King James Only
King James Only is a movement that promotes the King James Version of the Bible. It was popularized by a book edited by David Otis Fuller and published in 1970. It is a common view among fundamentalists in the U.S.
KJV was first published in 1611. The New Testament was translated from Textus Receptus, a Greek text compiled by Erasmus in the 16th century on the basis of 12th century Byzantine manuscripts. Its position as the dominant English language translation was unchallenged until the 1970s.
More recent translations modernize the Biblical language. More controversially, they use a Greek text based on manuscripts not known to Erasmus. This text, called the Critical Text, was compiled by B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort in 1881 and is updated regularly. It is based on two early manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The KJO view was articulated by Benjamin G. Wilkinson (1872–1968), a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, in the book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated (1930). This book was plagerized by Jasper James Ray (1955) and by Peter Ruckman (1964). In 1970, Wilkinson's writing was republished in Which Bible? (1970), properly attributed this time. This book is a collection of essays edited by Fuller. Fuller added numerous footnotes to correct errors and misunderstandings in the Wilkinson text, some of which involve basic matters of church history. Fuller presents the footnotes as if they were written by Wilkinson, so Wilkinson's lack of expertise is not as apparent in the 1970 edition as it was in earlier editions. Several major Bible translations appeared in the early 1970s, making Fuller's treatment topical. Fuller's book got far more attention than earlier works on this subject. It is considered responsible for kicking off KJO as a movement.
KJO authors claim that Textus Receptus, the Greek text used by KJV, is a more reliable text than the so-called Alexandrian text that is used by modern translations. TR was edited by Erasmus in 16th century and is based on several 12th century Byzantine manuscripts.
Modern translations are based on Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both fourth century manuscripts. These two manuscripts are said to be "Alexandrian" because they have same type of text as Codex Alexandrinus, a fifth century manuscript. In 1881, B.F. Westcott (1825-1903) and F.J.A. Hort produced a "Critical Text" based on these two manuscripts. Westcott and Hort figure prominently in KJO demonology, where the "Westcott and Hort Only" movement is denounced. Modern Bible translations are based on Greek texts edited by Nestle Aland and the United Bible Societies. These are similar to Westcott-Hort, but take into account manuscripts and papyrus fragments that were discovered later.
The New King James Version (1982) is a response to the text-based arguments of KJO writers. This translation is based on the King James Version, but with the language partly modernized. The preface claims that the work is a fresh translation of the "majority text," i.e. the text of the majority of surviving manuscripts. This justification was developed after lawyers for Thomas Nelson Publishers told the editors they would not be able to copyright a revision of KJV. As the majority of surviving Greek manuscripts are of the late Byzantine text type, the majority text is quite similar to Textus Receptus.
The KJV Only movement has, as does any movement, varying views.
On one end are teachers such as David Cloud, head of Way of Life (an Independent Baptist publishing house based in Canada). Way of Life's position statement states that it considers the KJV "an example of an accurate translation of the preserved Hebrew and Greek texts" (said texts meaning the Hebrew Masoretic and the Greek Received Text). However, Cloud states that he opposes, among other things, any view that the KJV could never be updated for more modern language.
On the other extreme are KJV Only proponents such as Gail Riplinger (who opposes any attempt to revise the KJV) and Peter Ruckman (who goes further and considers differences between the Hebrew/Greek and the KJV to be "advanced revelation).
KJO has been comprehensively rejected by religious authorities, including fundamentalist authorities. Dr. John Rice, editor of The Sword of the Lord and the best known fundamentalist writer of the 1960s and 1970s, wrote:
And now to have many, many common and rather ignorant people - more women than men -- writing that Westcott and Hort, St. Augustine, any Catholic who had any part in the translation, anybody who now raises a question about the proper wording of some passage in the King James, are perverts or modernists or hypocrites or ignorant fools (much of the language which they got from Dr. [Peter Ruckman]), is a sorry business, and you and I will be answerable to God if we develop that kind of attitude among common Christians.
I do not want to grow a generation of Christians, who, if you show them that the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4 of the King James Version is not the proper translation but it ought to be "passover," as is true, will decide that we have no Bible, there is no authority in the Bible. To have anybody making such weighty decisions on an immature judgment about a word or two is not right, and I do not want to put a burden on common people that they must assume a scholarship they do not have, in order to understand the Bible.
Rice died in 1980 and The Sword of the Lord now supports the King James Only Movement. However, the publication is no longer influential.
Bob Jones University, an Independent Baptist university in South Carolina, has the following statement on its site:
Bob Jones University does not hold to a King James Only position...we have never taken the position that there can be only one good translation in the English language.
Supporters of the Movement
Prominent supporters include:
- Chick Publications (more specifically, Jack Chick and David Daniels)
- Sam Gipp
- Peter Ruckman
- Gail Riplinger
- Kent Hovind
- D.A. Waite
- Edward Hills
- David Cloud (though not to the radical extent of Riplinger or Ruckman)
- Kutilek, Doug, "Wilkinson's Incredible Errors", Baptist Biblical Heritage, Vol. I, No. 3; Fall, 1990.
- Stringer, Dr. Phil, "The Westcott and Hort Only Controversy"
- "Dr. John R. Rice's reply to Dr. David Otis Fuller on the KJV", The Sword of the Lord, November 28, 1975
- "Statement about Bible Translations", Bob Jones University.
- Carson, D. A., The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, Baker Book House Company (1979).
- John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Facts on King James Only Debate, Harvest House, (2010).
- Ruckman, Peter, The Alexandrian Cult, Bible Baptist Bookstore (1978-1981).
- White, James R., The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations, Bethany House, (2009).
- Wilkinson, George Wilkinson, A Review of or Objections to 'Our Authorized Bible Vindicated' (2000).
- Holland, Thomas, Crowned With Glory: The Bible from Ancient Text to Authorized Version (2000).
- McElroy, Jack, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? The Bible Version Controversy Explained and Resolved, McElroy Publishing (2013, 2015).