Is The King James Bible Out Of Date?

Dr Pierre Coovert

This morning I was on Facebook checking to see what people had put on my news feed. A person who will remain unnamed responded to someone else’s post with the following (I have reworded it to protect the guilty):

While the KJV was the best in the 1600’s, is now out of date. The language is out of date and the text contains some errors. Since the KJV was translated new information has been found helping us better understand the Bible. I use the KJV as well as the NIV, Greek and Hebrew word books and commentaries and the NIV has always proven the more accurate version.

I answered this comment on Facebook, but I would like to give a more complete answer here.

The idea that the KJV was good in the 1600’s and is out of date now is faulty for several reasons. First, the English of the KJV is not inferior to the English of today, in fact it is superior. The supposedly out of date words are not out of date at all.

Some think that the KJV is written in old English. It is not. There are three major stages in the growth of the English language. There is old English, middle English, and modern English. The KJV is modern English. Very few of you would be able to read middle English, and I doubt if any of you could read old English.

English had reached its golden period in the 1600’s. English has more words than an language I know of, over one million. It is obvious that no one uses them all, or even knows what they mean. That does not mean they are out of date. The vast majority of English speakers would not know what “soteriology” means, but that doesn’t mean it is out of date. It simply means that they don’t know what it means. The word means “theology dealing with salvation especially as effected by Jesus Christ.”

The most attacked archaic words used in the KJV are the pronouns thee, thy, thine, and ye. These pronouns are not archaic, they are just not used on common street English. For your information, they were not used in common street English in the 1600’s either. The reason they were used in the KJV is they conveyed meaning from the Greek and Hebrew that could not be communicated without them.

In the 1600’s there were about 3,000 words used in common street English. Today we are closer to 1,000. In other words, the supposedly less educated people of the 1600’s used more English words than the supposedly more educated people of today. By the way, I don’t mean they only knew 3,000 words, or that today people only know 1,000 words. I am talking about the number of words that were used in common street conversation which everyone from any walk of life would understand. As I mentioned above, most of you would not have understood the word “soteriology” before today. On the other hand, most who have studied theology would understand the word.

I can help those who have trouble with the pronouns I mentioned above with one simple fact. If the pronoun starts with a “t” it is singular and if it starts with a “y” it is plural. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

One example should suffice. Let’s look at what Jesus said to Nicodemus.

John 3:7 “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

In this verse we have both the word “thee” and the word “ye.” It is true, both of these words mean “you” in the street English of today. However, there are some good reasons for using these words instead of the word “you.” First of all, thee is an object. In other words Nicodemus is the one being spoken two. Ye is a subject meaning that ye is who is being spoken about. Another thing you would miss in modern street English is the number portion of the pronouns. Thee is singular meaning that Jesus is only speaking to one person in answering the question. Ye, however, is plural. This means that Jesus is talking about more than one person here. It is not only Nicodemus who must be born again, it is everyone.

Although you may not see the importance of this, there are places where doctrine is affected by the plural and singular. I am not going to get into this any deeper because I don’t want to be sidetracked.

The problem is not that the KJV is dated, it is that the average person has not kept up to date. Instead of running to another Bible try picking up a dictionary. You are going to have to do so with the new version if you want to understand them, why not do the same thing with the KJV?

Here are some words that the NIV uses that are supposedly easier to understand than the KJV:

  • NIV KJV
  • exult rejoice
  • galled displeased
  • gauntness leanness
  • goiim nations
  • Negev south

I could give more examples but this is sufficient for my purpose. This shows that just because you don’t understand a word it doesn’t mean that it is dated or archaic.

As for the supposedly new information that has come to light, there really isn’t any. The KJV translators knew about the manuscripts that are touted by the modern versions and called the “oldest and best.” Not only were they known to the KJV translators, they are neither the oldest, nor are they the best. They differ from each other in thousands of places. They are filled with obvious errors like leaving out lines or repeating the same line twice. They are full of corrections, most from as late as the fourteenth century. This tells us that much of what is in them is not fourth century, but fourteenth century.

The first nation to become what we would call a Christian nation was Syria. There is a translation into the Syriac language which is 200 years older than these “oldest and best” manuscripts. This translation agrees with the Greek text that underlies the KJV, and does not agree with the Greek text that underlies the NIV. Although it is not in Greek, it is a much better manuscript than are the two used by the modern translations. Those things that have been changed in the “oldest and best” are not changed in the translation which existed 200 years before these two manuscripts. They are, therefore, an older witness to the accuracy of the received text.

If you remember the trial of Jesus, you remember that the witnesses could not agree. As a result their testimony was rejected. This was the standard that God had given in the law. Since the “oldest and best” differ in thousands of places I must also reject their testimony. When 95% of the existing witnesses agree, and 5% disagree, not only with the 95%, but with each other, they are not reliable. Any translation that is based on an unreliable foundation (text) will also be unreliable.

One last thing on the issue of the “oldest and best.” If you follow what is happening with the Greek texts based on these manuscripts you will see that as new manuscripts are found they keep updating these Greek texts. You will also notice that the updates always move the texts closer to the received text upon which the KJV is based.

This is a perfect transition to the next subject I want to cover. The writer of the comment above says that the KJV has errors in it. My question to those who say this is, on what basis to they say there are errors? Is it based upon their Greek text which always has to be updated? If so, their foundation is nothing but sand. It is constantly shifting as new manuscripts are found.

One supposed error many like to use against the KJV is the use of the word “Easter” in Acts Chapter 12. Let’s look at this passage of Scripture:

Acts 12:1-4 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

The basis for calling this an error is that in every other place where the same Greek word is used, it is translated Passover. So why is it translated Easter in this one place. The Greek word is πάσχα (pascha) and to the Jews it meant Passover. However, that is not the only meaning of the word. This same word was used to refer to the pagan feast of Ishtar. Something that those who stand against the KJV miss is the time at which the word was used. Remember that principle of context? The context puts this during the feast of unleavened bread. This means that Passover had already passed in the last few days. Do you really think that Herod was going to wait another whole year?

This shows the superiority of the KJV. The translators took the context into consideration when choosing the word to use here. Another important principle used in the translation of the KJV was that every passage was checked and cross checked a minimum of fourteen times before the final reading was chosen.

I have been in the ministry for more than 30 years and I have fought this battle many times. I have yet to have anyone show me an error in the KJV, and believe me, they have tried. When the context and the meanings of the Greek and English words are understood you will not find an error in the KJV. You will only find errors of interpretation on the part of the one seeking to try to find errors.

The next point is the use of “Greek and Hebrew books” and commentaries. I am not sure what the writer is talking about when he says “Greek and Hebrew books,” but I assume he means dictionaries and lexicons. One thing to remember is the dictionaries, lexicons, and commentaries are written by fallible men. We should not be checking the Bible against these, we should be checking these against the Bible.

We can gain a lot by reading what others have written in commentaries so I am not saying we shouldn’t use them. What I am saying is that what the commentator says must be checked against what the Bible really says. For example, one commentator says the God’s foreknowledge is based upon His election. He means that God foreknows because He has already chosen. What does the Bible say on this subject?

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

This verse says exactly the opposite. It says that the choosing is based upon the foreknowledge. I am not going to get into a discussion of Calvinism, but it is obvious from this passage that the commentator is wrong.

As for lexicons and dictionaries, just how reliable are they? I would say that for the most part they are pretty reliable, but this is not always the case. Let me use just one example. Here is the definition for the Greek word “ecclesia” which is most commonly translated “church” in our Bibles.

ἐκκλησία

ekklēsia

ek-klay-see’-ah

From a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): – assembly, church.

Remember, we are looking for the meaning of the word when it was used in the New Testament. The way the word was understood to those of the first century is important. The word meant a group of people called out of their homes to assemble and conduct affairs, most usually affairs to the government of the town of which they were citizens. While it is probable that they could be at the meetings, non-citizens and citizens of other towns were not allowed to be part of the functioning of these meetings.

With that in mind, can you see anything wrong with the definition that Strong has given us? Remember when Jesus was using this word it had meaning. When the disciples first heard this word used they would have understood that Jesus was talking about an organization that would meet together (assemble) to conduct affairs of some kind.

With Strong’s nineteenth century Protestant prejudices he added to the meaning of this word. If you missed this it may well be that you share the same prejudices. This is the first time the word ecclesia is used and there is nothing in the context to change its meaning. Strong added the part that says “Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both.” This is not inherent in the Greek word and would have been foreign to those who heard it.

How can those of us who are reading the word “church” 20 centuries after Jesus first used the word know what He meant? It is really not as difficult as you may think. First, there is nothing in the context of any passage where Jesus used the word that changed the meaning to include a non-assembling group.

Secondly we can look at the other places where Jesus used the word. The next usage of the word is in Matthew 18 where He tells his disciples to take their disputes that could not be resolve to the church for judgment. This can only be done in a local assembly. Every other time Jesus used the word He was talking to a local assembly in a specific location.

Again, I don’t want to get distracted by a discussion of the nature of the New Testament church. I just want to show how even great men like Mr. Strong can allow their preconceived ideas to creep into what is supposed to be an unbiased work. I thank God for Strong’s work, it has been a great help to me in my studies, but only the Word of God is infallible.

Finally the man who wrote the comment that inspired this article said that the NIV has always proven the more accurate version. How can a “Bible” that leaves out many portions of Scripture be more accurate than one that contains them? How can a “Bible” that is based upon a faulty, ever changing, Greek text be more accurate that one that is based upon the Greek text that is the representation of the text used by faithful Christians down through the centuries? How can a “Bible” that is constantly being updated and changed be more accurate that one that has stood the test of time, needs no changes, and matches the Bibles used by Bible believing Christians from the time of Christ, to this very day? By this last one I mean it is a faithful translation of the Greek text that has come to us through those faithful to God through the centuries.

The NIV is not a true translation of the Greek. The method by which is was “translated” is called dynamic equivalence. This means that the “translator” tries to put the thoughts conveyed in the original into equivalent thoughts in the receptor language.

There are two problems with this method. First, it requires the “translator” to interpret the thoughts of the original. Secondly, God did not promise to preserve His thoughts, He promised to preserve His words.

In dynamic equivalence you get the interpretation of the “translator,” not the words of God. Which would you rather have? As for me, I’ll take God’s words over any man’s interpretation.

If you think that someone giving you his interpretation of what God said is not dangerous let me point out that all of the doctrinal differences of the various denominations come from differing interpretations of the words of God.

The Calvinist interprets God’s words to say that only those who God chose in eternity past can be saved. The Armenian interprets the same words of God to say that salvation is to some degree based upon our works. The Baptists interpret those same words to say that any who will come to God on His terms, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, will be save without works.

Depending on your position among these three different beliefs, do you want the other two making your interpretations for you? I don’t! Give me the words that God inspired as closely as possible in my language and let me make my own interpretations. I may not be perfect, and I may not get everything right, but the same is true for you.

This article is getting a bit long so I am going to close with this. The NIV, and all of the other new translations, weaken many Bible doctrines. They all weaken many passages the teach the deity of Christ and the triune nature of God. They weaken many other doctrines as well, but getting into them is not the purpose of this article.

There is a common mantra against the KJV, and it is well expressed by the comment at the beginning of this article. Every point has long since been proven to be false. There is a propaganda principle that has been used forever and was put in writing by Hitler’s propaganda chief. It says that if you tell a lie loud enough and long enough it will be perceived as truth by most people.

This article only scratches the surface of this subject. The subject is too important to ignore. Spend the time necessary to make sure that the “Bible” you use is really the Word of God.

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved