Whatever happened to KJV only?

An article from Christian Post notes that the “New International Version of the Bible is by far the most preferred translation of the Scripture, according to a new survey of U.S. evangelical leaders.”
The 30-year-old NIV garnered more than 65 percent of the votes from directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
For many, such news of the NIV’s popularity among conservative Christians might cause a yawn. But they have not seen what many of us witnessed over the past several decades.
During my childhood in the’60s, every Bible in my home and home church was an Authorized King James Version. In fact, we didn’t know others existed.
Then in the late ’60s, the contemporary Today’s English Version showed up under the title of “Good News for Modern Man.” The gray paperback New Testament read more clearly and had clever stickmen as illustrations.
The plain language in the TEV surprised those of us who were fully convinced that God, the prophets, Jesus and Paul all spoke the King’s English. Even the more spiritual leaders of our church prayed to God with “Thees” and “Thous.”
The paraphrased Living Bible came on the scene as well in 1971. Then the NIV was published in 1978.
About that time, as a gift, I received a “Parallel Bible” with four side-by-side translations of the same passages.
Today bookstores, homes and churches are filled with a wide array of Bible translations. But such was not always the case.
I remember the times my pastor would have us read a passage in unison — knowing that only the KJV was in our hands. In most churches today, such an exercise would sound like speaking in tongues.
However, a few KJV-only advocates still hang around the remote edges of conservative Christianity. They insist that other translations are dangerous.
They particularly like to take shots at the TEV, whose chief translator Robert Bratcher once pointed out the folly of using unbiblical codewords like “inerrant” and “infallible” to describe the Bible’s authority.
One critic said: “Dr. Bratcher heads the class of the most heretical apostates to ever touch a mainstream Bible translation.” At Baptists Today , we just think of him as a longtime subscriber from Chapel Hill, N.C.
My parents and church leaders taught me great respect for the Bible including never placing another book on top of the Bible in a stack. Those Bibles were always the King James Version.
Now I have more translations of the Bible than can be quickly counted. I read several when considering a text.
While I don’t have a strong preference in translations, there are some statements that have more meaning to me in the familiar KJV of my childhood. Such is case when Jesus said (Matthew 11:28): “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”


  1. Perhaps part of that is that the NIV was translated using a traditionally conservative doctrinal filter. I remember a Pauline Epistls class with Ray Frank Robbins. Every time there was a questionable reading in the Greek text of a passage, the NIV wimped out to take the traditional understanding of the text, never dealing with the issues in the underlying Greek.

    That makes it not only an easy version to understand, but also a “safe” version to use and stand by traditional interpretations.

  2. I like the KJV treatment of Ecclesiastes 10:11

    ” If a snake bites before it is Charmed, What profit is it for the Charmer?”
    Also, no discussion of the KJV is complete without a thorough reading of God’s Secretaries.
    I own my own copy.
    How Righteous can I be?
    (insert smilie emoticon)
    Personal testimony:
    July 22 or thereabout 1992 I was on live statewide TV in Bama with then SBC Excom member Rick Cagle and Dale, pastor of Southside BC in Bham and we got a question, last one we got from a hamlet in Bama, about the KJV and its use by “Ole timey fundamentalists”.
    I had the presence of mind the wisdom of the serpent and harmlessness of a dove to quickly turn it around to the matter at hand, the takeover of the SBC and its threat to Samford.
    Dale was more pastorly, he gave it a good shot.

  3. Not only did I grow up in the “King James is the only legitimate Bible” atmosphere”, but I still have very close family that adamantly subscribes (and preaches) that same concept. But, I do see fruits in their ministries, so it’s one of those things that I just let be. I’m sure there are “qualities” about me that they don’t care for, either.

    Growing up, though, I always found it perplexing that preachers needed to occupy their time in the pulpit declaring what version of text should be read instead of dealing with the meaning of the text. There are a lot of hungry and cold people who don’t care if you read Shakespearean English or not.

  4. I was called on to preach as a missionary at a church in the NC hills. After arriving, the pastor mentioned that he assumed I had been told this was a KJV-only church. I responded that this would not be a problem, as I had only brought my Portuguese Bible with me, and would ask someone from the congregation to read the passage for the sermon.

    “You mean you don’t use the KJV as a missionary?” Well, to do so, we would have to teach the people English before we would ever be able to share the Bible with them. Instead, we use translations of the Bible in their own language, rather than having to teach them English first. He was completely dumbfounded.

    This pastor was over 80 years old, and had missionaries in his church at least once a year. He had never known that overseas they had to use something other than KJV to witness and teach the gospel.

    A deacon at my former church considered Rick Warren to be liberal because the Purpose Driven Life used something other than KJV. My current church members tell me they are only one generation away from that.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This