How the Bible Was Canonized: Is the KJV the Best Translation?

Christian Life, Podcasts

Is the King James Version the best or only version of the Bible we should use? It’s a question I’m sure we have all wondered as we discuss with KJV only friends. Or perhaps you’ve seen graphics going around Facebook saying certain bible versions are “missing” verses that the KJV includes.

In this episode of Verity, we talk all about the KJV: its history, how it developed, why its manuscripts were different, and more.


Pros of the KJV

  • Essentially literal/functional equivalent translation
  • Committee staffed; 47 scholars worked on it
  • It was not proposed by King James himself but by Puritan John Reynolds. Remember, there were already English translations of the Bible in existence, and the KJV came under significant fire just as new translations do today.

It achieved its goal of being “God’s book to God’s people in a tongue they understand” in the time it was needed.

Facts about the translators’ intent:

  • In the preface, the translators note that they are NOT the first bible translators, and commend the work of people like Jerome and their own English predecessors. 
    • “We are so far off from condemning any of their labors that travailed before us in this… recognizing that nothing is begun and perfected at the same time.” They made no claim to verbal inspiration of their own work.

Was the KJV changed since translation? YES! As early two years after initial print, in 1613, modifications were made – over four hundred to be exact! The Apocrypha was not omitted until 1629, but as you know from the episode on the Apochrypha, this was not consistent until the 1800s. Modificiations to copy errors, spelling, obsolete words, and flawed marginal notes were made consistently, through 1962. So when someone argues for the ORIGINAL KJV, you must ask – which one?

What about the Textus Receptus?

What is it: a compilation of seven different greek manuscripts, connoted by Erasmus.

The five primary manuscripts received as authoritative today were not available at that time – only one, Codex Bezae, was, and we are not confident it was used for this process. The scholars used the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek text as it had been revised by Stephanus in 1551 (he added verses and chapters). 

For the OT, available were the Complutensian Polyglot  (16th century OT in Hebrew, Latin and Greek) and the Antwerp Polyglot. Where these differ – says Lewis – the KJV agrees with one or the other except in about six places where it agrees with neither. 

Today we have access to approximately 5300 manuscripts. 

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