The KJV: A Time To Celebrate;
A Time To Move On

Philip P. Eapen

This year, the church is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the release of the King James Bible. There are millions of Christians who value the King James Version (KJV). Many of them would go to any length to defend their preference for this classic version. Yet, I believe that it’s high time for Christians to stop romanticising the KJV and to go beyond this classic version.

The KJV came as an answer to the prayers of many Christians. Most notably, the last prayer of William Tyndale is remembered. Indeed, the KJV has its place in world history as the book that singularly influenced generations of Christians, the world of arts, literature, governance and law.

Recently, I visited a Christian family and took part in their “family prayer.” The man of the house selected a passage from the book of Isaiah and read it out to his family. I knew instantly that he was reading from the venerated KJV. I looked around and saw the blank expression on the faces of his children. They weren’t getting the head or tail of the reading. I too was unable to get the import of the text. I knew this family’s hard core devotion to the King James Version. A thought that flashed through my mind was: sticking to the KJV is probably the best way to keep the next generation from understanding the Word of God!

Why would anyone root for a Bible written in archaic English? Why would anyone impose a disadvantage upon their own children and grandchildren especially when it comes to understanding the Word of God?

While interpreting the parable of the sower, Jesus said that the good soil represented people who received God’s Word and understood it (Matthew 13:23). Those who do not understand the Word can never bear the fruit of obedience! The archaic language and constructs of the KJV prevent easy comprehension of God’s Word.

I am told that the KJV is the ‘original’ English Bible. This is because, supporters of KJV say the KJV is translated from the most faithful version of the Greek New Testament, commonly known as the “Received Text” or “Textus Receptus.” Modern translators favour other Greek versions to the “Textus Receptus.”

Is the “Textus Receptus” Greek NT superior to other “critical” versions? That question should be answered by Biblical scholars. The matter is more complex than can be handled here. The Greek NT was first printed in 1516. Hundred and twenty years later, in 1633, the publisher Elzevirs of Leyden added a “blurb” on the title page of the Greek NT. It read, “textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum,” or, “therefore you have the text now received by all.” It was from this that we get the commonly used term “received text.” Unfortunately, the term was wrongly applied to all the preceding Greek NT editions that were released prior to 1633. The question is, should a publisher’s blurb be treated as a stamp of God’s approval or as a mark of superior text transmission?

The translators of KJV did not restrict themselves to one printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Primarily, they relied on Beza’s edition of 1598. Over 170 times, they departed from this text preferring other editions of the Greek NT. Over 60 times, the translators of KJV departed from all the available Greek NT edition for the Latin Vulgate! Until 1881, there was no Greek NT edition that fully agreed with the KJV. Therefore, it is unwise to claim that King James Version relied on one “Received Text” or to claim that the KJV is superior to other English versions of the Bible.

We are told that the King James Version is the only “authorized" version of the Bible. Who “authorized” the KJV? Even if it is none other than King James who authorized it, who is man to authorize God’s Word?

There is a long list of the errors in this “authorized” version. A few months ago, a retired scientist who belongs to the Brethren Assemblies said to me, “The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus is divine. Jesus himself didn’t claim to be divine.” I asked the gentleman which version of the Bible he read all his life. He said that he read the King James Version. I guided him to Titus 2:13 in the KJV. It read, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Any reader would understand this verse as referring to the appearance of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, the Saviour. The KJV missed out a crucial comma. The verse should read, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (NAU) Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ is here described as “our great God and Savior.” A man who spent more than 70 years in the Brethren Assemblies missed out on this great truth because he restricted himself to the KJV. That’s too much of a loss for “KJV only” readers.

That’s not the only verse where the KJV got it wrong about the Lord Jesus Christ. Check out the opening verse of 2 Peter. The KJV renders it as “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” Here again, the righteousness seems to be that of God the Father and of Jesus the Son. Instead, it should be “the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Peter describes Jesus as “God and Savior.”

Even if there are no other reasons for me to go beyond the KJV in favour of other versions of the English Bible, these two verses are good enough reasons.

Originally published in the newspaper ‘Praise The Almighty’ in Feb 2011.

About the Author:

Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realised that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip also teaches Christians in order to equip them for service.