Updated: Aug 17
The Omega Letter Vault. Vol: 94 Issue: 31 Friday, July 31, 2009
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)
From time to time, somebody will email me or log a forum post to question why I use the King James Version of the Bible when there are so many “more readable” versions out there.
Some will point out helpfully that other more well-known and presumably better Bible teachers than me use other versions — and that is entirely true.
The list I received today included a Dr. Bailey, Dr. Hendricks, Stanley Tousaint, Chuck Swindoll and “a host of others.” Fair enough. To that list, one can also add the man who discipled me for twenty years.
Hal Lindsey presided over my ordination as a minister of the Gospel. Hal Lindsey remains my teacher, mentor, best friend (and employer) to this day.
There are lots more names that I could add to the list of Famous Guys that prefer other translations over the KJV, but if Hal Lindsey hasn’t persuaded me, I see no point in naming the others that haven’t either.
First, let me say I am not a “King-James Only” guy in the sense I believe all other translations are Satanically inspired or that everybody should emulate me. I have an interlinear Bible with NIV on one side and KJV on the other. I’ve a copy of pretty much every major Bible translation.
But over the course of the past thirty-odd years I’ve found that the KJV to be the most doctrinally consistent — so that is the version that I use. I can’t make sense out of the others — for me, it is like having somebody tell me what the Bible says. I prefer to read it for myself.
But I am not one to limit God. And as we’ve already seen, there are many, many respected and famous expositors of the Bible that use other versions of Scripture as their primary text. So my preference is MY preference — I don’t insist that it be yours.
The fact is, I simply cannot teach from any other version. I’ve tried. First off, I can’t find what I am looking for. Secondly, when I find it, it doesn’t say what I expected it to. I find that when something doesn’t sound right, I instinctively refer back to the KJV to see what it is supposed to say.
Historically, the battle over the translations has been raging since roughly the midpoint of the 19th century, when a Coptic monk at an Egyptian monastery was building a fire for a guest.
The guest was Friedrich Constantine Tischendorff, who was traveling under the patronage of Fredrick, King of Saxony, in search of old manuscripts. While staying at the Convent of St Catharine, he noticed some old-looking documents in a basketful of papers for lighting the stove.
On closer examination, he recognized it to be an ancient piece of the Bible. Ultimately, the convent yielded a complete New Testament manuscript dating to about 400 AD.Tischendorf stunned the world when he unveiled his ‘Codex Sinaiticanus’ the oldest known complete ‘autograph’ [hand-copied manuscript] of the Bible in existence.
“Not so fast,” said the Vatican. “We just happened to have discovered an old manuscript in one of our vaults. Interestingly enough, ours dates to about 400 AD, as well.”
The Vatican’s manuscript was dubbed “Codex Vaticanus” for obvious reasons. The year was 1845.
Until then, the English-speaking world had relied primarily on the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. But the Age of Enlightenment was sweeping Europe, and the discovery of the two previously unknown codexes (a ‘codex’ is really just a scroll) coincided with the wave of New Thinking.
The discovery of significant differences between the two older manuscripts and the Textus Receptus (Received Text) manuscript relied on by the KJV translators 250 years earlier created an intellectual Perfect Storm.
The oldest existing copy of the Textus Receptus dates to around the tenth century and was recopied in secret as each old manuscript wore out from the 1st century forward.
King James rejected the Vatican’s Latin Version (translated from the Codex Vaticanus) and ordered a new English Common Bible be translated from the Codex Textus Receptus.
That set the stage for the battle (that continues to rage to this day) within the Church between the KJV purists and users of other translations.
Many of the combatants aren’t even sure what the battle is about, defending their chosen version primarily on the grounds that it is easier to read. It is actually more complicated than that. God didn’t cause the Bible to be written in English — not in 15th century English and not in 21st century English.
The controversy behind the battle revolves around those differences between the original manuscripts used for the translations into English. Some of them are very suspicious.
For example, a fundamental doctrine of Roman Catholicism that separates it from most other branches of Christianity is the doctrine of infant baptism. Wars were fought over it during the Reformation.
But it seems so clear from the Scriptures. . . or does it?
In Acts Chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch is reading Isaiah 53 when Philip happens by. The eunuch asks Philip about the passage, and the Scripture says,
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”
Clearly, Philip’s preaching bore fruit, for the Scripture continues, saying, “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?” (Acts 8:35:36)
Okay, checklist time. Philip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian. The next thing he asked was, in essence, ‘what are the requirements for baptism?’ There’s no other way to interpret the question:
“I heard the Gospel. There’s the water. What’s stopping me from being baptized?”
According to the Textus Receptus, “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.” (Acts 8:37)
See? I told you the whole infant baptism thing seems so clear from Scripture. If an infant can say that he believes with all his heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then the infant is eligible, by the authority of Scripture, to be baptized.
So where is the controversy?
Well, it kinda depends on what translation you are using to support your argument. If you are using the New International Version — that was translated from the Codex Vaticanus — you will discover that your Bible doesn’t have an Acts 8:37!
Acts 8:36 is there, and Acts 8:38 is there, but either you don’t have an Acts 8:37 or there’s an asterisk to the notation, “this verse isn’t found in the best (meaning Vaticanus/Sinaiticus) translations.”
If you are reaching for your NIV to support your argument against infant baptism, the problem becomes immediately apparent.
I said earlier that I don’t insist that everybody agree with me on Bible versions. I personally prefer the KJV. And I honestly believe the other versions are flawed. But I don’t read Greek, Latin and Coptic Egyptian.
The reason I believe there are flaws in the other translations is because guys who CAN read Greek, Latin and Coptic Egyptian compared all three and THEY said there were differences.
Things that are different are not the same, so, if there are differences, it is clear that there are flaws somewhere. But since I can’t read Greek, Latin and Coptic, never translated the TR or the CV/CS, in the end, I am choosing the KJV as the superior text primarily on faith, am I not?
Where have I placed my faith? In God? Or is my faith in what one set of translators say, rather than those of another set of translators? Or faith in what one group of writers and thinkers say, rather than that of another group of writers and thinkers? And so on.
After all, if I am to charge out there and defend the King James Version of the Bible, I should be sure I am defending God’s Word, and not that I am defending what a group of 15th-century translators said was God’s Word.
I have my reasons for being suspicious of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts, but when you get right down to it, I don’t know, without first looking it up, even which modern translations are from CV/CS and which are not.
I don’t know what the motives of the translators were, don’t know where they went to school, don’t know their names, actually, I don’t know much about them at all. But I doubt they are all demoniacs united in some shared conspiracy.
Actually, I don’t know the names of the KJV translators, where they went to school, or what their motivations were, either. About all I know for sure is that they translated the KJV before Tischendorff found the Codex Sinaiticus.
As to which is the superior translation, well, by faith in the translators whom I’ve never met, the intellectuals and scholars whom I’ve never met, and tradition passed down through the generations, I could confidently pronounce the KJV the superior version.
But based on what my ‘superior’ translation says, my faith is supposed to be in the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word to me, to make it real, to lead me and guide me, and to be confident that He will not steer me wrong.
Here’s what I know. I know the Holy Spirit speaks to me through my KJV. I can study and learn from the other versions, but He speaks to me through the KJV.
But I also know some intellectually honest and spiritually sincere Christians who cannot understand a word of it. It isn’t because they are too thick. It’s because they can hear Him speak to them through another translation.
Logically, if the only valid translation is the KJV, does that mean that anybody who uses a different version is a bad Christian? Or more susceptible to deception? I don’t think so.
Is the Holy Spirit limited in what He can impart spiritually to a sincere believer by the physical arrangements of English words on paper? Is that all it takes to shut God down?
Debating about the superiority of the various Bible versions is as much an exercise in intellectual pride as it is in theology.
I recall, shortly after being saved, attending a fire-and-brimstone, King James only, ye must be born again, long skirts for ladies, short hair for men, door-knockin’, throw out your TV, old-time Bible Baptist Church down in Texas.
I thought the preacher was the most Spirit-filled, inspired and God-centered man I had ever met. With him at my side, I would have charged Hell with a bucket of ice water. Until he turned out to have feet of clay.
I’ll spare you the details, but those details threw me into a spiritual spiral. I almost lost my faith. Why?
Because I got confused about where I was putting it. I put my faith in the man of God, rather than in the God of man.
Later, for a time, I put my faith in my interpretation of the timing of the Rapture of the Church. I would argue with anyone who was willing (and there was never a shortage of volunteers) about when the Rapture would occur and why it must occur before the Tribulation begins.
I am as certain today as I ever was that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation Period. But some of those with whom I jousted were equally certain of their interpretative understanding.
Since we were both arguing based on our faith in our own ability to discern the Scriptures, our faith was misplaced. If I were successful in my argument, my opponent’s faith would be shattered. Some ‘victory.’
No matter which position you take on the Bible translations issue, what happens if you prevail in the debate? Assuming your opponent is already saved, he can’t get more saved by agreeing with you. But if you’ve won the debate, then he’s lost it.
What was the debate about again? Oh, yeah — whether or not you can trust your Bible.
Well, he can’t trust his anymore. Congratulations.
Suppose you took the KJV position. NOW your guy can’t trust his own Bible and he can’t really understand yours. If he goes back to his preferred version, he’ll be too guilt-ridden and suspicious to get much out of it.
More congratulations to you. Nice work. You’ve won the debate. The KJV wins the day. Your opponent, on the other hand, has had his faith in his Bible shattered. Let’s sit down and take another look at what you have won.
Now, stand back up –God may want His Throne back — and consider what the KJV has to say about your victory.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12)
I can only teach what I believe to be true. But it is not my intention — ever — to persuade you to believe what I believe. My intention is to instruct you in what the Scriptures say and to share what insights the Lord has given me on the topic at hand.
The Scriptures command me to teach — that is why the Lord called me to the ministry. Other, mature Christians confirmed to me that the Lord has gifted me with the gift of teaching. I take my gifts and calling seriously.
But I try not to take me too seriously. I’m not the Message. I’m only the donkey that carries the Message.
Teaching is not the same as persuading. I teach what I believe to be true. But my Bible tells me to leave persuasion up to the Holy Spirit.
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1st Thessalonians 5:21)
“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. . . ” (John 16:13a)
We don’t worship a Book — or a version of a Book. We reverence it, but we don’t worship it. We worship the Author of the Book. HE is worthy.
I’m just a donkey that can read.