Psalm 118:8 and a particularly silly King James Only argument

One of the silliest King James Only arguments I have seen, one I am sure that even some of my King James Only brothers shake their heads at, involves alleged hidden evidence in Psalm 118:8 which is supposed to prove that the KJV is the word of God and modern translations are not. The basic idea is that the number of words in the verse and its central location in the Bible are proof that the KJV is the true word of God. Let me say clearly upfront, no; the placement and word count of Psalm 118:8 does not prove the KJV to be miraculous nor superior to any other translation. Those who raise this argument have their data wrong, and it wouldn't prove anything even if they had the data right.

The argument

The claim is typically laid out as follows. If you count all the verses in the KJV, the middle verse of the whole Bible is Psalm 118:8. This verse reads:

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man," (Psalm 118:8, KJV).

The middle words in this verse are "the Lord." Thus, in the KJV, "the Lord" is literally at the very center of the Bible. Not only that, in this verse there are six words on each side of "the Lord," representing the 66 books of the Bible! Thus, "the Lord" stands in between the two sixes in 66, again emphasizing that the Lord is the very center of the Bible. This is a miracle of inspiration that no man could have planned (or so we are told) and proves that the KJV is the true word of God.

Why just the KJV? Two reasons: First, many modern versions have fewer verses than the KJV, so in those versions, Psalm 118:8 is no longer the middle verse. What's more, modern versions use phrases such as "take refuge in" or "take shelter in" rather than "trust in," changing the word count so that "the Lord" is no longer the middle and there are no longer six words on each side of "the Lord." Thus, we are told, the KJV alone possesses this confirming "miracle" that "proves" its inspiration. As it turns out, however, this argument is flawed at every level.

Miscalculations and Missteps

Apart from just being patently ridiculous on its face, this argument suffers from a surprising number of factual errors, not the least of which is the fact that Psalm 118:8 does not actually occupy any special or unique position in the KJV at all! Consider:

  • When you actually count the verses in the KJV, there is no "middle verse." This is because the KJV has an even number of verses (31,102, to be exact). Thus, Psalm 118:8 cannot be the "middle" verse in the KJV because there is no such thing.
  • Even if we take the middle two verses in the KJV, Psalm 118:8 still doesn't make the cut. That honor actually goes to Psalm 103:1-2
  • Contrary to the assertions of some, Psalm 118 is not even the middle chapter in the KJV. It's actually Psalm 117
  • Even if Psalm 118 really was the middle chapter (which, again, it isn't), verse 8 is not even the middle verse in that chapter. Verse 15 is.

Thus, there is no sense in which Psalm 118:8 constitutes "the middle" of the KJV, which means the placement of "the Lord" in that verse doesn't make "the Lord' the center of the KJV nor does it substantiate any of the other claims that the argument hangs on. Not only that, the KJV is not unique in its number of verses nor in its word count at Psalm 118:8. Even modern translations like the MEV and NKJV possess the same verse count as the KJV and the same basic wording at this verse, so if this argument did prove anything (which it obviously doesn't), it would apply to those translations as well (and a host of others). And this is just a tiny sampling of the problems with this argument. Why should we count verse numbers when they are just a helpful reference tool added by later men and are not part of the original, inspired text? Why not count words to determine the middle of the Bible? Or pages? Or even letters? Why should we view the six words on the left of "the Lord" as sixty and the six on the right as just six? Since six and six make twelve, could we view it instead as the Lord in the midst of the twelve tribes of Israel? Or maybe the Lord Jesus surrounded by His twelve disciples? Are those options "miracles" too even though I just made them up? It is honestly startling to me that there are adults who take this kind of thing seriously.

A Case Study in Making Bad Arguments

Anyone can make these kinds of arguments out of anything, and so they don't prove anything. Just for fun, I decided to see if I could invent a KJVO argument like this myself entirely spur of the moment. So, I turned to the actual middle chapter in the KJV as my starting point and went from there. I literally came up with this on the fly in about ten minutes. Behold, the "miracle" I discovered!

The middle chapter in the KJV is Psalm 117. In that chapter, the middle word is "is." Now, "is" is just another form of "am," so at the center of the Bible is the great "I AM."! On either side of the I AM are 16 words, and 1616 is the first year the KJV was printed in the small folio lectern format. That doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that 1616 also happens to be the numerical value of the biblical Greek word "ελαχιστου." Now, in the KJV, that Greek word is translated as "very small"! Thus, the very small Bible of 1616 (i.e., the KJV) is the true word of the I AM! Not only that, this small folio edition was, according to Scrivener, the earliest printing of the KJV to receive considerable revision.1 This shows that God approved of the work of the revisers, which eventually culminated in the 1769 Blaney revision, the version still in print today. Thus, the KJV you hold in your hand today is the true word of God!

But why stop there! Can we also prove that the NIV is the miraculous translation? Of course we can! Indeed, it was easier than I thought! I did it in no more than thirty seconds! You see, I looked up what the middle verse in the NIV is, which turned out to be Psalm 102:18. And what does Psalm 102:18 say?

"Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord," (Psalm 102:18, NIV).

Well, there you go! The very center of the NIV is this command and promise! God's word is written down and preserved so that future generations and peoples that didn't yet even exist would praise the Lord! No human translator could have planned this! This is the preserved word of God! Don't you now believe in NIV Onlysim? Don't you?

Do you see how easy this is? You can find this kind of so-called "evidence" to prove anything you want, and therefore it doesn't prove anything at all.

Conclusion

Christians concerned about truth and serious about the word of God should not be swayed by these kinds of "arguments." They are entirely vacuous. If this is all it takes to make something the word of God, then everything ever written becomes the word of God. Our reasons for trusting the Bible are far deeper and more profound than this kind of nonsense. There is absolutely no reason for sincere Christians to sink to this kind of empty sophistry.

  • 1. F.H.A. Scrivener, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible, (Cambridge University Press, 1910) 17.