When Will the KJV Be Sufficiently Unintelligible to the “Plow Boy” That Change Will Become Necessary?

"...there is one kind of review that I have especially wished for, a review that is both 1) academic and 2) critical. One such review has indeed been published, and the author, Dr. Jeffrey Riddle, was kind enough to share it with me. I wish to respond to Riddle’s review" - Mark Ward

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G. N. Barkman's picture

I find your arguments persuasive.  I have a good number of friends (including Jeff Riddle) who defend the superiority of the KJV.  I agree with you that those who grew up with the KJV have little reason to abandon it.  That is, unless one thinks that changing to a modern translation will help others who need a more understandable version.  In my mind, that in itself is sufficient reason to consider a change.  It's a shame that this debate has so sharply divided those who are brothers in Christ and members of the same Body.

As to Jeff Riddle, I find him to be a very capable and scholarly brother who is a dedicated and faithful pastor.  He has earned my respect.

G. N. Barkman

JD Miller's picture

I agree that the KJV is a great translation and I see no reason to abandon it.  I still use it- I just do not use it exclusively.  I grew up with it, so most of my word searches are in KJV.  I have however seen great benefit in using other versions for Bible studies with other people and for preaching.

TylerR's picture


Verily, verily, I say unto thee:

  • When it's about English translations, this entire discussion has always been foolish and it always will be.
  • When it's about printed Greek NT texts, it's not quite as foolish but pretty close.

He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Bert Perry's picture

Well, maybe as early as 1769, when the differentiation between u and v, and between i and j, was standardized, along with a large number of spelling variants.  Definitely by 1920, language had changed enough so that the average person no longer understood the KJV well, and really, the very existence of the ASV(published in 1901) is testament to the fact that Victorian era scholars well understood issues like the "false friends" Mr. Ward refers to.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a lover of older books, and I cherish the challenge of learning the older idioms and parsing out older documents--say like our Constitution.  I just don't think that, when we're trying to teach elementary school students the basics of the faith, that we ought to chain them with a language that not even their great-great-great grandfathers spoke and understood well.  It would be like swapping out Dr. Seuss and Frog and Toad for Shakespeare.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

I find the overall premise pointless.  Has it run its course?  Obviously not as people still use it.  Are some words difficult to understand?  Maybe.  There are also some words and phrases that I find the English is superior, but that is probably beside the point.  The answer to the premise is when the KJV is no longer sold.  Now granted, it has already changed a bit as the English from 1611 is no longer intelligable.  So we have seen the changes since then.  It may go through another change like that at some point, or it will slowly fade away.  I don't feel that it is at the point of fading away yet.

T Howard's picture

Jim wrote:

Non negotiable on the KJV side:

  • The critical text is defective
  • The TR is the preserved Greek text

Jim, Mark is ready to concede this argument. But, his point is still, "if you want to use the TR, fine. Then, please publish a TR-based English translation in modern English. Further, if you don't want to create a new translation based on the TR, there's still the NKJV and the MEV, which are both based on the TR."

What Mark's adventure is demonstrating is that the root issue isn't the underlying Greek text, as many people assert, but the unwillingness to move away from KJV.

So, while people want to disavow the radicalism of KJV-onlyism, that is really what they hold to.

WallyMorris's picture

In Dr. Bells' 2nd yr Hebrew class, we compared the NASV & KJV to various passages. Sometimes the NAS was more accurate and sometimes the KJV was more accurate.

Dr. Custer once said that, in many passages, the ESV translation was "6 of one, half dozen of the other", meaning its choice of words sometimes did not make any real difference or improvement, sometimes just to be different.

We will always be looking for a "better" translation. Time will solve questions concerning the KJV. It's not an important issue with me unless someone is using a version that is so weak and inaccurate (i.e., The Living Bible) that they need to use a different version. But even a weak & inaccurate version still has spiritual power. I was saved while reading The Living Bible.

For our Sunday morning Men's Bible Reading in our worship service, the men use different translations. About 2/3 in our church use the KJV. This allows everyone to hear & compare.

Although the NASV has been my study Bible for 45 years, sometimes the NAS will not include a verse or phrase that the KJV includes and not make any notation about it. If I were not comparing versions during study, I would not have noticed.

In some passages, the KJV translation is harder to understand, such as Romans 7:14-25. The KJV uses words that today are crude, such as "whoremonger", "piss", "ass",etc. Reading some of these words in public is awkward.

Bottom Line: I don't spend much time on the translation issue unless someone is using a bad version. I encourage people to use the KJV, NKJV, NASV, & ESV, It's not an issue I am concerned about, pro or con. Time will solve this debate.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN


Mark_Smith's picture

I don't use "thy," "thee," and "thou"... why would I read a book that uses that? There is nothing "spiritual" about "thou" or "thy".

And before you say Shakespeare... I'm not basing my life on the bard from Avon.

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that if you're arguing that it's a specific edition of the TR (there are over 30,no?) is the specific Word of God, you're arguing a seconary inspiration, nothing more or less.  As Beacham and Bauder noted in their lectures/book on the matter, that's a faith based argument.  

Moreover, it's a faith based argument that really ignores the realities of reproducing texts by hand--you make mistakes far more than when you've got 3-4 editors checking each page when you're using a printing press.  I'm personally doing copywork writing out the Torah, and I make a fair number of errors that I mark out, and almost certainly some that survive without my noticing it.  So as a rule, you estimate what's in the autographs by averaging and weighting the modern manuscripts of any text.  

You get a number of absolutely identical manuscripts, that would just be amazing,and either people would smell a rat, or concede something amazing happened, or possibly both.  Love my KJV, love my GB, love my Luther translation and Berlenburger Bibel, but I see nothing binding me or anyone else to these.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


The other pastor and I continually extol the riches of English Bible translation and make reference to many different versions in our preaching, and especially teaching. To flesh out what something means, we often cite many English translations, including the NLT. We ask the congregation to share what their bible version says. In this way, we all see how the translations are trying to encapsulate concepts in different ways. It all helps get to the point of the text.

We have no official translation in the church. We preach from the ESV, but this is not a formal decision. I used to preach from the RSV. There is a healthy eclecticism in our bible translations in our church. People use the NLT, ESV, NASB, KJV, NIV, NKJV and who knows whatever else. I've never seen anything like it. It's wonderful.

I might go back to the RSV one day (it's probably my favorite translation), but I need to get my hardback rebound. You can't get an RSV without getting a Catholic edition, nowadays.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Darrell Post's picture

I still have not had any reply from any TR-only advocate on the text of Revelation 17:16. The TR reads epi, "ON the beast" while all the critical Greek texts read kai, AND the beast. The difference in its context does affect the meaning of the passage. 

I personally checked EVERY continuous text manuscript of Revelation and found NONE that were hand-copied prior to the printed TR that read the preposition epi. The only examples of hand-copied manuscripts reading epi were the few known to have been hand-copied from the TR itself, so obviously they do not count. 

In an article I prepared on this issue, I conclude that the likely cause of the mistake in the TR was when Erasmus had someone make a fresh print copy of Revelation to provide the printer, the haste in which the copy was made resulted in the error. And in fact the style of hand-writing in the exemplar lent itself to the mistake. 

But the TR has a clear and unexplainable mistake in Revelation 17:16 and no TR advocate has been able to explain it away.

G. N. Barkman's picture

One of my favorites is the KJV translation of "paska" (Passover) as "Easter" in Acts 12:4.  Aside from the fact that the word "Easter" was not in existence in the first century, this translation is hardly a translation at all.  I suppose it is the KJV version of dynamic equivalence.  (But then, that's one of the reasons KJV onliers reject modern translations.  They employ dynamic equivalence, whereas the KJV always uses exact linguistic equivalence.  Really?  Then what should we call "Easter" in Acts 12:4?)

G. N. Barkman