language a translation.  Some translations are word for word, others are thought for thought, and still others are a paraphrase.

d. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1950s gave us earlier and more reliable manuscripts.


e. KJV is based on the Textus Receptus (a group of manuscripts), which is not the most complete and reliable manuscripts now.  99% of all scholars agree with this.


3. We must be aware of how the English Language changes.

a. Words in 1611 that are no longer used.   For example, in 1 Cor. 13 charity is used for love.

b. The original Hebrew and Greek does not change but English does.

c. Translations seek to be accurate with the original while also being readable.


“But the English language kept changing from the form it took in 1611. English-speaking people today can still read the KJV, but with difficulty, just as they can still read Shakespeare with difficulty (Shakespeare lived 1564-1616 and wrote most of his plays from 1590 to 1611, so his writings are from exactly the same period of English as the KJV.)”  Dr. Wayne Grudem, p. 1


“That languages change over time is one of the strongest arguments either for the revision of older Bible translations or for completely new translations.”  James White, p. 292


4. Modern translations like the NIV are not satanic conspiracies to get rid of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.  Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 5:3-4; Gal. 4:6; Jn. 1:1-14; Jn. 10:30; Hebr. 1:3; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Col. 1:15-17


5. Some verses in the KJV are not clear at all to the modern reader.  Why make it more difficult for someone to understand God’s Word?  Remember, God gave His original word in the current language of the people.

a. “we do you to wit”  2 Cor. 8:1

KJV 2Cor. 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

NIV  2Cor. 8:1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.


b. “thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing”  Ps. 5:6

KJV Psa. 5:6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

NIV Psa. 5:6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.


c. In 1611 conversation meant one’s whole manner of life, but today it only means one’s speech.

KJV Heb. 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

NIV Heb. 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


d. Romans 1:18

KJV Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

ESV Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.


e. “Prevent” used to mean “come before” or “precede”

KJV  1Th. 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

NIV  1Th. 4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.


f. “let” used to mean “hinder.”

KJV  2Th. 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

NIV  2Th. 2:7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.

6. 1 Jn. 5:7 in the KJV is based on manuscripts not found at all until at least the 14th century.

“In a few places, the differences are significant, as in 1 John 5:7, which in the NKJV reads, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” This makes a nice verse to prove the Trinity, but the problem is that this wording is not in any early Greek manuscript and it is not what John wrote. It was a later addition by a well-meaning scribe.”  Dr. Wayne Grudem, p. 46


7. What about the New King James (NKJV)?

“The NKJV stands alone among modern translations in its decision to use the Textus Receptus rather than the oldest and best Greek manuscripts (in my own judgment and in the judgment of 99% of New Testament experts today). All other modern English translations today (and, so far as I know, all other translations into all other modern languages) are based not on the Textus Receptus, but on the Greek text found in the two major published editions of the New Testament in Greek, the Nestle-Aland edition and the United Bible Societies edition. These represent the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts for each section of the New Testament, but they are not the basis for the New Testament in the NKJV.”  Dr. Wayne Grudem, p. 46


Conclusion:  The KJV is an outdated translation, and it is much better to use a more modern translation based on the original languages.  The ESV (English Standard Version) is my preferred translation.


Resources:  The King James Only Controversy by James White;  The King James Version Debate by Dr. D.A. Carson; and The Advantages of the ESV Translation by Dr. Wayne Grudem.

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