Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Indefensibility of the King James Only Doctrine

You will come across many untestable doctrines among Christians.  One of the most prominent of which is the one that claims that only the King James Version of the Bible is the written word of God, and is perfect, while all other translations are corrupt.  But all of the arguments used to support this doctrine assume that the KJV is perfect.  Remember this as we explore some common arguments used to support King James Onlyism:  All arguments start with the assumption that the KJV is perfect, rather than proving that the KJV is perfect.

Manuscript Conflicts

Some within the KJV only crowed will assert that the Textus Receptus, which is the Greek manuscript used to make the KJV translation, is perfect while the Alexandrian texts are corrupt.  This hides the assumption that the KJV is perfect, but the assumption is still there.  Because the Textus Receptus was used to write the KJV, they also assume that the Textus Receptus is perfect.  And since the Alexandrian texts do not perfectly match the Textus Receptus, they assume that those texts must be corrupt.  By the way, the Alexandrian texts come from Alexandria, Egypt.

For a moment, let's assume that the Textus Receptus is perfect.  The KJV does not perfectly reflect what the Textus Receptus says.  In fact, someone is making a list of every translation error of the KJV using the same texts used by the KJV.  I'm not going to take the time to count every item on that list.  But it's probably easily in the thousands range.

What about the conflict over the manuscripts?  Well, the Textus Receptus predates the KJV by less than 100 years!  It is derived from the Byzantine texts among others.  These manuscripts date back to the 5th century AD.  The other major line of manuscripts, the Alexandrian texts.  Many of these manuscripts date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.  There are older manuscripts which date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.  By the way, this is just taking into account the manuscripts of the New Testament.

The Byzantine manuscripts (from which the Textus Receptus came) are considered to have pagan influence by today's scholars, and hold little weight when trying to determine what the original text says (we don't have the originals).  The Alexandrian texts however, are considered to be largely free of pagan influence.  That combined with the fact that they're much closer to the timing of New Testament events means that they carry a lot of weight when trying to determine what the original text said.

One of the manuscripts that the Textus Receptus is derived from is the Latin Vulgate.  If we take a look at the NIV's footnote for 1 John 5:7-8, we'll notice that late editions of the Vulgate add to the text.  So early texts say:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. [NIV]

But the later texts (14th Century onwards), including Textus Receptus, say:

7 For there are three that testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. [NIV footnote]

One argument used by the KJV only crowed is that the Alexandrian texts were changed and therefore corrupted.  If we apply the same logic to the line that the Textus Receptus came from, then we see that these manuscripts, and by extension, the Textus Receptus and the KJV, are also corrupt.  And this isn't the only place where newer editions of manuscripts added or changed something from the older editions.

Not-So-Divine Inspiration

The author of the Textus Receptus (literally "received text") believes that he was inspired by "some god" (that should tell you everything you need to know).  And the KJV only crowed believes that the translators for the KJV was inspired by God.  A view not shared by those who wrote the KJV.  Divine inspiration is nearly always conflated with divine guidance, and it is argued that God "would not inspire error".  That is to say, God would not guide people into error (which I agree with).  Note that I will distinguish divine inspiration from divine guidance, with inspire always meaning "to motivate" (so that we have a consistent definition), and having nothing to do with guidance.

So the KJV only crowed believes the translators for the KJV were guided by God to create a perfect translation of the word of God.  As mentioned earlier, this view is a view that even the authors of the KJV did not hold.  Both the preface and the marginal notes of the KJV prove that the the authors did not believe they were guided by God in any way.

Now let's take a look at who or what actually motivated the KJV.  As I said in my post exposing the conflation of inspiration with guidance, when God motivates someone to write something, he only motivates the one who wants the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  He will not motivate those who seek to push an agenda.  And the KJV is definitely politically-motivated.  For example:  When he gave instructions on how to translate the Bible, he stacked the deck against the Puritans, who were his political opponents.  And that's just scratching the surface of the political motivations behind the KJV.  Do I have to mention the fact that King Jame's Bible was the only translation allowed to be read in the Church of England?

Then there's the motivation of ego.  The name of one of Yeshua's disciples was Jacob.  But you won't know that from reading the KJV, which translates the Greek word "iakobos" as James instead of Jacob.  This word is the same as "iakob", which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word of "Ya`akov", which is Hebrew for Jacob.  The sad thing is that modern translations have not done anything to fix this deliberate modification of the Bible.  The same thing is probably true for the name of Yeshua's mother, which is Meriam.  The Greek word "Maria" is a transliteration of this Hebrew name.

Languages Change Over Time

Let's assume for a moment that the KJV is a perfect translation of a perfect manuscript.  What we now have is a translation that can be understood by those who read and speak 17th-century English.  But English has changed over the last 400 years.  Some words have drastically changed in meaning while others have been dropped from the English vocabulary altogether.  Even some of the English idioms that the KJV uses are no longer in use.  And if you do not understand certain words in the KJV, then the speaker has to tell you what those words mean.

Because Humans Say So

Many within the KJV only crowed don't even attempt to prove that the KJV is the "perfect word of God".  They expect you to believe it is because they say it is, or because teachers that came before them say that it is.  They also expect you to believe that all other English translations are corrupt and therefore not the word of God.  The proof that they are corrupt is the fact that they do not exactly match the KJV.  Some go so far as to claim that the manuscripts are corrupt, simply because they do not perfectly match the KJV.  They go even further and say that if you do not believe that the KJV is the perfect word of God, then you do not believe God's promise to preserve his word.

This type of argumentation is outright heretical!  For God never required us to believe anything without evidence.  Take a look at Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 for example.  God required people to test the prophets.  These tests are really quite simple:  Any teacher that speaks in the name of another god, or teaches those to walk in disobedience to God's Law, or who's predictions do not come true, are to be put to death.  In other words:  The prophets are to be believed based on evidence.  The same thing happened when Moses went to the elders of Israel after Yahweh sent him to bring Israel out of Egypt.  The elders were provided with evidence!  And let's not forget all of the things that Yeshua himself did to prove that he was the Messiah, and that his enemies tried to destroy the evidence!

Real faith requires evidence.  There is no such thing as blind faith.  And making KJV onlyism a "matter of faith" is nothing more than a cop-out to avoid having to prove that which you believe.  Such people do not have faith in the KJV.  They have merely blind belief in an unprovable doctrine.

Double Standards

One of the ways to "prove" that all English translations other that the KJV are corrupt is by applying different standards to these other translations than what they apply to the KJV.  One example is for when a translation uses the phrase "Jesus the Christ" instead of "Jesus Christ".  It's okay if the KJV uses the former, but if a different translation uses it, then it's proof that the other translation is "corrupted".

By the way, the phrase "Jesus Christ" implies that "Christ" is the last name of our Lord, which it's not.  "Christ" is a title, just like how "king" or "lord" is a title.  So the phrase "Jesus Christ" is always incorrect.  The phrases "Christ Jesus" and "Jesus the Christ" are correct.  The former because the title comes before the name, and the latter because the word "the" designates that the word that follows is not part of his name.  There is nobody in the Bible with the last name of "Christ".  And the same thing applies to the word "Messiah".  The difference between "Christ" and "Messiah" is that the former is derived from the Greek while the latter is derived from the Hebrew.

Another instance of hypocrisy among the KJV only crowed concerns their accusation that the translators of some of the modern Bibles (eg: the NIV) are sodomites.  Some make this accusation and use that as the sole basis for rejecting all modern translations.  Yet they do not use the same logic for King James (who is also accused of being a sodomite) and his Bible.  I have not yet seen any evidence that modern translators are sodomites (though it wouldn't surprise me if some of them are).  And there is only circumstantial evidence that King James was a sodomite (though it wouldn't surprise me if he was).  Either way, what makes a translation good or bad is how accurate the translation is, not whether the translators are accused of sexual immorality (or any other sin).

Degrading the Word of God

Many will claim that passages like Matthew 24:35 is a promise from God to preserve his word.  And they will use this in their assertion that you do not believe in God's promise if you do not believe that the KJV (and only the KJV) is the preserved word of God.  By the way, Matthew 24:35 is where Yeshua says "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."  What they fail to realize is how degrading this alleged promise is to the word of God!  Many who do not hold to the KJV only doctrine fall for the same trap for the Bible in general.

Yeshua said that Heaven and Earth will pass away, but his words will not.  By interpreting this passage as a promise from God to "preserve his word", then it inadvertently reduces the word of God to something that must be written onto material objects in order to exist.  Whatever God speaks is, by definition, the word of God.  The existence of the word of God is not dependent on whether these words are written down onto material things, or dependent on how accurately they are written down, or dependent on the continued existence of these material things which they are written on.  In fact, when Heaven and Earth pass away, these material things that we refer to as "the word of God" will pass away with the Earth.  Yet the word of God itself will not pass away.

It is convenient, and even accurate, to call the written record of what Yahweh has said "the word of God".  And it is accurate to call such writings "the written word of God".  And it is very clear that Yahweh always intended for the things he has said to be written down so that we may know what he has said.  But the word of God itself is immaterial, and exists independently of any material thing that records it.

Another thing to consider is this:  Even if passages like Matthew 24:35 is a promise to perfectly preserve the written record of what Yahweh had said, why would Yahweh preserve this record in a language that he did not speak his word in?  And only in this language that he did not speak in when his word was being recorded?  Why would he not have it preserved in the original language that he spoke to the people in?  Why would the people he chose to be a light to the nations not have his written word preserved in their native language?  Why would Yahweh wait 3,100 years to preserve his words in a language that didn't even exist when he was speaking to the Israelites?  The answer is simple:  He wouldn't.  His words would be written in whatever language he spoke them in, and it would be these writings which would be preserved.

Authorized by a Man

One point that the KJV only crowed brings up is the fact that it's the only "authorized" English translation of the Bible.  Guess who authorized it:  King James.  And as we've seen earlier, he had some political motivations for his Bible.  And it wouldn't matter anyways for several reasons.  The primary reason is that authorization by a human king is not the same as authorization by Yahweh.  And to the best of my knowledge, Yahweh has not said anything concerning which translation most accurately represents his word.  Also, the authorization only applies to the land of England, and possibly to territories controlled by England.  Finally, what happens if a future king of England writes a new English translation, and deauthorizes the KJV?  Will they say that we should only be reading from this new translation?  Or will they continue to stick with the KJV?

Lying for King James

Remember earlier when I pointed-out that the KJV only crowed assumes what they're trying to prove?  Well, using the KJV as the de-facto standard for what an English translation is supposed to say, the KJV only crowed will compare modern translations to the KJV and use the differences as proof that these translations are corrupted.  But the way they go about it is downright deceitful.

Have you ever heard of the "missing verses" of the NIV or other modern translations?  What the KJV only crowed doesn't tell you is that these "missing verses" are actually found in the footnotes, which explain that they are not found in the earliest available manuscripts, or that they are not found in some of the earliest available manuscripts.  In other words, the verses aren't "missing" at all.  In fact, not only are these verses still present in the footnotes, but these so-called "missing verses" are likely additions to the text made during copying.

So what's the reasoning for these modern translations not putting these "missing verses" in the text?  The reasoning is simple:  The earlier manuscripts have more weight than the later manuscripts.  And where multiple manuscripts carry the most weight, it is believed that people are more likely to add to the text than to subtract from it.  Of course, this doesn't matter to the KJV only crowed.  They want you to believe that all translations other than the KJV are part of a New Age plot to subtly introduce corrupted doctrines into the Body of the Messiah just because these translations are not the KJV.

In addition, some will make the KJV only doctrine a matter of salvation.  They will say that if you do not get your doctrines only from the KJV, then you are not saved because you are believing in a "corrupted" gospel.  Nevermind the fact that the KJV says that salvation is through faith in Yeshua ("Yeshua" is Hebrew for "Jesus" in case anyone gets any ideas).  So they make salvation a matter of believing in the KJV Bible rather than in Yeshua.

Meaning of Words

Here's one instance where I am partially going to side with the KJV only crowed.  Key word "partially".  That is on the point that if you change the words, you change the meaning of the text.  I say "partially", because this works both ways, and the KJV is not always the correct translation.  There are indeed many places where modern translations have a slightly different wording than the KJV which results in drastically different meanings.  But these changes make up for a very, very small percentage of the entirety of the Bible.

Different translations will have different places where these changes occur.  In probably the majority of cases, it's the KJV that is correct.  But there are some cases where the KJV is wrong.  For example, the word translated as "converted" in Acts 3:19 is "epistrepho", which means to "turn back" or "return".  There are many other cases where the change in meaning is inevitable due to how the English language itself has changed over time.  For example, the singular and plural forms of the word "you" is no longer in common use.  Another example is how certain words (eg: the word "suffer") change their meaning over time.  Suffer used to mean "to allow".  It doesn't mean that anymore.  In cases like these, the modern translations preserve the meaning of the passage.

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