Should Creationists Abandon The King James Version?
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
In this day when many Christians have started using one of the modern English translations of the Bible, abandoning the King James Version, it may be well to review a few of the reasons why many creationists still prefer the latter.
The King James Translators
One reason is that all the fifty or more translators who developed the King James Bible were godly men who believed implicitly in the inerrancy and full authority of Scripture and in the literal historicity of Genesis, with its record of six-day Creation and the worldwide Flood. This has not been true of many who have worked on the modern versions.
Furthermore, the King James translators (54 men altogether) were great scholars, as proficient in the Biblical languages as any who have come after them. They were familiar with the great body of manuscript evidence, as well as all the previous translations. They worked diligently on the project (assigned to them by King James) for over seven years (completed in 1611), with the result that the "Authorized" version eventually displaced all those that had gone before and has withstood the test of wide usage in all English-speaking countries ever since.
Which New Translation?
This is not a new question. There have been over 120 English translations of the complete Bible published since the King James, as well as over 200 New Testaments. Even if one really feels that he ought to switch to a modern translation, how can he decide which, if any, is really the inspired word of God? I personally have perused in some depth at least 20 of them.
Is God The Author Of Confusion?
For a long time, the "official" version used in each Bible-believing church was the King James, with the others used occasionally for reference study by teachers and pastors. Now, however, confusion reigns. Congregational reading is no longer possible, and Scripture memorization, which has been an incalculable blessing in my own Christian life, is almost a lost art these days.
And what about our belief in verbal inspiration? If it's only the "thought" that counts, then the words are flexible, and we can adjust them to make them convey any thought we prefer. Exact thoughts require precise words.
Which Version Best Renders The Original Manuscripts?
Even many King James Bibles have footnotes referring to what are said to be "better manuscripts" which indicate that certain changes should be made in the King James text. But what are these manuscripts, and are they really better? It is significant that almost all of the new versions of the New Testament are based on what is known as the Westcott-Hort Greek text, whereas the King James is based largely on what is known as the Textus Receptus. As far as the Hebrew text is concerned, the King James is based on the Masoretic text, while the modern versions rely heavily on Kittel's revised Masoretic text.
The Masoretic text was compiled from the ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament by the Masoretes Hebrew scholars dedicated to guarding and standardizing the traditional Hebrew text as "handed down" (the basic meaning of Masoretic) from the earlier Hebrew scribes, who had in turn meticulously copied the ancient Hebrew manuscripts, scrupulously guarding against error. As far as the Hebrew text developed by Rudolf Kittel is concerned, it is worth noting that Kittel was a German rationalistic higher critic, rejecting Biblical inerrancy and firmly devoted to evolutionism.
The men most responsible for alterations in the New Testament text were B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, whose Greek New Testament was largely updated by Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland. All of these men were evolutionists. Furthermore, Westcott and Hort both denied Biblical inerrancy and promoted spiritism and racism. Nestle and Aland, like Kittel, were German theological skeptics.
Westcott and Hort were also the most influential members of the English revision committee which produced the English Revised Version of the Bible. The corresponding American revision committee which developed the American Standard Version of 1901 was headed by another liberal evolutionist, Philip Schaff. Most new versions since that time have adopted the same presuppositions as those of the 19th century revisers.
Furthermore, the Westcott-Hort text was mainly based on two early Greek manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus texts, which were rediscovered and rescued from long (and well-deserved) obscurity in the 19th century. Since these are both said to be older than the 5000 manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus, they were called "better." This was in spite of the fact that they frequently disagreed with each other as well as with the Textus Receptus and also contained many obvious and flagrant mistakes.
The fact that these two manuscripts may have been older does not prove they are better. More likely it indicates that they were set aside because of their numerous errors. Thus they would naturally last longer than the good manuscripts which were being used regularly.
So one of the serious problems with most modern English translations is that they rely heavily on Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible developed by liberals, rationalists, and evolutionists, none of whom believed in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. Is this how God would preserve His word? Would He not more likely have used devout scholars who believed in the absolute inerrancy and authority of the Bible?
How About The Archaic Language In The King James?
The beautiful prose of the King James is a treasure which should not be lost. It has been acclaimed widely as the greatest example of English literature ever written. Apart from a few archaic words which can be easily clarified in footnotes, it is as easy to understand today as it was four hundred years ago. This is why the common people today still use and love it. It is the "intelligentsia" who tend to favor the modern versions. The King James uses mostly one and two-syllable words, and formal studies have always shown its readability index to be 10th grade or lower.
It is also noteworthy that the King James was produced during the period when the English language and literature had reached their zenith of power and expressiveness. This was the age of Shakespeare, for example. Modern English is merely a decadent remnant of its former beauty and clarity. It is no wonder that a Bible translation produced at that special time in history has endured for almost 400 years, meeting the needs and guiding the culture of over ten generations of English speaking peoples.
We have abandoned today many fine points of grammar commonly used in 1600. For example, we forget that "thee," "thou," and "thine" were used to express the second person singular, with "you," "ye," and "yours" reserved for second person plural. Today we use "you" indiscriminately for both singular and plural, thereby missing the precise meaning of many texts of Scripture.
Furthermore, the translators were not only Biblical scholars but accomplished writers, and one of their goals had been to produce a Bible that would "sing" with beauty and power, as well as retaining literal faithfulness to the original texts, which had themselves been written with majestic musical beauty.
With all these factors in mind, do we not most honor the Lord and His revealed word by having it read and used in that form of our language which was in use when the English language was at its best, instead of in our modern jargon? All modern versions are inferior to the King James in this important regard.
I believe, therefore, after studying, teaching, and loving the Bible for over 55 years, that Christians—especially creationists!—need to hang on to their old King James Bibles as long as they live. God has uniquely blessed its use in the great revivals, in the worldwide missionary movement, and in the personal lives of believers, more so than He has with all the rest of the versions put together, and "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).
It is the most beautiful, the most powerful and (I strongly believe) the most reliable of any that we have or ever will have, until Christ returns.
Cite this article: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. 1996. Should Creationists Abandon The King James Version?. Acts & Facts. 25 (6).