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As you know, there are Baptist and Protestant sects throughout the English-speaking world that believe that the King James Version is the best - or only - completely trustworthy theological resource. They believe that the translators behind the King James Version were not mere literary scholars, but Spirit-filled saints who were placed by destiny to create a completely perfect Bible for the people of their place and time.

It's just now occurred to me that those people had their own thoughts and opinions about their place in history. What would they say, if we could ask them? Conjecture aside, are there any historical quotes from those men regarding whether they believed their work was inerrant?

Did anybody working on the King James Version ever say something to the effect of, "We are filled with the Holy Spirit and we believe that the work we created is perfect" ? Or conversely, "Even experts make mistakes, we gave it our best shot" ?

It is of course very unlikely that committee members could independently "leak to the press" their personal opinions, and have their words preserved in history. But did the government of James I's own time or the Church of England of his time make any official statements regarding the inerrancy of the King James Version?

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    The original KJV preface said that revisions would be likely or even necessary, though I'm not sure if it says that as an acknowledgement of flaws, or just a recognition that English would change in the future.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 23:38
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    I just watched KJB: The Book That Changed the World (YouTube here), a 2011 documentary on the religious and educational upbringing of King James VI as Scottish Presbyterian, the rivalry between the bishops vs. the Puritans, and a little about how the translation committees made up of the two factions (about 50 people). Highly recommended. Motivation seems to be a translation faithful to latest scholarship in original languages and an edition free of theological bias and commentaries to unite the factions. Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 3:36
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    Welcome to the site. A good Q. But to say the KJV is a "completely trustworthy theological resource" is not the same as saying it is an inerrant translation! A few groups do say the latter. I've just got the book by scholar Melvin Bragg, "The Book of Books - the radical impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011". I will see if it provides an answer to your Q, but it will take me some time to formulate, so please don't close this quickly!
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 16:07

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There is nothing to suggest that those many scholars who combined to produce the King James Version ever claimed to have produced divinely inspired, inerrant work. The background of events that led to the KJV is known, and this of itself mitigates against such a claim.

Even by the time of the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Parliament spoke of the need to reduce the diversity of Bibles in the English tongue. Later, John Reynolds, a Puritan and president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, petitioned the King to consider a new translation of the Bible. This was because there were many translations on the go; so many, in fact, that they were confusing and an embarrassment. The proposed new version would seek to incorporate the best bits from the best ones.

The first printed Bible in English was Tyndale’s Bible (1525), only lightly edited by Miles Coverdale for his 1539 ‘Great Bible’. The Geneva Bible (1560) became the most influential until the KJV which took Tyndale’s Bible and the Great Bible as its basis, as did the Bishops’ Bible of 1568. Even the Douay-Rheims NT of 1582, a Roman Catholic version, used Tyndale. The fact that 80% of Tyndale’s much earlier translation work was incorporated into the KJV shows that any claims of ‘inspired, inerrant work’ would have had to attribute Tyndale with such an accolade. But that never happened.

The scholars are known, and they were divided into six committees, assigned to various aspects of the translation work. Fifty-four were initially given the task, though deaths and illnesses culled their number to about forty-seven active translators. One of them, Myles Smyth, wrote the preface for the KJV, the full text of which is in my KJV. The Trinitarian Bible Society prefaces it by saying, “The text of this Preface is taken from F.H. Scrivener’s 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible.” Here are some extracts from it, regarding claims of the translators, starting with a bit near the end of the heading, ‘The praise of the Holy Scriptures’:

“[The Bible is] a fountain of most pure water springing up into everlasting life. And what marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the inditer, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the penmen, such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principal portion of God’s Spirit…” Note that it is only the original text spoken of, not any translations.

Under the heading, ‘The purpose of the Translators’ he explains,

“Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one; but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark. To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men’s eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise… And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own knowledge, or of their sharpness of wit, or deepness of judgment, as it were in an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening, and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord… If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New… the work hath not been huddled up in seventy two days [a reference to the LXX Greek translation of the Hebrew NT, tradition saying that it was done in 72 days] but hath cost the workmen, as light as it seemeth, the pains of twice seven times seventy two days, and more… neither did we disdain to revise that which he had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see.”

Note how the translators sought to improve on what had gone before by combining the many good points of various translations and by consulting the original language texts? They trusted in the Lord, praying for his enabling, taking as much time as was needed, revising what needed to be corrected, and crediting God with his good hand upon them. At no point did they claim they were Holy Spirit inspired; they restricted that for the original texts (none of those autographs being available back then, or now.)


Sources: Melvin Bragg, "The Book of Books - the radical impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011", chapter 4. Preface to the KJV.

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The contents of the KJV Preface seem to me to make neither any claim to inerrancy, perfection or divine inspiration nor to make any apology for any imperfection.

The preface does make it clear that the remit was to provide :

... there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue ...

but the preface does not admit to either success or failure in the accomplishment of the venture.

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