This article was written decades ago; much more is this counsel needed in our day.
I’ve been told by some KJV-only advocates that one reason they believe the KJV to be THE English 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.
Three Common Errors of False Teachers
by Mike Gendron
November 9, 2015
- Since we are now living in the age of religious tolerance and ecumenical unity, there are some people who will immediately call this article unloving and divisive. Others will ask, “What right do you have to judge another religion?” The answer is given in Scripture. All God-fearing people are called to make right judgments, judgments that have already been established by the objective principles of God’s Word (John 7:24). There may be nothing more important than warning people who are being deceived about their eternal destiny. If we do not lovingly confront them with God’s Gospel, they may never know how to escape the eternal fire of God’s punishment. Clearly, the most unloving thing we can do is to ignore them and let them continue down the road to destruction. For this reason, I am always willing to offend people with the offense and exclusivity of the Gospel in the hopes that God may grant some of them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2: 25). Let us look at three fatal errors of false prophets and how to handle them.
False Teachers Usurp the Authority of God
- The supreme authority of the Bible is established both by its divine origin and inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21). It is the infallible Word of God, and it will accomplish God’s purpose (Isaiah 55:11). It is the very foundation upon which all Christian truths rest. For followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible is the final court of appeal in all matters pertaining to faith and godliness. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The divine authority of Scripture corrects and rebukes all false teaching because there is no higher authority or infallible source in which to appeal. It is the Word of God, and God cannot lie, cannot break His promise and cannot deceive.
- People fall into serious error and sin when they exalt their own authority over God’s authority or when they suppress the truth of God’s Word to promote their own self-serving agendas. The Roman Catholic religion has done this by establishing its traditions and teachings to be equal in authority with Scripture (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] par. 82). In doing so, it has usurped the supreme authority of our sovereign God who alone has the right to rule and determine the eternal destinies of men. This fatal error has opened the flood gates to numerous other deadly heresies including: the preaching of another gospel, the worship of a counterfeit Jesus, the buying and selling of God’s grace through indulgences, the creation of a fictitious place called purgatory, the establishment of other mediators and praying to and for the dead. These errors are fatal because anyone who is embracing them when they take their last breath will experience eternal death.
- Catholics who are being deceived by these fatal errors must be told that the world has known only one infallible teacher. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the personification of truth and every word He spoke was truth (John 14:6, 17:17). Those who are seeking the truth need to look only to Christ and His Word. The Catholic religion has become corrupt the same way Judaism became corrupt – by following the traditions of men instead of the Word of God (Mark 7:13). The Pharisees taught much truth, but by mixing it with error, they “made the word of God of no effect.” We must never forget that the Bible is what God says and religion is what man says God says.
False Teachers Distort the Person of Christ
- Jesus Christ is God’s perfect man and man’s perfect God. He is the perfect High Priest who offered Himself – the perfect sacrifice – once for the sins of His people. This one sin offering has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). For this reason there are no more offerings for sin (Heb. 10:18). The believer’s eternal sin debt was paid in full and their redemption was secured when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Rom. 4:25). Would there be false teachers who would deny this and steal away the honor and glory of our Savior?
- Yes, Paul even warned us that some would come preaching another Jesus. They will offer a counterfeit Jesus “whom we [the apostles] have not preached” (2 Cor. 11:4). Many of these false teachers are Roman Catholics who preach a “Jesus” who does not save sinners completely and forever. They say Catholics must do their part by expiating and making satisfaction for their own sins through penance (CCC, 1459). In this way they attain their own salvation through good works (CCC, 1477). The Catholic Jesus offers conditional life, not eternal life (CCC, 1035). This counterfeit Christ is said to return physically to Catholic altars over 200,000 times each day to be a sin offering for the living and the dead (CCC, 1367).
- Catholics must be warned of the consequences for not knowing and believing the true Jesus. This was made clear by Jesus when He said: “unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Whenever religion rejects God’s authority, it creates “another Jesus” which always leads to “another gospel.” Why? Because whenever the sufficiency of Christ is denied, another gospel must be concocted to instruct people what they must do to be saved.
False Teachers Pervert the Gospel of Christ
- The Gospel is the joyous proclamation of God’s redeeming work through Jesus Christ which saves His people from the punishment, power and ultimately, the presence of sin. It is the one and only message of redemption and the same message for every generation (Eph. 4:4-6, Rev. 14:6). Since the Gospel is about one Savior, it is exclusive and thus declares that all other faiths and religions are false (John 14:6; Mat. 7:13-14). This glorious Gospel declares that salvation is entirely of grace and those who add anything to it stand condemned (Gal. 1:6-9). It comes as no surprise that the most popular perversion of the Gospel is the fatal lie that good works or inherent righteousness are necessary to appease a holy God. Every religion in the world perpetrates this lie of the devil. However, Satan’s oldest and most deadly lie is “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:4). This lie is still spread in Catholicism (CCC, 1863).
- Why would any religious leader want to distort the glorious Gospel of grace? The primary reason is to control people by holding them captive in legalistic bondage. It is for this reason the Lord Jesus gave the mark of a true disciple. He said, “If you abide in My word…and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). People in religious bondage can only be set free when they come to a knowledge of the truth found in Scripture.
- Roman Catholicism is not alone in perverting the Gospel of God. There are many cults and Protestant sects which do the same. Catholicism, however, not only deceives its people with a false gospel, but foolishly condemns those who believe the true Gospel. Over 100 condemnations from the Council of Trent are pronounced on Christians who believe the Lord Jesus is sufficient to save sinners completely and forever. The Catholic “gospel” emphasizes what man must DO to be saved instead of what Christ has DONE. This would include the necessity of doing good works (CCC, 2016), receiving sacraments (1129), attending meritorious masses (1405), keeping the law (2068), buying indulgences (1498) and purgatory (1030).
False Teachers Must Be Confronted
- We must never let doctrinal error go unabated because it dishonors God and deceives the unsuspecting. It defiles the conscience, corrupts the heart and destroys the soul. According to Scripture, that which flows from the lips of false teachers includes: “strange doctrines,” “commandments of men,” “doctrines of devils,” “damnable heresies,” “traditions of men,” “lies,” “falsehood,” “vain deceit” and “deceptive philosophy.” Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord at all times and in all cases (Prov. 12:22). Knowing the fruit of false teachers, we must earnestly contend against them. Peter and Paul said false teachers cause believers to fall from their steadfastness and pure devotion to Christ (2 Pet. 3:17; 2 Cor. 11:3). They disagree with the words of Jesus and bring constant friction within the church (1 Tim. 6:4-5). They give rise to speculation and fruitless discussion which hinder the purposes of God (1 Tim. 1:4-6).
- Many who profess Christ are no longer embracing sound doctrine because they want their ears tickled and are seeking teachers who will do just that (2 Tim. 4:2). Using the Word of God, we must be ready to reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instruction. Those who have been entrusted with the truth must take a stand against those who try to lead men astray. Even when Peter was not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, Paul withstood him to his face, and rebuked him sharply (Gal. 2:11-14). Jude exhorted us to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Those who refuse to defend God’s truth are demonstrating their lack of passion for the truth. We must love the truth and hate every false way (Ps. 119:104). Let us never be intimidated by false teachers because “the fear of man brings a snare” (Prov. 29:25).
The Battle for Truth
- Let us be mindful of the words of A.W. Tozer, who wrote: “So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It is therefore critically important that the Christian take full advantage of every provision God has made to save him from delusion – prayer, faith, constant meditation of the Scriptures, obedience, humility and the illumination of the Holy Spirit” (That Incredible Christian).
- We need to ask God for courage and boldness as we rely on the power of His Word. May we all become more like the apostles who were strong, bold, fearless, dogmatic, unaccommodating of error, courageous, intolerant of sin, inflexible concerning the Gospel, controversial, willing to die for the truth and fully devoted to Christ. We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Eph. 4:14). During these times of great deception, the Body of Christ must respond with a theological, biblical worldview that defends the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must protect the purity of His Gospel for the sake of His elect.
A poem written during the nascent days of The Reformation.
By Margaret of Valois, duchess of Alencon, France,
sister of King Francis I, a persecutor of The Reformers.
Is there a gulf of ill, so deep and wide
That can suffice but e’en a tenth to hide
Of my vile sins?
Well do I fell within me is the root,
Without are branch and foliage, flower and fruit.
My God, thou hast come down on earth to me, –
To me, although a naked worm I be.
Word Divine, Jesus the Salvator,
Only Son of the eternal Paer,
The first, the last; of all things renovator,
Bishop and king, and mighty triumphator,
From death by death our liberator.
By faith we’re made the sons of the Creator.
Though poor, and weak, and ignorant I be,
How rich, how strong, how wise I am in Thee!
In spirit noble, – but in nature slave;
Immortal I am, -tending to the grave;
Essence of heaven, – and yet of earthly birth;
God’s dwelling place, – and yet how little worth.
How men love titles! Does your “pastor” like to be called “doctor” or even “pastor”? Are such titles biblical for the gathered people of God? The author gives this peek into today’s message:
Now to grasp another nettle. Titles. The New Testament never uses any title for any man in the church. What is more, it categorically forbids it. Nowadays, however, most Christians do use titles – or one in particular – and do so without turning a hair, even though it contradicts Christ’s plain command. Complaining of the scribes and Pharisees who loved ‘to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi”’, Christ said: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call any one on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:1-12). But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call any one on earth your father… And do not be called teachers… But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (NKJV).
From the author:
We take up the story at the start of the 16th century with Martin Luther. But before we do, let us remember that protest against the mutilation of Christ’s church was not unknown during the dark ages. Men and, no doubt, women – men like Claude of Turin (died 827), Tanchelm (died 1115), Peter of Bruy s (flourished c1117- c1131), Henry of Lausanne (flourished c1116-1148), Arnold of Brescia (1110-1155), John Tauler (c1300-1361), John Wycliffe (c1328-1384), John Hus(c1369-1415), the Lollards and their like, should never be forgotten.
They all made their protest against Rome, and in one way or another called for a return to the New Testament. I am not pretending that they had full gospel light. But, in their various way s, they all prepared the ground for the approaching Reformation.
This chapter is here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=116141234374