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KJV-onlyism and the KJV Preface

By Daniel Hartwig

Are you dealing with someone who insists that the King James Bible is the only valid Bible translation for churches to use today? One of the most powerful arguments I have come across is the statements of the original translators of the KJV found in the original preface to the KJV Bible. These are the very men whom the KJV-only people idolize, and the translators’ own words undermine the very position that their followers support.

You see, the King James version was once a “new” translation as well, and the translators seek to justify the need for a new translation using some of the very arguments so despised by the KJV-only supporters today. Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal has published an excellent examination of this preface in light of the KJV-only controversy. It is enlightening in exposing the weak arguments of the KJV-only position. Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.

Daniel Hartwig is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Dysart, Iowa


  • Russ Boone says:

    I am glad that Dr. Combs makes a distinction between the King James Only position and what he calls the “only King James” position. I prefer the KJV because I prefer the Received Text. I would not want to be associated with Peter Ruckman in this, since we hold to quite a different position. It is important for those who use modern versions to not lump all KJV users into the same category. I often get flack from those holding to both extremes on the issue. For this reason, I appreciate Dr. Combs reasonable statement of the Received Text position.

  • Nat Kealen says:

    I love the KJV. It’s the translation I grew up and mostly memorized.

    However, I’ve been involved in numerous conversations with people who hold to KJV-O and another argument is that they prefer 1611 all the way.

    Have they ever read the 1611 text? Have fun with that. Also, wasn’t the Apocrypha included in it as well?

    Most people I’ve talked with are probably reading a revised version of the translation and don’t even realize it.

    However, I’m still glad they are reading it. Some people don’t even go that far.

  • Greg Long says:

    Several years ago I taught a Sunday School series on the preservation of Scripture. While preparing to address the KJVO controversy, I was struck by how the KJV 1611 preface refuted the KJVO arguments. Without knowing anything about Dr. Combs article, I prepared a document using the preface to refute various KJVO arguments point by point. And I thought I was so original! I guess not.

    Thanks for pointing us to this excellent article, Daniel.

  • Jonathan says:

    The analysis of the preface is interesting and will reinforce and affirm the opinion of those who are not KJV-only. However, I don’t think it will persuade very many who are KJV-only.

    Those who are KJV-only hold to a different view of the preservation of the Bible. As I understand their view, they believe that there can be only one Bible, because that’s what the Bible teaches. I’m sympathetic to that view since I’m geared to seeing everything as black or white. If I were god there would only be one Bible…

    Look at it another way. I’ll assume you believe, as I do, that Genesis teaches that creation took place during seven (or six) 24-hour days. Now consider your response to someone (evolutionist, day-age, gap-view, …) who comes to you with evidence as to why the world was not created in seven days. Do you really weigh the evidence presented? Or do you do what I do and dismiss the evidence without much consideration because you know the Bible is infallible and the Bible teaches otherwise?

    Too often I’m dismissive of the KJV-only position. It’s obviously wrong, the KJV translators themselves would be against KJV-only, so why can’t people today see that it’s wrong? In order to help KVJ-only people we need to listen to each person to see what is at the root of his/her beliefs. My guess is that the discussion will end up with what it means for God to preserve the Bible.

    I am neither KJV-only or only-KJV. I believe KJV-only is a serious error since it affects the Bible, the foundation of what we believe.

    I did not thoroughly read the analysis of the preface; I skimmed it.

    I think the analysis of the preface is useful and insightful because it does reinforce and affirm truths about Bible translations.

  • I believe Jonathan is correct. Many KJV only folks are simply reacting to questions about the authority of the scripture. Lets face it, humans tend to be reactionary on so many religious issues. For example, some have reacted to KJV onlism with vicious attacks against the KJV.
    Such an approach will not win over a KJV only advocate, it will only entrench them. No doubt the preface arguement is a good point. It seems though that instead of getting into a debate with the KJV only position, it often works better to occasionally point out some of these things and let them digest them one at a time.
    Too often when we get into debates, they just dig in their heels and don’t even listen to what is being said because they assume you are attacking the word of God.
    Be very reverant to the KJV as you explain translation processes and how our language has changed through the years and they will be much more likely to listen. Besides, the KJV is one of the best among the English versions, so there is no reason to be irreverant of it.
    Another approach may be to explain the issue of dynamic equivelancy by comparing the KJV to a more literal verson like Youngs and to a farther dynamic e version like the NIV and then showing how literal the NASB is in comparison while still not being as literal as Youngs.

  • Robert says:

    So here is my problem with the the kjv-o stand. Most people I have ever heard speak about this issue do it with such hate and hostility that even if there was a good point to what they were saying no one would want to listen. I believe that we as believers and Gods church should quit wasting so much time and resources fighting about an issue that is only one of preference and not one that we should separate on and start showing the love of God once again and ministering to the unsaved. When your on the street and you tell a person you are a Conservative Christian they run the other way as fast as they can. Its not JUST because were Christians but because the name Conservative has been so tainted by hatred and fightings over such issues as this.
    Its time we started acting like God’s children once again! Its time we learn once again how to love our neighbor! It’s time we get out of our self righteous pious pews and start winning our communities for Christ again. We must first quite bickering among ourselves! “A house divided against itself can not stand!”

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