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Bible Versions: The King James Only Debate, by David Malcolm Bennett

Pneuma Review Winter 2013

With so many English versions of the Bible available, why do some still use the King James Version exclusively?


We live in an age in which there are many English language translations of the Bible, too many, in fact. There are very good versions and others which are not so good. But which one should we read? To some people the King James Version (KJV) is the only Bible. But are they right?

Like most of my generation (I was born in 1942) I was brought up on the KJV, sometimes called the Authorized Version. Its language, I thought as a child, was old fashioned and at times difficult to understand. However, it was dealing with ancient times, so this did not seem inappropriate.

As I began to take the Bible seriously in my late-teens, the archaic language became more of a problem. I was not yet a Christian, but I had a very strong suspicion that the Bible was, indeed, the Word of God, and I desperately wanted to understand it. However, much of it I found impossible to understand. The Gospels I could generally grasp, and some of the historical parts of the Old Testament, but the OT prophets and the New Testament letters were for the most part a mystery to me. While this was, in part, because I lacked the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the main reason was I just did not understand the language.

When I purchased a modern translation of the New Testament, the understanding began to flood in.

The King James Bible

Many people brought up on the KJV have been happy to let it go, as I did. That does not necessarily mean that any of them respect it less. It is primarily because language has changed so dramatically in the past four hundred years that in many places the KJV is very hard to understand and, worse, very easy to misunderstand. These people have therefore adopted more recent translations, written in modern English.

However, there are many others who refuse to let the KJV go. To most of these people the KJV is the only translation. Indeed, some regard it as not just a translation, but as a volume that has been directly, divinely inspired. That is, many believe that the King James translation was directly inspired by God, and this, we are told, cannot be said of any other translation. These people argue that if the other translations disagree with the KJV, then those versions must be wrong. As James White says, “most” KJV-Only people seem to believe this. In fact, that is the reason that the debate generates so much heat.1

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Winter 2013

About the Author: David Malcolm Bennett, Ph.D., is an Anglo-Australian Christian researcher and writer with over 15 books in print. They include The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage, The Sinner’s Prayer: Its Origins and Dangers (companion website:, The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement, and The General: William Booth. He is also the transcriber, editor and publisher of The Letters of William and Catherine Booth and The Diary and Reminiscences of Catherine Booth.

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