Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

I’m a fairly new Christian and still trying to get my footing in many areas of basic theology, including which Bible translation is best to use. A friend of mine is a “KJV-Onlyist” and has been very critical when I’ve explored other translations. I’ve tried using the KJV, but I find it very hard to understand. Is it wrong or unbiblical to use a modern English translation such as the ESV? If not, how can I explain this to my friend?

Welcome to the family of Christ! Having been raised in church and saved at an early age myself, I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be to assimilate into a totally new culture and begin trying to understand so many different aspects of the Christian life all at once.

A little background information for readers who are not familiar with some of the terminology in your question: KJV stands for King James Version, the 1611 English translation of the Bible that contains all the “thee’s” and “thou’s”. It’s the translation most familiar to the English speaking world. ESV stands for English Standard Version, a modern American English translation of the Bible first published in 2001.

In a nutshell, “KJV-Onlyists” generally believe that the KJV is the only acceptable translation for use by Christian individuals and churches. Many believe this because they mistakenly think that the translation itself is inspired by God in the 2 Timothy 3:16-17 sense. (The correct understanding of inspiration is that the original autographs – the actual words Moses, David, Paul, James, etc. wrote – are what were inspired by God.)

As with most belief systems, KJV-Onlyism is a spectrum of beliefs. On one end of the spectrum are KJVO’s who hold that you’re not saved or that you’re promoting false doctrine if you use any translation other than the KJV (Ironically, this extreme belief is itself false doctrine, or actual heresy if use of the KJV is in any way tied to salvation. Even the King James Version of the Bible does not teach this.). On the other end of the spectrum are what I, personally, would call KJVP’s (preferred). These are KJVO’s who strongly prefer KJV. This is the “official” version they use in their churches and want their church members to use, but they do not tie its use to salvation or disparage those who use other accurate translations. This stance is merely a preference of a particular church or individual, and is not false doctrine. And, of course, there are varied beliefs between the two ends of the spectrum.

The KJV is a perfectly great translation to use if it’s what you prefer. Christians have used it for hundreds of years and have grown in their relationship with Christ just fine. However, it can be confusing for speakers of modern English. Additionally, while it is still an acceptably accurate translation, several modern translations are technically more accurate due to the discovery of thousands of biblical manuscripts over the last 400 years. It is for these reasons I typically recommend either the ESV or the New American Standard (NASB) version. Both are highly accurate and easier to understand for 21st century readers. I used the NASB for about twenty years, then switched to the ESV about four years ago. I love both of them for their accuracy and ease of reading. For more information on choosing an English Bible translation, please see my article The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?.

If you need some materials to share with KJVO’s or would like to study the issue more yourself, please see the Additional Resources section below.


Additional Resources

King James Onlyism by James White

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by James White

Are the translations of the Bible inspired? at Compelling Truth

Why I Changed From KJV to ESV by Josh Buice

The King James Only Controversy by Trevin Wax

What is the KJV Only movement? at Got Questions


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Advertisements