The King James Bible is my favorite English Bible translation. It isn’t everyone’s favorite, so on this site, I’ll often use the ESV or NKJV, or I might just translate a passage or two myself ery’ now and then.
While I do love the King Jimmy, there is a minority of Christians who go too far and teach that the King James translation itself is inspired by God and without error. Here are three reasons, backed by excerpts from the 1611 King James Version that, in my opinion, demonstrate that it is not perfect:
1. The King James Version contains non-canonical books
The original 1611 KJV contains apocryphal books, which are not part of the 66-book cannon that we Protestants believe in. Consider this passage, which Roman Catholics use to defend their doctrine of Purgatory:
And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin. (2 Maccabees 12:45 1611 KJV)
Typically, the KJV-Onlyists will cut these passages out of their Bibles… but if your inspired text requires you to throw away large portions of it, maybe you should question whether or not it’s really inspired.
If the 1611 KJV is inspired, then what happened to 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees? This is no small portion that is being erased from “inspired” text…
2. The King James Version contains replacement theology
Many King James Onlyists are correct when they say that there is a clear distinction between the Church and Israel. However, the King James translators did not see it that way. There are several times throughout the Old Testament in which the translators call Israel, “the Church.” As shown above, the note from Psalm 46 reads, “The confidence which the Church hath in God,” and Psalm 48 is subtitled, “The Ornaments and privileges of the Church” (emphasis mine). Were these psalms for Korah really written about the Church centuries before Pentecost?
3. The King James Version contains alternate translations
If the King James Translation is inspired of God and has the final authority on all questions of textual variants, then why does the 1611 King James Translation offer alternate translations? Consider the margin of Titus 2:
Titus 2:2 sober: Or, vigilant
Titus 2:3 holiness: Or, holy women
Titus 2:3 false accusers: Or, makebates
Titus 2:4 sober: Or, wise
Titus 2:6 sober minded: Or, discreet
Titus 2:9 answering again: Or, gain saying
Titus 2:11 that bringeth salvation hat appeared to all men: Or, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared
There is much debate about which textual variants are most reliable and that’s a great discussion for another time. But if God resolved all disputes in 1611, then why are these disputes still contained in the King James Version? Obviously, not even the translators believed that the text was without error.
As I said, I love the King James Bible. I just don’t think it’s inspired. If you have to disregard large portions of the King James Bible, and if you disagree with the theology of the King James Bible, and if you disagree with the translators’ translations of the King James Bible, then… well, I’ll let you figure out what to do.
By the way, if the founder of a Bible Institute tells you that it’s ok to teach that the earth is stationary, but that it’s not ok to use an English Bible that’s less than 400 years old, then you might want to doubt his academic credentials (see this, that, and that).