Do Modern Translations Undermine the Deity of Christ?

by Luke Wayne
Return to King James Onlyism

A common objection offered by King James Onlyists is that modern translations are "weaker on the deity of Christ," or sometimes even that they willfully seek to remove and deny the doctrine of Christ's deity. While cultic versions such as the "New World Translation" of the Jehovah's Witnesses can rightly be accused of such an effort, mainstream modern Bible translations are guilty of no such thing! They are accurate translations of the manuscript tradition on which they rely. Many modern translations are based on earlier, more recently discovered manuscripts which differ in some places from the Greek text on which the KJV was based (though in mostly minor ways, objectively considered.) Likewise, increased knowledge of the Greek language has sometimes affected the way a certain word or phrase is translated. We have to remember that the Greek language was largely lost in the West for hundreds of years. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Greek scholarship was a quite novel thing (Hebrew even more so). Over time, scholars have learned a lot about the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of these languages that had not yet been rediscovered in 1611. This has no impact on the teaching of Scripture as a whole but does sometimes affect the reading of a particular passage.

Between these two factors, the differences between the KJV and modern versions is easily explained without any need for conspiracy theories about a hidden Satanic plot among all modern translators. Indeed, as we will see, modern translations are just as strong on the deity of Christ, if not stronger! They may be weaker in this or that particular verse, but they are much stronger in a number of other verses.

From Where Does Doctrine Come?

It is also important for us to note an inherent flaw in the KJV Only argument here from the start. The King James Only argument is based on the idea that we should start with a set of doctrines and then look for a Bible that is strongest on those doctrines. But this gets the whole thing backwards! Our doctrine should be defined by what the Bible says, not the other way around. We don't start with a list of things we want to believe and then go out and find a Bible that best fits it. We do not elevate our tradition to a position over and above Scripture itself, where the very words of Scripture are based on infallible doctrines rather than our doctrines coming from infallible Scripture. Rather, we should seek to know what the original authors wrote and then believe whatever they said! The deity of Christ is true because Scripture teaches it. I could, however, write my own Bible tomorrow that contains an explicit and thorough reference to the deity of Christ on every page of every book. I could throw in extra verses that say outright "Jesus Christ is God in flesh, the second person of the Trinity." Such a Bible would be "stronger" on the deity of Christ than any Bible before it. It would not, however, be a faithful translation of the true Bible that God actually inspired. In the same way, the mere fact that a particular verse in the KJV may seem stronger on the deity of Christ does not make the KJV's rendering there correct. When modern translations are clearer on the deity of Christ in other verses, that does not make them automatically correct either. We don't judge the Bible by our doctrines, we judge our doctrines by the Bible. The deity of Christ is true and is taught in every major Christian Bible translation. Whichever Bible one determines to be most faithful to the original, you will find that it teaches the deity of Christ. The objection that one translation is "stronger" or "weaker" than the others on this matter is irrelevant to which Bible is the most faithful to the original text.

Common Texts King James Onlyists Cite

Following are some of the most common texts KJV Only advocates use to accuse modern translations of denying or being weak on the deity of Christ.

God was Manifest

One of the strongest verses in the KJV Only playbook on this issue is 1 Timothy 3:16, which reads: 

"And 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," (1 Timothy 3:16. KJV)

Such a clear and plain assertion that it was God who was manifest in the flesh when Jesus came is certainly powerful, and one might be disappointed to find that most modern translations read "...He was manifested in the flesh..." (ESV), or "...He appeared in the flesh..." (NIV). This is a case where the KJV really is stronger on the deity of Christ than modern translations, but there are several things we must consider:

  1. The reason for this difference between translations is a simple textual variant in the manuscripts. While "he" and "God" look very different in English, the Greek here is strikingly similar. Early Christian scribes used a unique set of abbreviations for the names of God and Christ which we today call "Nomina Sacra" or "Sacred Names." The Greek word for "he" is "ὃς." The Greek word for "God" is "θεός," but the scribe would not write out the whole word. Instead, they would write only the first and last letter with a line over them. Thus, "God" would be written as "θς," which looks an awful lot like "ὃς." It is easy to imagine a scribe mistakenly seeing "ὃς" as "θς," or vice versa. The earliest manuscripts we have read "ὃς" (he) and some ancient translations also reflect this. Thus, most modern translators take "ὃς" to be the original reading. This is not a novel conclusion, even for English translators. The 14th-century "Wycliffe Bible" has "he" in this verse. Regardless of whether one agrees with the modern translators' conclusion on this reading, their reasons for thinking "he" is correct are reasonable and wholly non-conspiratorial.
  2. Even if we conclude that "God was manifest" is the correct and original reading rather than "He was manifest," this would not lead us to King James Onlyism. Modern translations like the NKJV and MEV are based on the same Greek text as the KJV and thus also read "God was manifest." Thus, the KJV is not "stronger" on the deity of Christ than these modern translations, even in this particular verse. There are modern translations that share this reading.
  3. While "God" is certainly clearer and more obvious than "He," they are both teaching the deity of Christ. If we simply read the preceding verses, it is clear to whom the pronoun "He" is referring back. We read "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh..." God is mentioned repeated and is the only persons mentioned in the immediate context to whom "he" could be referring. So when we simply trace back the pronoun, "He" is referring to God. It may be a little less clear at first glance, but the passage actually teaches the very same thing whichever way you read it.

Thought it Not Robbery

Another common passage to which King James Onlyists turn is in Philippians 2:

"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God," (Philippians 2:6, KJV).

The NKJV agrees, so again, this is not an argument for King James Onlyism. You can find this reading of the verse in a trusted modern translation. Most modern translators, however, read more like the following examples:

"who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped," (Philippians 2:6, NASB).

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage," (Philippians 2:6, NIV).

"who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited," (Philippians 2:6, CSB).

Whereas our last example related to a manuscript difference, this one is a translational question. The issue here is not what the Greek says but rather what those Greek words mean. Thus the MEV, which is a translation of the same Greek text as the KJV, reads more like the NASB in this verse. The reason for the difference here is development in our understanding of Greek grammar. 

The KJV Onlyists insist that these translations of the verse remove the deity of Christ, but that is simply untrue! To say that Jesus "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" certainly implies that Jesus is, in fact, equal with God, but so does saying that Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage" or "as something to be exploited." The assumption is that Jesus has equality with God but still humbly chooses to submit Himself to the humiliation of the cross for our sake and for the glory of the Father. Indeed, these translations all affirm that Jesus exists "in the form of God" or is "in very nature God."

Joseph and His Mother

Another popular (though not quite wholly related) verse cited is Luke 2:33

"And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him," (Luke 2:33, KJV).

Most modern translations read more like:

"And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him," (Luke 2:33, ESV).

The difference here is that the modern translations call Joseph Jesus' "father," which KJV Onlyists take to be a denial of the virgin birth and thus, by extension, of Christ's deity (even though the virgin birth is explicitly taught in the previous chapter by all of these translations). Once again, we must note that this does not prove the King James Only position because modern translations like the NKJV and MEV also read "Joseph and his mother," just as the KJV does. Even if the argument here were sound, it would not affect these modern translations. It is further worth noting that most early English translations before the KJV and based on the same basic manuscript tradition as the KJV actually agree with the modern translations! The translations of Tyndale, Coverdale, the Matthew Bible, and the Great Bible all read "his father and his mother." It was not until the Geneva Bible that the reading "Joseph and his mother" was adopted, and the KJV later followed suit. Thus, this is clearly not some modern conspiracy to change the Bible. This is how the Bible read even before the KJV!

Still, it is important to note that calling Joseph Jesus' father does not deny the virgin birth. Even the KJV has Mary say just a few verses later that:

"And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing," (Luke 2:48, KJV).

And Mary, of all people, was well aware of the virgin birth and that Joseph was not the biological father. This does not change the fact that Joseph was the legal father and served in the household as Jesus' earthly father. Joseph could thus rightly be called Jesus' father even though they were not blood relatives. I have multiple adopted children. They were not born from me or my wife, yet I am their father. It is perfectly right and true for me and for anyone to say that I am their father.  In the same way, Joseph could rightly be called Jesus' father without any denial of the virgin birth, much less of Jesus' deity.

Son of God or Son of Man?

Also frequently cited in KJV Only literature as evidence of modern translations' supposed nefarious opposition to Christ's deity is John 9:35:

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" (KJV).

"Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?'” (NIV).

Since most modern translations use "Son of Man," it is alleged that they are denying Jesus' deity by not using the term "Son of God." Once again, the NKJV and MEV are immune to this charge, as they also use the term "Son of God" here. Still, the accusation is rather ludicrous. The KJV describes Jesus as the "Son of Man" numerous times, and all of the modern translation in question call Jesus the "Son of God" all over the place. The reason for the discrepancy is not a dispute between the translators as to whether Jesus is the Son of God or the Son of Man. Both are biblical titles for Jesus. The question is simply which title was originally used in this particular verse. The earliest manuscripts side with the "Son of Man" reading, and most modern translators follow suit.

More importantly, "Son of Man" is every bit as much a title of Jesus' divinity as is "Son of God." When used as a title for the Messiah, the term "Son of Man" comes from Daniel 7, where we read:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed," (Daniel 7:13-14, NIV).

The Son of Man is an everlasting ruler or sovereign power who is rightly worshiped by all the nations and peoples. The Son of Man is a divine person. Of course, the KJV is actually not quite as strong here. Instead of saying that all peoples and nations "worshiped" the Son of Man, it merely says that they all "served" Him. We can serve mere human masters, but we can only worship God. Is the KJV trying to hide that the Son of Man is divine and worthy of worship? Of course not! The word for "worship" in Hebrew can also mean serve. Many other modern translations also render it this way. In every other instance in Daniel, however, the word refers to worship, and that is clearly the sense here. The Son of Man is divine, and modern translators are not denying Jesus deity by calling Him the divine Son of Man.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

Yet another verse often employed to try and show that modern translators deny Christ's deity is found in Romans 14:

"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ," (Romans 14:10, KJV). [see also NKJV and MEV]

In most modern translations, however, it reads:

"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God," (Romans 14:10, NASB).

The accusation is that, because the verse says "Judgment seat of God" instead of "Judgment seat of Christ," this somehow denies Christ's role in the final judgment and therefore His deity. The problem with this claim is that every translation agrees that earlier in the book, Paul wrote:

"In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel," (Romans 2:16).

Whether you are reading the KJV or a more recent translation, it is unanimously clear that God will judge all men through Jesus Christ. Further, it should be noted that modern translations are not trying to hide the judgment seat of Christ, for they all read elsewhere that:

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ..." (2 Corinthians 5:10, NASB).

Thus, every translation is clear that the final judgment seat is the judgment seat of Christ. If anything, modern translations are more clear that Christ's judgment seat is the very judgment seat of God! Modern translations call it both the judgment seat of God and the judgment seat of Christ interchangeably, making it clearer that Christ is God. Does this mean the KJV is too "weak" on the deity of Christ? Of course not! They are simply translating from slightly different manuscripts. In spite of the different wording, the teaching is the same.

Romans refers to the "judgment of God" throughout the book (Romans 1:32, 2:2, 2:3, 2:5, 11:33). It also says that God shall "judge the world," (Romans 3:6). Is it so unthinkable that Paul would use the phrase "judgment seat of God" in this context?

The Alpha and Omega

KJV Onlyists also frequently claim that modern translations deny that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. They point to Revelation 1, where we read in the KJV:

"Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea," (Revelation 1:11, KJV).

As usual, the NKJV and MEV both contain the words in question, so they are immune to the KJVO accusation. Most modern translations, however, read:

"which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea,'” (Revelation 1:11, NIV).

As is often the case, this reading is not new, even among English translations. One finds the same thing in the 14th century Wycliffe Bible. It is, again, based on a difference in manuscripts. The earliest manuscripts and translations of Revelation do not contain the words "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" in this particular verse. Modern translations simply follow these manuscripts. Now, in Revelation 1:8, modern translations do state that "the Lord God" says that He is the Alpha and Omega. The King James Onlyist claim is that modern translations are trying to deny that Jesus said the same thing about Himself, and thus are denying the deity of Christ. The problem with this claim is that modern translations all have Jesus saying this about Himself in Revelation 22:12-13.

"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End," (Revelation 22:12-13, NIV).

Thus, there is no conspiracy to deny Christ's divinity here. It is a simple variation in manuscripts. Following the early manuscripts is not an attack on the deity of Jesus. Modern translations all agree that Jesus, as God, is the Alpha and Omega and that He plainly said so.

Calling Upon God

One of the weakest passages to which the KJVO camp turns is in Acts 7, where we read:

"And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," (Acts 7:59, KJV).

Stephen calls upon God and addresses Him as "Lord Jesus." Pretty clear testimony to Christ's deity, right? And, as should almost go without saying by this point, modern translations like the MEV and NKJV agree, so this is not an argument for the KJV alone and against all modern translations. But most modern translation read something like:

"And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," (Acts 7:59, ESV).

The reason for this is not a difference in manuscripts this time. Both the KJV and modern translations agree on what the Greek says here, and they all agree that the Greek does not actually say "God" in this verse! If you pay attention, the word "God" in the KJV is in italics. That means it is a word that the translators added for clarity. The word is not found in the actual Greek text. Note how most other early English translations rendered this verse based on the same Greek text as the KJV:

"And they stoned Steven calling on and saying: Lord Jesus receive my spirit," (Acts 7:59, Tyndale, Matthew Bible, Great Bible, Bishops Bible).

"And they stoned Steven, which cried, & said: LORD Jesus, receive my spirit," (Acts 7:59, Coverdale).

So this is a place where the KJV is "stronger" on the deity of Christ only be adding a reverence to God that is not actually there! The King James Translators were honest about this by using a different font to mark out there interpretive addition, but King James Onlyists today who cite this verse against modern translations are not. The modern translators are simply translating what is actually in the Greek without adding to it.

Christ and the Serpents

To take one last example, some King James Only publications point to Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10, where he writes:

"Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents," (1 Corinthians 10:9, KJV).

This is indeed a great testimony to Jesus' deity. The verse is referring to the story in Numbers 21 where Israel grumbled against God and provoked His wrath in the form of a plague of deadly serpents. If Paul says that it was Christ whom they tested and were destroyed by serpents, Paul is identifying Jesus with the one true God of Israel! The KJV Onlyist will then point to the New American Standard Bible, which reads:

"Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents," (1 Corinthians 10:9, NASB).

The NASB reads "the Lord" rather than "Christ." Now, when Paul refers to "the Lord," he almost always means the Lord Jesus Christ, so the meaning here is not fully lost, but it is certainly weaker. The problem for the King James Onlyist, however, is that the NASB is virtually alone among modern translations. Most modern translations agree that the verse should read "Christ" here. Note, for example:

"We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents," (1 Corinthians 10:9, ESV).

"We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes," (1 Corinthians 10:9, NIV).

"nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents," (1 Corinthians 10:9, NKJV).

"Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes," (1 Corinthians 10:9, CSB).

So, this is not an argument against modern translation or in favor of the KJV. At best, it is an argument against one specific modern translation's rending of this one verse. That said, there are reasons for the NASB's decision. Most of the earliest manuscripts of this passage do read "Lord" rather than "Christ." Numerous other manuscripts, some early translations, and some quotations from early Christian writings also preserve this reading. The NASB translators were not trying to "change" the passage or "remove " the deity of Christ. Instead, they were simply relying on strong, early, and diverse testimony. However, the reading "Christ" is found in P46, a Papyrus of the late second or early third century which is by far the earliest manuscript we have of this passage. The reading is also found in many other manuscripts from the 5th century onward, as well as numerous ancient translations and early citations in the church fathers, all of which serve to support the early testimony of P46. Thus, most modern translators conclude that the reading of "Christ" is, indeed, the correct one. And since the vast majority of modern translations render this passage the same way, this text has nothing to do with the KJV Only argument.

Counter Examples

There are also passages in which the KJV, for one reason or another, is not as plain or clear on the deity of Christ as modern translations are. Following are a few examples:

Our God and Savior, Jesus Christ

In the opening of Peter's second letter, we read:

"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," (2 Peter 1:1, KJV).

There is nothing in this rendering of that verse that denies the deity of Christ or harms any Christian doctrine, but there is also no clear affirmation of Jesus' deity here. Worded as the KJV does, the verse seems to refer to the righteousness of God and also the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ. God and Christ are both righteous, and we obtain faith through both of them, but they are not hear equated with one another as one and the same being, at least in the KJV rendering. But if we read modern translations, we will find it worded as:

"Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (2 Peter 1:1, NASB).

Here, Jesus Christ is Himself called both God and Savior. It is not through the righteousness of God and also the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ that we receive our faith. It is by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who is both God and Savior. The point here is not to say that KJV denies the deity of Christ. It most certainly doesn't! The point is that the wording of the NASB and other modern translations is much stronger and clearer in its affirmation of the deity of Christ. This is not a manuscript issue. The Greek behind all translations of this verse is the same, which is why even modern translations like the NKJV and MEV support the reading "of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" rather than the KJV's "of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." This is also why every major English translation even before the KJV reads the way our modern translations do at this clause, such as the Wycliffe Bible, Tyndale New Testament, Coverdale Bible, Matthew Bible, Great Bible, Geneva Bible, and the Bishop's Bible. So, in fact, in this particular verse, the KJV is the weakest among all major English translations throughout history.

Our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

In an almost identical example, Paul writes to Titus:

"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13, KJV).

Or in modern translations:

"waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13, ESV).

The KJV is not "wrong," it is just less clear. By carefully examining the context of this verse, one can arrive at the conclusion that Jesus is both God and Savior even in the KJV, but in modern translations, the deity of Christ is plain and obvious even before the context is carefully examined. Thus, the KJV is weaker in its affirmation of the deity of Christ in this verse than modern translations.

God Over All

Another example is found in Romans 9:4-5, where we read:

"Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen," (Romans 9:4-5, KJV).

Interestingly, the NASB reads quite similarly to the KJV here, stating

"who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen," (Romans 9:4-5, NASB).

While these translations can be interpreted as an affirmation that Jesus is Himself "God blessed forever," this is somewhat ambiguous. "God blessed forever, Amen" was often interpreted by those using the KJV as a doxology to God the Father in praise for the glorious truth that had just been stated. Grammatically, there is no way within the KJV itself to answer the question. Most modern translations, however, read something more like:

"They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen," (Romans 9:4-5, ESV).

You find similar readings in the NIV, CSB, NET, and most others. These translations are quite explicit in saying unambiguously that Christ is God over all. The deity of Jesus is indisputable. The NKJV finds a balance between the two, following the basic sentence structure of the KJV while remaining clear and unambiguous like other modern translations. It reads:

"who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen," (Romans 9:4-5, NKJV.)

While the phrase "God blessed forever," can be read as a distinct doxology rather than a continuation of Christ's title, the phrase "the eternally blessed God" cannot stand by itself and is clearly a continuation of the phrase before it. Thus, Christ, who is over all, is Himself the eternally blessed God. Interestingly, every major English translation before the KJV reads similarly to the NKJV in this clause.

The Only God

All of our counter-examples so far have been passages where the underlying Greek texts agree and the differences are only in translation. In John 1:18, however, the issue is a difference in manuscripts. Some ancient copies read υἱός (son) where others read θεός (God). Thus, the KJV reads:

"No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," (John 1:18, KJV).

While many modern translations read things like:

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known," (John 1:18, ESV).

"No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known, (John 1:18, NET).

The issue is (as is often the case) not so clean cut as "KJV versus Modern Translations." Many modern translations agree that "Son" is the correct reading here. Not only translations like the NKJV and MEV, which share the underlying Greek text with the KJV, but even translations like the NIV and CSB. So, even if one concludes that "Son" is the correct reading, that is far from an argument for the King James Only position. Still, if we are concerned with which translation most plainly and obviously declares Jesus to be God, then the one that directly calls Him "the only God" would seem to be the winner. Thus, even the Greek text behind the KJV is not always and in every place clearer on Jesus' divinity.

Another translation which should be mentioned here is the unique rendering of the New Revised Standard Version, which actually retains both readings by translating the verse:

"No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known," (John 1:18, NRSV).

This might be the clearest and most Trinitarian reading of them all! And yet, that does not make it the most faithful to what the Greek actually says. Thus, the King James Onlyist should rethink the argument that seeming doctrinally stronger automatically means a better translation.

Our Only Master and Lord

To take just one more example, let's look at the little book of Jude toward the end of the New Testament. According to the KJV, Jude writes:

"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not," (Jude 4-5, KJV).

In this version, the condemned men deny both the only Lord God and also our Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, this speaks gravely of the men's sin, but it is not an explicit testimony to Christ's deity. The passage goes on to say that "the Lord" saved the people out of the land of Egypt, but this can easily be understood as referring to "the Lord God" rather than "our Lord Jesus Christ." One could appeal to the Greek to settle the matter, as two different words word "Lord" are used here, but for the KJV Onlyist who must rely only on the English of the King James, there is no further recourse. The passage might be read as a sort of affirmation of Christ's deity, but it is not particularly clear. Most modern translations, however, remove this ambiguity:

"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe," (Jude 4-5, NASB).

At first glance, the fact that such modern translations rely on manuscripts that do not contain the word "God" in this text might appear to weaken the testimony to Christ's deity, but in fact, it does the opposite! These early manuscripts, and the translations that follow them, make it clear that Jesus is the only Master and Lord and then immediately say that it was the Lord who delivered the people out of the land of Egypt, thus identifying Jesus directly as the one true God of the Old Testament! In this way, these more recent translations, relying on older manuscripts, are actually far clearer in this text that Jesus is God. Yet, there are some translations that are even clearer still. They read:

"For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe," (Jude 4-5, ESV).

Note that here it does not merely say that "the Lord" delivered the people out of the land of Egypt, but rather that "Jesus" did so. And this reading is not a novel creation of clever translators. It is found in very early manuscripts and translations. Even in English, it is the reading found in the 14th-century Wycliffe Bible, the first known translation of the entire Bible into English. Thus, while the KJV is certainly strong on the deity of Christ in many other passages, here it shrouds the otherwise clear testimony of Jesus' divinity in obscurity, both in how it translates the text and in what Greek text it translates from. You may still argue that the KJV is correct here, but you cannot argue that it is stronger or clearer on the deity of Christ. The argument of which translation is most "strong doctrinally" will have to give way to a more objective standard for evaluating the accuracy of a translation.


It is simply not true that modern translations are weak on the deity of Christ. It is certainly not true that they hide it all together. In some passages, the KJV is a bit stronger than most modern translations (though not all). In other passages, however, the modern translations are much clearer on the fact that Jesus is God. Any mainstream translation, old or new, teaches the deity of Christ because the New Testament itself teaches the deity of Christ. The question we should be asking is not which Bible teaches that Jesus is divine (they all do) but rather which Bible most faithfully reflects the original writings of the Prophets and Apostles in words that Christians today can most clearly read and understand.