Why Write About King James Onlyism

I love the King James Version of the Bible. I have never been a King James Onlyist, but I was raised on the KJV and I have never stopped using it. Its the only version I can ever recall seeing my grandfather use, and it is the version that he and my grandmother gave me as my very first Bible as a young child. I still have that Bible. I learned how to read, in part, through that Bible. My parents had no malice toward other Bible translations, but they believed that the KJV was the most literal and accurate. Later on, when I was baptized, someone gave me an NIV Bible. This was the second Bible I ever received, and I still have it as well. I began to read it voraciously and I understood it far better than the KJV.  Seeing this, my father encouraged me to go ahead and read from that NIV on my own for that reason. He still insisted, however, that I memorize Scripture in the KJV so that as I got older I would call the verses to mind in the more literal and accurate rendering. To this day, I still remember many of the passages he taught me back then. I have stored them up in my heart, just as my father intended.

I read, study, and even memorize in a variety of translations now, but I have never let go of the KJV. I still trust it. I still read from it. I still recite it. When I hit a hard passage in another translation or when I am studying a section of Scripture deeply, I will always look up to see how it is rendered in the KJV. I do not believe that the KJV is obsolete or wholly outdated. The King James Version of the Bible is a treasure that has enriched and continues to enrich the church. Nothing I write in this section is intended to attack the KJV itself or to dissuade anyone from using it. If anything, I would love to encourage Christians who have not read the KJV to do so, Genesis to Revelation. It is your heritage, and you have much to learn from it. As I said, I love the KJV! This section is not about the King James Bible, but rather about the error of King James ONLYism.

To the King James Onlyist, nothing I have just said ultimately matters because of what I won't say. I won't call the King James Version the only true Bible translation in the English language. I won't call it a translation that is perfect for all English speakers in all times and in all places. I won't say that modern translations are corrupt or in error. I won't say these things, not only because they are untrue, but also because to promote such ideas would be to deprive my brothers and sisters of the very thing that the King James translators wanted people to have; the word of God translated plainly and comprehensibly in the language they actually speak!

First and foremost, this is why CARM must address King James Onlyism. Far from trying to undermine the word of God (a thing of which I know some King James Onlyists will inevitably accuse us), we are writing on this subject out of a love for and devotion to the Word of God and the people of God. Just as the translators 400 years ago wanted for the people of their day, I want men and women of all backgrounds and walks of life to be able to read and understand the Bible for themselves. I also want them to live out its teachings in unity and love for one another (John 13:35) without unnecessary divisions (1 Cor. 1:10) so often caused by suspicion and misinformation over solid Bible translations.

I have unfortunately seen discord sown in otherwise healthy churches because some young member stumbles on a King James Onlyist Youtube video and suddenly begins publically accusing the pastor of being a heretic and a deceiver because he is preaching out of the New King James Version (or, heaven forbid, the NIV!). Such things ought not be! When all the facts are laid out, there is no reason to avoid the use of modern translations, and indeed there are many reasons to commend them! There is also no reason to abandon all use of the King James Version. Indeed, I think there is still much value in it! Any belief system that creates needless conflict and division in the body while promoting the tradition of a single translation over the actual content and teachings of the word of God must be challenged, especially when it promotes such things through completely untenable historical, biblical, and linguistic claims as King James Onlyism often does. I am not saying that King James Onlyists are liars. I can't see a man's heart, but the best I can tell they are often quite sincere and really do believe the things that they are saying. But sincerity and zeal do not make the claims true. King James Onlyism's foundation is ultimately false assumptions and misinformation about the history of the Bible and the nature of translation.

I love the King James Version, and because of that I won't stand by and watch it used as a weapon against the unity and maturity of the body of Christ. Even more, though, I love Christians. I believe that many King James Onlyists are my genuine brothers in Christ. My goal here is not merely to correct errors, but to restore unity and fellowship among brothers. If some of these articles make some people angry, I am sorry for that. It is not my intention. But my hope is to help people see that such anger is rising out of devotion to a tradition rather than to the Word of God itself.


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