Revelation 14:1 and King James Onlyism

by Luke Wayne
10/31/18
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Discussions with King James Onlyists often center on instances where the KJV contains a phrase that is not present in a modern translation. Anywhere a King James Only advocate finds a verse that is longer in the KJV than in a more recent translation, the King James Onlyist will accuse the translator of "deleting" or "removing" something, often attributing the worst possible intent. Yet, there are also places where valuable clauses are present in modern translations but are lacking in the KJV. One notable example is in Revelation 14:1. 

The Verse in Question

The verse under discussion here traditionally reads in the KJV:

"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads," (Revelation 14:1, KJV).

In many modern translations, however, the verse reads:

"Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads," (NASB).

The major difference here is that, while the KJV says that they will have only the name of the Father written on them, translations like the NASB say that they will have both the name of the Lamb and the name of the Father. In this way, the deity of Christ is more clearly established in this verse by modern translations than by the KJV.

The Evidence

Not only do all the earliest manuscripts of Revelation (such as the third-century Papyrus 47) agree with the fuller, longer version of this verse found in modern translations, the overwhelming majority of all manuscripts of Revelation read this way. The Robinson-Pierpont publication of the Byzantine Majority Greek Text (hardly a friend of the modern critical texts) doesn't even note the shorter reading in the margins or footnotes as a possible option.1 The Hodges-Farstad edition of the Greek Majority Text notes it only to say that it is the reading found in the TR, the 16th and 17th century printed texts on which the King James Translators relied.2 In Hoskier's in-depth study of the manuscripts of Revelation, he found only six copies that contained the shorter reading found in the KJV, all of them quite late.3 At least one of those listed (Minuscule Hoskier 141) is, in fact, probably a hand copy of Erasmus' 16th-century printed text, and is thus utterly irrelevant.

The Latin tradition likewise contains the longer reading of "His name and the name of His Father," and thus so does the Wycliffe Bible, the first full Bible in English. The verse was also quoted this way in ancient Christian documents and commentaries, as can be seen in such early examples as Cyprian4 in the third century and Methodius5 in the early fourth.

Clearly, then, the manuscript evidence and other witnesses are vastly on the side of modern translations and the reading of "having His name and the name of His Father." So, why is this phrase lacking in the KJV? First of all, the Greek text on which it was based utilized very few manuscripts of Revelation, so they had little data to go on here. But, why was the clause lacking in those few manuscripts? Was there some conspiracy among scribes of the middle ages to willfully suppress the equality of the name of the Son and the name of the Father? No, not at all! Contrary to most King James Only literature, textual variants are not the result of some nefarious effort to alter the Bible. Most of them are just honest mistakes.

In this case, since the word "name" occurs twice in the verse, the scribe's eyes likely jumped from the first "name" to the second while going back and forth between the manuscript he was copying and the page he was writing on. This would have caused him to skip the missing words and move right along without ever realizing his error. The teaching of the deity of Christ hardly hangs on this verse. There are much stronger verses elsewhere, even in the Book of Revelation. Thus, this mistake, which made its way into the KJV, does not affect any essential doctrine. Still, this missing clause is certainly a blow to the lofty claims of King James Onlyism.

  • 1. Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek Byzantine Textform (Chilton Book Publishing, 2005) 516
  • 2. Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text: Second Edition (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984) 766
  • 3. Hermann C. Hoskier, Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse (Bernard Quaritch, 1929) 367
  • 4. Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 22
  • 5. Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Section on Marcella, Chapter 5