Is the King James Version the Only Bible You Should Read?
Many new believers have been told that the King James Version is the only Bible they should read. But is that true?
The King James Version
Authorized in 1604 by King James I of England, the King James Version was completed in 1611. Translated by 47 scholars using the Textus Receptus (Greek) as the source for the New Testament, Masoretic Hebrew for the Old Testament, and the Greek Septuagint for the Apocrypha and Latin Vulgate.
The King James Version rapidly became the chosen English translation for Protestants. Known for flowing language and prose rhythms, it has had a profound influence on literature for the past 4 centuries.
In 1769, the Oxford Edition was printed without the Apocrypha. Though English has evolved considerably since, the King James Translation has been printed almost completely unchanged.
King James Only Arguments
The years between 1946 – 1956 saw the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient texts have been dated earlier than the materials used to translate the King James Version of the Bible.
Many modern translators have taken these newfound texts into account when creating new Bible translations. This has caused King James Version Only (KJVO) proponents to claim conspiracies exist to change the Bible.
Versions like NIV, ESV, CSB, and others have all been accused of altering or omitting entire verses. While it is true verses have been removed from these versions within the text, footnotes are added to explain what was left out and the reason why (earlier texts omitted these verses).
Arguments against modern translations further break down as KJVO proponents vehemently oppose the creation of a new translation of the King James Version of the Bible.
The Sin of Preference
The New King James Version was translated by over 130 respected Bible scholars and printed in 1975. The translators sought to modernize the language within the text to help clarify meaning to modern readers.
Some KJVO adherents opposed updating the King James language even while keeping the content the same.
This unwillingness to move to even update the language is indicative of something my former pastor called “the sin of preference”. This occurs when a person’s preference is more important to them than even the will of God.
When studying, multiple sources should be used
The simple fact is, all versions of the Bible are translated from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These languages have all evolved from the time the Bible was first written. All major translations use some mixture of two translation methods.
Thought for Thought
Thought for thought translations look to keep the original intent of the passages with less emphasis on keeping the word translations in tact. When you translate between two languages, sometimes certain sayings or phrases get lost in a word for word translation.
For example, here in Texas and other southern states, we might say “that dog won’t hunt”. Some people from northern states may be confused by this statement, and anyone speaking English outside the United States would likely be lost on its meaning.
A thought for thought translation would correctly translate this to “this is a lie” or “the story doesn’t seem true”.
This type of translation makes the text easier to understand, but can also distort the original intent of a passage.
Word for Word
Word for word translations, on the other hand, translates each word exactly with less focus on the overall meaning of the passage.
This preserves the original intent of the message, but may lose the reader’s understanding without additional sources to aide them in their study.
Most translations use a blend of these two techniques. Some prefer word for word translation, while others prefer thought for thought.
The best word for word translations are thought to be the New American Standard or Amplified Bibles.
The best thought for thought translations are thought to be New International Version and New American Bibles.
Which Version Should You Use?
Personally, I prefer a translation in between these two methods.
The King James Version and New King James fall in between these two translation methods, leaning slightly toward word for word.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible and the later Christian Standard Bible translations find themselves almost directly in the middle of these translation methods. This is why I prefer these translations myself.
Ultimately you should choose a method that you feel comfortable reading and can understand clearly. It is important that you can read and follow along with whatever version of the Bible you choose to read.
No matter which translation you choose to read, it is good practice to use multiple English translations to study. There are Bible apps on both desktop and mobile devices which can help compare translations with ease.