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King James Only

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The Bible

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Gabbin' with God
If your original Hebrew disagrees with my original King James --- your original Hebrew is wrong. If your original Hebrew agrees with my original King James, your original Hebrew is right.

King James Only is a belief found among some English-speaking Christians that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible from 1611 is either the best translation, or the only reliable or genuine translation of the Bible. It is most prominent among fundamentalist Independent Baptists and is also found in other churches from the Mormons to the snake handling sects to some ultra-conservative Anglicans.


Some people may just like the KJV's text better than other texts (e.g. they were raised with it, or think its language has more gravitas as in "Judge not, lest ye be judged. . ." as opposed to "Do not judge, or you too will be judged"[2]), but the usual justifications for this position are that the modern translations were from "corrupted" manuscripts, or were done by a conspiracy of Bible-denying satanists, liberals and secular humanists, or some combination thereof[3]. The most likely reason, though, is they like all the "thees" and "thous" and believe them to have some kind of mystical woo when speaking of the deity that modern English does not have. This is exactly why the KJV was written in language that was a bit archaic even for 1611.

In the original preface to the KJV, the translators themselves wrote:[4]

the very meanest translation of the Bible in English ... containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.[5]


we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, ... but to make a good one better ...[6]

Implicit in these statements is the translators' belief that the KJV, like older translations, was not perfect, but was an improvement.

The position of some King James Onlyites is that God not only inspired the original texts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic on which it is based, but reinspired the King James Version as an inerrant English translation, in order to transmit His Word faithfully to the end times.[7] No one bothers to explain why God would "inspire" only the KJV translation, while also allowing numerous "erroneous" translations to be published. And this, of course, runs into trouble right away when we open the KJV and find the Jews observing Easter (not Passover, which is meant) in Acts 12:4.[8] A few Christians defend this as a combination of "Easter" being an originally Pagan festival, not anachronistic with respect to Acts;[9] however, this is based on the assumption that "Easter" is derived from the Akkadian goddess Ishtar, rather than a West Germanic goddess named Ostara.[10] It runs into further trouble when the KJV contains several instances of wild oxen mistranslated as unicorns (Psalm 22:21, 29:6, and 92:10, Job 39:9-10, Isaiah 34:7, Numbers 23:22, Deuteronomy 33:17)[11], and the use of words in the KJV now considered vulgar, such as 'piss' (newer translations substitute more genteel words for the urinary act.)

Another problem with the KJV only position is the KJV was revised in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. Most KJV-onlyists use a modern printing which means the last revision, not the original 1611 KJV. KJV-onlyists counter that these revisions were negligible and to correct minor errors and archaic typeface, but doesn't the fact that errors had to be corrected from the 1611 version say a lot about the inerrancy of the original KJV? Indeed, a few KJV-onlyists on the fringe insist on only a 1611 KJV and claim that it, typos and all, is inerrant, but most don't. Of course who else should "refute" this blatant hole in logic with a good ol' Conspiracy theory Than Davie?[12]

A better approach used by some KJV-onlyists is to defend the accuracy of the texts the KJV was translated from (the Textus Receptus) over that of the texts used by most modern translations (the Wescott-Hort text, usually), as well as over other texts like the Latin Vulgate. This could be argued either way although a majority of Bible scholars favor Wescott-Hort. However, several English translations were translated from the Textus Receptus, including the popular 1982 New King James Version as well as several more obscure translations, and as most KJV-onlyists balk at supporting any of these it calls their good faith in using this argument into question. In fact, the 21st Century King James Version is just the King James Version with minimal revisions to replace obsolete terms that nobody understands anymore, but few KJV-onlyists accept even it.

Some KJV-onlyists have gone one step further and declared that English itself is the only proper language for Christians, being the language the KJV was written in (despite the fact that Jesus predates English itself).

One must consider that the KJV features the "thee" and "ye" pronouns which were already obsolete by the time the KJV was written, but they were used because they matched the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts. Modern English does not distinguish between "you singular" and "you plural", or "you formal" and "you informal" but the original texts did, and the KJV uses these pronouns so that a simple "you" does not serve to confuse people, as is the case of the NKJV or any other new English translation, which shows the reliability of the KJV in preserving the ancient sentence structure. Some more recent translations make this distinction in other ways without using "thou", such as the New World Translation that writes "you" in lowercase when singular or "you" in small caps when plural.

There was also a criticism from Dutch biblical scientists that was leveled at the Herziene Statenvertaling (Revised State Translation, or if you want it paraphrased in a less literal way, the Revised King James Translation) that the King James translation is a translation of the Textus Receptus, a not-so-optimal variant of the original Byzantine text. In this 400 year passage there have been way older texts found that have a more accurate representation of what was actually written in the Bible such as the Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaïticus, the Bodmer papyri 66 and 75, the Chester Beatty papyri 45, 46, 47 and many others. [13]

New Age Bible Versions[edit]

One textual analysis written by Gail Riplinger, a strong proponent of King James Only and a trained interior decorator, is The New Age Bible Versions, which compares various contemporary translations side by side with the King James. It is a barking mad paranoid rant that exploits variant readings and translation errors, along with sketchy gematria and argumentum ex culo, to make the point that the Bible is being corrupted by translators who are attempting to slowly remove the name of God from the Bible.

Criticisms abound, from the obvious (Riplinger is a kook with tortured-at-best logic) to the technical (older, closer-to-the-source manuscripts are better than the ones the KJV was based on; variant readings are not inherently corrupt) to the spurious (Riplinger, as a woman, should not be teaching about the Bible).

Parallel movements[edit]

There is a parallel movement to King James Only among some traditionalist Roman Catholics who hold to a Douay-Rheims Only position.

The Douay-Rheims bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate, rather than the original Greek and Hebrew versions, and many Catholic traditionalists believe that to translate the Bible from anything but the official Latin Bible of the Catholic Church is heresy. That Douay-Rheims includes so many obscure Latin and Greek-derived words (many long obsolete, or never even really established in English) as to be near-incomprehensible to the modern reader — indeed, far more so than the merely archaic King James Version — apparently doesn't matter.

Literary mega-critic Harold Bloom has recommended secular use of the King James due to its superiority as a Bible translation having achieving "the sublime summit of English Literature". He also notes that the atheist Faulkner, (Manichean? Gnostic?) equally unorthodox Melville, and Emily Dickinson having learned nearly all they knew of prose and poetic cadence from the King James translation, and a good knowledge of this translation is necessary for understanding their work.

Certain sects of Dutch protestant fundamentalists have come to revere the 1637 Statenvertaling in much the same way that their English-speaking counterparts treat the KJV. The Statenvertaling, like the KJV, was based on the Septuagint and the Erasmian Textus receptus, and just like with the NKJV, there has been a revised Statenvertaling issued recently that updates the translation to use modern Dutch but purposefully ignores the results of any post-17th-century textual criticism.

Notable Christian supporters of the King James Only Belief[edit]

Frontispiece of 1611 Bible

External links[edit]


  1. Fundies Say The Darndest Things, Quote #13173
  2. NIV Version
  3. David J Stewart claiming the N.I.V was created by Satanists and atheists!
  5. Holy Bible, King James Version, page lxii
  6. Holy Bible, King James Version, page lxv
  7. A few King James Onlyists go even further, and claim that the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic were imperfect, and that the differences in meaning between some KJV passages and the original were actually God correcting the earlier mistakes.
  8. Acts 12:4
  9. "Easter" is Not a Mistranslation
  10. In actual fact, Ostara is cognate with Latin Aurora and Greek Eos, meaning "dawn", and may in fact have come from the same Proto-Indo-European deity; to the extent that Ishtar had a Germanic counterpart at all, it probably would have been Freyja. Not to mention that totally fails to explain why "Easter" and cognates only appears in a couple of West Germanic languages and nowhere else in the world; most other languages use either a derivative or calque of the Hebrew pesach, and use the same word to refer to Passover.
  11. KJV-onlyists to the contrary have to believe this wasn't a mistranslation at all, and unicorns are real because "it's in the Bible!"