Have you noticed a new abbreviation for the Authorized Version of the Bible? The abbreviation reads KJB; instead of KJV or AV. Notice the B has replaced the V. Those who use this abbreviation believe that the KJV is not a version—it is the Bible for English speaking people. They believe that version is not the right word to use because it implies that there is more than one acceptable translation of the Bible. You see, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, a version is “a translation from another language; especially: a translation of the Bible or a part of it.”
Baptist churches that use a B instead of a V reject the idea that the King James Bible is a translation. They believe that the translators were given special guidance to select all the correct English words.
This new extreme minority group within Baptist churches has adopted the position that the KJB is the new original manuscript. This group believes that the KJB has replaced the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The following is a sentence taken directly from a letter I received from one in this group. The sentence is not taken out of context or extracted for my open purposes. This is what one man wrote me:
“We strongly believe without apology that the old 1611 King James Bible is neither just a ‘reliable translation’ nor an ‘accurate version’ but rather God's perfect, pure, infallible, and inerrant word in the English language. It is WITHOUT proven textual or doctrinal errors. It CANNOT be improved upon by any other English or American language version now and forever!”
He continues to write:
“Even with very limited resources and virtually no financial backing, I am alone endeavoring to translate the Old Testament scriptures directly from the King James Bible (without resorting to Greek and Hebrew lexicons). — a very difficult and tremendous task indeed! The Filipino King James Bible translation project is progressing slowly but surely. Filipino, which is based from Tagalog, is our national language.”
Notice that he says he is going to give the Filipino people a King James Bible. He is going to do this without “resorting to Greek and Hebrew lexicons.” To do so, this man will rely strictly upon whatever KJB he presently uses with whatever current English renderings it has. Please understand that his KJB is not a 1611 Bible. We know this to be true because, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the KJV, Amazon and others are selling replicas of the original 1611 Bible. Next time you are in a bookstore, look for a replica.
Or, if you don’t want to do that, you could check out this website:
If you want to see an example of what a page looked like in the original 1611, here is a link to a facsimile:
When a KJB Baptist says he is using the 1611 KJB to translate into a new language, one has to wonder if he is really using this hard-to-read-and-comprehend 1611, or if he is using a newer version. Of course, the differences are primarily in spelling, punctuation and other minor differences that have no impact on doctrine, but the point is clear: why say 1611 when the version being used is really from 1769 or some other more recent year?
The real issue is: Were the American version translators among a long line of gifted men who were committed to giving English-speaking men and women a Bible they could understand in their own language, or did something special happen in 1611 that had never happened before? Did God lead, guide, and direct these men to select all the correct English words in a particular way such that reference to the Hebrews or Greek is no longer necessary?
This scenario is problematic in this sense: who defines a word when it is not clearly understood? Is it the Webster dictionary? Is it the 1828 Webster dictionary? If Hebrew and/or Greek lexicons can’t be used, something must be used.
The value in looking at alternative scriptural rendering in English is completely lost when one decides he cannot use either other translations or the Hebrew or Greek text to gain a better understanding of what Paul, Peter, or John (or any other author) has said.
Let me illustrate. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
What does the author mean by the word substance? If I choose to use an English dictionary, my choices are presented below.
sub•stance \ˈsəb-stən(t)s\ noun
[Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin substantia, from substant-, substans, present participle of substare to stand under, from sub- + stare to stand — more at STAND]
1 a : essential nature : ESSENCE
b : a fundamental or characteristic part or quality
c : Christian Science : GOD 1b
2 a : ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change
b : practical importance : MEANING, USEFULNESS 〈the… bill—which will be without substance in the sense that it will authorize nothing more than a set of ideas —Richard Reeves〉
3 a : physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence
b : matter of particular or definite chemical constitution
c : something (as drugs or alcoholic beverages) deemed harmful and usually subject to legal restriction 〈possession of a controlled substance〉 〈has a substance problem〉
4 : material possessions : PROPERTY
The above choices are not very helpful. I don’t know which one to choose. There is nothing between the verse and the four choices to help me make a better choice.
Searching for the word substance in other Bible verses also becomes exceptionally problematic because this particular Greek word is only rendered substance once. However, the word substance is found four times in the New Testament. The other three times come from a different Greek word than hypostatis, the Greek word used in Hebrews 11:1. This is why knowing the Greek behind the text is critically important. (Additionally, if it were not for a lexicon or another translation I would not know that the other three uses of substance came from a different Greek word.)
Hypostatis is found twice in 1 Corinthians and three other times in Hebrews, for a total of six uses in the New Testament.
It is translated twice as confidence, once as confident, and once as the word person.
Because I know which Greek word is in the text, I can now study the correct word to gain a better understanding of what the word substance means in this text.
I understand the word confidence. So, if I substitute confidence for substance in Hebrews 11:1, the text would read, “Now faith in the confidence of things hoped for…”
Interestingly, if I choose to take advantage of other English translations I discover that confidence is the right idea.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Assurance, reality, assurance, and confidence are the four ways hypostatis (G5287) is rendered in four other translations. Knowing the Greek behind the English is critical. Using either hardcopy or digital lexicons makes it easy to look for other contextual uses of the same Greek word. And recognizing that the KJV is just a translation gives me the freedom to look at other English translations.
By rejecting potential insight offered by other English translations and the Greek and Hebrew texts, those in the KJB camp loose valuable resources in gaining a complete understanding of the English rendering of God’s Word.
Those still not convinced should consider the following: The KJV was not the first English Bible. William Tyndale translated the Greek New Testament into English about 70 years before the 1611 version was first printed. To claim that the KJB is the only Bible worthy of acknowledgement as God’s Word means that the Greek that William used was good Greek and worthy of being studied during his time, but that this same Greek is no longer of value today. It was of value for some people (Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, the Geneva Bible translators, and the AV 1611 translators) for about 100 years, but the value is no longer there for Christians alive today who seek to know and understand the Word of God.
That is just ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous as statements like this:
"We believe that the King James Version is the perfect, impeccable, inspired, and preserved Word of God. We believe that inspiration took place when God spoke through holy men of old and that God has preserved His Word to this present moment. The Textus Receptus manuscript from which the King James is translated is the only completely reliable manuscript in existence. Midwestern Baptist College has no other text or version and would not tolerate the use of any other."
What if I don’t read English? Then what? What if I am going to preach the gospel in another country where English is not the primary language? Then what? Do I teach these people that the Greek is the standard, or do I teach that the English the standard? What happens when there is a difference between the word rendering in the non-English Bible of missionary’s people group and the way a word was rendered in the KJV Bible? Do I teach them that we must look at the Greek; or is the KJV perfect?
Certainly, what works much better is to teach that all translations are the Word of God in so much as they accurately represent the Hebrew and Greek words in the text. This means that all Bibles are not the Word of God. Only those Bibles that diligently preserve the meaning of the original language are the Word of God. Paraphrases and gender neutral translations may contain the Word of God; but they are not the Word of God because their first objective is not to translate the text.
When a translation committee has the same objective that William Tyndale had, we can be assured that God will use it to continue to preserve his Word. Over 2000 years ago, God did it first with the translation committee who gave the Apostles the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, God continues to do the same year after year, for which we can all be thankful.