The Haters: The KJV Only Movement

Thankfully, advocates of KJV Onlyism are not “hating” on us as frequently as they used to. I don't know if this is due to the movement dying out or due to its advocates becoming more civil (highly unlikely), but I am thankful that we do not have to deal with KJV Onlyism as much as we used to. I remember the first time I was exposed to KJV Onlyism. I thought it was utterly ridiculous. I did not know anything about the Textus Receptus, or Erasmus, or King James VI. All I knew was the idea that English speakers are required by God to use a Bible translation from 17th century England is ludicrous. As I am now much more familiar with the arguments, I am still absolutely convinced that KJV Onlyism is terribly misguided and horribly destructive to the Body of Christ.

What is the true origin of KJV Onlyism? My informed speculation is that it is due to a resistance to change. In the 20th century, when English translations of the Bible other than the KJV started becoming popular, those who were used to the KJV did not want to change and relearn all the Bible verses they knew. But, they couldn't just admit, "I'm an old fuddy-duddy and don't want to change," so they began developing arguments for the KJV and against all the new translations. These arguments have been improved upon, and have gained traction, and have been passed on to new generations of English-speaking Christians.

While they rarely admit it, advocates of KJV Onlyism essentially believe that God re-inspired the Bible in AD 1611. Ultimately, they have to go there because if they place their loyalty on the Textus Receptus (the Greek manuscript compilation used by the KJV translators), that would open the door to new translations being created. And, we can't have that, so, God must have perfectly superintended the KJV translators into creating a perfect representation of His Word in English. From their writings, it appears advocates of KJV Onlyism hate the NKJV, KJ21, and MKJV just as much as they hate the NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT, CSB, etc. No, in order for KJV Onlyism to be true, God had to have re-inspired the Bible through the KJV translators.

Does that make any sense to you? It sure doesn't make any sense to me. Now, the more scholarly KJV Onlyites will make arguments for the superiority of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts behind the KJV. But, if you ask them if a new translation could be created from those manuscripts, watch out. I would advise body armor and ear muffs. Others will argue against the translation methodology of the new translations. But, with the more literal modern translations, like the NASB and ESV, the translation methodology is not dissimilar from what the KJV translators employed. Still others will attack the integrity, morals, and motivations of the modern translators. So, evidently, the group of 17th century British Anglicans behind the KJV were sinless, had perfect theology, and had absolutely no ulterior motives.

KJV Onlyism is a good example of Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, he was labeled a heretic by some for daring to “change” the Bible. Centuries later, when Jerome's Latin Vulgate became nearly universally accepted in the Western church, many who dared to attempt updates were murdered. Then, when believers in Germany, England, and other countries began translating the Bible into their common languages, they were labeled heretics, and some were burned at the stake for their vulgarity. KJV Onlyism makes the exact same mistake. Instead of focusing their loyalties on the original Hebrew and Greek, they make their preferred translation of the Bible the only true Bible and persecute anyone with a different preference. There are movements similar to KJV Onlyism in other languages as well, although, thankfully, not with nearly the same followings.

Don't be deceived by KJV Onlyism. God did not re-inspire the Bible in AD 1611. The King James Version is not the only Bible we can use. The new translations are not a part of a grand conspiracy to spread false doctrine. When the Bible was written, it was written in the common and current language of the people of that time. When the Bible is translated, it should be translated into the common and current language of the people. My first reaction to being exposed to KJV Onlyism was precisely correct. To force the English-speaking world to use an archaic and antiquated translation is ridiculous. The KJV Onlyites can bemoan all they want, but their concupiscence for disputation is verily brutish.

S. Michael Houdmann

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The Haters: The KJV Only Movement