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

At times the debate also stoops to great silliness. For example, when I worked in a Bible store a few of our customers were against using any of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Scriptures because they believed the KJV was more accurate.

This is also not just an academic issue, but a very practical one. First, Christians need to have access to the best possible and most accurate translations of the Holy Scriptures. In addition, in my Bible store days, some of my customers were scared to buy any edition of the Bible in case it was corrupt. They had been influenced by some of the unfortunate, and at times untrue, comments in this debate. When we arrive at that situation, we can be sure that something has gone very wrong.

Probably, the foremost advocate of the King James Only position is Gayle A. Riplinger. Other leaders in this movement include Texe Marrs, Peter Ruckman and Samuel Gipp. Riplinger’s main book is New Age Bible Versions, and we will work primarily from this.9 This book has been called “erroneous, sensationalistic, misrepresentative, inaccurate and logically indefensible”, and Riplinger’s “reasoning contradictory and convoluted”.10 That criticism is quite a mouthful, but every word of it is correct.

Amongst the claims that Riplinger makes are: first, that “the new versions are more difficult to read than the KJV”; second, that “The Greek text” behind the new translations of the New Testament “was an edition drastically altered by a Spiritualist”; third, that there is “an alliance between the new versions of the Bible (the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Living Bible and others) and the chief conspirators in the New Age movement’s push for a One World Religion”.11 As we shall see, none of these claims are true.

Easier or Harder

With regard to point one, I will not spend a lot of time refuting Riplinger’s arguments that “the new versions are more difficult to read than the KJV”, for a much better solution to that problem presents itself. That is, read for yourself, say, Amos from the OT and Romans from the NT in both the KJV and the modern translation of your choice. Then decide which is the easiest. I am confident that any unbiased reader would find the new translation easier, probably much easier. The simple reason for that would be that the KJV is in the English of four hundred years ago, which we no longer use except when doing Shakespeare, while the new versions are in the English of today or close to it.

Associated with that, however, is the issue of words used in the KJV that are no longer used, and those that have changed their meaning, sometimes dramatically, over the last four hundred years. There are, in fact, many words in the KJV that are not correctly understood today. As far back as 1952 The Revised Standard Version (RSV) translators made a lengthy list of “Misleading Words” in the KJV, which they had altered in their version.

These included, “advertise (thee)” (Num 24:14), which they translated as “let you know”; “cunning” (Gen. 25:27; 1 Sam. 16:16), which became “skilful”; “feebleminded” (1 Thess. 5:14), which became “fainthearted”; and “conversation” (1 Pet. 3:1-2), which became “behavior”.12 This is not to say the KJV was wrong when it originally made these translations, but rather that the meanings of these words have changed in the course of four hundred years. Those four examples from the KJV demonstrate that a wrong understanding of what the Scriptures are saying, what God is saying, can occur because of how English words change their meanings. This is an ongoing problem, because language is continually changing.

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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: SinnersPrayerBook.com), 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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