Monday, September 28, 2009

King James Only?

Here is a new blog devoted to the KJV-only debate

From the description:
Hysteria, misinformation, rancor and hype fill the King James Version (KJV) only debate. Cynicism sometimes colors the view of those on both sides of the debate. This blog aims to confront the King James craze head on, and evaluate the claims of KJV-onlyism from a Biblical perspective.

The authors are all former proponents of KJV-onlyism. Each has made his own journey out of that movement. We shall do our best to fairly represent the opposite view here, yet we acknowledge that there are multiple varieties of the KJV-only position.

We welcome honest debate in the comments. But we reserve the right to moderate discussions in an effort to keep this a charitable, Christ-honoring blog.


  1. Hey, ya'll..:)

    I used to be KJV Only prior to going to college and seminary. However, after studying the issues I had to conclude that the KJV does have textual additions and corruptions. The Majority Text obviously has problems.

    That being said, however, I sometimes think the textual critics and often ministers in the churches over-react in the other direction. I see nothing wrong with using the KJV for public worship or private devotions. The NKJV is also a worthy translation for public worship. Even RC Sproul uses this one.

    I think the problem with the ESV, which our church uses, is that it is not as "literal" as it claims to be in translation. I have found many examples of what I would call "loose" or "dynamic equivalency" in the ESV, although it is not as bad as the NIV.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  2. Tommy,

    Thanks for the link to our little blog. I know many of the authors of the blog have learned much from this blog, Evangelical Textual Criticism.

    We hope to make a difference in some small way regarding the error of KJV Onlyism. In many respects it can have a cult-like hold over one's thinking. It can definitely stunt one's Christian growth.

    Having once been a KJV Onlyist myself, I have compassion on those still in that movement. I hope to interact with them and perhaps open a few eyes.

    Thanks again for spreading the word about our mission. We've compiled quite a few posts, and we link to other resources as well.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Bob Hayton
    Administrator of KJV Only?

  3. For me, Charile, concluding that the KJV does have textual additions/corruptions was the tipping point. It freed me from a cultic-like bondage. It's not the same for everyone, but in some circles it is almost cult-like.

    I still respect the KJV and use it in study sometimes, but I prefer the ESV. I also am aware that it is closer to the NIV in translation philosophy than it puts off, but I still think it's pretty good.


    Bob Hayton

  4. Is KJV-only worse or better than ESV-only?

  5. Peter,

    There's a big difference. ESV Only is perhaps a groupie movement of people who don't like dynamic equivalence and follow the Reformed hotshots of the day in preferring the ESV.

    The KJV Only movement is far more extreme and pervasive. This isn't a passing fad, it has been around at least since the 60s. This movement sets up the King James Version (Authorized Version) as the sole standard by which all other Bibles should be judged. The differences between the texts (NA27 vs. the TR) are deletions or additions to God's Word (being the TR that backs the KJV of course).

    This movement is almost a cult, with many adherents claiming the English of the KJV actually corrects the Greek original, or is better than the Greek. Some circles claim it is a re-inspiration, and translations into other languages are judged by their faithfulness to the KJV English, not the Greek or Hebrew.

    Not everyone KJV Only is quite this bad. Some prefer the TR and the KJV as the only acceptable translation of it. They have arguments from the textual data, but primarily argue from a fideistic view of God's promised preservation of His Word.

    Hope that helps,


  6. Let me repeat myself. There is no such thing as ESV only. There are many translations of the Bible out there. Reformed folks seem to prefer the ESV but that is not always the case. R.C. Sproul uses the New KJV for public preaching and teaching.

    Furthermore, the NASB seems to be the most literal translation out there, although it is not perfect. Be that as it may, the NIV is not a good translation for many reasons, the foremost being that it is too reliant on "dynamic equivalency" which is simply another way of saying, "We paraphrased the difficult or obscure sentences to read our theological biases."

    Any "honest" person would tell folks to read many translations and compare them to see how the verse in question is translated in "many" translations. That way we can see there is a question about how to translate the original Greek or Hebrew. Also, read the footnotes.

    Perhaps Bob has some prejudice against Calvinism and that is why my last comment was not posted?

  7. BTW, the only reason I use the ESV on my blog is that it is used in our church. If you can suggest a better translation, I am more than willing to take it under consideration.

    I personally think the ESV is not that good, particularly in the way it handles some of the verses in Revelation and elsewhere.

    Also, you will please note that on my blog I have a feature where you can set Logos Reference Tagger to your own preferred translation. Take your pick:)

    But please remember that translations are imperfect, which is why it is best to learn Koine Greek and biblical Hebrew if you are able. This is also the purpose of textual criticism.

    And I for one follow no "hot shot" Reformed ministers. I follow Scripture and Scripture alone no matter where the Scriptures lead--even if it leads to the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty:)

    It was my reading of the Bible from cover to cover every year for several years in a row that I came to see that God is in control of all that comes to pass, including the salvation of His remnant, the elect.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  8. Charlie,

    With respect to your concerns about dynamic equivalency, I would suggest that you read:

    James Barr, The Typology of Literalism in Ancient Biblical Translations, Mitteilungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens 15 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979)

    Understood properly, both formal and functional (dynamic) translation techniques are valid forms of literalism. An excessively formal approach is not necessarily a good or theologically unbiased translation, but is potentially "translationese". If a translator renders a text "to read [their]theological biases", they are not translating functionally (dynamically)... they are not, in fact, translating at all, but rather paraphrasing or transforming the text.

    Best wishes on your new blog!

  9. Charlie,

    Not sure if there is a misunderstanding here or not. But I don't run ETC, just KJV Only?. Therefore, I am not moderating your comments.

    Re: Calvinism, I am Reformed Baptist in my beliefs. I grew up basically Arminian except for "eternal security", like many independent fundamental Baptists believe. Studying Scripture led me to embrace Calvinism.

    Re: the ESV, I prefer that translation and use it. I respect my pastor, John Piper, who some would claim is a "Reformed hotshot", and some would also claim he promotes ESV Onlyism, but I think that is overstated. I like the ESV in large part because of his recommendation, yes. But also because of my own study and use of various translations.

    I was trying to explain what ESV Onlyism (if it really exists) is. I wasn't advocating it, nor do I think it is a serious problem.

    I do think some wrongly impugn the NIV, but then the more I study the more problems I see with dynamic equivalency in general. I still lean toward not having too much of a problem with the NIV.

    Hope this helps clarify some things.



  10. Chris,

    James Barr is hardly an objective scholar since his presuppositions are often self-contradictory and even modernist.

    Futhermore, as any objective scholar would note, there is no such thing as an "unbiased" translation. The theory of "dynamic equivalency" sounds great as you stated it. However, the truth is scholars read their biases into their translations. Thus, dynamic equivalency should be avoided except in the most necessary circumstances, especially when one notes that even "wooden" translations like the NASB have certain theological biases in translation.

    It is for this reason that I advise people to read many translations in parallel and to do their own study of the text with the use of helps like Strong's numbers, etc.

    Of course, Barr repudiates the use of "word studies" outright because of the misuse of those helps in the past.

    However, it seems to me that lay persons should not take anyone's "word" or "authority" for granted. They should study the Bible for themselves as best they can, which would include the use of Bible dictionaries, Strong's dictionary, theological dictionaries, and other helps in English.

    The bottom line, however, is that the Bible is not in bondage to translators, textual critics, or professional scholars in ivory towers. This is why the internet exists. I presume it is also why this website exists.

    While the NIV is an adequate translation, it is no better than the ESV and is in fact in some instances much worse. I would advise against the New Living Translation for the same reason. While it claims to be based on dynamic equivalency, it is essentially a paraphrase.

    It is better to have a literal translation and let people reach their own conclusions rather than selling a translation as an "objective" translation when it is in fact extremely biased in one direction or another.

    From this perspective, the NKJV is a good translation simply because it is often too literal and leaves questions to be answered by readers.

    While the NKJV is based on the MT, I see no problem with this since textual criticism is indeed fallible. Furthermore, I don't believe that the Alexandrian text tradition has been universally canonized even though it is the most likely reading of the autographs.

    This opposite error of canonizing the critical texts is in my opinion almost as serious as the idea that one translation, i.e., the KJV, is the only "inspired" translation.

    The ESV, while a good translation, errs because it claims not to use dynamic equivalency but in fact does use it in several places. My complaint is the ESV should acknowledge dynamic equivalency where it is in fact applied. This is in my opinion a bit dishonest on the part of the translators.

    Actually, my blog has been around for at least four years.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  11. Bob,

    I am not a fan of John Piper for many reasons but I won't bring them up here.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  12. Charlie,

    Your criticisms of Barr do not apply to this essay which is considered to be the standard work on LXX translation technique and Bible translation. It is also heavily cited by those working on the versions. Sorry, I misconstrued your association with the blog discussed here.


  13. Charlie, I don't know why one of yor comments were not posted. Perhaps you did something wrong technically in blogger. At least I did not moderate it.

  14. Dynamic Equivalence as a guiding philosophy of translation has been dealt a serious blow by Ernst-August Gutt in his Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context (available from ).One of the main points of his thesis is that there can be information that cannot be communicated to some people because their cognitive environment does not contain the necessary information to inferentially derive that meaning. This has especially been found to be the case in the Piraha language, in which Chomsky's axiom doesn't seem to apply. They have the book of Luke dutifully "translated" into their language, but no one has any interest in reading it because there is no meaning to derive from it to their culture.

  15. Daniel, I once wrote an essay in linguistics on Dynamic Equivalence vs. Formal Correspondence. It is available here:

  16. The KJV IS an excellent translation which has served the church faithfully for centuries.
    However, the KJV-Only concept is an unfortunate deception of our common enemy that some of us have fallen prey to.

    Please take a look here for some modest biblical responses to some of the KJV-Only arguments:

    May God grant you wisdom.

  17. as a KJV user for decades, I must say that this is a great translation, however, consulting other translation for comparison purposes may not hurt. Let us accept that there are sometimes words which are difficult to understand.

    King James Audio Bible

  18. If I may just say, I guess it is healthier to use the version in which you are comfortable with and where your confidence is, however, consulting other versions just to clarify matters or to understand the word of God better would not hurt.
    KJV has its great following just like NIV ESV among others. It would also help to seek the help of the Holy Spirit while reading for more guidance and wisdom.
    King James Audio Bible