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Home: Questions and Answers
Question:

I do not believe anyone has shown me an error in my King James Bible and I don't believe you can show me one either.

Answer:

As much as I appreciate the unwavering certainty in this person's comments, I believe it expresses naiveté about the nature of the King James translation, as well as with biblical translations in general. This is one of the primary presuppositions of the advocates for King James Onlyism, the belief that God's Word is preserved for us only in the King James Version of the Bible, and it is a belief that is both patently absurd and demonstrably false.

First, it needs to be stated up front that no one is suggesting the Bible, as a record of revelation, contains errors. What is being stated by the person is that the English translation of the King James Bible contains no errors. However, the problem with that assumption is that the KJV is a translation of the original languages of Hebrew and Greek and any written document being translated from one language into another may contain some level of error. Now, by the word "error," I mean that the translation may not clearly render the language of the original document. In other words, if I am translating a book from French into English, in some instances my English translation may not clearly capture the original intended nuance of a particular French word. This difficulty is especially true of any translation of the Bible. The translation may not capture with clarity what the original biblical languages meant to convey and introduce unnecessary confusion. A good illustration of this problem is the KJV translation of Exodus 20:13. The KJV renders the verse, "Thou shalt not kill." The unclear "error" is the word translated as "kill." It would had been a more clear and an all together better translation of the Hebrew if the KJV translators had translated the word as "murder." The point of the 7th commandment is to prohibit a person taking the life of another person by an act of premeditated murder. The prohibition is not against the official government taking the life of a person who may be a convicted criminal, something that many anti-death penalty supporters read into the problematic KJV translation of this verse, nor is it against the killing that takes place in sanctioned warfare involving enemies. Rather, the commandment is against the willful and sinful taking of a person's life by another individual or group of individuals. The KJV translation does not bring this out and only causes confusion.

In addition to errors of clarity, Bible translations also have to deal with textual difficulties. There are many, many manuscripts and other textual pieces of evidence that underlie the entire biblical text. Any thing from multiple copies of biblical manuscripts, ancient translations of the Bible, as well as ancient commentaries quoting the Bible and Church Fathers citing scripture in their apologetic works. All of these pieces of evidence witness to the veracity of scripture and the serious translator would want to consider the weight of accuracy among the thousands of variants that exist between all these pieces of evidence. The King James Version contains several examples where the translators translated verses and sections of scripture that textual critics now know do not reflect the best readings from the vast body of textual witnesses. For example, in the KJV, Luke 3:36 adds the name "Cainan" to the genealogical list of Christ's lineage. The name "Cainan" is not found in any of the Hebrew texts of Genesis and 1st Chronicles that contain the full genealogies that trace the line of descent back to Adam. All of them record that Arphaxad was the direct father of Sala, or Salah. Only certain editions of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, insert the name "Cainan" in between Arphaxad and Salah. Some older editions of the Septuagint, however, do not insert the name. The KJV inclusion of this name is a result of the KJV translators depending upon a later NT Greek text that contained the name in Luke's gospel. That does not mean Luke's gospel is in error (though KJV only advocates would attempt to argue otherwise), but it means that during the course of copying Luke's gospel, a scribe either attempted to align Luke's genealogical list with a Septuagint version containing the name, or perhaps amended later Septuagint versions according to Luke's gospel containing a scribal slip that accidentally duplicated the name in verse 36 from the real name of "Cainan" accurately recorded in verse 37. Interestingly, KJV only advocates try to solve what is obviously a scribal error by inventing solutions designed to protect the integrity of the KJV translation without admitting the fact that the KJV does contain these type of errors. With the example of Luke 3:36, the KJV advocates will say that genealogies skip around, that they will pass over descendants, and that anomalies like a son-in-law who is not recorded in some official lists, but recorded in others, can be counted as a true genealogical descendant. The main problem with this overall solution is the existence of three separate lists of this specific genealogy in the OT, Genesis 10:24, 11:12 and 1st Chronicles 1:18, that do not contain the name and the fact that the oldest Greek manuscript of Luke's gospel, P 75, also does not contain the name. It is a prime example that the KJV as a translation contains errors of textual matters.

Then third, there are some instances where the KJV contains what could be considered a bad translation. Acts 12:4 is an example of this where the KJV renders the word Pascha as "easter." In 28 other places, the KJV properly translates the word as "Passover." Yet, in this one verse, it is easter. There is absolutely no reason for such a rendering. Oddly, KJV only advocates attempt to defend this bad translation and use it as proof of God's providential preservation of His word. They will argue that the "days of unleavened bread" extend from the 15th of the month to the 21st, whereas Passover is celebrated on the 14th. They basically separate the actual day of Passover from the 7 days of unleavened bread following after Passover. They then insist that Herod imprisoned Peter during the "days of unleavened bread" (12:3), so the official Passover day was already past. They argue further that King Herod was a pagan and celebrated the festival of Ishtar or Astarte, from where we get our modern rendition of "easter," and he would never involve himself with any Jewish Celebration. Herod's intention was to bring Peter to trial after this pagan holiday ended and hence the KJV, directed by God's providence, properly translate Pascha as "easter" and not Passover. I have even come across some KJV advocates who state emphatically that to change the word Pascha from "easter" to its correct translation of Passover would introduce an historical error into the Bible. The explanation, however, as clever as it appears to be on the surface, is riddled with problems. First of all, there is no historical evidence anywhere that suggests that the pagan festivals surrounding Ishtar were celebrated during this time in Israel history. In fact, Josephus, the famed Jewish historian, makes the point contrary to KJV only claims, that Herod was favorable to the Jewish holy days and respected them for political reasons. Moreover, the Bible no where separates the day of Passover from the days of unleavened bread. The Bible actually uses the word "Passover" to describe the entire celebration, not just the one day (see Ezekiel 45:21 and Luke 22:1).

There are several more examples that could be explored, but these are sufficient to see that the KJV, though it is a good and reliable translation, is still in need of solid revision. Hence, a person has to be profoundly unlearned to make the claim that the KJV as an English translation is without any error whatsoever. Such is simply not the case.


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