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Which Translation of the Bible Should I Use?

Why do we use the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (KJV)?

This is an extremely important question about which much has been written. One reason this question is important is that, many times, the different versions have different meanings; and thus, they teach different doctrines. The purpose of this blog is to provide a concise answer to the question, “Which translation of the Bible should I use?”

Those who use the Authorized King James Version (KJV) are often asked, “Why do you use an antiquated translation based on inferior texts?” That question is based on faulty assumptions. The truth may surprise you!

Naturally, this concise statement is not exhaustive, but it does introduce the major issues involved in explaining why so many people continue to prefer to use the KJV.

Two Foundational Biblical Truths

There are two foundational Biblical truths that we must bear in mind when answering this question.

  1. God inspired the Bible. God gave the writers of the Scripture the very words He wanted them to write.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

And 2 Peter 1:19-21 tells us,
“… no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

  1. God has preserved the Bible. God has kept the Scriptures from the time they were written until today.

Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

Mark 13:31 tells us that Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

According to the Scriptures referenced above, not only did God inspire the Bible, but also He has preserved the Bible. He gave the writers the words to write, and He has kept those words through the centuries. The preservation of the Scriptures is absolutely essential.

What benefit would it be to succeeding generations to whom at some point in the distant past God said something, if those later generations do not have the words that God said? Unless He preserved His Word, how would they know the truth, and how would they know how to live? Preservation of the Scriptures is important as well as inspiration of the Scriptures.

Three Reasons to Use the KJV

Three essential factors to consider in our choice of Bible translation are the following:

  1. the Hebrew and Greek texts from which the translation is made,
  2. the kind of translation that it is, and
  3. the history of the translation. We can identify these as
  • The Text: This refers to the ancient manuscripts from which the Bible is translated.
  • The Translation: This refers to the philosophy and method of translating the Bible.
  • The Tradition: This refers to the history of the Bible version.
  1. The Text

DEFINITIONS OF AUTOGRAPHS, MANUSCRIPTS, AND TYPES

The Word of God was not originally given in English.

According to 2 Peter 1:21,
“…holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The Old Testament writers wrote in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament writers wrote in the Greek language. The original documents written by the inspired authors are called autographs. The autographs were copied repeatedly throughout the centuries. These copies of the original documents are called manuscripts. Groups of manuscripts which are in agreement are called types. There is one type of manuscript for the Old Testament Scriptures, and there are two types of manuscripts for the New Testament Scriptures.

Based upon His promises in the Bible, we are persuaded that God has preserved His word in the Old Testament manuscripts and in one type of New Testament manuscripts.

OLD TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

The KJV was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Dating back to approximately A.D. 900, it was the only type of Hebrew manuscript available until the 20th century.

In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. They contained Old Testament manuscripts dated to approximately 200 B.C. Miraculously the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic are in agreement. This agreement between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic texts shows that God preserved His word throughout the centuries.

NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

The KJV was translated from the Textus Receptus texts of the New Testament. Unlike the Hebrew Old Testament, which is represented by only one type of ancient manuscript, the Greek New Testament is represented by two types of ancient Greek manuscripts, the Textus Receptus and the Eclectic Text. Because they have significant differences we must determine which text type is best. We are convinced that, unfortunately, modern scholarship has chosen the type which does not represent the Word of God.

The Textus Receptus, which means “received text,” is also called the Traditional Text because it was used by Bible believers throughout the centuries as the Word of God. It is referred to as the Byzantine Text because it originated in Asia Minor and Palestine, the location of the churches of the New Testament. This area later was the center of the Byzantine Empire. Because more than 95% (nearly 5,000 documents) of the ancient Greek manuscripts are this type, it is also called the Majority Text.

The other type of text is the Eclectic Text (compiled from different sources). It has been pieced together by 19th and 20th century scholars attempting to produce a New Testament based upon what they consider to be older, therefore, better manuscripts. It is also referred to as the Alexandrian Text because of its association with Alexandria in Egypt, the home of the third century heretic Origen, who edited New Testament manuscripts to fit his doctrines. Because fewer than 5% of the ancient Greek manuscripts are this type, it is called the Minority text.

The Textus Receptus manuscripts are in essential agreement with each other, although they have some minor variations, such as spelling differences. The Eclectic Text manuscripts on the other hand have many disagreements among themselves as well as numerous omissions.

The oldest Textus Receptus manuscripts date to the fourth century because the previous manuscripts were used, copied, and worn out. By contrast, the Eclectic Text manuscripts date to the third century and are in better condition because they were intentionally unused or discarded. They were later found in the basement of the Vatican, in the library in Alexandria, Egypt, and in the rubbish container of a monastery at Mt. Sinai.

Although based upon older manuscripts, the Eclectic Text itself is of recent origin. It did not exist until the 19th century when it was compiled by scholars who did not believe in the inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures or in the deity of Christ. It has been revised several times since it was compiled.

The Textus Receptus manuscripts strongly uphold the deity of Christ; but the Eclectic Text manuscripts, by their many omissions and alterations, diminish the deity of Christ.

The Textus Receptus is the basis of the KJV New Testament. It represents the vast majority of ancient Greek manuscripts, and it clearly upholds the deity of Christ. It is the New Testament of Bible believers who were not aligned with the false teachings of Catholicism throughout the ancient times and the Middle Ages.

Compare these sample passages from the KJV and the New International Version ©2011.

ScriptureKing James VersionNew International Version
1 Timothy 3:16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit,[fn] was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
1 Corinthians 15:47The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.
1 John 5:6-8This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
For there are three that testify:
the[fn] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.


Acts 8:36-38
(I include this passage to show the omission of personal belief in Christ as a prerequisite to baptism.)
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?[fn]”
And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.


  1. The Translation

In addition to being based on the best manuscripts of the original languages, the KJV was the work of impeccable scholarship by eminently qualified translators using the best elements of the English language.

THE METHOD OF TRANSLATION

The KJV was authorized by King James in response to a petition signed by a thousand ministers requesting a new and accurate translation of the Bible. Responding to the King’s command, over fifty scholars and clergymen divided into groups and companies to do the work of translating the text, comparing to earlier translations, checking, and rechecking their work. The translators worked for seven years. Each Scripture passed through various committees and was examined at least 14 times before the project was completed.

The KJV translators’ goal was an accurate word for word translation of the Bible called the “formal equivalence” approach. There are three main kinds of translations:

  1. The word for word or formal equivalence approach, which renders a more literal translation;
  2. The dynamic/functional equivalence approach, which renders a less accurate but easier, modern translation; and
  3. The paraphrase, which renders the general idea in the colloquialisms of the day of the translators.

THE TRANSLATORS

The KJV translators were thoroughly schooled in Hebrew, Greek, and other languages. They were the most qualified linguistic scholars of their day. They considered the Bible to be the very Word of God preserved in the texts they were translating. They viewed themselves as serving God and as fulfilling the command of their King. They were not paid for their work.

THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

The KJV was intended not only to be an accurate, scholarly translation but also to reflect the best use of English. As a result the KJV, famous for its simplicity, cadence, musical quality and devotional tone, has been the best loved book in the English language for more than 400 years. It is ironic that a book more than 400 years old can be so easily understood today. This is largely because the widespread and prolonged use of this book in both our private and our public lives has greatly stabilized our language.

  1. The Tradition

THE AUTHORIZATION AND PURPOSE OF THE TRANSLATION

The kingdom which King James inherited in 1603 was religiously fragmented. To bring about spiritual unity, King James commanded that a new translation be made. The KJV is the only English version authorized by a God ordained authority. It was translated to spiritually benefit and unify the English speaking peoples based upon an accurate and commonly used translation of the Word of God, not to financially profit the translators or the publishers.

THE BIBLE OF AMERICAN HISTORY

The KJV is the Bible of American history. It is the foundation of our country. Our founding fathers read, studied, and quoted the KJV. Their ideas about God and government grew out of the KJV. It is the Bible that was read for generations in our homes, our schools, and our churches. The Great Awakening, which was the fountain of the ideas culminating in the American Revolution, was preached from the KJV. It has been the Bible of the spiritual revivals of the English speaking peoples around the world for the past 400 years. The Christian influence in America has been the influence of the KJV.

OUR CHURCH’S TRADITION

The KJV has been the textbook of the Baptists for 400 years. Our church received the heritage of the KJV as the preferred translation from our founding church. The Statement of Faith we received states, “We use the King James Version as our textbook in our church.” Using one primary version in Bible study groups is beneficial because students can focus on the meaning and application of passages rather than merely comparing the differences in translations.

FAMILY HERITAGE

The KJV is the version of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. For those of us whose families have a Bible believing, Christian heritage, the KJV was the version that our forefathers read, believed, and followed. The words of the KJV are the words that meant so much, comforted, guided, and enlightened previous generations.

WHY SWITCH BIBLES?

With such a great heritage, the KJV should not be lightly discarded merely in favor of a passing personal preference or of a popular fad. If one were to replace the excellent KJV with a different Bible, there should be compelling reasons for such a change. Up to this time there has not been a translation based on the best texts and using the formal equivalency method of translation that would be a suitable replacement for the KJV.

Conclusion

The KJV is a remarkably scholarly yet easily understood translation based upon the best ancient texts. It is a reverent and accurate translation of the preserved Word of God. It is the Bible of our spiritual heritage, the basis of the great revivals, and the source of both personal and national spiritual blessing. It continues to be the best English translation of the Word of God!

Bibliography

Much of the previous information is from two excellent, scholarly books:

  1. Which Version is the Bible? Floyd Nolen Jones, KingsWord Press, Goodyear, AZ
  2. Which Bible? Edited by David Otis Fuller, Grand Rapids International Publications, Grand Rapids, MI.
  3. I also recommend the DVD entitled The KJB-The Book that Changed the World by IA Productions.

Questions for Review

  1. What is the difference between the inspiration and the preservation of the Scriptures? Why are both important?
  2. What are three major reasons to choose the KJV?
  3. Why are older manuscripts not necessarily the best manuscripts?
  4. Name the two types of New Testament manuscripts.
  5. Which type of Greek manuscript did the KJV utilize?
  6. What was the origin and purpose of the King James translation?
  7. Name some blessings from the use of the KJB the past 400 years.

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