I'm a non-native English speaker living in Europe myself, so I honestly couldn't read the KJV as my primary Bible and all I know about its popularity in the USA is hearsay. I'd like to know more about the different levels of KJV advocacy.

I've heard that some Christians consider the KJV the only correct English translation of the Bible. From what I read on Wikipedia about "King James only movement", I gather there are varying degrees of this. However, the article doesn't tell me very much. I'd like to know:

  • What different KJV-advocating views are there?
  • What are they based on?
  • How common are they?

I personally hold the KJV in high esteem because of its beautiful, poetic language, but it's still in a foreign language to me. I also occasionally read ESV, NASB, NIV and NLTse; I mostly check them when I want to check the translation of a specific passage and versions in my own language disagree.

I don't mean to insult anyone, so please edit if some of the terms that I use are inappropriate.

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    The main point of the KJV-only view is the manuscripts used to translate the KJV, rather than the style of the translation.
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 11:47
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    I'm also a little interested in how difficult it is for you native English speakers to read the KJV. For me, the difficulty is in reading a foreign language; there's little difference between ESV, NIV and KJV. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 11:47
  • For the record, I'm French and English is not my mother tongue at all :-)
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 11:48
  • @Raphink I would say that it is both manuscripts and style (if by style you mean Formal vs Dynamic Equivalence)
    – pstrjds
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 15:04
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    @dancek: I'm a KJV Onlyer, and I personally don't have any problem reading the KJV. I think the main thing that trips people up in that they don't understand that 'thee' and 'thou' = singular 'you' and 'ye' and 'you' = plural 'you', but most of the little kids in our church get it fine, so it's not a big problem and you get used to it quickly. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


As a KJV Onlyer I guess I can at least answer what my view is. I go a little stronger than the only English translation. I believe it is the Word of God for this generation. To try to concisely answer the reasons for that view:

  1. Psalm 12:6-7 says that God has promised to preserve His Word unto all generations.
  2. Inspiration without preservation doesn't make sense
  3. If God promised to preserve it to all generations, then at any generation in time there is a place you can turn to get God's Word. In the days of Moses and the Prophets it was in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the days of the Apostles and Acts it was in Greek. In the time of the early church it was in Syriac, etc.
  4. Based on the method of translation, the manuscripts that went into the translation, how God used the translation, the fact that God has allowed English to be a major language across the world today, etc, I believe that English is the language in which you find the pure Word of God today and that it is found in the King James Bible.

I didn't answer the question of how common these views are. That I think is hard to say. It is a popular belief amongst the churches and pastors I fellowship the most with. It is by no means held by everyone I fellowship with. Having said that, I am sure it is a minority view in what in general is referred to as "Christianity" today (just take a look at any "Christian" bookstores Bible section, the KJV is one of the smallest and generally not prominently displayed.)

Another KJO view (the one you mention) is that the King James is the Bible in English (I would say that this is not really KJO but KJO-In-English). I believe that most who hold that view, hold it because of the manuscripts that were used for the translation (the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic text), since all other modern English translations use a different text.

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    How fair for non English speakers (probably the majority of the world population doesn't speak English good enough to read the KJV). This is very English culture centered...
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 15:44
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    The point of the question is what views are out there, not really a defense of those views, and I do not wish to start that argument here. This is an English centric view, but if you pause for a minute and think about the fact that at the time of Moses up until basically the time of Christ, if you wanted to hear God's you had to learn Hebrew (which at all points in history has been a minority language), and you had to live according to the Hebrew law. I would say, God giving His Word in English today opens it up to a far larger group of people than when it was in Hebrew.
    – pstrjds
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:07
  • Interesting point ;-) I won't get into the debate then :-)
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:14
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    It seems that your argument assumes that the KJV was the first English Bible. Perhaps you were not aware that there were en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. Arguably, the KJV only gained traction because it was translated by the scholars of the Church of England. Since this was the only legal religion in England, the Bible circulated among all English speakers. I do agree that the KJV is the most correct translation, but I do not say that it is 100% infallible.
    – beatgammit
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:14
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    @pstrjds: There are many examples of people in the OT who did not live according to Hebrew law, but were considered "righteous" by the Biblical text. I'm not sure if this discredits your entire argument, but it at least means one of your points is not valid.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 17:32

There are differing groups throughout the United States that argue (quite vehemently) about solely using the King James version.

It seems to be divided (very roughly) based on the culture of the area. In the South, for example, some denominations tend to preach out of the King James version more often than churches from the Northern parts of the US (or churches from different denominations). The line in some communities is quite divisive, in fact.

Having said that, I think it boils down to the community itself and what they prefer to listen to and read.

I've been to churches that are primarily older people (with the average age well over 60) and they solely use King James version. Churches that are filled with younger people tend to use a more modern version.

Ultimately, while there are some people who strongly oppose anything but KJV, it seems that it's a matter of preference.

Also, I should note that New King James version seems to be just as popular than KJV. (The numbers are very close.) It retains many of the same translations but changes the "thee" and "thou" for the more modern words "your" and "you".

Ironically, you do lose a sense of singular/plural-ness when you drop "thee" from the vocabulary (which muddles the translation a bit).

As a side note, I once heard someone say that they prefer the King James Version on the grounds that "if it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."

Obviously, he was not a biblical scholar. ;)

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    Haha, the "good enough for Jesus" (I feel like saying LOL). I've also heard people ask why we should trust the Bible that King James wrote, and why not another king ;-)
    – raphink
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 12:22
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    I didn't know that NKJV is more popular than KJV. I did know that the 1769 KJV is more popular than the 1611 KJV. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:05
  • @dancek Surprised? ;) There's a book seller that shows sales per here. I believe that the unit sales are more important than the price. Interestingly, their latest report (for Sept 2011) shows KJV outstripping NKJV here. It looks like they may run pretty close to each other (another source for 2010 and 2009)
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:15
  • @dancek After checking the numbers, I've updated my answer to reflect the neck-and-neck sales. Thanks for pointing this out!
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:17
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    A point to note: The KJV, despite its age, is still copyrighted in the UK, and only one publisher (Cambridge University Press, if I remember right) has the right to print it.
    – TRiG
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 12:43

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