King James Only

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King James Only is a movement that promotes the superiority of the King James Version of the Bible. It is a common view among Fundamentalist Christians in the U.S., especially the Independent Baptists.

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 David Otis Fuller. Fuller added numerous footnotes to correct errors and misunderstandings in the Wilkinson text, some of which involve basic matters of church history.[1] 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 Vaticanius 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. (No one knows where they were produced.) In 1881, B.F. Westcott (1825-1903) and F.J.A. Hort produced a "Critical Text" based on these two manuscripts.[2] Westcott and Hort figure prominently in KJO demonology, where the "Westcott and Hort Only" movement is denounced.[3]

Opponents of the King James Only Movement

As with all religious movements, the King James Only movement has its own share of opponents. Dr. John Rice, editor of The Sword of the Lord publishing company and opponent to the King James Only movement, 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.[4]

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."[5]

The New King James Version (1982) was a Bible translation similar to the King James Version, but without the Elizabethan "thee" and "thou" language. Unlike other modern translations, it is translated from TR rather than from the Critical Text. It includes numerous footnotes that give alternative readings and explain which reading comes from which text.


  1. Kutilek, Doug, "Wilkinson's Incredible Errors", Baptist Biblical Heritage, Vol. I, No. 3; Fall, 1990. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Stringer, Dr. Phil, "The Westcott and Hort Only Controversy"
  4. "Dr. John R. Rice's reply to Dr. David Otis Fuller on the KJV", The Sword of the Lord, November 28, 1975
  5. "Statement about Bible Translations", Bob Jones University.

Further reading

  • 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).

External links