The King James Only Controversy

HomeChristianity and the BibleThe King James Only Controversy

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:

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!


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:

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.

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Eric Bostic
Eric Bostic
September 24, 2015 7:37 am

If you look at some of the others like zondervans new niv afte r I think 1994 or o it was retransllated by a lesbian,and sold by sodomites, which would you trust.Many of the “new Bibles” twist GODs word, if you defend something that is against GODs word then you support it and thus are against GOD.Your exmples of errors are at best sketchy at best. L You evedently dont believe the Bible ie inspired word of GOD, if you did there would be no questions. The world is interjected in new bles to much.Your argument if foolish to me.,GOD bless you and take care

November 2, 2018 6:32 pm
Reply to  Tony

OOOOPPPS! You do not like “I Think,” so I am just going to say it plain here: You self-contradicted. You said that if there is one error then the whole thing is messed – it only takes one contradiction to negate the whole Book – with which I agree, then you went on to name a whole load of errors, misinterpretations, fallacies and contradictions; then you conclude that you think the Book is entirely trustworthy and you depend on it. You depend on a Book full of untruths, and half-truths, and misplaced truth, and changed truths? Why would you? [By the way, I will go back and answer in more detail on the post from which you sent me to come and read this KJVO dessertation.]

May 18, 2016 12:10 pm

I’ve been a Christian since 1981. Over the last year I’ve been listening to the bible on my commute via a thumb drive plugged into the dashboard of my car. My round trip commute is 3 hours, though I only listen to the bible on my way into work.

A funny thing has happened. HEARING the bible is different than reading it. It brings a different perspective. One of those differences is that I no longer describe it as I used to. That is, I used to call it the inspired word of God. I now say that it CONTAINS the inspired word of God. The obvious example is where Paul said, and I paraphrase, “this is not God talking here, it is me.”

It also drives me NUTS that the KJV translates the word for “rooms” or “dwelling places” as “mansions”. I’m sure the translator’s heart was in the right place trying to embellish it, but still…

Also, a KJVO friend shared, via facebook, a listing of all the stuff in the KJV that is left out of the NIV. My response was, “Did the NIV leave it out, or did the KJV add it.” Crickets…

May 19, 2016 6:41 am

You are really getting where I am coming from regarding throwing in the things about Job.

One of the biggest issues I have is that if one looks at the history of the bible and its actual content, one finds that a very major issue is also one of the things that makes it so amazing. That is, it is not a book. It is a collection of history books, rule books, documented visions, letters to churches, letters to individuals, prophesies, testimonies, etc.

And people have “visions” today about near death experiences, 23 minutes in hell, etc.

But because so much baloney was being thrown out there as “official”, that they guys (council of Nicaea) decided to put a stop to it and collect all the stuff that everyone “knew” was the real deal to stop the nonsense.

I think that was a good idea.

However, I take such strong ownership of the comment I made above about it being a collection, that I almost would like to see it published as separate volumes. Of course, some of the letters would be one pagers, but it would allow people to see it for what it really is, and treat each volume could be afforded the respect it individually deserves.

Sometimes one needs to ask “why do we say God inspired this particular writer? Who was he? What authority did he have that allows us to believe what he said more than Joseph Smith or Muhamad?

That being said, the reason for this diatribe is that since moving to central KY from Seattle and playing in a touring southern gospel band (we visit a LOT of small southern baptist, separate baptist, baptist, and the other 4,000 different baptist divisions) that I see a lot of fire and brimstone nonsense and what can only be described as “bible worship”. It gives me the willies, frankly. Especially being a strong adherent (for six years now) of CI.

So this stuff really matters to me. And I try to explain to these folks that, valuable though it is, the bible does not trump prayer and a personal relationship with Him.

May 19, 2016 6:48 am

Wow. Looks like I need to use Word to create these posts. Or at least proofread before posting. The one above is awful.

Anyway, just one other thing about the churches around me: The sheer misery and terror I see in these congregations is noting like what I experienced in the churches I attended in Seattle since 1981. And judgementalism. Of course, just saying that makes me a little guilty of it. But when so many of the sermons are about the people outside of the church and how they are so wrong and going to burn in hell, etc. kinda wears on a guy. I’d rather hear a message of hope, love, and how those listening to the message can have a closer relationship with their Creator.

But I’ve also learned that in the rural bible belt, going to church is what people do for entertainment. It’s just what they do. It’s probably why they love preachers that don’t really say much, but risk an aneurysm with their preaching style, if you get my drift.

But most of it is just cultural differences.

May 31, 2016 10:56 am

You are spot on. My wife’s first husband died of Leukemia 30 years ago. She had three very young children and he died without life insurance. She is from a VERY strong Irish Catholic family, and her husband was from a VERY strong Polish Catholic family. The church did nothing for her but to say, basically, go and be well. Even her priest called to say he could not do the eulogy because he was stuck at the dentist.

Meanwhile, her neighbor was AG. They were a HUGE help and actually showed God’s love. She has not been a catholic since.

I don’t remember where it is, but I believe it was Paul that said don’t hang out with various types of sinners, but then clarifies that he means those within the church, because if he meant “outside the church”, he would basically be telling Christians to not mix with anyone outside their church.

In my last band, during rehearsal I’d hang out in the rehearsal room while the rest of the band went out to smoke some dope. They knew my feelings on it, and my belief that we are all free to make our own choices.

November 19, 2018 12:26 am

My take on it is this: every version of the Bible is a translation out of the original Greek and Hebrew.
Words do not usually translate from one language to another perfectly.
The arguments that occur between Christians about what Bible to read may cause many to turn away from Christianity entirely. (Because why become a Christian if they can’t even agree on what book to read?) some of the arguments for “KJV Only” are nit-picky sounding. (Only the KJV says, “____” Other versions {usually NIV} render it as, “_____”!)
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. The Holy Spirit teaches out of whichever Bible is regularly read. [note “regularly”]
I read The Bible: whatever version is close at hand. I own KJV, NKJV, ESV, AMP, NIV, NASB, and NLT. They all say the same thing, they just use different wording.
God Bless.

Anders Jonsson
Anders Jonsson
October 22, 2020 6:19 am

I’m not promoting KJVO but here are two reasons why I prefer the KJV:
1. The words in italics in the King James Bible are words that do not occur in the original text but were added by the translators to help the reader.
2. The use of thee’s and thou’s convey the singular-plural distinctions in the second person forms of pronouns. This distinction is quite lost in modern translations where thou, thee, thy are replaced by you, your. Not an issue for many languages, but it is for English, where it may not be obvious if the pronoun you applies to one person or many. A good example is Joh. 3.10,11 where Jesus switches from singular to plural.

October 26, 2020 7:52 am

I enjoy the KJV because the text is beautiful and familiar, and unicorns and other odd mistakes are well known and don’t bother most readers. You make some good points, however, and I would agree that the KJV would be difficult for many. Just one caution: “newer versions” may not necessarily be “improved” versions. I’m Canadian, but have lived half my life in Sweden. The most recent official Swedish translation, Bibel 2000, is by far the worst.

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
December 27, 2020 7:41 am

Would it be fair to say that there is another source trying to throw a monkey wrench in the whole matter also, who’s name is Satan. Even though God breathed it is received by sinful man not perfect man. So interpretation of the word is going to be flawed. Trying to determine which version is less flawed would be a fool’s game, in the sense of trying to figure which interpretation is most accurate when we ourselves are reading and understanding with nonperfect sin influenced self. I know most believe God would not let his word be interpretted in a wrong manner but it seems though it is being there are so many different doctorines, bible versions, etc., because it’s mortal, imperfect man. Christ’s words alone are pure, which are words from God’s mouth himself, where as even the authors of the bible are receiving a spirtual message from God, the sinful part of the man is going throw the meaning off just to the point of where we all won’t believe in God and his word the same way. All being in perfect harmony!

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
December 29, 2020 3:52 pm

Hey Tony,
Thanks for the reply. In my opinion but not sure exactly of the accuracy, even though God Breathed it wasn’t received by a perfect man to make the word of God perfect, if so why all the different doctrines, beliefs and contraversies of different Bibles, etc. Take for instance the Calvinist view verses the Armenian view, if God Breathed and the word received perfectly by man there wouldn’t be two views, would there! It seems as though if the word from God came directly through God and not man we would all be in agreement and in perfect harmony within the Christian faith. Possibly man boggling it receiving, writing and interpretting it. We must remember all the authors of our Bible were sinful men in themselves as the Bible states them as being. Thanks again for your time and enriching subject matter…

January 2, 2021 6:56 am

“The best translation is the one we actually read!” Bingo! Read till you can say, “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” There is only one true interpretation to any given text, and the Spirit of Christ is our Interpreter. As Larry points out, there is an enemy who deceives the half-hearted, and there are many false teachers who delude those seeking wealth, health or a spiritual buzz. But anyone who opens his Bible to worship God in spirit and in truth will find that “His mouth speaks what is true. All the words of his mouth are just, none of them is crooked or perverse.” Prov. 8

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
January 3, 2021 7:35 am

Hello again Tony
I think we all agree there are controversies concerning the Bible. There are only three points where the controversies can form God, authors or us. We have to eliminate God of couse and that brings it down to the authors and us. I don’t think God himself wants man to be confused on the contents of the Bible but WE are! So who would that leave but the authors. It seems as though the only way it couldn’t be the authors is for the readers to deliberately misunderstand the contents making it their fault. It’s sad to say but the biggest weapon other religions have over Christianity is the Bible, as I heard a Muslim debating a Christian and the Muslim stated something like, you can’t even get you’re own book of your God figured out because of all the various Bibles, various doctrines the Christians cannot agree upon, trinity or not a trinity, whether Jesus was actually God and not just Gods son being only human, etc. God didn’t intend on all these indifferences but we’re experiencing them and I don’t think it’s us, we’re trying to understand but we differ on what we’re all are reading because of the possibility of the passages being understood more than one way, which I can’t see how that would be us. I would like to believe it is us and not the authors but I just can’t see how it can be unless like I said we deliberately misunderstand. This doesn’t alter my belief though so please don’t get me wrong. Jesus is the only way..

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
January 4, 2021 3:54 pm
Reply to  Tony

Been studing the Bible for years (64 years old), attended various churches of various denominations, step father was a Baptist minister. Listen to sermons, debates, studies by such people as McCarther, Sproul, Missler, Stanely, and James White at work everyday for hours but have never studied in depth the actual reason why of all the controversies. When I approach a topic of discussion with more than one point of view of say a doctrine for instance, I listen open mindedly to both points of view and go to the Bible and see which one is closest to what the Bible states because I want to take the Bible for what it says, not what I think it should say or what I want it to say as some do. A lot of people are not able to listen to another point of view because their minds have already been made up and when hearing a different point of view they will block it out thinking it’s wrong because it doesn’t agree with what they’ve been taught or what they have believed all their life. Why I mention all this is because I want it known that when I come to an understanding it isn’t something that comes to me instantaneously. I don’t relish the idea of the authors being maybe the guilty parties but if you dig in deep with an open mind, I cannot see how it can be any other way. If man is getting different meanings out of the same verse, that verse is written in a manner that makes that happen. If something is written and understood by all then that has been written clearly.

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
January 5, 2021 3:58 pm

I stated my age and God knowledge information because I thought you took me as a rookie. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers, nobody does. You mention I’m in a bit of a pickle when it comes to calling myself a Bible-believer or a Christian that wouldn’t know if what I read is right. That’s why I’m here batting this back and forth with you trying to make sure I get it right because it’s easy enough to get it wrong, ask all the hundreds of millions of Amenians or the hundreds of millions of Calvinist that thought they had it right but one of these two groups read it wrong. I’m just trying to figure out how this could have happened because if you read again the last two lines of my previous post, this shouldn’t have happened, even though God allowed it.

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
January 6, 2021 12:56 am

I know I’m going against the grain here but I’m trying to find an explanation. Let me use an example: Say someone takes a photograph and its blurry, one person sees a deer another sees a moose. Is either person looking at photo in the wrong, no. Is it the photographer, maybe or it could be the lens could be dirty. We are the people trying to figure out what it is in the photo. The photographer is the author of a certain doctrine misunderstood. The dirty lens could be Satan. It’s just and idea because things aren’t adding up, the photo is blurry and there is a reason for it .

Larry E Billig
Larry E Billig
January 7, 2021 2:37 pm

Excuse the spelling, I’m usually in hurry. I lean heavily towards the Calvinist beliefs to the point of falling over. I followed the Arminien (spelling right?) way most of my life until I woke up and seen the light. A lot of verses comes together now with the elect outlook where they didn’t before. That is a topic I like batting back and forth especially with Arminiens, just the word ELECT seems to stump them a great deal, also God’s Chosen is another. I was discussing the Bible’s controversies and how they originated with a fellow worker yesterday who is a Aminien Southern Baptist and he also thought Lucifer could be the culprit. One of the posters here in an earlier post thought it also. A lot of people question the enherency of the Bible. One has to wonder where God ends and the author begins or vica versa. Satan’s been slithering around in the heavens, the garden and all through the Bible interfering between God and man, it seems it happened somewhat here with the authors but not to the point of ruining the message of salvation. Just a theory because it seems the Christians should be in harmony as they were with Christ himself, except when interfered by Satan. Another big reason I believe Satan has a hand in on it is, what is going to happen to the cult Christians with their Bible readings? If you think about it, a member of the elect would read it in the mannor that it is suppose to be read and understood in. I honestly don’t think God mines me a bit questioning what going on with the Bible because he knows I want to know his word and by investigating it weaving in and out of truth one will do until finds truth. If I didn’t have any interest at all then I would be in trouble. I prayed for guidance, realizing I would have to take it to him because if I took it to man, that man might have been an Arminiun. Just kidding, even though many of truth is said in jest (-;

January 14, 2021 1:45 pm

Hey Brethren,
How are ya?? Lets get right to the nitty gritty, Christ died for the sins of world, if he died as the Aminian believe Christ’s atonement didn’t work because there are people going to hell and the bible doesn’t state all that the Arminian will come back with to make it work. Sins of the world to me is the sins of the elect which would make the atonement legitimate. Christ told his diciples, I chose you, you didn’t chose me, sounds to me like it was Gods choice not man. Anything on man’s behalf concerning salvation to me would be a type or works, which we know don’t play a part. Born again, we didn’t play a part in our first birth and we don’t play a part here either. I’m sure you know the story of Esau and Jacob, how God hated Esau before he was born, not much of a chance of free will there either. I can go on and on with these. Most people don’t want to accept Calvanism because they think it makes God out a monster . As Sproul explains it so perfectly, we all deserve hell because of Adam and Eve, if some end up in hell they are the ones receiving justice, the ones that receive mercy are the elect. He doesn’t owe any body mercy, he grants it to his own. Some might think that still isn’t fair, we don’t want what is fair because all would go to hell for our sins. Sproul also used a governor of a state granting a pardon to someone sentenced to death as an example. I watched a video on line in a bible study and the teacher must have been a believer in free will, one of the students stated, if God grants man free will and if you don’t chose him, he sends you to hell.

January 18, 2021 1:50 pm

Hey Tony,
The elect does play a part in their salvation, they have to hear the word, respond, worship, tithe, etc. People that look at the doctrine of election from the outside in instead of from inside, they will never believe it or understand it. Just because you are elect doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything at all, if one doesn’t do anything at all, they would not be one of the elect. Believe you me if someone is of the elect, they will love worship, respect, crave, etc., God. What it says before and after some verses tells the story in some instances. I know in the one instance John was talking to Jews about Christ dying just for sins of the Jews and John stated he died for the sins of the world, not meaning the people sense but the planet. If Christ died for the sins of the whole world in the people sense, we would all be in heaven. Another thing if God intended all to go to heaven the devil must be more powerful then because it’s not happening. What really tells the tale is when Paul is stating in Romans 9 verses: 10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e] How does free will play at part here: Many are called but few are CHOSEN.

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. Why do you think Paul is having to explain in verse 14? People were apparently having a hard time accepting God as being the one to determine. Verse 16 above says it in a nutshell, it isn’t the will or the free will of the person. All of this in Romans wouldn’t be needed in the Bible if it was a person’s will, but it’s God’s will as it states. Another thing God’s glory and mercy isn’t diplayed very well by giving man half the credit. When an elect/chosen person comes to the realization that God chose them, the extreme feeling of joy and gratitude of God’s mercy given to them will never be known if a person believes it was because they made a decision from their own free will.

January 19, 2021 1:21 pm

Hey Tony,
I stand corrected, we don’t actually play a part in our salvation but we do play it out.

“We believe and are assured that God does not desire the death of sinners, because he calls all equally to repentance and promises that if they only repent he will be ready to receive them”.
His ways are not our ways. I don’t understand some things. He seems to do what he wants and at times he don’t give us a reason, he don’t owe us an explanation for anything he does. Esau didn’t have a chance to repent, he hated him before he was born. He has killed off whole cities of people including children( who probably woundn’t have repented anyways).

What keeps people out of Heaven? Not sin. There are a number of verses in the New Testament that spell that out. It’s not being reconciled that keeps people from Heaven.

This is true but approached two different ways, one from the elect who is already reconciled and free willed asking.

I’m having a hard time trying to decypher whether you’re coming from a Arminian point of view or Calvinist, not knowing whether to agree or disagree.
I believe in irresistable grace if a member of the elect. If God is going to elect someone he surely wouldn’t elect someone who would walk away from him.

Tony you mentioned leaning towards the Calvinist belief but it seems at times you don’t agree. Let’s put it this way, do you believe in the doctrine of election?

January 27, 2021 12:32 pm

What I mean by playing it out is, the person has to hear the gospel to respond to it.

(Oh, Larry. With all due respect, you must have no idea how this looks. It sounds like you’re saying that if my view is Arminian, you’ll probably disagree with it… but if it’s Calvinist, you might not)

I figured you would take it that way after I posted. What I mean is, I don’t know have all the answers or know all the verses that support either doctrine and there are times I don’t know what direction you are coming from to agree or disagree.

January 27, 2021 3:21 pm

2 Corinthians 6:1 I really don’t know the answer to this one, there is more than one meaning for the word vain in the verse.

It probably isn’t right to argue the doctrine but I think it’s good to debate it because your reading and studing your Bible to try and prove your point.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x