The Origins of the KJV

I’ve been told by some KJV-only advocates that one reason they believe the KJV to be THE KING-JAMES-ONLY-115396838242English Bible is that they claim it has been purified 7 times and the Bible prophesied it would be so! Here’s one web site that explains their position. And their summary is:

The seven English versions that make the English Bibles up to and including the Authorized Version fit the description in Psalm 12:6 of the words of the Lord being “purified seven times” are Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, the Great Bible (printed by Whitechurch), the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the King James Bible.

The Wycliffe, Taverner, and Douay-Rheims Bibles, whatever merits any of them may have, are not part of the purified line God “authorized,” of which the King James Authorized Version is God’s last one — purified seven times.

They allude to but do not explain how they made these determinations, but conclude that the 1611 KJV is YHWH’s purified Word. I do find it curious that only English Bibles are included in their lineage of purified Bibles. What does the non-English speaking world do? As for the lineage of the KJV, there is no basis for argument. Here’s how HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations records it:

When in 1604 King James authorized a committee of scholars to publish a new Bible, he directed them to start with the Bishop’s Bible and retain what was already accurate and elegant and excellent, while consulting the original language sources to see if any modifications were necessary. In the introduction, Miles Smith states,

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, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.

So the KJV, strictly speaking, is not a translation but a revision. In fact, it is a revision of a revision (Bishop’s Bible) of a revision (Great Bible) of a revision (Matthew’s Bible) of a revision (Coverdale’s Bible) of Tyndale’s translation. “A great deal of praise, therefore, that is given to it belongs to its predecessors. For the idiom and vocabulary, Tyndale deserves the greatest credit; for the melody and harmony, Coverdale; for scholarship and accuracy, the Geneva version.”

Yet the authorized version continued to undergo change. From the same book:

By the time the 1762 Cambridge and 1769 Oxford editions were printed, English spelling was standardized. There were nearly 24,000 changes from the 1611 editions.

Advocates of the KJV argue that the only changes were punctuation, spelling, and correction of printers’ errors. Even that would qualify as an “update.” However, also included in the 24,000 changes were around 1,500 significant changes.

Something I was unaware of is that many English Bibles relied on Latin rather than source language sources for most of the Old Testament:

in the chain of revisions from Tyndale’s Bible to the KJV, the last 34 books of the Old Testament were never translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic! Tyndale only translated the Pentateuch before he was martyred, and Coverdale translated the rest of the Old Testament from the Latin. Therefore, technically, even the RV, ASV, RSV, and ESV contain 34 books of the Old Testament that were originally translated from the Latin and then “carefully compared” to the Hebrew and Aramaic. (ibid)

With the recent availability of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls we have access to more and older manuscripts for nearly all of the Old and much of the New Testament. Part of the main goal of accuracy in translation deals with the target language; how can the idea given by God in Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew be best translated into today’s English? Advances in translation techniques and software in the late 20th century had given translators the best tools yet to ensure English Bibles deliver the meaning of the inspired texts given to His prophets and apostles.

Those who think English forms of speech from 500 years ago and the faulty sources used by the KJV, it is difficult for me to comprehend why some Christians think the KJV is the best and/or only English Bible we should use. It is a good English Bible, but it is not inspired. Once more from Hcsb: navigating the horizons in bible translations:

The first words of Pr 26:23 were always taken as “silver dross,” and it was hard to understand the sense of the verse. Then starting in the late 1920’s thousands of clay tablets were unearthed at Ras Shamra. The language turned out to be Ugaritic, and the tablets greatly increased our knowledge of Near Eastern poetry, Canaanite mythology, and Semitic vocabulary. The Ugaritic word spsg was discovered, which means “glaze.” By dividing the Hebrew differently, the first line can be translated, “Like glaze on an earthen vessel,” which is an apt comparison to “flattering lips with an evil heart.”

As archaeology and linguistics improve our understanding of the language and culture of the ancient Near East, at some point it becomes incumbent upon the English-speaking church to produce a new translation of God’s Word.

May God grant us wisdom to truly seek the meaning of His message to His people, and avoid treating any translation as a religious relic to be revered.

As a postscript, because some people commenting are mistaken in believing the KJV to be supreme, here is a short article examining errors in the KJV. It’s a good translation, but it is the product of man.

29 thoughts on “The Origins of the KJV

  1. I love reading the King James Version. The first Bible I read as a book was the NIV, that is because it was the bible that the Reverend Billy Graham quoted in an article in Decision magazine. Then I felt I wanted to read the KJV, then the American Standard. I know the NIV changed my life, then I enjoyed the KJV, The American Standard, in my opinion, packed the least punch. I now read the KJV it’s on my desk and I love The Companion Bible and the notes and appendixes by E. W. Bullinger. I am glad people want to get what God is saying, and thankful that He says it everywhere, and would be beyond thrilled no matter how large the group, if God would ordain a time to produce a new translation of God’s Word, I hope thay blog about it! America can use a Refreshing. It would make a big difference!

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  2. I also am thankful for the KJV, love Isaiah 6 and Luke 2 in that rendering. But the NASB, ESV, and HCSB (not an exhaustive list) are more true to what we know the original manuscripts to be and that trumps my affections.

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  3. Linda – yes, the KJV included the apocrypha until the early 1800s as a means of getting those books into the hands of believers, not as part of the canon. It was convenience due to the high cost of printing.

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  4. It seems, not being a language scholar myself, that to me one of the factors that is overlooked is the natural bias of the Christian age at the time new revisions were made. In 1611 and before the Christian world was for the most part “Calvinistic.” Today it is mostly Arminian. This cannot but have some influence on the translators / revisionists.

    Also, I have found several changes from the OKJV that I think are acceptable word translations, but the wrong choice from the actual truth. Just one is the change from “preach the gospel” in the KJ Matthew 28 great commission to “make disciples” (more in line with today’s bias) in all the newer versions I have checked — except the Amplified (which uses both). Either is an acceptable translation according to Strong’s, but the KJ choice is the better, I think. It is better for men to go and preach the gospel and leave it to God to make the disciples. A big difference if you think about it.

    And there are other bad choices as well when taking the entire Bible as reference for context (such as “sins” instead of “faults” in James 5) instead of just the immediate language which often offers no significant context.

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  5. The KJV (only) arguments are just sophistry. The other versions such as the NKJB, NASB, NIV etc are all self-authenticating. The other versions need no outside source. They all have (the essentials) for salvation-the Gospel and the Deity of Jesus Christ. God manifests himself there when a person has the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit living in them.

    What I have a problem with is the word (only). That word (only) makes the kjv only coterie occultic.

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  6. This is Evangelist Michael Sloan. Let me set the record clear about the King James Bible. First if all. The King James Bible or the KJV as it is referred to. Is and has always been the word of the most high. Taken from the original text translated from the Hebrew text. Which comes from the scrolls and the tablets of which the Prophets and the servants of God in the ladder days were told to translate to every language and tongue. It was brought down to even us who speak the English language.

    It is imperative that we as Christians and the children and servants of the Lord we serve bring the truth to a lost a dying world filled with sin, and darkness. So yes the King James bible is the word of God brought down to us gentiles.

    So you can bank on the invaluable word of God. For even God said unto that which I send my word unto. I will not have return unto me void.

    May you always know that when you open the word of God. The King James bible. That your reading it. Understand that not only are them that wrote it are talking to you, or teaching you. But God, is talking to you as well. Your hearing his voice in your heart, in your ears in your spirit. You will know that it is he that speaks to you.

    I pray that everyone will realize when you open your bible that you just opened the passage way to the realms of Glory. And heaven is always open to them that belong to God.

    May you find him in your every day visit to the passages and the scriptures which are with in the word of God..

    God bless all of you. In Jesus name. Aman.

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  7. Evangelist Michael Sloan – I don’t know you from Adam, but you err in thinking the KJV was a direct translation from Hebrew. History denies your claim, the men who revised the bishop’s Bible into the KJV deny your claim, and God’s Word does not support your claim.

    You claiming something does not make it true. Your view of the KJV is not based on the historical record nor on the Word of God.

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  8. Finnegan – the fact that the KJV has been around 400 plus years has nothing to do with its accuracy. By that measure, the Roman Catholic Church would be the most biblical church around.

    The KJV is a good translation, built on other English versions that God was pleased to have men print in the 16th century. The Message is not a Bible at all, but a paraphrase that has little connection to the Word revealed.

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  9. Finnegan – You continue to show that you cannot read with comprehension. I did NOT say anything about you promoting it. I was merely pointing out that your stated reason for liking it is not sound. That’s why I used the example I did – Rome brags about being around for millions of years as a validation of her standing as the only church.

    I’ve NOT said the KJV is not popular – why do you ask questions about things not in evidence?

    The only inspired Word of God was in the autographs, the original writings given to men. ALL the copies and translations are, at best, very good and profitable but none are inspired.

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  10. Finne – When you call people names, make accusations, post short comments without meaningful content, post lengthy comments that are varied in content, or post comments that have no direct relationship to the posted article; that’s what gets your comments deleted. The inverse of those things would be contributing to the conversation.

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  11. Greetings. I would strongly suggest viewing recent research done by David W. Daniels. He has several books available on the subject, but he has a plethora of free You Tube videos. He used to doubt the KJV too. Barry Burton and Samuel Gipp have solid books and material on this issue too.

    Daniels is a researcher among researchers, and he has many great free videos discussing the Codex Sinaiticus as a fake, and he delves into Vaticanus.

    Daniels also discusses the two streams of Bible history. The first stream was from the Apostles and the people of Antioch. Daniels also discusses Alexandria and its issues.

    I can post a link to that, but I am not sure such is permitted here. Before dismissing my claims, please read and view some of the material. This gentleman has spent years doing his research and continues to do research. Thank you.

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  12. Nice thought, Horne’s Palms, but all who work at showing the KJV to be anointed (by whatever term) are doomed to failure. The men who revised the Bishop’s Bible to produce the KJV were not under any such presumption; their desire (common with all servants of YHWH) was to get His Word into the then-common language. Period.

    KJV-only arguments are spurious and cannot be supported by history or facts or theology.

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  13. Oh, as an afterthought, I have not read or seen Daniels espousing any seven times purified belief. He just presents solid facts on the history of the texts. Thank you.

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  14. All this lowly vet will say is that whether accurate or not..I don’t live in Will Shakespeare’s days and I won’t read or speak like one. We have made it the sole manner in sounding holy. I grew up listening to people even pray in Elizabethan!!! Rubbish

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  15. Horne’s Palms, I do not know how you conclude that Daniels is “present[ing] solid facts on the history of the texts,” but you may wish to do your own research about the Alexandrian text. If the Alexandrian stream is as corrupt as the KJV-only people are so fond of stating as opposed to the Masoretic text, the Lord Jesus read the Old Testament from the Greek Septuagint, a translation work done in Alexandria at the behest of the pagan ruler there.

    It would be to your profit to read the KJV Translator’s Preface, which are not included in many KJV Bibles (probably due to space). Doing so, you will realize that the KJV-only are espousing and trying out-defend the version on points which the translators themselves denied, such as the KJV is the best translation. Even the meanest translation is still the Word of God, thus saith the translators.

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  16. Hi Jeremy,

    Mr. Daniels has addressed the Septuagint in detail. In his article, “What is the Septuagint?”, he states:

    “Many scholars claim that Christ and his apostles used the Septuagint, preferring it above the preserved Hebrew text found in the temple and synagogues. But if the Greek Septuagint was the Bible Jesus used, he would not have said,

    “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

    Why would Jesus not have said this? Because the jot is a Hebrew letter, and the tittle is a small mark to distinguish between Hebrew letters. If Jesus used the Greek Septuagint, His scriptures would not have contained the jot and tittle. He obviously used the Hebrew scriptures!

    In addition, Jesus only mentioned the scripture text in two ways, (1) “The Law and the Prophets” and (2) “The Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”:

    “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 24:44

    The Hebrews divide their Bible into three parts: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Jesus clearly referred to this. The Septuagint had no such division. In fact, it contains Apocryphal books interspersed throughout the Old Testament. The sequence is so hopelessly mixed up that Jesus could not possibly have been referring to it!”

    In the same article, Mr. Daniels traces the history behind the Septuagint, and he shows that it simply of full of holes.

    Mr. Daniels then addresses the two main groups pushing the Septuagint: Roman Catholics and Ecumenical Textual Critics.

    By the way, I would question translators that make such statements about “meanest translations.” Many versions today omit important words, whole verses, push gender fluidity, etc.

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  17. Thanks, Horne’s Palms. I appreciate your reply.

    In the first place, the reason for the Septaugint version of the Old Testament is that the Jews after the Captivity period had lost their fluency and facility with their own language; and those in Palestina spoke Aramaic or Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament. The Jews would have stuck to the use of written and conversational Hebrew, instead of using the language of heathen Greece, if that was their primary language!

    As for the jot and tittle, Matthew 5:18 is not a refernce to language or translation, but to the jot and tittle of the law. The meaning is that God will fulfill every jot and tittle of His Law. Let’s not confuse the meaning of the Speaker, which in this case is Christ. To do so would be to read our own meaning into the Scriptures. This is an oft-quoted verse for the defence of the KJV. Sorry, wrong verse.

    As for the division of the Old Testament into the three sections, what point does it advance concerning translation? Just as what point does that make about our English Bible? The answer is: nothing.

    As for the non-division of the Septaugint, the canon of Scripture and its arrangement were not decided until much later in history, when all the books of the Bible were already written. What about the apocryphal books? The early King James Bibles included the apocryphal books.

    Finally, I made a quote about “meanest translations” from the pen of the King James Translators. Therefore, your argument is with the translators, not with any other English versions. If you understand the attitude of the KJV translators toward other versions, before or after the 1611 version (a point they made), you will have to admit that the present KJV-Only people are trying to out-defend the KJV, when the ones who gave us the version made no such claim to its exclusivity.

    We understand that there are good translations and there are weaker ones. Even the KJV, (which I use in my church for preaching word-for-word; and so, I do not in any way, depreciate it as a worthy translation), have words that are either wrongly translated or given a poorer choice in the English. I love the KJV, but let us be careful that our love of versions do not become bibliolatry.

    Thank you, Horne’s Palm, for adopting the Christian spirit in discussing spiritual matters. There has been too much heated debating that is unedifying in the choice of language. The words chosen in recent exchanges in this forum does not read well, let alone sound well if spoken aloud.

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  18. Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you for being civil as well. Even though we disagree, there is no cause to be hateful or negative. I see that happening a lot in comments sections on Christian and secular websites. Typically, the comments come from the left, attacking any person who disagrees with their views. I find this amusing since they espouse freedom of speech…or at least they used to do so.

    The comment about “meanest” translation made my ears perk up since I have heard that term used in recent times by people who definitely have issues with the blood, sin, etc. With “Bibles” like The Message out, people are being exposed to deliberate changes to key doctrine in the Word.

    I will post more as time permits. By chance, have you read anything by Daniels or Gipp?

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  19. Hi there Horne’s Palms,
    I am not familiar with David W. Daniels, but I am familiar with Samuel Gipp. Daniels would be covering the same ground as many of the people, whose books I have in my possession (but long stored away) such as William Combs, Gail Riplinger, D A Waite, Edward F. Hills, James Jasper Ray, and I know about Peter Ruckman, David Cloud, and others in the KJV-Only Camp. I also have tapes and CDs, and have attended several KJV Conferences. I have also read some of Dean Burgon. Have you heard of Dell Johnson (Pensacola Christian College)? These are quite household names in the KJV-Only circuit, and they should be recognizable to you.

    I noticed on Daniels’ website that he is linked with Chick Publications. I am all too familiar with Chick tracts. I have devoured all the above publications.

    I am relating all these, only to tell you that I was thoroughly immersed and have read widely on the subject. I know all about the verses where claims of deletions and changes are said to have occurred. I know which version is called the “devil’s bible.”

    I think you belong to the same church background as I was in. I was exposed to the KJV-Only preachers since the 1980s. Therefore, there is really “nothing new under the sun.”

    However, there is much that is hidden from the sun, so to speak, and it would be profitable for you to read widely, at least for balance. Do not just read/listen to one point of view because you are essentially in an echo chamber. In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.

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  20. Horne’s Palms, I have typed my response which is under moderation (NOT censorship). In the meantime while waiting for my response which should appear fairly soon, I wish to add that one basic premise of the KJV-Only position is that the KJV 1611 is THE BIBLE for the English-speaking world, which means that other English versions which are translated from the Hebrew and Greek text using the same method as the KJV, are not. The KJV translators rejected this exclusive view. Do you agree with the KJV translators on this?

    Moreover, I invite you to have a broader perspective on Bibles in other languages. We are either Jews or Gentiles. For Gentiles, though English is the language used in many parts of the world, there are vastly more Gentile languages beside English. The Chinese language, for instance, is the most spoken language by virtue of the Chinese race being the largest in numbers. Chinese Bibles are not translated from the KJV. Besides Chinese, we are not even dealing with the thousands of other languages in Europe, Africa, other parts of Asia. Does that mean the rest of the world have inferior Bibles? What if they never, ever understood English?

    If you hold the view that the KJV is the only version because it is claimed to be the only translation faithful to the manuscripts, then what about the rest of the Gentile world that do not speak, read, or write in English? Did God not preserve His Word for the rest of the non-English speaking world? That cannot be!

    It may be difficult for many living in the United States who are mainly dealing with one language, English, to apprehend the problem of KJV as the exclusive translation. The narrow view is to say that if you do not have the KJV, you do not have the Word of God! If that is true, then its claim to exclusivity (the one and only one) must be true for the rest of the world, whatever the language.

    God has promised to preserve His Word for His people in their native languages, and the KJV is just one of the versions that may be trusted as a good and faithful translation.

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