King James Only?

This sermon relies heavily upon information found on the following website, which can be consulted for a more detailed discussion of the subject.


The King James Version of the Bible has proven to be a great aid to English speaking peoples. It has become the Bible that all the others are compared to. Nevertheless, time has taken a toll on it and it now has lost some of its value when compared to some newer translations. Having said this let me also say that I have great admiration for the King James Bible and often find it the preferred source in my studies. However, I also find that other Bibles are frequently to be preferred. Given that the first edition of the KJV was published in 1611, over 300 years ago, it is to be expected that over time there would be revealed errors in translation, there would be better source texts found, and that the language itself would become obsolete or archaic in places. Indeed, all three of these suppositions are true. If you use King James and it works for you keep on using it. But do not reject other translations merely because they are new. Some of those new translations are actually better when taken as a whole. Like the KJV there are problematic area in all of them but that doesn’t necessarily make them worse than KJV nor does it make them worthless.


So why am I even talking about this subject? You might say I am talking about this for a number of reasons.

  1. A Bible that is easily readable will better serve newer and younger Christians. Which by the way is one of the reasons the KJV was written.
  2. A Bible that has modern language will be better understood.
  3. Some people are falsely claiming a divine inspiration for the KJV translation. This is a claim the translators actually denied. The danger here is that inconsistencies cannot be allowed without ruining the entire translation.
  4. Students might reject better information if it disagrees with their understanding of the KJV.


Let’s take a quick look at a few interesting facts about the KJV.

1.      The KJV has many alternate readings in the margins.

2.       The Textus Receptus itself was based on a very few, late scripts, not one of which contained the entire Greek New Testament and none earlier than the 12th century. In the matter of the book of Revelation, a missing page was translated from the Latin Vulgate BACK to the Greek. Acts 9:6 although found in the Latin Vulgate, and thus the Textus Receptus  is found in no Greek manuscript at all. In light of its obvious shortcomings, a greater number of older and more complete manuscripts were used in the translation of subsequent versions (post-1881)} (The KJV Debate: A Plea for Realism, D.A. Carson)

3.      The original KJV included Apocrypha.

4.      To a large extent the KJV was made to comply with the, “Bishop’s Bible and even the, “Geneva Bible.”

5.      Which KJV revision was best? The revision in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1644, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, or the last one in 1850?

6.      The translators said the following in their preface.

*   "Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered; but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see." "Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point. ... Yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, ... and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren by conference, and never scorn those that be not in all respects so complete as they should be, being to seek in many things ourselves, it hath pleased God in his divine providence, here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, ... that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence, and if we will resolve upon modesty with S. Augustine, .... There be many words in the Scriptures, which be never found there but once, ... so that we cannot be helped by conference of places. Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts and precious stones, etc. ... Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? ... Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must need do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded."


Indisputable, universally recognized errors in the KJV: Special thanks to Bill Reid for providing some source documentation in this section.

Errors where the KJV translation disagrees with the Textus Receptus:

KJV translates...

Textus Receptus actually says...

"robbers of churches." Acts 19:37

Every known Greek manuscript has HIEROSULOUS, "robbers of temples"

"Lucifer" Is 14:12

"O Day Star" (Lucifer is a human origin nickname for the Devil in the 1600's refers not to the devil but the king of Babylon)

"Easter" Acts 12:4

"Passover"(Easter very poor choice as it confuses the pagan origin Roman Catholic "Easter" holy day with what the TR clearly says is the Jewish Passover!)

"Baptism" (entire New Testament) Acts 2:38; 22:16

immersion, because sprinkling was the mode of baptism in 1611AD, they jelly-fished out and transliterated the Greek "baptizo" but refused to translate it.

"Tithes of all I possess" Lk 18:12

"all I acquire" (Not only variant with the TR, but quite wrong. Tithes were never paid on capital, only increase)

"Schoolmaster" Gal 3:24

"attendant" (the law was the one who brought us to Christ, not taught us about Christ)

"God save the King": 1Sam 10:24, 2Sam 16:16, 1Kings 1:25

"May the king live" ("God" not in TR, but reflects the British culture of the 1600's. Proof that the translators used dynamic equivalents.)

"God Forbid." Ro. 3:4,6,31; 6:2,15; 7:7,13; 9:14; 11:1,11; 1 Co. 6:15; Ga. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14

"may it not be" or "let it not be." (KJV adds the word God where it is absent in the TR because it was a common expression in 1600's. Proof that the translators used dynamic equivalents.)

"sweet savour" Lev 6:21; 8:28; 17:6; 23:18

"soothing aroma" (KJV appeals to wrong senses- taste instead of smell in the TR)

"ashes upon his face" 1 Kings 20:38

"bandage over his eyes" (KJV varies from TR by using ashes)


A major reason for the rejection of the King James Version, which is valid for both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the change since 1611 in English usage. Many forms of expression have become archaic, while still generally intelligible—the use of thou, thee, thy, thine and the verb endings -est and -edst, the verb endings -eth and -th, it came to pass that, whosoever, whatsoever, insomuch that, because that, for that, unto, howbeit, peradventure, holden, aforetime, must needs, would fain, behooved, to you-ward, etc. Other words are obsolete and no longer understood by the common reader. The greatest problem, however, is presented by the English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different meaning from that which they had in 1611 and in the King James Version. These words were once accurate translations of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures; but now, having changed in meaning, they have become misleading. They no longer say what the King James translators meant them to say.

For example lets look at 2 Thessalonians 2:7: "he who now letteth." Today "let" means "allow, permit," but in 1611 one of its meanings was "to hinder, obstruct, prevent" (still preserved in the legal phrase "without let or hindrance"—and we still use "let" in the KJV sense of "holding back" when in tennis we speak of a "let" ball, i.e., a ball that hits the net is invalid and must be served again).

The word "Prevent" in I Thessalonians 4:15 does not mean what we today always mean by that word, namely,"to stop, hinder." in 1611 England it meant "to precede"

The word "Spoil" in Colossians 2:8 invokes images of decay and putrefaction, whereas the underlying Greek--and "spoil" to a 17th century English reader--means "to despoil," or, to use a more common synonym, "to plunder, take as plunder"

In 1 Corinthians 16:22. We read "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." Who or what is "Anathema Maranatha"? Someone forgot to put a period after "Anathema," and to this day KJV Bibles have this error.

What about 1 Corinthians 10:24: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth." The KJV could be understood as recommending coveting and perhaps stealing! But the truth is that the 1611 English used the word "wealth" to mean "well-being."

1 Peter 4:3 Of the KJV condemns "banquetings" as being very evil. Today, of course, "banqueting" is not sinful. Actually what the KJV condemns is "carousings", for that is what "banqueting" meant in 1611.

The word "charity" as found in 1 Corinthians 13 does not mean philanthropy or almsgiving as it would mean today but "love" as the 17 century English understood it to mean.

The KJV uses the word "allow" in the sense of "approve," "communicate" for "share," "conversation" for "conduct," "comprehend" for "overcome," "ghost" for "spirit," "allege" for "prove," "demand" for "ask," "take no thought" for "be not anxious," etc.


We can also list the many obscure or almost unintelligible KJV renderings, and just to drive the point home even more clearly here are some examples. Let’s play, Know Your King James Language.

  1. "chambering" (Rom. 13:13), sexual immorality
  2. "champaign" (Deut. 11:30), desert
  3. "charger" (Matt. 14:8—it is not a horse), platter
  4. "churl" (Isa. 32:7), scoundrel
  5. "cieled" (Hag. 1:4), paneled
  6. "circumspect" (Exod. 23:13), prudent
  7. "clouted upon their feet" (Josh. 9:5), patched
  8. "cockatrice" (Isa. 11:8), A serpent hatched from a cock's egg and having the power to kill by its glance.
  9. "collops" (Job 15:27), a roll of flesh
  10. "confection" (Exod. 30:35—it has nothing to do with sugar), skilled
  11. "cotes" (2 Chron. 32:28), a pen for animals
  12. "covert" (2 Kings 16:18), canopy
  13. "wimples" (Isa. 3:22), a woman’s cloak
  14. "stomacher" (Isa. 3:24), jeweled robe
  15. "wot" (Rom. 11:2), to know
  16. "wist" (Acts 12:9), awareness
  17. "withs" (Judg. 16:7), rope or cord
  18. "wont" (Dan. 3:19), accustomed
  19. "suretiship" (Prov. 11:15), cosign
  20. "sackbut" (Dan. 3:5), bagpipe
  21. "the scall" (Lev. 13:30), A scaly eruption of the skin or scalp.
  22. "scrabbled" (1 Sam. 21:13), Scratch or imprint frantically
  23. "roller" (Ezek. 30:21), A long rolled bandage.
  24. "muffler" (Isa. 3:19), A heavy scarf worn around the neck for warmth.
  25. "froward" (1 Peter 2:18), Stubbornly contrary and disobedient; obstinate.
  26. "habergeon" (Job 41:26), flexible armor
  27. "implead" (Acts 19:38), To sue in court in response to an earlier pleading.


This was a list of 27 words that are archaic and possibly misleading. There are hundreds more. Here is a list of 419 words that most of us would have to look up.


Here is the point. King James is an excellent translation but it is no more divinely inspired than any other translation. It may be preferred in some areas but not in other areas. For new and young Christians a good modern translation is probably a better choice as long as it is a translation without an agenda and not a paraphrase. For all Christians a variety of translations and supporting resources is a good idea for an enriched understanding. Always apply a few fundamentals to your understanding.

  1. The simplest understanding is preferred to the more esoteric understanding as long as it doesn’t disagree with the rest of scripture.
  2. Take scripture at face value unless it is clear that it should be understood as a metaphor, an analogy, a parable or symbolic.
  3. Do not try to spiritualize scripture when it can as easily be understood with a more natural interpretation.
  4. Realize that scripture often has more than one valid understanding.
  5. Realize that prophecy often has more than one fulfillment.
  6. Realize that we may never understand some scripture until the return of our Lord.
  7. Realize that we have all we need but not all that we might want.
  8. Although the message of scripture is true and certain the same cannot be said about each letter, word, or sentence.
  9. Most apparent contradictions can be reconciled by searching the rest of scripture or by context. The few uncertainties that exist are inconsequential.
  10. Our task is to harmonize scripture rather than look for ways to create division and doubt. Scripture is harmonious and God is not the author of confusion.