In the introduction to this series, I tried to explain briefly why the KJV Only debate is so important: KJV Onlyists are framing the issue as a matter of faith. By faith, you must believe the KJV is the only completely faithful Bible today. And a rejection of the KJVO position is a rejection of faith. In short, you must really be, despite claims to the contrary, someone who prizes human reason over faith in God’s Word.
In the face of such claims, this debate becomes important. If true, any non KJVO Christians are not much better than Bible deniers like Bart Ehrman. If false, these claims are at the least very wrong headed, and they have the potential to lead many astray. Because of these claims, KJV Onlyism has often caused severe divisions in the Body of Christ, harming institutions, fellowships, churches, and even families.
Having set the stage, let me now detail my plan for this series. In a nutshell, I want to show how Scripture applies to this whole debate. To do this, I want to examine the Scriptural arguments marshalled by KJV Onlyists for their position. I also plan on showing how Scripture both supports and teaches the non KJVO position. And then I want to look to the Bible to see what else we can find that will speak to the debate as a whole.
This post will attempt to detail the main Scriptural arguments that are said to support or teach the KJV Only position. Right here near the top, I should briefly define what I mean by “KJV Only”. The KJV Only position declares that the KJV is the only Bible version that English-speaking people should use. Some advocates of the position would downplay the importance of knowing Greek and Hebrew for Bible study, and strictly stick to the English of the KJV. Others, take a more moderate approach and prefer the Greek and Hebrew texts presumed to underly the KJV. But since their textual choices are guided by the choices the KJV translators made, “KJV Only” is an apt descriptor.
The arguments I will detail here are those made by the moderates. I myself was a convinced KJVO moderate for several years, and so this position is foremost in my mind as I write these posts. While there are many other arguments for the KJVO position, this post centers on those which are said to provide the position’s Scriptural basis.
The above chart is an attempt to express visibly the chief Biblical arguments for the KJVO position. As I walk you through the chart, I will be referring to the arguments or statements by color. The orange statements, are all said to be taught explicitly by Scripture. Thus you will see a dark black arrow pointing from the Bible to those arguments. Some of those statements are also supported by hollow arrows. These represent logical arguments flowing from the Scriptural teaching. For instance, a perfectly inerrant inspiration is claimed to be useless without a perfect preservation. This argument is not a Scriptural teaching, per se, but is considered a “corollary” of a Scriptural argument. So KJVO advocates claim that perfect preservation is taught both by clear Scriptural teaching, and by the neccessary corollary of inspiration.
Other colored arguments are not explicitly affirmed in Scripture. The purple ones are very closely related to Scriptural affirmations, however. Everything above the dotted line represents the Scriptural frame of reference that KJVO-ists take to the evidence at hand. So what is above the line shapes their presuppostional approach to the debate. Everything below the line represents successive logical arguments and deductions made by KJVO-ists. Given these deductions, other conclusions follow with the end result of separation over this issue.
Now that I’ve walked through the chart, let me briefly walk through the arguments. Before doing so, let me make clear that on several of these poinst, non KJV Onlyists would happily agree. But we will get into the non KJVO position later. So again, what follows will be my attempt to argue for the KJVO position following their reasoning.
The Bible explicitly teaches its own inerrancy and (plenary, verbal) inspiration [Perfect Inspiration]. The Bible also explicitly teaches the perfect preservation of that perfect inspiration. 2 other Biblical lines of reasoning are made for perfect preservation. First, a perfect inspiration is meaningless without a perfect preservation. The second line of reasoning is twofold. It is assumed that since each word and letter was inspired perfectly, not having total certainty about those words and letters would leave us with a Bible lacking authority. And since God gave the Bible to be our authority, He must needs preserve each word and letter perfectly to preserve that authority. [This is what is meant by the purple statement in between Perfect Inspiration and Perfect Preservation.]
The Bible also teaches that all the words of the Bible will be accessible to God’s people always. This idea is also supported logically by perfect preservation, for if God took the trouble to preserve His words perfectly, then surely he would make them accessible too (otherwise that would seem to defeat the whole point). This point also finds support in the logical arguments for perfect preservation. If perfect preservation is required for there to be value in and authority from perfect inspiration, then perfect accessibility is required too. Perfect accessibility, then, leads inevitably to the assumption that all of God’s words would generally be identifiable. In other words, these accessible words would be easy to spot. They would likely be in one manuscript for the most part, or in one manuscript tradition or in one printed text or Bible version. Even if they’re not all in one manuscript, it should be fairly easy to identify where they are, since they are perfectly accessible.
Finally, the Bible teaches that God’s people will generally just receive God’s Word. They don’t question it or judge it, or determine that it should be God’s Word. They receive it and recognize it.
These Biblical arguments predispose the KJV Onlyists to make the following conclusions based on the textual evidence we see. The Greek Textus Receptus (TR) and Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) were received by God’s people. They have been and are accessible, and obviously they were preserved. Therefore, the TR and MT are the only true Bible. Or, only Bibles translated from the TR and MT would be true Bibles. Hence, we should separate from anyone who rejects our belief that the KJV (as the only faithful and received Bible translated from the TR and MT) is the only true Bible.
This was obviously a reduction of complex argumentation. In future posts, I will give the Biblical passages which KJV Onlyists use to support each point, and I will deal with the exegesis of them. I also plan to test the Scriptural arguments and logical assumptions given above. So stay tuned for future installments of “The Bible and the KJV Only Debate”.
Click here for all posts in this series.