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Some people believe the King James Version of the Bible is the only version English-speakers should be using, as it is the only inspired translation. (This is referred to as "KJV-onlyism.")

Basically, the KJV-only position is that:

  • The Bible is God's word

  • God promises to preserve His word

  • This preservation is accomplished via a perfect translation (one per language)

  • The KJV is His perfect, preserved translation in the English language

  • The reason other English Bibles differ from the KJV is because those other Bibles have been tainted by sin and error

What are the main counterarguments to this view?

I am specifically looking for answers which would be convincing to an English-speaking Protestant with a high view of Scripture.

share|improve this question
Related: Common Criticisms of KJV – Thomas Shields Jun 17 '12 at 2:26
Could you please add references from the KJV only side for the second point, namely "God promises to preserve his word"? – LoveTheFaith Jun 17 '12 at 3:53
Daniel Wallace, a respected scholar and curator of NT manuscripts, wrote this article a while ago to address the counter-argument to KJV-only. – swasheck Jun 18 '12 at 22:48

Some major problems with "KJV-onlyism" lies in the assumptions it makes and some of which you enumerated.

From an evangelical perspective, we accept the idea that the Bible is, indeed, the word of God. Specifically, "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21 ESV

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any priuate Interpretation: 21 For the prophecie came not in olde time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moued by the holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV 1611

Preservation via a perfect translation

The problem starts with the third point you enumerated, specifically that the preservation is via a perfect translation, that is one for every language.

Why does the preservation have to be in a translation? Why can't the preservation be in the original languages and those manuscripts? How could we know that the KJV is the perfect translation into English? The KJV was certainly not even the first translation into English, as it was preceded by the Wycliffe, Tyndale, Bishop and Douay-Rheims translations, among others.

Does it follow that the first translation into any language is a perfect translation and should never be updated, no matter how much the language changes?

In fact, the KJV has been changed quite a few times since it's original release. No one reads out of the 1611 edition anymore, as our language has changed significantly since that time.

Also, the whole idea that there must be a preservation in each language at all times misses the point that most languages didn't have any translation until recently, and there are many that still don't.

So, this assumption has a hard time fitting reality and even logic.

Sin and error in other English translations

The assumption that only one translation can be accurate in any language for all times leads the KJV-only people to assert that any other translation into English must be somehow imperfect, and many even assert that sin is the reason. The translators of the KJV must have been the holiest of men, and all other people who ever attempt to translate Greek and Hebrew into English today must somehow be sinful.

That doesn't even make sense. The English language is different today than it was 400 years ago. Even if there were a perfect translation at that time, we don't speak that language anymore.

Also, why must experts in Hebrew and Greek today who translate the Scriptures into English be somehow tainted by sin? Is it not possible that they could also be men and women who fear God as much or more as the translators of the KJV? There are certainly men and women today who are translating the Scriptures into new languages. Is it holy and righteous to translate into new languages, but the same people who translate into English somehow introduce sin and error?


The KJV-only teaching is rife with assumptions that are just illogical. There certainly are poor translations into English. Translation is not an exact science all the time. Conveying meaning of one language into another is sometimes quite difficult. The KJV is an excellent translation, among several others. If you lived in the 1600's, there was nothing as good as that, even if you wanted to read the Apocrypha (which was in the initial printing). Today, the language of the KJV is no longer spoken. The NASB and ESV are probably two of the very best of the bunch, in my opinion. I also use the NIV.

There are quite a few other allegations from the KJV only crowd. It could be interesting to address each of these in separate question. I know James Melton has a booklet entitled "How I know the KJV is the Word of God", which has some statements that are absolutely ridiculous in it.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your post. (+1) It sounds like your main counterargument is that it is difficult to understand how KJV-only could be rational. However, I've heard some compelling arguments from the KJV-only camp, and I'm not sure this answer would be effective in dismantling (countering) their arguments. (But I do think this is helpful.) Out of curiosity, does the first part of your answer imply that all Scripture is "prophecy"? – Jas 3.1 Jun 17 '12 at 21:11
@Jas3.1 The logic seems convincing until you start analyzing the assumptions and asking questions, like I have done here. The preservation of the Scriptures has been in the original manuscripts--not any particular translation of the text in any particular language. – Narnian Jun 18 '12 at 14:59
@Jas3.1 The "prophecy" may or may not be specific. Other Scriptures attest to divine authorship more explicitly. – Narnian Jun 18 '12 at 15:00
"The translators of the KJV must have been the holiest of men, and all other people who ever attempt to translate Greek and Hebrew into English today must somehow be sinful." Well that's debunked by Romans 3:10-18. – Devsman Mar 31 at 14:50

I fully believe in the Bible as the perfect word of God without any error whatsoever. I also like the KJV. However, there is no Biblical basis for believing in an inspired translation, from one language to another. This would put translators at the same level as prophets and apostles for they would need a special anointing that determines what scripture is.

The belief of inerrancy is that the 'original text' was without error, but even here insignificant trace errors have crept into copies of the original texts. I think God allows this partly to keep us from being so insecure about our faith in Him. Our security should rest in Him, in the ideas he has imparted to us through His word, not each syllable. If we are so insecure, that we need to put our faith in men, we will become worshipers of ink, not of God.

Translation from one language to another can be made by sinners without any inspiration. What matters is if the translation is technically honest to the original text, or no. God has not left the business of translation dependant upon the personal holiness of the translators, otherwise all translations would be fully corrupt.

Besides, there is no logical basis to believe that those who translated the KJV were holier than those who have made other English translations.

God will preserve many good translations to us in various languages. He himself has said:

18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 NIV)

As God has made this warning in the last book of our Bible, and will execute it, we can be confident God is interested enough to preserve the Bible for us. Therefore we do not have to rely on one small group of people who made one single translation.

Having said this, if a specific conflict arises between two translations, one must identify which is less honest to the original text, whether the weakness is in the KJV or other version, the test must be made for each instance. One cannot not just wildly assert for the whole Bible translation itself, that it is better than another. Each conflict must be argued specifically. It would not surprise me if the KJV is often the winner.

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This didn't answer my question at all. – Jas 3.1 Jun 17 '12 at 3:16
@Jas3.1 - I guess we see the KJV argument from different perspectives. I do not see a rational basis for it, so I cannot create an argument against it, other than denying that it has any validity. I see it as an emotion based assertion. My favorite version is the NIV, but I do not consider it better just because I like it. I do recommend it over the KJV though because it takes into account more recent language. I find the KJV difficult to read because I do not speak in that kind of language. It's really this simple for many of us, maybe even most of us. – Mike Jun 17 '12 at 5:58
I don't think you can apply the passage from Revelation you quoted as speaking of the NT (which wasn't in existence then) or even larger portions of the Bible. It's specifically speaking about Revelation ("this book" is referring to Revelation—the book that John is told to write down). – mojo Jun 26 '12 at 11:06
@mojo - I agree with you yet still think God implies with it the whole OT and NT. The book is a story with beginning, middle and end, at it is no coincidence that the end-piece of the Messiah puzzle is annexed with the warning. On this ground I sort of take it out of context within the greater context of the entire Bible. However I am not dogmatic about it. Just an opinion. Cheers – Mike Jun 26 '12 at 14:12

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