Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

29 May 2012

Churches Should Adopt a Modern Version of the Bible

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In my previous post, I asked if churches should abandon the King James Version for a modern English translation. I answered, “Yes,” and suggested there were two main reasons. The first is the inferior Greek text from which the KJV was translated, the Textus Receptus (TR). The second is the nature of the translation itself. The KJV is often lauded as an outstanding literary achievement, never to be repeated. But the truth is that after 400 years it suffers a number of shortcomings when compared to modern versions. I will mention two.

The biggest problem by far with the KJV is the archaic language. English is constantly changing, and after 400 years the language of the KJV might even be considered a different dialect. Notice 2 Cor 6:11–13 in the KJV:

O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children) be ye also enlarged.

How is any English reader supposed to make sense of that? Compare the same verses in the NIV:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

There is no legitimate reason why anyone should be put at the disadvantage of reading a Bible written in an archaic dialect when there are excellent versions available in current English. Even if one believes that the TR is the preferred Greek text, they have an excellent modern English translation available to them in the New King James Version, which is translated from the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the KJV.

Another part of the translation problem with the KJV is that although it was well done for its day, our knowledge of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek has advanced significantly since 1611. This means that today we have a more accurate understanding of what the original authors of Scripture were saying, and we can express that in current, natural English. Even though KJV-only advocates rave about the scholarship of the KJV translators, in fact, they did not understand many of the finer points of the Greek language of the first century.

The KJV translators often failed, for example, to grasp something seemingly so minor as the use of the Greek article, or lack thereof, which has some important differences from English. For example, in John 4:24 (KJV) Jesus explains to a Samaritan woman that “God is a Spirit.” Because of the lack of the article before the word spirit, the KJV translators take the word “spirit” to be indefinite, “a Spirit.” However, it is now well understood that the lack of the definite article indicates that spirit in this situation is qualitative and that the correct translation is “God is spirit,” stressing the nature or essence of God, as we find in the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and NIV. Later in 4:27 when the disciples return, they are surprised, as the KJV puts it, that He was speaking “with the woman,” as though the Gospel writer was pointing to a particular woman—the woman. There is, however, no article “the” in the Greek text, but the KJV translators insert one, failing to understand that the word woman should be taken as an indefinite noun. What was surprising to the disciples was not that Jesus was speaking to this particular woman (“the woman”), but that as a rabbi He was speaking to a woman at all, particularly a Samaritan woman. Again, modern translations like the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and NIV, correctly record the disciples astonishment that Jesus was speaking “with a woman.”

We constantly emphasize the primacy of the Scriptures and how we want people to read and understand the Bible. And truly nothing is more important for a believer than to hear and obey God’s Word. That being the case, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will be of more benefit in aiding a person’s understanding of Scripture than a modern version of Bible.

67 Responses

    1. Evelyn Ironside

      I read the articled on translations on kelvin Ironside’s facebook and couldn’t agree more heartily. It reminds me of the ignoranced of the Christian population in our churches of how we haven’t been taught by godly men intellegently for sooo long. How error has and is so easily crept and creeping into our churches which Paul so adamantly warns us. Evelyn

  1. Jon Ensminger

    Bill, just a couple of thoughts. First, I think the KJV is valuable enough in its own right that abandonment seems an extreme reaction. If you want to use the archaic argument, then the same argument could be used for banishing Shakespeare from the English curriculum. Shakespeare in many instances is far more difficult to comprehend than the KJV, but yet there is great value in studying Shakespeare.

    Second, your post does not convince me that the impeccable credentials of the KJV translation team is somehow trumped by a slightly more nuanced understanding of the Greek based on modern scholarship. The examples you give do not seem to be substantively different semantically: “the” woman versus “a” woman can be understood to mean essentially the same thing, given the context. “God is a spirit ” versus “God is spirit” can also be taken to mean the same thing, depending on how you interpret “a.” “God is a spirit” (as opposed to some material entity) means that God is in essence spirit. To me it seems to come down to splitting semantic hairs.

    If modern translations were monolithic in their treatment of the Greek text, with the KJV as an outlier, then I think your argument would be more convincing. Personally, I like the comparative approach, balancing the reading of different versions to try to reach a good understanding of the text. I’m not ready to throw out the KJV.

    1. Bill Toothman

      While I would not be for banishing Shakespeare from our cirriculum, I am glad that we do not use the older english in our everyday activities. I use the KJV, but I am well aware that many people are struggling to simply understand the language of the KJV let alone the wonderful truths it conveys.

      1. May I suggest that the difficulty in understanding the KJV is not just the language but the message and ideas as well. Context, of course, is vital to semantics. The KJV provides a contextual framework that conveys Biblical concepts. The context is somewhat changed with MVs (modern versions) because the translators are the products of modern culture.

        At the most basic level, we must understand how we process and understand new concepts. As we read, we come to the written material with our own already-formed understanding and concepts. By reading, we acquire new thoughts. This is called assimilation. Upon assimilation, our minds begin the process of adaptation by molding our understanding to reconcile our previous understanding with the new concepts. The adaptation is difficult if the new concepts are different from our previous understanding.

        How does it relate to the KJV? It is simply that the contextual framework and thought of the KJV is radically different from the framework of most modern, actually post-modern, thought. It is a paradigm shift. People coming from a post-modern culture must make radical adaptation to understand thought out of a different paradigm. MVs are more user-friendly to post-moderns because they share the same cultural context.

        So, what’s the big deal about the KJV? Well, let’s go back to the basic principle that context controls the meaning. Thus, the KJV and MVs convey different contextual messages because each translation creates it own context. A translation set in a post-modern paradigm does not say the same message as a translation within a historical context of orthodoxy.

    2. Eric Mote

      Well said, Jon. I would add that the difference between “God is spirit” and “God is a spirit” is not distinguishable in Greek. That is, even though those are two slightly different ideas in English, Greek grammar cannot express one as opposed to the other. It is the job of the interpreter, not the translator, to figure out which is the intended meaning.

      If that’s the worst thing anyone can say about the accuracy of the KJV, I’d say it’s a pretty solid translation.

    3. Bill Combs

      The Shakespeare argument won’t work. I agree there is value in studying Shakespeare in Elizabethan English because Shakespeare actually wrote in Elizabethan English. But the NT was not written in Elizabethan English. The comparable point would be that we should study the NT in the language it was written in. And we do. Seminaries like ours require students to study the original Koine Greek of the NT. But the archaic Elizabethan English of the KJV is not what the NT was written in. Elizabethan English was the current language of the time of the KJV translators. As the translators themselves said in their Preface: “No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current.” And that is exactly the reason for modern versions—so that today’s readers of the Bible can have the same experience as readers in 1611—reading their Bible in current English.

      I choose the points about the Greek article, or lack thereof, to demonstrate that even in small matters the translators’ knowledge was inferior. You say, “If modern translations were monolithic in their treatment of the Greek text, with the KJV as an outlier, then I think your argument would be more convincing.” But that is point I was making in John 4:24 and 4:27—the KJV is an outlier to the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NIV. But I could spent page after page pointing to the translation errors in the KJV. None of the modern commentaries do this because they are no longer based on the KJV. But if one looks at commentaries written before about 1970, one can find comments on page after page pointing out the problems with the KJV.

      Since you do not like my examples from John. Let me point to one that comes to mind that is of more theological import. In Rom 6:2 KJV, Paul says, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Paul’s statement in v. 2 that the believer is presently “dead to sin” has been the source of much unfortunate confusion concerning sanctification. The translation “dead to sin” would seem to indicate that the believer is somehow immune to the influence and effects of sin and has resulted in all kinds of perfectionist theology (Wesleyan, Holiness, Keswick). However, the aorist tense of the Greek word translated “dead” does not actually indicate a state of being, as in the KJV, but a past, completed action: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (NASB). Paul is teaching that we died to the dominion of sin through our union with Christ so that we are no longer slaves to sin. There is much more to say about this, but my point is that the KJV translators missed it here big time, and the theological confusion still goes on to this day.

      1. Dr. Combs, are you saying the KJV translators not only failed to understand the anarthrous noun but also didn’t understand aorist verbs? Were they really so ignorant?

        In Matthew 3:17, everyone translates an aorist active indicative verb with an English present tense. Several aorist usages can be properly rendered as an English present. Most likely, though, what we have in the KJV in Romans 6:2 is merely a relatively mild case of dynamic equivalence, emphasising our present freedom from sin’s power, which is clearly the intent of the verse.

        There are many words and phrases which can be perfectly legitimately translated in more than one way. You cited three. In each, both the KJV and modern translations give a reasonable (but differing) rendering of the underlying Greek. None reveal ignorance or incompetence, whatever one may think of which is absolutely the best translation. Given some of the “interesting” dynamic equivalence wordings of the NIV, I find your endorsement of it odd, giving your criticism of the KJV based on these three cases, all of which are reasonable renderings.

        As to the theological confusion, the perfectionists would argue the same from “we died to sin” as they do from “we are dead to sin.” The only difference between someone who died and someone who is dead is if the first has been resurrected, and resurrection to sin isn’t in the passage.

    4. The proposition that “If you want to use the archaic argument, then the same argument could be used for banishing Shakespeare from the English curriculum” is totally misleading. The Bible was not written in English whereas Shakespeare wrote in English – the English of his day. The equivalent to banning Shakespeare would be banning the original Hebrew and Greek. This Shakespeare argument is without foundation.

  2. John Adair

    It is sad that we have such a never-ending debate over Bible translations. Most folks think that this is a new or twentieth century phenomenon. But the fact is, in the English language alone over 100 translations of the entire Bible have been put on the market: SINCE 1881, when the RV New Testament was first introduced.

    To top that, the Revised Version (RV) of 1881 was not the first revision since 1611 (the year the King James or AV, which means Authorized Version, was first published), but was translation number 72. So, from 1388 (Wycliffe and Purvey’s versions, which were the second and third, after Timothy Priestly’s undated version) to 1881 (493 years), there was only 75 versions, but in the last 120 years there have been over 100 versions. That makes roughly one new version (updated translation) per year. Tell me, when did the AV 1611 become obsolete?

    Are we, the public, so gullible as to believe that the English language has become obsolete every year? Maybe that’s not what the publishers are thinking. Maybe it is that the Lord God Almighty was capable of delivering his words to his writers perfectly, but ever since then God (who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent) has been incapable of preserving his words. Or maybe the King James Bible was God’s words for a time, but now the English language is actually a different language now, so reading the King James Bible is like reading something in a foreign language. No, that’s not it. The text of my copy of the quasi-replica of the AV 1611 put out by Thomas Nelson Publishers has the exact same words in it as does the text of my King James 5th Edition of the Thompson-Chain Reference Bible. The only differences between the two editions are found in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and the way four letters are formed (“s” looks like an “f,” “u” looks like a “v,” capital “J” looks like an “I”, and “e” is sometimes a “y” with a dot over it).

    I have been told many times that teenagers and children can’t understand the KJB. Those that tell me that won’t admit this, but they are implying that it is still a good translation, but our younger folks are too stupid to be able to read it. I don’t believe that for a minute. My 7th -9th graders in our academy had to learn some of the words–just like all adults do, too–but for the most part they understood the AV 1611.

    I was raised reading that Book, and I was a C student in junior and senior high. I hated Shakespeare in high school, and it used the same type of language. But, when I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour (the summer after I graduated from High School), THEN I was able to understand the King James Bible. The reason I was able to understand it was because I believed and claimed James 1:5 and John 14:26 to be true for me personally: not just some generic truth.

    A lady in my church in Louisiana several years ago told me she was having trouble understanding her KJB and asked me what to do. I asked her to read James 1:5, and she did. Then I asked her to read John 14:26. She did. After that, she looked at me as said, “I guess I don’t need a new Bible.” And she didn’t. She later reported to me that she was now having success understanding her Bible.

    As you know, the Bible is a spiritual book and must be spiritually discerned. The only way to understand the Bible is for the Author (God the Holy Ghost) to interpret it to us. It is the Lord Jesus Christ (“the author and finisher of our faith”) who opens our understanding that we might understand the scriptures according to Luke 24:45. It is God the Holy Ghost that teaches us the truth according to John 14:26 and 16:13. It is the Lord God Almighty (God the Father) that reveals dark secrets according to Genesis 41:16, 28; Proverbs 1:6-7; and Daniel 2:28.

    A child doesn’t need an easier-to-read ‘bible’, nor does an adult. You do NOT need to have a working knowledge of biblical languages in order to understand the Book. What one needs to understand the holy Bible, the King James AV 1611, is to be born again, have a believing and humble heart, compare scripture with scripture, and then submit to its authority. When you get to a place in the scriptures where it points out one of your sins/faults/deficiencies, then bow your knee before Almighty God and confess your sin and/or acknowledge your fault/deficiency and ask the Lord for his blessing in overcoming it. That is the secret to understanding the Bible.

    By the way, I have NEVER had a problem leading someone to Christ because of the “archaic” language of the King James Bible. I have NEVER had someone that I was witnessing to reject Jesus Christ because of the translation (the KJB). The only people I have ever met that strongly (including self-righteously) reject the KJB were born again, yet rebellious (rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, 1 Sam 15:23), children of God.

    When confronted by the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes in Mark 7:1-7 about why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating, the Lord Jesus Christ answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me [Isa 29:13]. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Isaiah also said in Isaiah 58:1, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. And Paul said in 1 Cor 14: 8, 33, & 40, For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?…For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints…Let all things be done decently and in order.

    The modern “bibles” are from a corrupt/satanic line of manuscripts, with the devil as their author, and are for the purpose of bringing in Satan’s One World Religion: the New World Order. The Laodicean Church Age could just as well have been called the Revisionist Age. Remember, Laodicea means rights of the people, or civil rights. This is why so many Baptist churches have switched from being pastor-led, to elder/deacon/committee-led churches. Ultimately, the rejection of the KJB by pastors and seminary professors is what has brought in the age of moral decline in the United States, as well as economic decline, and it is why the once great USA (the Bread Basket of the World and unchallenged leader in Industry and military power) has had so many wars that we just can’t seem to win and why our local, state, and national leaders simply do not know right from wrong.

    The only hope for real revival is for Christians to return to their first love: the word of God. That word of God in the English language is the Authorized Version of 1611: the King James Bible.

    1. nick

      I was going to respond, then I realized that my two-cents would certainly not change your rhetoric one bit.

      1. Christie McLain

        I had the same second thoughts, but then decided perhaps someone else reading may care. It’s unlikely anyone reading this article is undecided already, but on the off chance someone does need to hear the other side…

    2. Christie McLain

      I think the KJV is fine for those who grew up with it and are comfortable with it, but should not be held so closely that other solid translations are excluded. Perhaps in your church or town you do not have many immigrants, but here it is an impediment to try to teach God’s truth in this way to those who are not native English speakers–God is not a God of confusion. Even native English speakers have to be taught to understand that the words used do not mean what we currently understand them to mean (i.e. let your conversation does not mean when you have a conversation) so it can be understood. I think the example in the article is excellent. Comparing the various translations, the meaning and thrust of the Gospel remains unchanged. There is not a KVJ Spanish Bible, nor a KJV Ukrainian Bible, etc. Translation is so that God’s truth can be understood by the common man and not just Greek/Hebrew scholars. I grew up on the KJV, was the only one in my high school class who understood Shakespeare because of it, and that is not a good enough reason to handicap those who do not yet know God. Of course we can learn to reinterpret the words to understand what it is supposed to mean, but is this really the best way to reach those God loves? The poor, the homeless, the uneducated–the least of these? Does God not love them then since they don’t know old English and may not have the ability to understand it? To claim the downfall of the United States is due to understandable English is extreme–it seems to ignore the natural fallen state of man. It’s not that they don’t love a translation, it’s that they don’t love God.

    3. John,

      Just a word. You use John 14:26 and John 16:13 as proof texts for believers being given spiritual insight into the meaning of Scripture. Please think about to whom this was directly written and why. These verses have to do with the direct revelation to the Twelve as proved by the fact that the Lord promised to “remind them” through the Spirit of what he had already taught them while he was with them on this earth. This cannot apply to every believer in every age. The same holds true for John 16:13 as it applies to the Spirit’s coming to them in power at Pentecost and revealing “things to come” (prophetic revelation). This is not a promise of spiritual discernment into Scripture but a promise of explicit revelation of divine truth to the Twelve alone. Interpret it otherwise and you have believers receiving ongoing inspired revelatory truth today which I do not think you believe.


      1. Dan Steward

        Bro Frank, I believe you are ignoring the difference between the work of inspiration/revelation and that of illumination. In their context these verses speak to realities that go beyond the apostolic age. The Holy Spirit does indeed teach us and bring to remembrance things Jesus has said to us — He just does it through the completed canon of Scripture.
        If you say 16:13 is limited to the Apostles, then you also say (in context) that the convicting work of the Spirit was only valid at that time.
        Certainly there is an element where those verses had a different significance to the Apostles than to us, but that doesn’t dismiss the correct application of them for us today. The Holy Spirit indeed illuminates the believer as he studies God’s Word.

        1. Not ignoring the difference between illumumination and inspiration/revlation, Dan, nor denying the continuing role of the convicting work of the Spirit of sin, righteousness and judgement. Obviously, the Lord, through the Spirit, brings to mind the Word and its application to our lives. That is, in large measure, how sanctification takes place.
          However, it is precisely, the context of the troubling news of Jesus’ departure to his apostles (John 14:1)and the promised sending of the Spirit as His replacement (John 14:18) to His Apostles that limits the application significantly to them.
          Cannot really develop this here but for a more thorough analysis, the book, “Truly the Signs of an Apostle” available at has some treatment of this. I know the author well.

          Good wishes,


    4. Brian

      John, your arguments are completely valid.

      However, they would also apply to ANY other accurate translation of the Bible into English. They are the same arguments used AGAINST the KJV by those who used the Geneva Bible, and someone who uses the ESV would also be completely correct in using the same arguments – the only thing that they would need to change in your post would be to substitute “ESV” for “KJV,” and the statements would be spot on.

      Please remember that I did say that any modern translation would need to be ACCURATE. I believe that paraphrases as well as the NIV would be eliminated by the term “accurate,” and certainly some other translations would also be eliminated.

      The aspect of the debate that bothers me the most is that the KJV-only crowd point out the errors of inaccurate translations such as the NIV and imply, therefore, that it is impossible to have an accurate, modern translation.

      And just for the record, I hardly ever refer to anything other than the KJV myself, but then, I grew up on it and on Shakespeare and have a good understanding of the language and style of it.

    5. Jeff

      Dear John Adair,

      Never confuse the strength of your emotions with the validity of your argument.

      It is arguments like these that forced Western Civilization to utilize the Latin Vulgate for centuries after none of the people understood it.

      1 Corinthians 11:16


    6. Jim Stiekes

      I also still enjoy the KJ. But if we do not need a new version, why did England of 1611 need ANOTHER one after the first seventy-four?
      Jim Stiekes

      1. Doc

        Actually England didn’t “need” a new translation in 1611 – there were two fairly contemporary versions the authorized Bishop’s Bible and the Puritans’ Geneva Bible. King James thought that the Geneva Bible was the worst translation available. He attempted to authorize a new translation to dull the growing use of the Geneva Bible – which had anti-monarchy footnotes.

    7. Chris McLain

      When I was in the Marine Corps I was issued a Bible in Boot Camp. It was not KJV. However, it stuck with me over the years and I saw several come to Christ using it. But there was one big disappointment to me, one young Marine who came to know Christ was stationed in California after completing training with me on the East Coast. He eventually fell in with a KJV only church that convinced him he was not saved because of the version I had used to share Christ with him. He wrote me a letter of his true conversion once shown the truth in the KJV. The authors of the original texts were inspired, not the translators of the KJV. We need to stop damning people over a version. God’s Word will not return void.

  3. Robert Wales

    The best argument, in my opinion, for using a modern translation comes from the Preface to the 1611 King James Translation. The translators left their philosophy of translation there for future generations to see. For all the awe that the KJV-only crowd has for those translators, they tend to ignore what the translators actually believed about their work.

    It’s worth noting that the translation project of the KJV was opposed at the time because many believed that the existing English translations were sufficient and that a new translation would produce confusion in the Body. The translators of the KJV opposed this idea and believed that language evolved, and that believers should have a copy of the Word of God in the language that they used daily.

    “Many mens mouths have bene open a good while (and yet are not stopped) with speeches about the Translation so long in hand, or rather perusals of Translations made before: and aske what may be the reason, what the necessitie of the employment: Hath the Church bene deceived, say they, all this while? Hath her sweet bread bene mingled with leaven, her silver with drosse, her wine with water, her milke with lime?”

    “But how shall men meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknowen tongue?”

    They were also clear that they did not believe their work should be the end of the project, but that translations should continue as languages changed and that those future translations would also be the preserved Word of God.

    “Now to the later we answere; that wee doe not deny, nay wee affirme and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set foorth by men of our profession (for wee have seene none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the Kings Speech which hee uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian and Latine, is still the Kings Speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expresly for sence, every where.”

    “No cause therefore why the word translated should bee denied to be the word, or forbidden to be currant, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting foorth of it. For what ever was perfect under the Sunne, where Apostles or Apostolike men, that is, men indued with an extraordinary measure of Gods spirit, and priviledged with the priviledge of infallibilitie, had not their hand? The Romanistes therefore in refusing to heare, and daring to burne the Word translated, did no lesse then despite the spirit of grace, from whom originally it proceeded, and whose sense and meaning, as well as mans weaknesse would enable, it did expresse.”

  4. Dwayne

    How do I keep this simple and to the point? The “KJV only” or “only the KJV” crowd have now for decades developed a “translation doctrine” which they now have raised to the level of “essential, crucial doctrine.” A concomitant position or corollary of this man-made doctrine is that to defend it equals a “defending of the faith.” Their logic then extends out further to include the “doctrines of separation” which means those who do not agree with them are heretics and/or apostates. Therefore, they must “come out from among them” and “be ye separate.” As time has passed, there is even more extremism incorporated into the crowd’s thinking: if you have not been saved via the KJV, then you are not saved and must get truly saved under the KJV….and, if so, baptized by immersion….sort of an ana-anabaptist position. And, then in “defense of the faith” over the “translation doctrine” they do “reverse translation” of the Textus Receptus. Since they could not find an actual copy(ies) of the AV’s Textus Receptus, you make one up using this method. And, then have the audacity to call this “divinely inspired.”
    I personally have nothing against the KJV. I was raised on it. I was taught using it both in bible college and seminary. But, I for one, will never join the ranks of the “KJV only” or “only the KJV” crowd.
    If I have concerns in the contemporary era, it is for “paraphrases” of God’s Word being passed off as actual translations from “original texts.” Can a doctrine get changed or markedly modified by a “lay person” in a hurry following a reading of these? YES!
    I am all for new translations that remain faithful to the original text and the believed communication from the Spirit. It is a universal truth that people prefer hearing and reading God’s Word in a language that they know and with which they are familiar. From what I know, that is precisely why the KJV was written in its day.

  5. Brian

    I notice that in the debate, the KJV-only crowd use the same arguments to defend the KJV against any newer translation as the defenders of the Geneva Bible used against the KJV. I find that somewhat ironic.

    I also notice that the exact same arguments used to defend the KJV could properly be used to defend ANY ACCURATE English translation.

    Even more noticeable is that an unregenerate soul will have difficulty understanding ANY accurate translation, whether the KJV or a more-modern version. But that lack of understanding isn’t due to the language so much as it is due to the lack of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit’s leading and guiding “into all Truth,” how can anyone understand the Word of God? The result for the unsaved is a paraphrase or an inaccurate translation of what they think the Bible says rather than an understanding of what God actually said in His Word.

    And I am left with an unanswered question for the KJV-only crowd: why would it be impossible to translate into modern English? Some translations are inaccurate and erroneous, but does that mean that it is impossible to accurately translate the Bible? The KJV-only arguments seem to say so.

    1. Brian, the question is not between the Geneva Bible and the KJV, it’s between the KJV and MVs (modern versions). Also, you are assuming too much about what KJV folks believe. It’s not that most believe a modern translation cannot be made, rather, it’s that no MV, except possibly the NKJV, is translated from the traditional line of texts accepted, preserved, and transmitted by the church. MVs are based on derived, eclectic text.

      But, Brian, you are right that it’s the Holy Spirit, Who brings illumination and produces faith in the heart of the individual through the reading of the Word. This is irrespective of translation. Natural man cannot comprehend Scripture through reason and intellect alone–it is spiritually discerned.

      1. Tim

        Mr. Pittman,
        Two thoughts on what you said:
        -I don’t think Brian is assuming too much about what KJV only advocates say, since I’ve heard them say the things he mentions. Many strongly KJV-only advocates would not even accept the NKJV, even though it is from the same line of manuscripts as the KJV. I’ve heard it said that the NKJV is like marijuana-not too harmful in itself, but leads to stronger and worse things (other new translations). Not that I agree with that, but that’s what I’ve heard KJV-only advocates say
        -Second, it’s not completely true to critique modern versions because they come from a “derived, eclectic text” while the KJV came from “the traditional line of texts.” No two Greek manuscripts are exactly alike. The TR is not a full manuscript that someone found; the Catholic humanist Desiderius Erasmus published several editions of the Greek NT that he developed from several late Greek manuscripts. His work is what eventually became known as the TR. But he practiced textual criticism among the manuscripts that he used, just as any newer GNT does. Also, none of Erasmus’ manuscripts contained several verses in the end of Revelation, so he translated the Vulgate back into Greek so his GNT would be complete. Erasmus’ editions of the GNT were a “derived, eclectic text,” although they certainly used less manuscripts than other GNT’s.

        1. Tim, you can always find extremists who provide ammunition for your rebuttal. However, please allow me to speak for myself without trying to paint me into a corner with views that I don’t profess.

          Secondly, I heard your litany about manuscripts, Erasmus, etc. many times from many sources. It wasn’t persuasive then and it isn’t any more persuasive now. The bottom line is the Providence of God versus the efforts of man. My belief is that God preserved His Word through the Church.

  6. James West

    There is a practicle argument for moving on from the KJV to a reliable and more modern translation. When God had the Bible written, He did so in the common language of the people to whom He was communicating. In the NT, that language was the koine Greek, i.e. the street language of the day, not the classical Greek of the day. If communication is the goal, there is no reason to rely upon a 17th century version that uses expressions that are foreign to modern readers and students. Today, it takes many commentaries and Bible dictionaries to ascertain accurately much of the KJV (or preachers who claim to have the inside meaning of words). If Jesus and the apostles made use of the Septuigint translation, there is no rational argument against moving on to a clearer and more reliable translation, providing that no doctrine of the Scriptures is altered or compromised. Many people have moved on in their prayer language to a more modern expression instead of feeling the need to continue using the “hast, wert, art, thou, thee” etc. God does not speak or communicate only in Shakespeare’s language, so why should we feel compelled to do so. Most of the “KJV Only” crowd are so far out in left field they find it next to impossible to score a run at home plate. If one likes or even prefers the KJV for personal reasons, fine, but please don’t use specious arguments to impose your views on others who share an equal admiration and devotion to the Word of God.

    1. James, I would question your method of reasoning. You are using an inductive argument by saying this is an incident of how God did it once, so it must follow that is how God is doing it now. Scripture clearly teaches that God revealed Himself in diverse ways at differing points of time. [“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets . . . .” (Hebrews 1:1)]

      May I point out that this is the same hermeneutic that Pentecostals used to develop their “Initial Evidence” doctrine. It is false hermeneutic.

      On the other hand, I would argue that the KJV represents the English language at its highest point of development. Elizabethan English is a highly denotative language than the current state of American English, which is much more connotative and contextual. Listen to the following interchange between a teen and an adult.

      Teen: Man, that’s cool!

      Adult: So, it’s not so hot?

      Teen: No, I mean it’s hot!

      Adult: Well, that’s what cool means . . . without heat, not hot . . . .

      Teen: Aw, ya know what I mean . . . like ya know . . . it’s cool . . . ya know . . . .

      Today, American English is loose, slangy, fuzzy, highly connotative, contextual, and variable in semantics without fixed reference or solid meaning. If you don’t believe me, just watch TV. Now, James, please explain how you communicate denotative concepts with understanding to this language skill level? Do you sink to their level of comprehension, thereby sacrificing important Biblical truths, or do you try to raise their level of understanding? Some people tried this with the plethora of “hippie” slang versions of the 1960-70s.

      Finally, IMHO, this is part of the problem with the decline of doctrinal teaching in our Churches today. We are on a down-grade trend under the mistaken idea of reaching people. The problem is that our message becomes so anemic and diluted that it doesn’t change lives. They swallow it without effect.

  7. Landon

    I like to keep it real. I see the “TR” as a text that was used powerfully in the reformation. I also happen to use the KJV as my base text, though I am certainly not afraid to read my NKJV, but I would definitely say the KJV is my preferred final authority. But my biggest gripe is the way new translations are handled. While they may be created by Godly men, they willingly hand over their work to mammon. I very much desire to see Bible translations put back under the authority of the church, where the copyright is secured by a church authority, and not mammon. To be concise, this is why I mostly adhere to the KJV. Amazing, that after 400 years this Bible is still in use.

    One thing I find particular intriguing is my recent decision to stop defending certain readings in the KJV and simply quote them as if they were scripture (and indeed they are scripture) and watch how certain people react. It has actually helped me to better understand the KJVO position and why they accept their position by faith. You see, I have begun to notice, that there are some who would say they are not against the KJV, but only against King James Onlyism, but in reality this is not so. There are those who are so adamantly against KJVOs, that they seem to have inadvertently begun attacking whole versus, and even those who prefer a certain rendering of the KJV. I just find this incredibly interesting. It is not about the KJV at this point, and I see where the KJVOs are coming from, though I still do not completely agree with them, I merely understand their concern for the reverence for scripture. But it amazes how the forum debates have evolved. Do not fear people, I will not name names, I am only giving a general observation. In any case I am seeing an interesting development. While KJVOs tend to have a disdain for modern versions of the Bible, many keyboard warriors on the other side seem to have a disdain towards anyone who simply prefers the KJV. Take a look, it is quite fascinating. Watch when someone quotes from the KJV and someone else comes along and criticizes it, even though that person may not be a KJVO. The funny thing is, if a person chooses to utilize a KJV, they are often held to a higher standard to defend their decision to prefer readings in the KJV. One does not necessarily encounter that on the other side.

    In any case, I will not say that one side is more innocent or guilty than the other, I am only noting the intriguing world of the translation debate. While I prefer the KJV, I know God has the ability to utilize almost any translation to edify a person, but I myself felt VERY compelled to use TRish Bibles after the thorough research I conducted into the history of the Bible and textual criticism. But remember, the Lord Jesus Christ is our first love!

  8. Dr. Combs posted: “The biggest problem by far with the KJV is the archaic language. English is constantly changing, and after 400 years the language of the KJV might even be considered a different dialect.”

    IMHO, this is a superficial argument. It is essentially the same argument that is being made in worship, music, out-reach, dress, behavior, etc. It is a down-grade argument. We must adapt to fit the desires and/or perceived needs of the people. Although we must be flexible and adaptable to some extent in the interest of reaching people (I Corinthians 9:19-23), this is neither the time nor place.

    There is a touch of irony here about the “archaic language.” Dr. Combs quibbles over the nuances of the Koine Greek but what is more archaic than Koine Greek? This dialect, sometimes called Hellenistic Greek, was the language of the common people and the market place. No living person, including Dr. Combs, has ever heard the language spoken or lived in a culture where it was spoken. It is ironic that scholars believe they care resurrect this archaic language and reconstruct all of it shades and hues of meaning from a comparatively few documents after 2,000 years. (Oh, I know there are thousands of copies but there are relatively few writings.)

    Furthermore, the KJV had a tremendous impact on the development of the English language. One could not seriously study the English language and literature without recognizing the influence of the KJV, And Elizabethan English was spoken in the remote corners of Appalachia through the middle of the last century. Even today, the words are recognizable and understandable, although fallen from common usage in American speech.

    Finally, I question whether Dr. Combs view of language is archaic. He appears to hold to the 19th century view of language encapsulated in words with static meaning arranged according to rules of grammar. If so, this is an archaic view because language changes as Dr. Combs noted. Even the Koine Greek, which was used worldwide, changed in usage and meaning with time and place. Now, Dr. Combs, how do we know which time, place, and sub-culture is the normative Koine Greek? The modern understanding of language is that it is contextual.

    My argument is that the KJV is the English language translation of God’s Word embodying the contextual framework of concepts revealed by Divine inspiration in a language that is understandable to the modern English reader. The unique role of the KJV in language and literature has brought theological content and Biblical meaning to specific English words. No MV can lay hold on these claims of context and semantics. Dr. Combs, I think, is not seeing the Providence of God here, even though, he probably sees it in the universality of Koine Greek, Romans roads, etc. during the first century as fulfilling Galatians 4:4.

    Dr. Combs, with all due respect to your person and position, I cannot agree with you. I fear that your recommendation is not wise and will only fan the flames of the KJV controversy and bring further division within Fundamentalism. Some things, although are personal opinions, are better left unsaid.

    1. Typo: “It is ironic that scholars believe they care resurrect this archaic language and reconstruct all of it shades and hues of meaning from a comparatively few documents after 2,000 years.”

      Correction: It is ironic that scholars believe they can resurrect this archaic language and reconstruct all of it shades and hues of meaning from a comparatively few documents after 2,000 years.

  9. Mathew Ward

    In listening to both sides of the King James Onlyist vs the Modern Versionists, it always comes across to me as the unmovable object meets the unstoppable force.

    Instead of arguing over the translation, how about applying and living the Scriptures?

    I honestly believe that this argument (KJVO vs MV) is a Romans 14 / 1 Corinthians 8 issue. If we would apply the principles taught in these passages we could have unity even while holding to opposite views. This issue along with dress, music and language has caused more division in the body of Christ then all the other issues combined.

    I grew up with the KJV. I became a KJVOnlyist for many years. Now I prefer my KJV (KJP) while accepting those who have other Bible versions and would rather fellowship over the Word and live what it teaches then to argue over which version.

  10. First, contemporary bibliology seems to be, and, as I see it, is the greatest departure from biblical theology in the church. It’s like the forming of a politically correct history in a public school social studies class—certain characters have disappeared as if kidnapped.

    Second, and related closely to the first, the Holy Spirit has been ignored in much of bibliology today too. His testimony through the church to His Words means almost nothing. MV sees Him in inspiration, but He disappears in preservation unless it’s convenient (canonicity of books, an implied doctrine at best).

    Third, there is one God, therefore, one truth, one goodness, and one beauty. MV argue from an atheist worldview here. They have more than one truth, and now at least a different beauty, with a different goodness guaranteed as a result. This is one point in aesthetics that the British haven’t slid as quickly, it doesn’t seem, as fast as Americans, when it comes to literature. I might be wrong on my evaluation of Brits, but I’m thinking of Roger Scruton and then the recent support over there of keeping the KJV in their schools and libraries. There was a height of beauty in the English language, in poetry, in literature, and that has eroded by the influences of modernism and postmodernism, as has art and music. I understand how that parallels nicely with modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

    Those saying that the TR is an inferior text with complete and absolute dogmatism is akin to saying with the same dogmatism that the world came about through evolution. When you look behind the bravado, you find there isn’t much there.

    I average about 3 decent gospel presentations a week to lost people, and several more partials, and the KJV has never given me trouble to a lost audience. Never. The biggest trouble I have in this regard is with people who have heard bad things about the KJV, which has come only from professing believers.

  11. Based on his article and recommendation, I have questions for Dr. Combs. I would be honored to have him to candidly answer.

    Many people, especially in the South, grew up being taught and believing that the KJV is the inspired Word of God. If we agree that one who violates his conscience by doing what he believes to be wrong is sinning and we are not to encourage anyone to go against his conscience, then how would you apply this to your recommendation?

    1. Do you change versions in small Southern churches where most congregants believe the KJV is God’s Word in English? Would not this be encouraging them to go against their conscience?
    2. Do you force a version change upon a congregation of primarily elderly folks who have studied and memorized the KJV most of their lives?
    3. Do you try to sell children and young people on the new versions when their parents are committed to the KJV?

    1. Bill Combs

      Question 1:
      I guess it depends on who the “you” is. If a church changes from the KJV it should be because the majority of the congregation wants to do so–I believe in congressional church government and this is a pretty big decision. I don’t think you need 100% agreement. Those who do want to change can still use their KJV. Their conscience is not being violated if the preacher preaches from a different version. They may not like it, but his preaching is not causing them to violate their conscience.

      Question 2:
      I would never force a congregation to change. See above. My post was saying they should do it because of the benefits, but they would need to be convinced of those benefits.

      Question 3:
      I would not try to sell the children on anything particularly. Children should not be voting anyway, in my opinion. If I was trying to make the switch as a pastor, I would only do it if I could convince the church it was the right thing to do.

      1. Dr. Combs, I appreciate your reply and you have offered a most reasonable answer. However, I ask you to consider your influence and the ramifications. A seminary professor is an icon to his young seminarians. A recommendation from him is only slightly below the level of Scripture.

        Young men leave seminary with a zeal to impart their new-found knowledge in the hearts and minds of the uneducated church members. Also, this has the high value of snob appeal to knowledge versus the ignorance of the people. How often have both of us seen men go out to a new pastorate with burning zeal only to split the church and resign in six months. Although seminary-educated, it was zeal without knowledge.

        In the South especially, I’ve seen this scenario repeated time and again. Whereas rabid KJVO’ers, Ruckmanites in particular, have a reputation of being hateful, contentious, and domineering, yet the overly zealous “apostles” of the MVs have helped polarize and widen the gap between the camps as well.

        Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am definitely of the TR-KJV persuasion; let there be no doubt about that. However, if I was making a recommendation for change in Bible versions, I would wait until I was asked by the congregants rather than trying to prompt and prod it. To lobby for a version change may be firing the primer before the powder charge is fixed.

        Thank you for your time and consideration.

        1. Bill Combs

          But the point is that by using the KJV/TR. the folks in a particular church are at a tremendous disadvantage in understanding the Word of God. So there is nothing that a pastor could do that would be more helpful for the spiritual growth of his members than to put a good modern version into their hands. Of course, he should teach on this subject and explain the reason and advantages for the switch and not force this on the congregation.

  12. Dr. Combs wrote: “In my previous post, I asked if churches should abandon the King James Version for a modern English translation. I answered, “Yes,” and suggested there were two main reasons. The first is the inferior Greek text from which the KJV was translated, the Textus Receptus (TR).”

    Dr. Combs, what is your standard or benchmark for calling the TR inferior?

    1. Bill Combs

      The TR is based on a small number of late manuscripts. It does not even represent the majority of Byzantine manuscripts. So even if one believes the later Byzantine text is superior, the TR comes up short.

      You man want to look at my article on Erasmus and the TR at

      And also my article on Errors in the KJV at

      But I believe the Byzantine text is later than the Western and Alexandrian and the the Alexandrian, on the whole, is superior, though not always correct. The arguments for this are in all the standard literature on the subject and too long to go into detail at this time. I will have a later post on this, explaining, in my opinion, why what I just said is true.

      1. Dr. Combs, thank you for replying. With all due respect, I am well aware of the “arguments . . . in all the standard literature on the subject” but I wanted to establish if you accepted and held these views.

        My point is that the basis of disagreement is the methodology behind the text. One view is a text preserved by the Providence of God through ordinary circumstances and the other is a text selected/preserved/restored by intentional scholarship and a rational methodology of textual criticism.

        Although we may debate along the standard lines (e.g whether older texts are necessarily superior, etc.), I would like to move away from such well-worn moot contentions to a new matter striking at the very heart of modern textual criticism for your consideration. I contend that the Lower Criticism (i.e. modern textual criticism) was born out of the same 19th century intellectual worldview as the now discredited Higher Criticism and shares the same epistemological assumptions and intellectual underpinnings, namely that the textual issues can be resolved by reason and methodology. This was spawned by the hubris of science and faith in the scientific methodology. Physics, the most basic of sciences, was turned on its head in the 20th century when the well-established laws of Newtonian physics were challenged by quantum physics. In other words, Newtonian physics, which worked well at the macro level, did not work at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. You cannot derive Newtonian physics from quantum mechanics and vice versa. It seems there is an emergent factor so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

        My argument is like physics, the whole concept of text, meaning, translation, etc. is controlled by an emergent factor so the whole is more than the pedantic quibbling over word nuances, variants, etc. It is the whole Word of God preserved through the Divine Providence of God working through the ordinary affairs of men.

        Furthermore, I would argue that both inspiration and canonization were similar, although different, processes. All three Divine actions–inspiration, canonization, and preservation–are necessary for us to know that we have a reliable, infallible, and authoritative Scripture that is the final and complete Word of God. Neither inspiration (II Peter 1:21) nor canonization was by the intentional efforts of man but it was God working through men, even using their own vocabulary and style of writing, to give a Divinely inspired, infallible, and authoritative revelation. If so, why are we suddenly dependent upon reason and scholarship for an intelligible and authoritative Scripture?

        Again, it is our view of preservation that is the basis of our disagreement. A traditional view of preservation through Divine Providence leads one to the TR-KJV side of the debate. On the other hand, if one believes that scholarship, methodology, and reason trump faith in Divine Providence, then he or she would tend toward the other side.

        (Please note the diversity on both sides; a TR-KJV position does not necessarily mean a Ruckmanite.)

        1. Bill Combs

          I believe the problem is that you have a faulty view of preservation when it comes to Scripture. I believe that the TR has been divinely preserved and that the Alexandrian text has been divinely preserved to our day. I believe that God has preserved the text of Scripture in all the extant manuscripts. Perhaps you might want to read my article on preservations at:

  13. Anytime I’m tempted to think that professed Bible-believing Christianity in America is in good shape — which, actually, is never — all I have to do is remind myself that there are still snake-handlers, and there are still people who would doggedly argue with the title of this post.

    1. Bible-believing Christianity would believe, well, the Words of the Bible, which Bible-believing Christianity of the 16th and 17th century had faith, derived from those Words, that all and every of them were preserved and accessible in the language in which they were written. Bible-believing Christianity printed and agreed upon certain creeds and confessions and statements declaring this without exception. Then along came enlightenment, which we could say has been a bane to professing Bible-believing Christianity, when science became sovereign over the Bible.

      Believing in a perfect Bible has not been the reason for the regression and distortion of Bible-believing Christianity. Certainty about Scripture isn’t the cause of modernism and postmodernism. That people like yourself would think and say that regularly altering and questioning the text of Scripture would leave Christianity in better shape is a bigger contributor to its poverty and paucity.

      And that’s with saying that I bought both your books and have found them interesting and helpful.

    2. Dan, this is an ingenious propaganda technique that one learns in sophomore political science–guilt by association. It speaks with neither rhyme nor reason nor love nor understanding, only arrogance and ridicule.

  14. Bill Combs

    John Adair said: “Ultimately, the rejection of the KJB by pastors and seminary professors is what has brought in the age of moral decline in the United States, as well as economic decline.”

    Never thought of this. John should lobby Barack Obama to pass a law or issue an executive order to force all seminary profs like me to use the KJB in our classes. Then the economy would improve and Obama would easily be reelected.

    1. Dr. Combs, I recognize sarcasm when I read it and there is nothing wrong with sarcasm in its place. Christ and Paul both used it. However, it glosses over a point worth considering here. If Scripture as a whole tends to create a particular worldview in its readers, then this point may not be wide of the mark.

      Can we convincingly argue that all versions create the same context and worldview? I think not. Each version by its language, syntax, and word choice creates its own context. Thus, it would reasonably follow that the worldview formed by reading each particular translation would vary from translation to translation.

      Much has been written about the KJV around its 400th anniversary. The acclaim and consensus of scholars is that the KJV’s influence was pervasive and formative in language, literature and culture of the English-speaking world. Mark Noll of Wheaton and Notre Dame fame wrote of the KJV influence in America in particular. In other words, it shaped our world-view that we identify with conservative American culture. Even unbelievers asserted to the moral teachings and our understanding of the KJV provided our understanding of right and wrong.

      It is notably, I think, that the decline in American morality parallels the rise of modern versions and changing attitudes toward the KJV some circles; whether it is a concomitant factor or not, it is open to debate. At least, it is worth a reasoned reply.

  15. Bill Combs

    You are right in a way, but wrong in another. It is true that the KJV has shaped our culture as you say, but it is not because it was the KJV–it is because it was the Bible. It is the Bible that has had all the effects you talk about. It happens to have been the KJV. But the same would have been true if the KJV had never been translated. The Bishops Bible would have had the same effect.

  16. Mike

    Mr. Combs,

    I don’t consider myself a theologist, but I continue to ask myself of the underlying purpose of your perpetual attack on the KJV. Is it scholarship, argument, or heresy? How many do you lead astray using your advanced degrees as leverage to impune, ridicule, and
    harrass? Are you even a Bible-believing Christian or are you a “false teacher who
    speaketh lies”? How does your undermining of Scripture using tired arguments benefit the body of Christ and bring more souls into His Kingdom? To me, you seem like a self-agrandizing, egotistical, arrogant blowhard quick to ridicule those with whom you allegedly share Faith. Your writing brings to mind at least two cautions: 1) Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have known; and 2) Professing themselves to be wise they became as foils.

    1. BE

      “Professing themselves to be wise they became as foils.”

      Probably more true than you even realize.:)

    2. Bill Combs

      My purpose is not to attack the KJV itself per se. I am pointing out the problems in the KJV only to show that it is inferior to a number of modern versions, both in its textual base and its actual translation. None of this is the fault of the KJV translators, who did a good job, an excellent job, given the fact they translated 400 years ago. The KJV is still the Word of God and sufficient for faith and practice. But there are superior alternatives today.

      My main attack is on the KJV-only position, who elevate the KJV to a place that no Bible translation can have. Only the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic writings are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. I do this because those who say that only the KJV is the Word of God are teaching heresy. I realize they (the KJV-only proponents) don’t believe or know they are teaching heresy, but, nevertheless, they are. Just as I point out other heretical positions, so I do for the KJV-only, hoping to recover those trapped in the error and to prevent others from falling into it.

      It is not surprising that those who hold this false teaching about the KJV attack me. I understand it completely.

      1. Mike

        Consider this Mr. Combs, your attempts to elevate your argument by putting down the KJV discredits yourself and God’s Word. You hold a position that only the Originals are inspired…which originals are those? The original commandments that Moses brought down from the mountain? The original sheep skin transcribed by the Levitical priests? Or perhaps its the original letters written by the Apostles? We don’t have the originals, Dr. Combs…doesn’t that mean that the copies are neither inspired, infallible, nor the Word of God for that matter? Perhaps the original manuscripts were full of grammatic license and hyperbole because the writers used archaic language and their works are meaningless in this modern time? Perhaps your god isn’t strong enough to preserve his word… you see how your argument reinforces the view that its all a bunch of made up hooey? Using your argument, maybe the Quran and all the hookah smoking imams ideas of Allah are true…have you seen those originals, Dr. Combs? On what basis do you accept one and not the other? Your position is a farce…its like saying I can’t take generic medication because only the name brand forumulation is the “real” thing, but in the mean time you’ll peddle your street version drug you make in your basement to your seminarians. Let God be True and every man a liar. If He isn’t strong enough to preserve His Word and inspire the copies of it, maybe He isn’t God at that what you’d prefer we’d believe? Our God isn’t Omnipotent, because He can’t keep and preserve His Word. Would you prefer the relativism of John Lennon’s “Imagine”? Maybe there’s no authority of Scripture, or Hell to shun and Heaven to gain? Perhaps all religion and good intentions lead to Heaven…isn’t that what could be gleaned from some of your modern versions? How dare we call immorality and homosexuality sin, because God is Love, right? Your argument is misguided and in the end modern versions by and large dilute the Scripture and change the context of the message to create a different message from what God intended.

      2. Dr. Combs, I must admit to being confused. If your “main attack is on the KJV-only position,” why write a post which attacks the KJV? Why say that churches should abandon it, if the KJV is not your target? That doesn’t sound like an attack on KJVO.

        It is not only KJVO people who still use and prefer the KJV.

        Why say that the KJV is based on only a few manuscripts, when its text is actually much closer to the majority text than the text underlying the translations you prefer? The Pericope Adulterae, the ending of Mark, for example, these are both in the KJV and the majority of manuscripts, but not in your preferred text. If either text could properly be said to be based on just a few manuscripts, it is yours. This line of argumentation gives the impression that it is not KJVO, but the KJV itself, that you are targeting.

        Why do you endorse a translation like the NIV that heavily uses dynamic equivalence and then nitpick about the KJV rendering of a couple anarthrous nouns? That also gives the impression that it is the KJV itself which is in your sights.

        If you are refuting heresy, why have you not used Scripture to do so? You won’t recover anyone from the heresy you describe by talking about anarthrous nouns or the number of manuscripts or the preface or archaic language. Why have you not used Scripture to refute this heresy? The only thing that will recover anyone from heresy is the power of the Spirit working through His Word. You do not give the impression that the heresy is your primary target. I am glad to hear that is the case, but I would not have known it by the way you have approached this whole discussion. You have not brought Scripture on the key points of the heresy — insteady, you’ve given the impression in the last two posts that it is all about the KJV.

        I can easily understand why you might prefer another translation. I can easily appreciate that you think the eclectic / critical text is superior. I can respect the argument that modern language would be preferable.

        But I’m having a very hard time with an argument worded in such a way as to denigrate a great translation and to imply that everyone who prefers it and continues to use it is pretty much an idiot who doesn’t have the sense to know how anarthrous nouns and the aorist tense should be translated, nor any knowledge of the manuscript issues involved.

  17. Mike

    My apologies for the mistyped quote above, my cellphone autocorrect wasn’t much help, but I believe you likely know the verses I was referring to. Your vitriolic attack on the KJV and KJVO believers reminds me of when I was in my freshman biology class at the University of Wisconsin and the lengths that the professor went to ridicule those who dared to believe in the biblical view of Creation and how we weren’t “scientists”. So, doctor smartypants, what version of the Bible do I need to believe in order to accept a literal six-day creation, or the fall of man, or the law of Moses, the example and teachings of the Prophets, which of the various stories of the Gospels re-told different ways is the “right” one (or does this further show error in the text), did the apostle Paul really see Jesus on the road to Damascus, and did the Apostle John get the revelation from God or was he just tripping on some bad or hallucinating from his torture and isolation on Patmos? Did Wescott and Hort tell a better story, or perhaps I should conjure up Mark Twain and see how much better his story would sound from the KJ story? Your point would seem to be that it doesn’t matter, that the overall story would have been the same had it been the Bishop’s or Byzantine texts and that my failure to understand Greek and Hebrew has led me astray in my faith. I cannot state clearly enough how much I detest your arguments against the KJ, and I would add that I am not a KJVO church member. I grew up with the Good News for Modern Man, the RSV, the ASV, and the KJV. I’ve attended community churches, methodist, lutheran, and baptist churches and I don’t believe there is a monopoly on salvation by any one version, but that being said, and as someone earlier tried to point out, you are in a position of influence, I believe you are trying to inappropriately use this influence that God gave you to undermine his church and believers. I believe your arguments against the KJV and the TR are outdated, going back to the Wescott and Hort days and perpetuated by “mainstream” denominations, and do absolutely nothing to advance the cause of Christ or build up believers in the Faith. I believe your argument would be more likened to the “leaven in the lump” of “modern” Christianity. You remind me of a Chemistry professor I had who valiantly tried to save me from the perils of Creation and his view that it wouldn’t make me a legitimate scientist…in the end we both maintained our own separate faith….but it was NOT the same, just like your faith is not the same. You postulate and advance your theories based on the archaic language, the preface to the KJ, your advanced knowledge of Greek and Hebrew arguments….reminds me of a story of an angel who once thought by his beauty he was equal to God, but the last I checked, I haven’t found any Bible inspired by “Dr. Combs”. I believe God had perserved His Word and the KJV. I believe there is a reason so many of these other translations have not replaced the KJ over the past 400 years, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Peter Ruckman and the KJVO believers…because they are inferior to the KJV and do nothing to advance the understanding and scholarship of the reader despite the plethora of modern “theolgians” pushing the ASV, NIV, NKJV, and whatever other version comes down the pike. Subtle changes in text over time eventually change the meaning of the text. Think of this as similiar to the second law of thermodynamics…everything tends to greater entropy. Look in the mirror even, despite all your knowledge you’re not a virile 20-something in the epitomy of health….you’re a broken down old man affected by all the subtle changes in your body over the course of your life. Opposite to that is the Bible, inspired and preserved by God in the King James version. Can God use other texts to lead souls to Him? Yes. Can God use the “inferior” translators of the authorized version (aka, the King James)to provide a text in English that will lead a soul to Christ and build up a believer…the evidence would suggest yes. Are the modern translations the bain of traditional Christianity, in my opinion…YES, and as evidence consider this: are we as a world and nation moving closer to Christ or are we in the Laodicean period approaching the “as in the days of Noah” example before His return? To that end, are scholars, like yourself, who undermine the text of Scripture hastening the advance of the end times by blinding the eyes of those who would read the English KJV by undermining the truths contained in the text? Your posts remind me of the Pharisees…boasting of their religiosity by wearing the robes of knowledge so everyone can see how special they are to God…but in reality, a white-washed tomb.

  18. R Brian Barber

    I appreciate the debate but it is really saying nothing new.
    I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, nor an eminent Theologian. I am a Physician, and as a Physician I am trained to examine evidence and come up with the most plausible explination (i.e. diagnosis) so here is my take:

    There are, give or take, about 5500 greek texts or pieces of texts (Unciles, ect.) that have been discovered. You are talking about a translation from a Body of greek texts (about 90 some if I recall) that agrees with 5250 of them. That is a 95% acceptance rate or “efficacy” if you will. The older texts (Alexandrian and Sinacticus, if I spelled it right) agree with only about 5% of the body of evidence and they don’t even agree with each other. That is like you coming to me with cancer, and I say to you “Here is a drug that works on 95% of the people, but EXPERTS say this new drug, which SO FAR only works 5% of the time comes from SUPERIOR compounds that were discovered to be around a lot longer then these present ones, and therefore is better. Which one do you want to take?” A hard sell for me. I would want to see larger geographic distribution and wider acceptance from antiquity in the body of evidence to accept these text as “better”.

    Further, Linguists tell me that the farther out you get from a dead language time-wise, the farther away from correct meaning you get. People for the 17th century would seem to have a closer historic background for ancient languages then 21st century scholars I would intuitively think. Also, I if you look at the background of SOME of these scholars, who back then apparently knew Greek and Latin by the age of Ten, and compared it to the modern day Greek and Hebrew Translators who barely know it after Graduate school, I find your “poor scholarship” theory implausible. Unless you are telling me that you think you could pass an old turn-of-the-century Princeton Theological Seminary Entrance Examination I suggest some of your so called “Scholars” try it sometime if you can still find one. I believe our modern Seminaries are “Cake Walk compared to back then.

    1. R Brian Barber

      One more thing I think should be addressed by DBTS and is worthy of discussion and that is what is known as the “Slippery Slope” phenomena when it comes to translation. First you have Wescott and Hort literally translating, then you go to Dynamic Equivalence with the NIV which by definition is NOT a literal translation, then”The Message” which is like Good News for Modern Man, now we have the “Slang Bible” which (as is reported) contains swear words in it. When does it stop? This modern translation movement is good why?

      1. Bill Combs

        Brian said: “One more thing I think should be addressed by DBTS and is worthy of discussion and that is what is known as the “Slippery Slope” phenomena when it comes to translation. First you have Wescott and Hort literally translating, then you go to Dynamic Equivalence with the NIV which by definition is NOT a literal translation, then”The Message” which is like Good News for Modern Man, now we have the “Slang Bible” which (as is reported) contains swear words in it. When does it stop?”

        And this is supposed to mean what? “By definition” literal translation is not the best way to convey the message of the original languages into English. Why not read something on this subject like: Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007).

        Brian said: “This modern translation movement is good why?”

        I answered your question explicitly here:
        and here:

  19. Bill Combs

    Brian said: “There are, give or take, about 5500 greek texts or pieces of texts (Unciles, ect.) that have been discovered.”

    5800 is a more correct number. One type of manuscript is the Uncials (not Unciles).

    Brian said: “You are talking about a translation from a Body of greek texts (about 90 some if I recall) that agrees with 5250 of them.”

    I have no idea where you get these figures. Modern Greek New Testaments make use of all available data, including Greek manuscripts, versions, and Patristic quotations.

    Brian said: “The older texts (Alexandrian and Sinacticus, if I spelled it right) agree with only about 5% of the body of evidence and they don’t even agree with each other.”

    Two of the oldest Greek manuscripts are Alexandrinus (5th century) and Sinaiticus (4th century). You can find the correct spelling for all these terms on the Internet. It is true that Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus disagree with each. But that it true for all Greek mss. All (every single one) Greek mss. disagree with each other.

    Brian said: “That is like you coming to me with cancer, and I say to you “Here is a drug that works on 95% of the people, but EXPERTS say this new drug, which SO FAR only works 5% of the time comes from SUPERIOR compounds that were discovered to be around a lot longer then these present ones, and therefore is better. Which one do you want to take?”

    What this analogy has to do with the case at hand, I have not the slightest idea. But let me try. The SUPERIOR mss. are the older ones. The mss. from which the KJV was translated are the newer and inferior ones.

    Brian said: “A hard sell for me. I would want to see larger geographic distribution and wider acceptance from antiquity in the body of evidence to accept these text as “better”.”

    The mss. which are used in modern Greek New Testaments and form the basis for translations like the NIV are based on mss. that have the widest geographic distribution and were widely used in antiquity. See the chart on page 205 of this article:

    Brian said: “Further, Linguists tell me that the farther out you get from a dead language time-wise, the farther away from correct meaning you get. People for the 17th century would seem to have a closer historic background for ancient languages then 21st century scholars I would intuitively think”

    This is utter nonsense. We know 10 times as much about Koine Greek than the translators of the KJV did. The knowledge of Greek was only revived in Western Europe about 100 years before the KJV was translated. There were hundreds of words in the Greek NT whose meaning was unknown or unclear at the time of the KJV. With the discovery of the papyri we now have over 50,000 mss written in Koine Greek.

    Brian said: “Also, I if you look at the background of SOME of these scholars, who back then apparently knew Greek and Latin by the age of Ten, and compared it to the modern day Greek and Hebrew Translators who barely know it after Graduate school, I find your “poor scholarship” theory implausible.”

    No one questions they were smart men, but there knowledge of Koine Greek, the Greek dialect of the NT, both in vocabulary and syntax was greatly inferior to our knowledge today.

    1. “Modern Greek New Testaments make use of all available data, including Greek manuscripts, versions, and Patristic quotations.”

      Around 90% of Greek manuscripts are classified as Byzantine. Dr. Combs, can you cite a reading where an editorial committee used a distinctively Byzantine reading, or even gave any significant weight to Byzantine witnesses? Is there even one such reading? If those 90% of manuscripts didn’t exist, is there one verse of a modern Greek NT that would be different? Kurt and Barbara Aland said the Byzantine witnesses are “irrelevant for textual criticism” (The Text of the New Testament, p. 142) — we can’t really say they “make use of all available data” when the vast majority of Greek manuscripts are discarded as irrelevant and have no bearing on the textual conclusions that are drawn.

      I’m amazed you raised the number of witnesses by talking about Erasmus’ manuscripts (in your previous post, and again here). What matters is the readings and how well-attested they are, not how many physical manuscripts Erasmus or someone else had in his hand. TR advocates will respond to eclectic text advocates who follow this line with, “Brer Fox, please don’t throw me in that briar patch.”

      Daniel Wallace (“Some Reflections on the Majority Text”) found 1838 differences between Hodges MT and the TR — and 6577 between the MT and UBS3. Erasmus got far closer to the majority than the UBS committee who “used all available data.” Erasmus and the majority have in common the Pericope Adulterae, the long ending of Mark, and most other major points of dispute.

      If we discuss who reflects the testimony of the most witnesses, Erasmus beats Aland hands down. Eclectic text advocates shouldn’t go there — once you do, the modern editions collapse. Repeatedly editorial committees choose the testimony of 3 or 4 witnesses against hundreds or even thousands of witnesses. See Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for many cases (or just check the critical apparatus of a Nestle-Aland NT).

      Modern theory, following Hort, says witnesses should be weighed, not counted. To hold that view but criticise the TR based on Erasmus’ limited number of manuscripts appears almost disingenuous, when those manuscripts almost always reflected the majority text. Nor is it credible to say that modern editions use all witnesses. They don’t. They weigh all witnesses and (rightly or wrongly, depending on one’s view) discard most as “irrelevant.”

      The numbers game is a winner for the MT view, mostly a winner for the TR view, and devastating to modern editions of the Greek NT. To argue the numbers game when you prefer translations based on a modern critical text is self-defeating.

      1. Bill Combs

        Jon said: “Around 90% of Greek manuscripts are classified as Byzantine”

        The actual number is 80%, but still a sizable majority.

        Jon said: “Dr. Combs, can you cite a reading where an editorial committee used a distinctively Byzantine reading, or even gave any significant weight to Byzantine witnesses?”

        Sure — Rom 5:1. UBS and NA both follow the Byzantine reading of echomen (ἔχομεν), the indicative, rather than the subjunctive echōmen (ἔχωμεν), which is the reading of the Alexandrian and Western texts, found in א, A, B, C, D.

        1. Thank you, Dr. Combs, for the correction. You are right, and I apologise for the error. It is around 90% of miniscules that are Byzantine, and 80% of all Greek MSS. It doesn’t impact my point, but it was inaccurate.

          As to Romans 5:1, the reading is certainly the reading of the Byzantine / majority text, but it is not at all distinctively Byzantine. It has Alexandrian (the first corrector of Sinaiticus, 0220), Western (F2, G), Aland’s “Eclectic” (365), and non-Greek witnesses. Metzger gives no indication that the committee even considered Byzantine testimony: “… a majority of the Committee judged that internal evidence must here take precedence” (Textual Commentary, p. 511).

          This IS a good example of the fact that modern committees do not slavishly follow Aleph and B, as some think. But it is still not a case of the committee accepting a distinctive Byzantine reading, nor is there any evidence that the Byzantine evidence was even considered.

          The Aland statement of the irrelevance of Byzantine witnesses really was the operating procedure for the committees. They believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Byzantine / majority witnesses were late, derived, corrupt (Metzger’s word), and irrelevant. They included them in the critical apparatus for completeness, but gave them no weight at all. Romans 5:1, whilst interesting, does not change that picture, if Metzger’s account is to be believed. The decision was made on internal evidence, not on Byzantine testimony.

          1. Bill Combs

            You asked: “Dr. Combs, can you cite a reading where an editorial committee used a distinctively Byzantine reading.”

            I gave you one. Rom 5:1 is clearly the reading of the the Byzantine text. It is not the reading one would choose if one followed the Alexandrian text.

            I for one do not care that Byzantine readings are hardly ever followed. There is no virtue in Byzantine readings. The Byzantine text is on the whole inferior. It is a later text type that hardly ever preserves the original text. I know you don’t believe it, but most scholars do. And I don’t have time to cite all the evidence for why I and most people who have studied the subject believe in the inferiority of the Byzantine text. I don’t plan to teach textual criticism on the blog–that is what I do in the seminary classroom.