KJV Onlyism

There is a small, albeit outspoken, minority of Baptists who are confused on an important issue. With great conviction, they purport what they believe to be a biblical truth. Unfortunately, they do so with no biblical evidence. This doctrine that they preach with great exuberance has found a name in fundamentalist circles: "King James Onlyism."

This should be of great concern to anyone who is adamant about the authority of the Word of God.

Independent Baptists have consistently been reactionary preachers. When some new evil has found its way into modernity or post-modernity, we have been militant in our stance against it. We are not called "fighting fundamentalists" for nothing. And throughout the years, our stance has often been correct and necessary.

And in the last few decades, the Christian market has been flooded with numerous new Bible translations. A few have been very good literal translations. Some have been very poor. It has become imperative that pastors and church leaders clearly teach the difference between the two.

However, some Baptists have decided to forgo teaching the difference between good and poor translations, and have adopted a more severe stance; namely, that the King James Version is the only perfect translation of the Bible.

The KJV only stance is not very old. In my library I have a book by Jack Hyles, a very influential Baptist pastor in the late 20th century. In this book on the study of the Revelation, Pastor Hyles corrects the King James Bible with phrases like "better translated." The book was written in 1967. Pastor Hyles later changed his position, and in the last two decades of his life, was one of the most vocal leaders of the KJV only charge.

His conversion, and the conversion of many others, to the KJV only position was an overreaction to the introduction of some poor modern translations—the NIV is an example. They were correct in pointing out the errors in the NIV, just as we should be cautious of the TNIV, NLT or The Message. These are paraphrases and should be read as such.

King James Onlyism has evolved since its inception around 30 years ago. In the small Baptist circles where it is perpetuated, it has become something of a litmus test, unfortunately. KJV only churches are known to spend extraordinary amounts of preaching and teaching time defending the honor of their favorite translation and less time on things of more importance, i.e. the gospel of Jesus Christ. They routinely break fellowship with other believers over this singular issue, and end up doing more harm than good.

They label anyone who retranslates the KJV into more accurate and clear wording a "bible corrector." This is both a serious, and usually unsubstantiated, claim.

The point that needs to be understood and emphasized is that the teacher is not correcting the Bible—he is correcting the particular word selected by the translation committee.

Furthermore, 400 years have passed since the translators converted the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic words into the Queen's English. The English language is a constantly evolving organism. 400 years has produced countless significant changes in our figures of speech, colloquialisms, and common definitions. These changes must be accounted for. That is what a preacher, who wants to accurately teach the inspired Word of God, must do.

And sometimes the Bible teacher must say "No, the translators were not perfect; they were not inspired, and they didn't get it right." We are on very dangerous ground when we elevate the translation of a 17th century linguist over the original intent recorded by the Apostle Paul.

John R. Rice repeatedly pointed to Acts 12.4 as a classic example where the translation scholars were not perfect and chose to translate the Greek word pascha which means "Passover" as "Easter."

We can't go back and ask them why they did this. We know that pascha occurs 29 times in the New Testament and 28 of those times it was rendered Passover. We also know that when we examine the same verse in any other Bible it is not rendered "Easter."

Now this is what it comes down to this for the reasonable person—there are only two possible scenarios.

1. A person believes by faith that the translators and everyone who subsequently has been involved in the changes that have occurred with the AV, since 1611, have all been inspired and uniquely led by the Holy Spirit unlike any other group of translators.


2. These godly scholars made a mistake and should not have selected the word Easter for the Jewish Festival of Passover.

The extreme minority position clings tightly to the first scenario. "Easter" for some reason was the perfect choice and not a single group of translators since 1611 have got it right. In this case, the KJV corrects the Greek NT and it is now held in a higher position of authority. The BBC Articles of Faith do not support scenario 1 because the church articles of faith state that the original manuscripts were inspired and we don't have any original manuscripts that contain a Greek word for the holiday "Easter."

Therefore, scenario two is the only position acceptable for BBC. The Bible is perfect, preserved and prized, BUT the translators were not perfect and did not get it right in Acts 12.4.

Passover is the right word and anyone who teaches the holiday Easter is not teaching the Word of God—they may be reading from the Word of God but if they let their people walk away with the understanding of a pagan holiday involving bunnies and eggs, instead, of the correct word Passover—they have not delivered the Word of God.












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