The King James Only Controversy

How to understand Revelation? Is Jesus coming back? What is the mark of the beast? Is Hell real?

What is it?

The KJVO controversy is about whether Christians should consider only the King James Version of the Bible to be reliable and trustworthy. While there are a variety of views within the KJVO movement, the basic idea is simple: no other Bible will do.

The King James Only movement is largely built on the claim that modern Bibles are doctrinally corrupt…that they have strayed from responsible and accurate translation of the Greek texts. There are a variety of other claims in the movement. Here are a few:

  • The KJV is the only true word of God.
  • The KJV is the only English translation that can be trusted.
  • The KJV contains no errors.
  • The KJV was supernaturally translated by God.
  • The KJV is more perfect than the manuscripts from which it was translated.
  • The KJV contains no errors or problems with translation.
  • To understand God’s Word, everyone on earth should learn English…so they can read the KJV.
  • Any deviation from the KJV is wrong, and may create doctrinal errors.
  • Translators (and possibly readers) of modern Bibles have a sinister ulterior motive.
  • Modern Bibles are a perversion of God’s Word.
  • Modern Bibles like the NASB and NIV are part of a satanic conspiracy to lead the world astray.
  • People who use other Bibles are not Christians.

Which KJV?

There are a number of different versions of the King James Version. Most KJVO advocates do not use the version finished in 1611, but the Blayney version from 1769. Between the two are revisions from 1613, 1629, 1638, and 1762. After many years of discussing this issue, no KJVO person has suggested to me that one is better than the other. This is a serious problem for their point of view, as each differs from the others.

Errors in the KJV

Most KJVO advocates claim that the KJV is better than all other Bibles because it alone is without error. This is absurd, and demonstrably false. The errors in the KJV are too numerous to list here, but it only takes one error to prove them wrong. I’ve made note of a few that should be persuasive for anyone willing to consider the evidence. Unfortunately, I’ve never met a KJVO advocate that was willing to consider the evidence…they usually run away from it. If you’re a KJVO person who wants to discuss the evidence, please leave a comment!

Unicorns

Most adults realize that unicorns don’t really exist. KJVO advocates must overlook the nine times that the word “unicorn” appears in the KJV: in Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8, Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9, Psalm 22:21, Psalm 29:6, Psalm 92:10, and Isaiah 34:7 (read on Biblegateway). The Hebrew word is RE-EM, and probably means an auroch or other, now extinct, wild bull.

Easter / Passover

In Acts 12:4, the KJV mistranslates Pascha as Easter, rather than Passover. I’ve written more about this in Easter in the KJV.

Jupiter/Zeus, Mercury/Hermes

In Acts 14:12, the KJV says that the people in Lystra called Paul “Mercury” and Barnabas “Jupiter”. This is in spite of the fact that the Greek uses the words “Zeus” and “Hermes”. (read on Blue Letter Bible)

Don’t trust the demons

In Acts 16 we read about a young lady, possessed by a demon, who followed Paul and Silas. The demon – according to the KJV – said that they were servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. Unfortunately, this is simply wrong. The Greek (the original language of the New Testament) doesn’t say “the way of salvation.” It says “a way of salvation.” The Greek word is Hodos, which means “a way” (see the definition in context). The demon wasn’t agreeing that Paul and Silas taught the only way to be saved…it suggested that they taught one of many ways. The King James is simply inaccurate here.

Listen to the KJV translators

Most Bibles have a preface, in which the translation team explains their motives and methodology. The KJV is no different. The 1611 version of the KVJ had an extensive preface, removed from later versions. Read the full preface. In it, the translators themselves demolish the KJVO controversy:

  • They didn’t intend to make a new translation, but to improve on previous ones
  • They acknowledged that previous Bibles were “the word of God” despite containing “imperfections and blemishes”
  • They wrote that translations will never be infallible.
  • They noted the supremacy of the original manuscripts over any translation
  • They wrote that one should not object to the continual process of correcting and improving English translations of the Bible
  • They were often unsure how to translate specific words or phrases
  • They did not always translate the same Greek or Hebrew words into the same English words

Questions and Objections

But the NIV takes out stuff

The primary target of KJVO folks is the New International Version (NIV). Their claim is that the NIV translators have removed crucial words and phrases from the Bible, undermining God’s word and leading unwitting people astray. There is a very serious flaw in this argument: they invariably use the KJV as the standard. Any word or phrase that differs from the King James is then suspect.

Is this logical? Of course not. The KJV translators themselves would object to this method. They would never consider the KJV to be the standard by which all future Bibles should be judged. Instead, they would recommend exactly what the NIV translators have done: go back to the manuscripts, in their original languages, and try to improve on the Bibles that already exist.

Trickery: comparing the KJV and NIV

The KJVO folks like to compare verses side by side, to show how the NIV (or other Bible) differs from the “right Bible” – that is, the KJV. That seems reasonable, on the surface. It’s a serious problem, however. It presumes that the KJV is always right, and that other Bibles are corrupt because, well, they’re not the KJV. The proper approach is not to compare one translation or version with another, but to compare all of them with all available ancient manuscripts.

There are more scholarly ways to describe this controversy, involving more complex considerations like different manuscript families, formal vs dynamic equivalence, and so on. This article is meant as an overview…a summary of the controversy and why I believe the KJVO folks have no real argument. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them.

What I am NOT saying

I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, I recommend it. One could read the KJV and learn all they need to know about being in a right relationship with God. I’m not criticizing the KJV here. I’m only criticizing the idea that the KJV is in any way superior to every other quality Bible. I agree with the KJV translators: it’s good, but not perfect. Those who claim that the KJV is better than any other Bible must not only claim it, but also demonstrate it. Simply put: they cannot.

Universalism: Will God Save Everyone?

Is Intelligent Design true? is evolution wrong? How old is the earth?

Recently, a friend asked me to look at a blog post and let him know what I think about it. This post might not make much sense by itself, because it’s my response to that article. Please take note: I haven’t written this to demean the author, but to discuss the idea of universalism with my friend. It’s too long to post on Facebook, and someone else might benefit from reading it, so I share it with you here. I appreciate the author’s desire to know the truth, and his systematic approach to his beliefs. I wish more people – Christians and non-Christians alike – would do the same. My disagreement isn’t with him, but with the conclusions of his article. Note as well that I’m only addressing the first of a series of posts. If someone asks, I may address the rest…but when the foundation of an argument has been removed, the whole thing falls down. I believe that the points raised here are sufficient.

To see if the author’s position is flawed, let’s look at his assumptions. The primary assumption in the article is that, because God is sovereign, He always gets what He wants…and, because He wants everyone to be saved, everyone will be saved. Let’s take a closer look.

First, the Bible does say that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Second, every Christian I know would say that God is certainly sovereign. That’s found throughout Scripture. So, why would I disagree with the author’s conclusion? Simple: he assumes that God’s sovereignty gives Him everything He wants. I’m not convinced.

It’s interesting that while the author claims that Calvinism is depraved, he duplicates their error. He claims that Calvinism’s problem is the combination of total depravity and unconditional election, but it’s really rooted in the same problem we’re talking about here: a misunderstanding of sovereignty. Calvinism teaches that God predestines some for Heaven and some for Hell and, because He is sovereign, we play no part in our own salvation. If we did, we could thwart God’s will…making us more powerful than God. That’s known in Calvinism as “irresistible grace”. The author teaches that God predestines everyone to be saved and, because of His sovereignty, everybody will be saved. That’s the textbook definition of irresistible grace…the author simply includes everyone, while Calvinists only include some. Both must ignore much of the New Testament to make their claims.

Let’s look at his use of THELO. He cites Thayer’s (the go-to Greek lexicon) to support his claim that THELO indicates God’s resolve and determination that all should be saved. Unfortunately, he’s only telling part of the story. There’s only ONE definition in Thayer’s: “to will, have in mind, intend”. That one definition has several shades of meaning:

  1. to be resolved or determined, to purpose
  2. to desire, to wish
  3. to love
    1. to like to do a thing, be fond of doing
  4. to take delight in, have pleasure

He cites Thayer, but doesn’t account for ALL of Thayer. I’m not saying that he’s being dishonest, but it does seem that he’s cherry-picking. Did Paul, when writing 1 Timothy 2, mean that God would be delighted if everyone were saved? Did he mean that God likes to save people? These definitions, without the context in which they were written, carry equal weight. In this case, the context of 1 Timothy 2 actually works against the author. Paul tells Timothy that believers should live their lives in specific ways. Why? Because God wants everyone to be saved. If everyone is going to be saved anyway, there’s no connection between the activities of Christians and the fate of unbelievers. That Paul wrote this passage presumes that it needed to be written.

Let’s look at the section where he addresses the word “all”. For the sake of discussion, let’s grant his point: that “all” literally means “every single person”. He points out the universality of the word with regard to being made alive, being reconciled to God, being justified, being offered mercy, and so on. He also (rightly) says that the subset is part of the larger group. If we’re granting his definition of “all”, and granting that the subset is part of the whole, why would we still disagree with his conclusion? Simple: none of those things are salvation.

1 Corinthians 15 doesn’t say that all will be saved. It says that all will be resurrected. The entire chapter, as one can see by actually reading it, is designed to convince the reader that Jesus was resurrected, and that everyone else will be resurrected as well. In fact, this passage also undermines the author’s claim. Verse 2 says that we are saved by the Gospel IF we hold firmly to it. Otherwise, we have believed in vain. If Paul believed that everyone would be saved, there would be no “if”. Verse 18 says that if there’s no resurrection, then “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” If Paul believed that everyone would be saved, he would not write that ANYBODY could be lost. Verse 23 refers to Jesus’ second coming, and of those who ‘belong to Him’. Since some will NOT belong to Him, some will apparently not be saved.

The author then cites Romans 5, Romans 11, 1 Timothy 4:10, and 1 John 2:2, noting the use of “all” in each. The assumption in every case is that the passages indicate that all will be saved…but is that what Scripture, as a whole, teaches? No, it’s not. One of the best-known verses in the New Testament says that ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). A lesser-known verse says that one (Jesus) died for all, therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:14). Jesus died to take our place…that is, He died the death we deserved. Does that mean that, because the penalty for sin has been paid, everybody goes to Heaven? Look at the whole passage:

If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:13 – 6:1

The author cites Colossians 1, which says that God has reconciled to Himself “all things”. Paul wrote Colossians, and he wrote the above passage in 2 Corinthians. When you look at the two, it’s clear that while God reconciled “all things” to Himself, there’s something else that must occur: we must reconcile ourselves to Him as well. God’s grace was extended to everyone, but that grace can be received in vain. Note the meaning of “in vain”…that it does no good, and doesn’t fulfill its purpose. What are we talking about in this passage? How, through Jesus’ death, God reconciled us to Himself. This passage guts the author’s view as well as the Calvinist view, because it puts the final piece of the salvation puzzle in the hands of mankind. God has done the work of salvation by coming to Earth and dying for us, but WE MUST RESPOND or it’s all for nothing.

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, expresses that mankind has both the freedom and the obligation to respond to God. From the call of the Old Testament prophets for the people to turn their hearts toward God to John the Baptist’s call to repent, our role in our own salvation is clear. Every mention of salvation in the New Testament becomes meaningless if the author, and the Calvinists, are right. Why write about turning our hearts toward God if salvation is only a matter of God forcing His will on us? If everyone will be saved, why encourage Christians to live lives worthy of respect that might lead to the salvation of another?

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the Ten Virgins, the Bags of Gold, and the Sheep and the Goats. In each section, He describes the day of His return in stark terms: some will get in, and some will be left out. There’s no indication at all that being excluded from God’s coming Kingdom is a temporary situation. The only way to find that in the text is to insert it yourself, because it’s not there. We could look at dozens of passages in which we are told to take responsibility for our salvation, and that not doing so is a grievous mistake. God, in His sovereignty, has not chosen to control us entirely. He gives us a measure of sovereignty, and expects us to use it to choose wisely.

7 Questions about the Noah Movie

Was Noah's ark real? How old was Noah? How did the animals fit on the ark?

The 2014 movie Noah is clearly The Most Divisive Movie Ever, except for all of the other religious movies ever made. I don’t do movie reviews…but, since so many are asking questions about the theological content in the movie, I figured I’d better get to work. WARNING: SPOILERS.

Is the Noah movie good or bad right or wrong?

Is the movie Biblically accurate?

No. The Biblical story of Noah is the background for the movie, but the story told in the movie is a composite, created from a number of sources:

…and more. In other words, the movie is an exploration of the Noah story as told throughout history. Not only is the movie not designed to tell the Biblical story of Noah, Director Darren Aronofsky called it “the least Biblical movie ever made”. There are a few places where the movie directly contradicts the text (Genesis 5-9 ).

What’s the deal with the Watchers?

For those expecting the Bible story they heard in Sunday School, one of the most surprising elements of the story is the inclusion of “the Watchers”. Some say that these are just made-up characters designed to make the story cool, but the truth is more interesting than that. The Watchers are found in the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphal work. The movie tells us they were disobedient angels, exiled to Earth. The Watchers are redeemed in the end, and ushered back into God’s presence as a result of helping the main characters. Stylistically, they’re a lot like the Ents from The Lord of the Rings.

Are the film-makers trying to undermine the Bible?

No. Co-writers Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel are Jewish, and they are telling a story. In an interview with Christianity Today, both of them explained that they consider the movie to be midrash. For those who didn’t grow up with Judaism, midrash is a method for interpreting the Tanakh. This traditional Jewish practice attempts to fill gaps in the text to make difficult passages easier to understand.

As a Christian, I’m a Bible guy…so I try to stick closely to the text. I wouldn’t tell the story in this way, but it’s not my movie. Noah tells an ancient pre-Christian story, and doesn’t contain any anti-Christian sentiments at all. If Christians want to tell the rest of the story, they’ll have to make their own movie.

What are the film-makers really trying to say?

It’s clear from the interviews I’ve read that Aronofsky doesn’t consider the story of Noah to be specifically and technically true. That is, he doesn’t seem to consider it an accurate description of actual events. It’s equally apparent that he considers the story to be valuable, and to contain some truth…that is, to convey meaningful messages that we need to hear. Here are a few of those messages:

Environmentalism 101:
The underlying assumption of the movie – both expressed and implied – is that mankind is the source of all bad things on Earth. While on the ark, Noah retells the story of creation…and everything through the first 5.5 days of creation was “good”. Then, we are told, mankind came along and messed it up. While it’s true that some people do all kinds of awful things to other people and to our world, the Biblical account shows that we are part of the “good” in God’s creation (Genesis 1:27-31 ).

Environmentalism 201:
The Watchers gave technology to the descendants of Cain. This was a Very Bad Thing to do, since they then used that technology to create cities and wreck the planet. Technology isn’t the planet’s primary problem, and neither are cities. This is as true today as it was before the flood. The primary problem is sin, which is disobedience toward God, from which all creation still suffers (Romans 8:18-22 ).

Environmentalism 301:
The good guys (Noah and his family) are caretakers for the planet. They wouldn’t even pick a flower unless they needed it for something specific. The bad guys (everybody else) want dominion over the planet, using and abusing nature to suit their selfish and evil desires. The problem with this departure from the original text is that the idea of dominion was God’s: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28 ) That doesn’t mean, of course, that mankind is not to take care of the planet…we surely are. It means that God intended for us to also use the resources that He provided.

Mercy
The idea that man is irredeemable gets an “on the other hand” at the end of Noah. For most of the movie, mankind must be eliminated for the good and innocent (the animals, that is) to thrive. Only Noah’s family is exempt from destruction but, in a pivotal moment of insight, Noah realizes that he and his family are capable of the same great wickedness as everyone else. He concludes that, once the animals are safe from the flood, mankind should be no more. This adds an element of confusion for the viewer. Noah appears to lose his mind at this point in the story, and appears willing to murder to make sure that humanity does not spread beyond the ark. Right before he kills, he seems to come to his senses. His explanation is that he chose mercy instead of justice. Movie-goers are left to wonder whether Noah’s mercy was obedience or disobedience to The Creator.

Did you like the movie?

Yes and No. As movies go, it was pretty good. The movie has an all-star cast, and Russell Crowe and friends did an excellent job. The special effects were generally excellent. I didn’t notice the music, which seems just right…it helped tell the story without drawing attention away from it. The first half of the movie went pretty well, but the second half seemed to drag a bit. There were some directorial decisions that distracted, and detracted, from the story…notably that Biblical Noah’s sons all had wives in the ark, but movie Noah’s sons didn’t. In fact, a major plot point in the story revolves around this issue. Another noteworthy decision was to put a stowaway on the ark. No, it wasn’t a unicorn. It was The Bad Guy.

Would you recommend this movie?

Mostly. It’s certainly not for young children, who might have nightmares due to dramatic depictions of evil. It’s an interesting movie, but not one I’d care to see over and over.

Do you have any reason to NOT see the movie?

Yes and No. While I disagree with the environmentalist message in the movie, and question a few of the decisions to deviate from the text, I don’t see anything seriously wrong with the movie. It could be used as a springboard to in-depth discussion of things like justice and mercy, human nature and original sin, the character of God, and redemption.

At the same time, there is certainly a negative involved with movies like Noah. Many will see the movie and NOT engage in any in-depth discussion. A lot of these people will assume that the elements in Aronofsky’s film are factually accurate, in spite of the fact that the writers never make such a claim. Two recent examples come to mind:

  1. Titanic:
    A whole bunch of young people saw the movie Titanic, and thought it was just a movie. They were shocked to learn that the movie was based on actual events. This isn’t James Cameron’s fault, of course. One could make the case that he did history teachers a favor, telling a (mostly) true story. Will moviegoers believe that the movie Noah is the real Noah? I don’t really know. In the end, I’m more concerned that many will see it as Aronofsky does: worth moralizing over, but not actually true.
  2. The DaVinci Code:
    GodWords has received hundreds of thousands of visitors looking for information about The DaVinci Code. Author Dan Brown stole a story from some conspiracy theorists, rewrote it enough to avoid prosecution, and published it as a novel…but he confused a lot of people in the process. How? By stating that the essential components of his story were absolutely, without question, 100% true. I can’t tell you how many people wrote to me at that time, looking for someone to help them through their crisis of faith. While Dan Brown’s motivation was admittedly anti-religious, I don’t believe that Aronofsky and Handel have any desire to create in their viewer a crisis of faith. Still, some will watch Noah and come away confused. For that reason, I’m a little wary.

Conclusion

Noah is a pretty good movie, but it’s not awesome. It’s not a Bible movie, and shouldn’t be praised or criticized as though it were.

There is no truth

Is Intelligent Design true? is evolution wrong? How old is the earth?

“In any case, even the truth, when believed, is a lie.”

Warner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminars Training (EST) and Landmark Forum

Some like to say that there is no absolute truth. It’s a fun mental exercise, but nobody – absolutely nobody – lives that way. How can I be sure? Try a little experiment: when someone tells you that there is no absolute truth, ask them, “Is that absolutely true?”.

C.S. Lewis on atheist thinking

Was CS Lewis a Christian? Buy CS Lewis books? Is CS Lewis a favorite author?

Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.

C.S. Lewis

[Emphasis mine]
This quote from noted theologian C.S. Lewis highlights a major problem for modern atheists: they borrow heavily from a worldview they reject. When thinking about the process of thinking, atheists assume that their brains can be relied upon to give good answers. In a universe of philosophical materialism (the idea that the physical is all that exists), there’s no good reason to assume that our brains are trustworthy in that way. In fact, Darwinian evolution would suggest otherwise, because our brains are then the result of many random mutations and natural selection. In other words, our brains contribute to the survival and spread of our genetic information…and everything else is “gravy”. Any other function our brains might perform could be eliminated after another mutation.

If our brains are simply biochemical and not the creation of some greater mind; if our brains are not connected to an immaterial mind; if the physical is all that truly exists, we can’t trust in reason to get us anything but grandchildren. The only way to speak meaningfully about reliable ideas is to presuppose that our brains function as something more than a blob of DNA-spreading goo.

Why is Religion Divisive?

Should Christians fight? Can a Christian be a fighter? How to avoid conflict in church.

One simple reason is that we tend to think that God loves us for what we do. If God loves us because we’re nice, it becomes easy to look down on mean people. If God loves us because we’re generous, we have no trouble being critical of stingy people. If God loves us because we’re liberal, open-minded people, we tend to look down on bigoted, conservative people. If God loves us because we’re traditional people of faith, it only makes sense to believe that God loves progressives and atheists less than He loves us.

The Bible teaches that God loves us NOT for what we do, but because of WHO WE ARE. We are His creation, the focus of His affection. Jesus died as a demonstration of God’s love for us…not because we’re good, but because we need to know His love. That’s grace: God loves you even when you don’t love Him. When people understand grace, they stop thinking of others as less worthy of God’s love.

When we see others through the lens of good works, we tend to be critical and exclude others. When we see others through the lens of grace, we tend to be generous and compassionate and include others. When we measure the effectiveness of the American church at reaching out to the unsaved, it seems obvious to me that we seldom offer to others the same grace we’ve been given.

What is Solipsism?

Are minds real? Do humans have free will? Is evolution true?

Solipsism is the idea that only one’s own mind is certain to exist.

Very few people are sincere solipsists. Instead, solipsism is generally used as an argumentation tool. For example, one might ask how another knows that something is true, to which a scoffing reply might be “How does anyone know that anything is true? The only thing we can know for sure is that we exist.”

This point of view is related to René Descartes’ famous line: I think, therefore I am. Descartes wrote about his philosophy as if he were the first to ever do so…that is, he didn’t take into account any previous philosophical positions about truth when writing, and wanted to avoid making any assumptions when thinking about reality. This is the basis for modern philosophy (which I love, and studied in college) and a reasonable position to take when asking the question, “What do I really know to be true?”.

While solipsism shares Descartes’ radical skepticism, it goes beyond it to become irrational. While it’s true that I may be the only being to exist, I cannot live as if that’s true. I must live as if I am surrounded by others who also have minds, and that they are actual beings and not constructs of my mind.