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Insights from the KJV Translators Themselves

Most KJV Bibles sold today no longer have the longer introduction to the translation originally penned by the KJV translators.  Most English Bibles today have an introduction to the translation that comes from the KJV itself.  The KJV translators penned their introduction to explain and defend their translation.

One must bear in mind the time period of the 1611 translation.  Imagine if President Obama told the church here in the United States that he wanted one Bible “to rule them all” (to quote from Lord of the Rings)?  How would Christians react to Obama?  Even if Obama had the top scholars appointed to translate the Bible, most would view the translation with intrepidation.  I would.  I would figure that Obama would want the translate to be one sided, to avoid truth, to delete core doctrines and to make it as far from teaching the truth as possible while still sounding like the Bible.  What is true today was true of the Christians living under King James.  They viewed the “Authorized Version” with much fear.  In fact, the KJV would not become the preferred English Bible for about 50 years after its publication.  The Geneva Bible and not the King James Bible was brought over to the new world by the first English settlers to America.

The KJV scholars added the long introduction then to both promote their translation and defend it against those who questioned it.  After all, when the KJV was published in 1611 there were already good English Bibles on the market.  The KJV was not the first nor the last (and the KJV translators recognized that fact).  Though the KJV Bible would become the greatest of the English translations for many years to come, in 1611 it was just another Bible translation being offered now by the King himself of the British Empire.

I recently read the longer introduction that you can find in modern English on Amazon.  I learned much from it.  I only want to highlight a few of the KJV translators words.  Their words are good to read in our day of KJV onlyism.  After reading the KJV introduction, I have no doubt in my mind that these Anglican men would not be KJV only if they were alive today.  In fact, they would laugh at the arguments used by KJV only “scholars” who claim that the KJV is the final Word of God, that (as some radical KJV only men teach) the KJV was inspired just as the Apostle’s were inspired, that the KJV is a perfect Bible translation without any errors, that the Anglicans involved were fundamentalist in secret who believed in the Received Text (the Greek text of the KJV) as the perfect Word of God, etc.

First, the KJV translators believed the originals were inspired but recognized variants in the copies.  They stated:

because the original thereof is from heaven, not from earth, the author is God, not man; the composer is the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the penmen were such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principle portion of God’s Spirit; the content is truth, piety, purity, and uprightness; the form is God’s word, God’s testimony, God’s oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, and so forth.

The translators did not teach anywhere in their writings that the Received Text is the “inerrant and infallible Word of God” (inerrant would not have been used for people simply said the Bible was true in those days and people understood what they meant without qualification).  In fact, they believed the originals alone to be the ones inspired by God Himself.  The copies are copies of the originals but we no longer have the originals (praise be to God lest someone would have worshiped them as the children of Israel worshiped the golden calf in Exodus 32).  The KJV translators could not have visioned that someday their own translation would become a golden calf to many.

They went on to write:

For nothing perfect has proceeded from the hands of men except what came from the hands of the Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, from men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility.

So what about the errors in the copies?  KJV onlyism teaches that no errors exist but what did the KJV translators write about this:

The Septuagint dissents from the Original in many places, and does not come near it in terms of clarity, gravity, and majesty.  Yet did any of the Apostles condemn it?  Condemn it?  Nay, they used it.

Notice that the KJV translators approved of the Septuagint as a translation while understanding that it was not the original.  The Apostles quoted extensively from the Septuagint in the Greek New Testament despite the fact that the Septuagint is just a translation from the Hebrew text.

Secondly, the KJV translators saw the value of having Bibles in our tongues.  They wrote:

Truly, without translation into the common language, the unlearned are like children at Jacob’s well, which was deep, without a bucket.  Or they are like the person mentioned by Isaiah who, when a sealed book was presented to him with the command, “Read this, I ask you,” he had to reply, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

And yet the KJV translators acknowledged that even the lowest English translations were still good!  Modern KJV onlyism tells us that only the KJV is the truth of God and hates all other English Bibles but they would not be joined by the KJV translators.  They wrote:

Now we answer our adversaries.  We do not deny – nay, we affirm and avow – that the very lowest translation of the Bible into English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have not yet seen any of their translations of the entire Bible) contains the word of God, nay, is the word of God.  The King’s speech, which he utters in Parliament, when translated into French, German, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with identical grace, nor altogether so appropriately phrased, nor so exactly expressing  the sense at every point.

And what of their own translation work?  They wrote yet again:

For nothing perfect has proceeded from the hands of men except what came from the hands of the Apostles or Apostolic men.

The intent of the KJV translator was such:

Our intent was to make a better translation out of a good one, or to make , from many good ones, one especially good one, not to be justly objected against.

And yes the KJV translators did do biblical criticism (lower criticism) contrary to the KJV onlyism view that textual criticism is evil altogether.  They wrote:

These languages therefore – that is, the Scriptures in those languages – we set before us to translate, being the languages in which God was pleased to speak to his Church by the Prophets and Apostles.

Without a second thought, we consulted the translators or commentators in Chaldean, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek and Latin, and the Spanish, French, Italian, and German.  We revised what we had done, and brought back to the anvil that which we had hammered.

Lastly, the KJV translators spoke about the variants in the biblical texts.  In fact, the first published 1611 Authorized Bible had marginal notes to show differences in the text as well as alternate translations of the text.  How can this be if the KJV is the inspired Word of God as KJV onlyism teaches?  Nearly all KJV Bibles today exclude the marginal notes so KJV only “scholars” often will attack modern Bibles such as the NKJV or the ESV for either including marginal notes, “deleting” verses such as Acts 8:37 or 1 John 5:7-8, or adding textual notes about the translation or variant readings.

The KJV translators wrote:

Some individuals, perhaps, would prefer to have no margin notes about alternative meanings, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies might be somewhat shaken by that show of uncertainty.  But we consider their judgment unsound in this point.

The translators go on to speak of how difficult the work of translating is.  They speak of how there are often many words that can be used in English for one Hebrew or Greek word or the opposite where a Hebrew or Greek word only appears once in the text and is how to translate into English.  A case in point would be the KJV use of “Godhead” in Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9.  This is a poor translation here.  Another place would in the KJV where they erred would be Acts 19:2 or Titus 2:13 or 2 Peter 1:1.  The inclusion of 1 John 5:7-8 in the KJV is also a variant reading that should not be there.  Modern English Bibles (excluding the NKJV for tradition only) have changed 1 John 5:7-8 back to its original.


My point here is to show that the KJV translators were not infallible men.  They were godly Anglican men who loved the Word of God.  I am blessed by that fact.  I pray the Lord would move again on the Anglican Church to produce such godly men.  That said, the KJV translators recognized their work as the work of men.  A very good work but a translation nonetheless.  The KJV ranks as a work of art.  It truly is the Word of God.  But it is not perfect.  No Bible translation is.  The KJV served the Church in the English speaking world for many years.  It was published in 1611 and revised just two years later in 1613.  The final revision of the KJV was in 1769.  This is the KJV used today and not the 1611.  Of course, the men who did the work in 1604-11 were now dead.  Their work though stands as a testimony to their faithfulness to God.

Today we have probably too many English translations and they exist sadly for one reason: money.  Crossway doesn’t want to pay Zondervan for usage of the NIV so they translate the ESV.  All English translations today but the KJV are owned by a publishing house.  For example, Crossway owns the ESV.  Lockman owns the NASB.  Zondervan owns the NIV.  Thomas Nelson owns the NKJV.  Tyndale House owns the NLT.  Holman owns the HCSB.  This doesn’t prove that these English Bibles are corrupt but only that they are produced by publishers for avoiding royalties to other publishers.

I prefer the ESV but I am not ESV only by any means.  I recognize that no English Bible is perfect.  I also am grateful that God is sovereign in salvation and He often uses even the worst translations to draw sinners to salvation.  I read of a Jehovah’s Witness coming to faith in Christ through reading Philippians 3:9 in the New World Translation which is not good at all.  I was saved reading from the NIV and it was the first Bible I owned and read after coming to faith in Christ at age 17.  I honestly thought, when I came to faith in Christ, that there were two English Bibles in the world: the KJV and the NIV and I understood the NIV so I went with it.

God is able to save sinners through the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  People hear the gospel in many ways (Romans 10:17) but the gospel must flow from Scripture.  Some preachers use the KJV and others use the NLT but the Lord is the one who saves sinners (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).  Our job is to plant the seed of the gospel (Mark 4:14).  The Spirit of God brings the fruit.  The Spirit draws sinners to salvation by the grace of God (John 6:44; Acts 16:14-15).

So my advice is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Perhaps this comes through a KJV or an NIV or a ESV but preach the Word of God!  Be faithful to study the Word and to live the Word (James 2:14-26).  The Word is able to save our souls (James 1:21).

May God be glorified through His holy Word.  Amen.


Makes Me Wonder Again…

Hyper-Grace Focuses

What do hyper-grace blogs and preachers and ministries focus on?  I find it easy to identify what they both focus on and what they ignore.  So let’s begin by looking at what hyper-grace folks focus on (and not all of it is wrong I remind you).

1.  Salvation by Grace Through Faith.

It seems some hyper-grace teachers want to protect the teaching of salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  They honestly believe that adding repentance to this adds works to it and destroys salvation by grace through faith.

2.  Works Righteousness.

Hyper-grace teachers want us to avoid believing that our works obtain righteousness.  They are correct of course in this regard.  Our salvation is based on Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and not our works (Titus 3:5-7).  Jesus said that the work of God is to believe in the One that He has sent (John 6:29).  Our works, writes Isaiah in Isaiah 64:6, are but filthy garments in His holy presence.  This is not to demean works but to simply put down the notion of us obtaining God’s perfect righteousness by our works (Romans 4:5).

3.  Guilt Factors in Discipleship.

We do not serve God out of guilt.  We serve Him out of love.  Some hyper-grace teachers want us to realize that we can serve God out of love and not out of guilt.  We don’t pray, fast, read our Bibles, worship, enjoy fellowship with other disciples, etc. out of guilt but out of love.  This, like above, is a good point.

4.  Seeks To Avoid Making the Christian Life All About Us.

The Christian life, writes one hyper-grace teacher, is about Jesus.  Amen!  The Christian life is all about Jesus (Colossians 3:1-4).  Our lives are to be marked by a passion for Jesus and what He has done and not our works, our desires, our passions, our goals, etc.  We are to focus on Jesus completely.

Now let us turn to the many errors of the hyper-grace teachers and what they often leave out.

1.  Ignore Human Responsibility.

Like the hyper-Calvinists, hyper-grace teachers avoid the clear call in the Bible to our response to the gospel and to the Lordship of Christ.  True faith is never a dead faith (James 2:14-26).  True faith in Christ obeys Jesus as Lord (Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46-49; 1 John 2:3-6).  Hyper-grace teachers avoid any call in the Bible to seek God, to obey God, to follow Christ, to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  I even found one hyper-grace teacher attacking preaching in the open air.  He mocked this and quoted from Isaiah 42:2 as proof that we should not preach in the open air.

2.  Ignore Holiness Passages.

There are so many holiness passages.  We are to be pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).  We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  We are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  We are to complete holiness out of fear for God (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).  We are to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  We are to be blameless (Philippians 2:15).  We are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  We are to forsake sin (1 John 3:4-10).  Hyper-grace teachers avoid holiness passages altogether.

3.  Ignore the Fact that We Cannot Worship God and Satan.

1 Corinthians 10:21 says that we cannot drink both the cup of Christ and the cup of demons as well.  In context (1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21), we cannot serve both God and Satan.  To serve Satan ends in death (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20).  We cannot both walk in the Spirit and in the flesh at the same time (Galatians 5:16-17).  We cannot both love Christ and hate Him at the same time.  We can, however, claim facts about Christ but not His (James 2:19).

4.  View Any Discipline as Legalism.

By discipline I mean the disciplines of prayer, worship, fasting, evangelism, Bible study.  If you say that a Christian should do these things, some hyper-grace teachers will cry, “legalism” and run for the hills.  While not of these disciplines save us, they are proofs of our salvation (Ephesians 2:10).  Jesus said we would pray (Matthew 6:5) and fast (Matthew 5:16).  Jesus said that we would do good works for His glory (Matthew 5:13-16; John 14:12).  Jesus said that His followers would remain in His Word (John 8:31-32) which is able to save our souls (James 1:21).  While we cannot obtain God’s righteousness by our disciplines, our disciplines flow from our justification.

5.  Ignore Sanctification.

I have yet to hear a hyper-grace teacher teach on 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and the need for sanctification.  Most hyper-grace teachers believe at the moment a person is saved (just once and only once is sufficient no matter how the person lives their lives), that person is now glorified in the eyes of God.  They see our glorification as already done so that progressive sanctification is completely ignored.  They see no need to stress holiness, obedience to Christ as Lord, etc. since a once saved person is forever saved and has already been glorified before God because of Christ.

6.  Despise Repentance.

Most hyper-grace teachers despise repentance.  They see it as a form of works-righteousness, of legalism, and bondage.  They see repentance as completely negative instead of seeing it as a positive (2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).

7.  Read the Bible With Dispensational Scissors.  

Many hyper-grace teachers will usually camp in the Gospel of John (he is okay) and the Epistles (except not Hebrews or James) but they avoid the other three Gospels and view them as “under law.”  For instance, one hyper-grace teacher commented on his blog, “The gospel of John never uses repentance so why should we?”  The answer is of course because the Bible uses it.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all Scripture is breathed out by God and Paul was referring to the Old Testament.  Further Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, about the Old Testament mind you, that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  If this true of the Old Testament, it is true of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  To divide the Scriptures up like this has no warrant other than theological bias.

8.  Ignore the Book of Acts.

The book of Acts is full of salvation and repentance and even necessary perseverance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 4:12; 11:18; 14:22-23; 16:30-34; 17:30-31; 26:20).  Hyper-grace teachers will sometimes use Acts 15 to preach against “legalism” as they see it or sometimes will appeal to Acts 16:31 for salvation but will ignore the calls to repentance.

9.  Provide Comfort For the Sinning.

The Bible offers no assurance to the person who lives in consistent sin.  None.  1 John 3:4-10 is clear:

4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

In fact, the same John the Beloved who wrote the Gospel of John also wrote this in 1 John 2:1-6:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

I remind you that the same John the Beloved also wrote in Revelation 21:7-8:

7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

I end by also quoting from the same John the Beloved and the words from our Lord in John 8:11:

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/08/2013 at 10:06 AM

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