The Trouble With King James Onlyism – Lesson Notes

I.  What is KJV Onlyism?

A. Does NOT refer to a personal preference for King James Version over other translations.

B. DOES refer to people who insist:

1. you are not a real Christian if you use any other translation

2. You may still be Christian, but all other translations are Satanic.

C. First defense against KJV Onlyism is the gospel.

Hebrews 10:10-14

1. To ground righteousness upon one’s use of a translation is an act of idolatry

a. righteousness is grounded instead upon the cross of Christ

“through the offering of the body of Christ.”  (Heb 10:1-14)  Not through the offering of a translation. “for by a single OFFERING He has perfected for all time”.  Not, for by a single TRANSLATION He has perfected.

b. The apostles did not say we come preaching the KJV.   The first readers of the New Testament did not have a New Testament, much less a King James translation. The people in Acts 2 did not have an Acts 3 when Peter preached Acts 2 to them.

D. Second defense is to counter their arguments with historical fact. This requires knowledge of how and why translations are produced.

II. Why make translations?

A. The Great Commission —  Matthew 28:16-19

B. One way the apostles took the gospel to the nations was through the transmission of their writings. They encouraged Christians to make copies of theirs writings and to then pass them on to other believers.

1. Colossians 4:16-17

C. Christians in every region of Asia Minor continued to make copies of the epistles and the gospels so that by the time the first century came to a close there were a vast number of copies floating around Asia Minor.

D. None of these copies survive today. None of the original writings have survived either. Original writings are called “autographs.”  Instead, what we have today are copies of the copies of the copies of the copies of the autographs.

III.  The Manuscripts

A. Christian scribes did their best, but still their handwriting was poor, contractions could be mistaken, letters or words could be omitted accidentally, and so forth. In addition to this some scribes tried to harmonize passages, while others abbreviated their words. Making a copy was more difficult and time consuming than today because  everything had to be done by hand.  These mistakes which scribes sometimes made are called “variations”.

B. The copies are not inspired.  Only the autographs are inspired.  God did not breath out the copies.  He only breathed out the autographs.   This is why the copies contain mistakes.

C. The result of having all these copies with variations is that no two of the nearly 6,000 Greek copies of the New Testament are exactly alike.  The closest relationship between any two copies average from between six to ten variations per  chapter.

D. Does this mean we cannot know the infallible word of God today? NO, IT DOES NOT!

95% of the variations have no support.  This means it is obvious they do not belong. Of the remaining 5%, 95% of those 5% cause no appreciable difference in the sense of the passages where they occur. This means they do not change the meaning of the passage. The differences are so minor, so insignificant that we can be certain that not a single doctrine, not a single statement of fact, not a single command or exhortation has been missed in our translations.

E. In addition to this, New Testament manuscripts are characterized by an aggressively tenacious textual drift. This means once a variation occurs this variation tends to remain in all future copies, even in those which appear in other areas at a later date.  By simply comparing copies that do not have the variation to copies that do contain the variation we can discover how old the copy is and whether the variation is genuinely part of the passage or something that someone later added.

So the problem is not that we cannot know the original, inspired, inerrant word of God. We can indeed! The problem is we have more than only His inerrant word to contend with.

F. Why did God do it like this? Why not commit the transmission of the New Testament to the care of one person or one group of people as He had done with the Old Testament?

1. Jews were distrusted. They had, after all, crucified the Lord of glory. Are you going to trust someone who has crucified the Lord to preserve the words of the Lord without altering them?

2. Better that one person or group has no control over the transmission of ancient text.

The Catholic Church tried it. They had control over the Latin Vulgate.  The result is the Vulgate had become so corrupted that some who could read Greek, like Thomas Linacre, one of the first to translate the Vulgate into English, said to a friend, ““Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.”

3. What we instead have are copies being made all over Asia Minor and parts of Africa, with no one person controlling the process.

IV. Three major types of text types.

A. Byzantine Text Type – Byzantians spoke Latin, but they used Greek in all their religious practices. They made copies of the Bible that have survived to this day. These manuscripts are believed to have been produced in or around the area of Antioch. They are newer than the Alexandrian text type, circa 5th century.

B. Alexandrian Text Type – these are much older manuscripts dating back to the 3rd and early 4th century. Discovered in the 19th century. They are generally believed to have been produced in or around the area of Alexandria, Egypt.

C. Western Text Type

D. Differences
1. Alexandrian are less grammatically polished.
2. Alexandrian text type dates back to an archetype that has been dated to the early 2nd century.
3. Other manuscripts older than the Byzantine have Alexandrian readings.
4. Byzantine are grammatically polished and smooth which means they have more words than the Alexandrian
5. Byzantine show effort to harmonize parallel passages and make the Bible more readable.
6. Byzantine were widely distributed throughout the empire, making it the standard, authoritative text of the empire, so there are more available manuscripts.
7. Byzantine contains the story of the woman caught in adultery and final verses of Mark. Alexandrian do not.

These differences have most scholars convinced the Byzantine’s scribes added to the copies in order to produce a more smooth reading.

E. Example of variation in Alexandrian and Byzantine.

(Byzantine) Revelation 22:19 “God shall take away his part out of the book of life.’’

(Alexandria) Revelation 22:19 “God shall take away his part out of the tree of life.’’

There is no extant manuscript before the Byzantine tradition that says book of life. Byzantine was the first to say it, implying the Byzantine scribes accidentally changed tree to book.

F. Early scholars did not group manuscripts according to text types, because they did not have access to many manuscripts.  Erasmus, for example, had access to at the most an estimated 9 manuscripts.

IV. From manuscripts to the KJV

A. Printed Text vs manuscript
1. After compiling and piecing together all these manuscripts, and after weeding out the copy errors, scholars then print and publish a Greek New Testament. All English translations, including the KJV are translations of one of these texts.

B. Three (3) major Greek New Testament texts from which English translations of the New Testament are
produced. *

1. Textus Receptus
a. Erasmus one of the first to provide the world with a Greek New Testament. Used an estimated 9 manuscripts including some from Byzantine tradition that he found in the region of Basle (city in Switzerland). Eventually his became the standard of its time. Luther used it. (1400’s)

b. a few decades later, Theodore Beza (Calvin’s friend) produced one using Erasmus’ work as his starting point

c. Robert Stephanus produced one that was based on Erasmus’ and Beza’s work. This is the text the KJV translated (1550)

d. Finally, Abraham and Bonaventure Elzevir of Leiden, produced a second edition of their Greek text in 1633. In the publisher’s preface, they wrote the following words in Latin: “the reader now has the text that is received by all.” In Latin, the words text received is Textus Receptus.

The name Textus Receptus is actually a misnomer. It refers not only the Elzevir brother’s text, but rather to all the texts produced by Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza and a few others. All these texts follow in the line of the Byzantine tradition. This is why it is also sometimes erroneously referred to as the Majority Text, because it has more published texts in its library. *

e. The King James Version and the New King James
Both versions are translations of the Textus Receptus.

2. Westcott and Hort “New Testament in Original Greek”. Was the first text to compile manuscripts from the Alexandrian tradition. Published in 1881. Was the basis for the Revised Standard Version and American Standard Version.

3. The Nestle-Aland Critical Text.  Compiled manuscripts from Alexandrian traditions, but also considers manuscripts from Byzantine and other traditions. Has become known today as the Critical Text and is the basis for most of today’s modern English translations.

There is 95% agreement between all three Greek texts. However, KJV Onlyists insist that both the Nestle-Aland and the Westcott and Hort texts are the wicked work of evil men who worshiped at the altar of New Age beliefs. This is just complete nonsense.

Revelation 22:19. KJV and New KJV continue today to say book of life rather than tree of life.

Little-known fact about the KJV. For the past 200 years, all King James Version Bibles published in America are actually the 1769 Baskerville spelling and wording revision of the 1611 edition. The original “1611” preface is deceivingly included in this edition by the publishers, and no mention of the fact that it is really the 1769 version is to be found anywhere on its pages, because the publisher is afraid this could hurt sales. The only way to obtain a true, unaltered 1611 version is to purchase a reproduction of the original 1611 King James Bible.

Another little known fact about the KJV is that up until the 1880’s the KJV included the Apocrypha! The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail. The Revised Standard Version, based upon the Westcott and Hort texts, was the first Protestant Bible to omit the Apocrypha.

VI. So What’s the Big Deal?

Proverbs 30:5-6
Revelation 22:18-19

KJV ONLY QUOTE: “Those readings in the Textus Receptus which have weak support are indicated in the side reference column as being opposed by both Critical and Majority Texts. Since the 1880s most contemporary translations of the New Testament have relied upon a relatively few manuscripts discovered chiefly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Such translations depend primarily on two manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, because of their greater age. The Greek text obtained by using these sources and the related papyri (our most ancient manuscripts) is known as the Alexandrian Text. However, some scholars have grounds for doubting the faithfulness of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, since they often disagree with one another, and Sinaiticus exhibits excessive omission.”

A. Every manuscript contains variations that disagree with every other manuscript, Alexandrian and Byzantine traditions included. Even the Greek texts based upon the Byzantine traditions disagree with themselves. Erasmus disagrees in some points with Beza, Beza disagrees in some points with Stephanus and so on. To insist the Alexandrian manuscripts are corrupt because they disagree with each other is a very deceitful argument that plainly ignores the disagreements which occur within the line of the Textus Receptus itself.   Atheists use this fact to attack Christians.  KJV Onlyists do not help matters when they ignore these facts.

B. Of course the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus contain omissions. They are of the Alexandrian text type. The Alexandrian scribes did not add to the text in an effort to polish the language and make certain passages more readable. That is, they did not add to the word of God, so of course they contain less text than the Byzantine manuscripts do. Again, the argument is very deceitful.

C. The charge that the Nestle-Aland relies upon a relatively few manuscripts is just patently false.  The argument is an appeal to the masses.  Just because there are more Byzantine manuscripts does not mean they are more accurate than the Alexandrian.

KJV ONLY QUOTE: “I do not buy the line that the inerrant word of God is found only in the originals – which nobody has. I know that God has the power to preserve His word and He wouldn’t leave us out in the dark with an imperfect translation. In the authorized King James Version God assembled, and moved with His Spirit, a team of some of the world’s best scholars to translate His word in to the world’s most popular language, English.” –

E. God did not breath out the copies of His word. He did not inspire legions of scribes. This is why the copies are imperfect. They contain additions, subtractions, and contradictions. This is also why the warning in Revelation 22 and Proverbs 30 do not apply to them. They are not His inerrant, inspired word!

F. To mark the KJV as inerrant and inspired is to insist the scholars who pieced together the Greek text upon which the KJV was based were Godly men. Erasmus was not a Godly man. He fully denied God’s sovereignty over man’s will and was, in fact, the very object of Luther’s disdain in Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will” (yes, that Erasmus!). He even dedicated the first edition of his Greek text to the pope!


* there is a fourth major Greek Text called the Majority Text, but it is rarely if ever used in translations.  This text is derived from determining which reading occurs in the majority of the manuscripts without consideration of whether that reading be correct or incorrect.  “The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text” is currently published by Thomas Nelson Publishing, and was compiled by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad.

About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church
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9 Responses to The Trouble With King James Onlyism – Lesson Notes

  1. Ed says:

    I don’t know how any argument would get past this. If you presuppose that having a reliable printed Bible is idolatry, all other arguments in favor of a reliable Bible are meaningless.
    1. To ground righteousness upon one’s use of a translation is an act of idolatry.
    That is a presupposition, not a fact deduced from the Bible. How could one even deduce it without assuming that the statements in one’s translation give him a sufficient ground of righteousness?

  2. David Bishop says:

    I don’t presuppose that having a reliable printed Bible is idolatry. I am not sure where you got that idea, Ed? I did not say having a reliable printed Bible is idolatry. I said to ground one’s righteousness upon one’s use of a translation is an act of idolatry. That is a far different thing than saying having a reliable printed Bible is idolatry. What I said is that if I say I am righteous because I use a KJV or an NIV or an ESV, then that is an act of idolatry. Do you understand how this is indeed deduced from the Bible?

    Romans 3:21-26
    21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    • David Bishop says:

      If you understand that, then you will also understand that I am saying KJV Onlyists are idolaters.

  3. David Bishop says:

    Not interested in reading someone have a monologue with themselves. Don’t give me a list of Byzantine codices and papyri and then tell me this proves the KJV and the NKJV aren’t the only Bibles that read “book” in Revelation 22. Hello, McFly. The KJV and NKJV are translations of the Textus Receptus which is a Greek text of the Byzantine manuscripts!

  4. doug sowter says:

    so is the ESV and the NASB good translations?

    • David Bishop says:

      The ESV, the NASB and the KJV are all good translations. So are the NKJV, the NIV, the RSV, the Geneva, the HCSB, the J B Phillips, the Amplified, etc. The point is try to read as many different English translations as you can, because no one single translation is infallible.

  5. jimfinn2000 says:

    Since you do not believe there is the perfect word of God in the English language why would you even quote scripture to back up your belief? And since you are confident the KJB is full of errors why don’t you point them out and give us a bible without errors? From the above you obviously believe if someone disagrees with you their argument is not in a meaningful fashion.

    • David Bishop says:

      Why would you insist I said the KJV is full of errors? I did not say this.

      But I did say that we can know what the original autographs said by reading and studying our English translations, including the KJV. That is why I would even quote scripture to back up my belief.

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