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KJV Onlyism and the Deity of Christ: The Textual & Translational Deficiencies

 

As mentioned in other articles, KJV Onlyism is a view that asserts the KJV as the only “correct” (and, in many instances, the only “infallible”) biblical translation in which all others (esp. modern versions) have been corrupted and thus untrustworthy. There are many issues surrounding this topic from the origins and textual defects of the Greek text(s) from which the KJV was translated (viz. the so-called, TR [Textus Receptus] to the many translational errors of the KJV.[1]

 

But even in spite of the numerous textual and translational errors (mainly on secondary doctrine), the KJV does indeed communicate essential Christian doctrine, and thus, the gospel of Jesus Christ, as with all other “recognized” biblical translations. Unfortunately, KJV Only advocates are blind-sided by intoxicating and inflexible anti-intellectual arguments derived from unchecked traditions, which result in high emotion and low facts. Hence, for them, all biblical readings (including readings from the original language)[2] are tested upon the KJV and not upon objective and recognized scholarship. So, for the KJV Only advocate, there can be no higher standard with which to test God’s Word.

 

Though, we must make a distinction between the KJV Only position and the KJV. In other words, undeniably the KJV is a beautiful literary work that has been used for centuries to accurately proclaim the gospel of the risen Savior. However, the KJV Only position goes far beyond a simple translational preference. It is not only a relatively “new” philosophy, but a “cultic” and very misinformed position, which causes division among Christians. In many cases, KJV Onlyism obstructs a proper and simple evangelistic presentation—redefining evangelism as the “good news” of 1611 KJV translators!    

 

 Here below, we will briefly examine the textual deficiencies of the TR and translational deficiencies of the KJV regarding the deity of Jesus Christ at significant passages. It is important to note here that we are not suggesting in any way that the men that produced the various editions of the TR[3]  (viz. the Roman Catholic, Desiderius Erasmus et al) had a low view of the deity of Christ—for they did not. They were firm in their affirmation as were the KJV translators.

 

 

TEXTUAL

 

The problems exampled below are not translational issues, but rather, examples of the textual inadequacies or deficiencies contained in the late Greek MSS of the TR at significant passages where the deity of Christ is omitted (viz. John 1:18; 14:14; 1 Peter 3:15; and Jude 1:4).

 

JOHN 1:18 (the only begotten “God” or “Son”?). The NASB reads: “No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God [or, “the only God” ESV] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). The definitiveness and clarity of the full deity of the Son is completely lost in the TR/KJV reading. For the KJV reads: “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (emphasis added). The TR contains the phrase: ho monogenēs huios (“the one and only/begotten Son”), whereas the earliest MSS of John 1:18 (e.g., P66 P75 א* B C* L) contains the phrase: monogenēs theos (“one and only/begotten God”). Hence, it is the modern translations that unambiguously assert the deity of Christ as the “one and only/begotten God.”

 

Further, monogenēs theos is supported by the earliest versions of the NT (including the Peshitta) and is supported by the majority of the early church Fathers (e.g., Clement of Alex., Origen, Didymus, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Serapion, Cyril et al.). Lastly, consider the context of the prologue of John (vv. 1-18). In the previous passages leading up to verse 18, John presents Jesus as God the eternal Word, the Creator of all things, which is wholly consistent with John’s high Christology seen throughout his literature. However, the TR/KJV rendering of verse 18 removes the explicit affirmation of the Word as the monogenēs theos—the “only/unique God.”

 

JOHN 14:14 (“Ask Me”). In this passage, Jesus is the direct object of prayer: “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (NASB/ESV). Here is an excellent example Jesus asserting His deity. He commands believers to pray to Him directly whereby demonstrating His omnipresence—a divine attribute, which only God can accomplish. That is, He hears the prayers of His people simultaneously at all times, in all places (cf. Ps. 25:11; 31:3). Yet the TR omits the Greek pronoun me (“Me”) in which the KJV reads: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name I will do it.” The TR/KJV makes no mention of praying to Jesus directly; only that one should pray in His name. Not only is the Greek pronoun me found in one of the earliest copies of John (P66), but also found in P75vid א B W D Q P f13 28 33 579 700 892 1006 1342 et al.    

 

1 PETER 3:14-15 (“sanctify Christ as Lord”). A clear and simple way of affirming the deity of Christ is to show where NT authors cite OT passages referring to Yahweh and apply them to Christ (e.g., compare Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13; etc.). In 1 Peter 3:14-15, the apostle cites Isaiah 8:12-13 (which is a reference to Yahweh) and applies these passages to Christ. Following the reading of the earliest NT MSS, modern translations have “Christ” as the one to be sanctified: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense” (NASB). This is a great way to show that Christ is the Yahweh of Isaiah 8. But not if one uses the KJV. For the late MSS of the TR do not identify Christ with the Yahweh of Isaiah 8. The TR omits Christos (“Christ”) from the passage and provides a generic statement about the “Lord God” (i.e., the Father). Thus, following the TR, the KJV reads at verse 15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Again, KJV Only advocates constantly allege that the modern translations have “taken out” or “removed,” many portions and words from the Bible, but yet the KJV does the very thing they accuse others of doing!  

 

JUDE 1:4 (Jesus as the “only Master and Lord”). The issue here centers on the last part of verse 4 where Jude says that ungodly persons “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (NASB/ESV). This passage is devastating for Jehovah’s Witnesses.[4] The reading ton monon despotēn kai kurion hēmōn Iēsoun Christon (lit., “The only Master/Sovereign and Lord of us Jesus Christ”) is found in these early MSS of Jude—א A B C 33. 81. 307. 436. 442. 642. 1243. 1739. 2344. vg. And the very earliest MSS of Jude (viz., P72 P78) also have Jesus as “the only Master and Lord.”

 

However, as with the above examples, if one uses a KJV, this passage cannot be used to affirm the deity of Christ. For as we will see with Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, the TR/KJV reading introduces two Persons into the passage, the Father and Jesus. Note the KJV reading of the clause: “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5] As shown above, in these examples of many, the late and inferior MSS of the TR omit significant readings that clearly affirm the deity of Christ compared to that of the current critical Greek text (NA28/USB5) and thus, modern translations.  

 

 

TRANSLATIONAL.

 

Now we move to the translational deficiencies and defects contained in the KJV regarding the deity of Christ. Note that translational issues are not issues with the Greek text of the TR; rather they are deficiencies and defects in the translational process of the KJV. Here we will look at two very significant passages that clearly and grammatically refer to Jesus Christ as ho theos (“the God”), Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. 

 

TITUS 2:13-2—2 PETER 1:1. Regarding Titus 2:13, the last clause reads the same in all standard Greek editions including the NA28/UBS5, TR, Majority Text, and the Westcott and Hort: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Iēsou Christou   (lit., “The great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ”). Likewise, in all these Greek editions, 2 Peter 1:1 reads the same:  tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou (lit., “The God of us and Savior, Jesus Christ”). For that reason, in modern translations, both passages contain the clause, “God and Savior, Christ Jesus”—affirming that Jesus is both “God and Savior.” However, the KJV mistranslates the clause in both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 to read: “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).

 

At first glance, the difference seems minor. Grammatically, however, it is not. The KJV’s inclusion of “our” after the conjunction “and” (before “Saviour”) changes the entire meaning and makes the passage refer to two Persons—the Father, who is “God,” and Jesus Christ who is “our Savior”—thus, omitting any reference of Jesus Christ being “God,” as the Greek text (in all eds.) indicates. As with Jude 1:4, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are Sharp constructions, as explicated below in note 3. Hence, in the Greek text, the two nouns, “God and Savior” refer explicitly to “Jesus Christ.” Recognized Greek grammarians (e.g., Robertson; Greenly; Wallace et al.), lexicographers, and biblical commentators see this rule as invariably valid, distinctly showing the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ. Since many grammatical rules of biblical Greek had not been discovered back in 1611, as with Sharp’s, the KJV omits these significant affirmations of the deity of Christ, which all editions of the Greek NT (including the TR) as well as modern translations unequivocally provide.

 

Interesting, 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; and 3:18 contain the same phrase as that of 1:1 (except "Lord" is used instead of "God"). And all are Granville Sharp constructions (i.e., TSKS). Although the KJV translates the phrase in 1:11; 2:20; and 3:18 correctly, it mistranslates the phrase in 1:1 by adding "our" after "and," which grammatically removes the deity of Jesus Christ. Note the KJV rendering of these passages:     

 

1:1:   "God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (KJV)

1:11: "Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (KJV)

2:20: "Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (KJV)

3:18: "Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (KJV)

 

The KJV is inconsistent. This is similar to the Jehovah's Witnesses' Bible, the NWT, where 1:11, 2:20; and 3:18 are rendered correctly. But 1:1 is rendered in a similar way as that of the KJV--,which results in a removal of Peter's clear teaching that Jesus Christ is God. The NWT renders the phrase in 1:1 as "our God and the Savior Jesus Christ." Altering the Greek text, the NWT adds the article ("the") before "Savior" making the phrase refer to two Persons, as the KJV does--of course, for different reasons. The Jehovah's Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, whereas the KJV translators affirm the deity of Christ. Hence, it is the difference between purposeful deception (NWT) and translational/textual ignorance (KJV)..           

 

CONCLUSION

 

The KJV Only position is illogical and inaccurate—persistent in its anti-intellectualism. As shown, the TR is based upon late inferior MSS (mostly after 12th cent.), which have gone through many generations of transcriptions containing numerous textual and scribal errors. The numerous errors and inferior renderings of the TR as well as the countless translational errors of the KJV are denied and/or ignored by KJV Only supporters. As clearly shown, the KJV Only position is openly based on a perpetual a priori assumption: the KJV is the ultimate standard by which all translations of the Bible are judged. As a result, modern translations and textual scholars are irrationally and uncritically attacked.

 

There are many other translation and textual inaccuracies of the TR/KJV that can be mentioned such as the KJV rendering of Rev. 1:6, which the LDS use to teach that God has a Father; translating pascha (“Passover”) as “Easter” in Acts 12:4; adding works to justification in Rom. 8:1; adding “blood” in Col. 1:14 (not even the M text contain the phrase, dia tou haimatos, “through the “blood”); omitting “Jesus Christ our Lord” from Jude 1:25; numerous harmonizations; conjectural emendations; Latinisms; etc.

 

Regarding the deity of Jesus Christ, as briefly observed in the few cited examples above, the KJV is simply less accurate in its representation of the original writings of Scripture than that of modern translations. The reason for this is mainly due to 1) the inferiority and lack of quantity[6] of the late Greek MSS of the TR and 2) a great lack of linguistic/grammatical discoveries and research of biblical languages since the seventeenth century, which have greatly enriched our knowledge of the original texts. As we have indicated, we are not against the KJV, but rather, we are against the cultic position of the crass and defective KJV Onlyism that mottles and deviates from the gospel by placing a radical priority on an English translation. As R. C. Sproul rightfully observes:

 

[the KJV] is simply less accurate in its representation of the original writings of Scripture than most modern translations. . . . The Greek text from which the King James Version was translated (the Textus Receptus) is clearly inferior to more modern reconstructed Greek texts (Knowing Scripture, 117).

 

 

 

 

 

For an expanded treatment of the KJV Only position, we offer short booklet entitled: The King James Version: The New Testament Textual and Translational Disputations Available Here. 

 


 

Notes

[1] The TR is based on late (mostly after 12th cent.) and a limited group of MSS (manuscripts). The TR follows the late Byzantine/Majority (M) text-type, but not exactly, for there are over 1,800 differences between the TR and M. Further, according to Dr. James White, there are only about 6,600 differences between the TR and the Critical Text. That means they agree at least 95 % of the time (see White vs. Ehrman debate, “Can the New Testament Be Inspired in Light of Textual Variation?” Jan. 21, 2009).   

[2] Especially with passages such as Matthew 16:18 and Revelation 16:5, many KJV Only promoters will actually test the accuracy of the Greek rendering of a passage by the KJV. This not only shows the utter disconnect from rational and proper biblical-textual study, but shows how KJV Onlyism is cult of ignorance.                 

[3] From Erasmus’ 1st edition in 1516 to the Elzevir’s last edition of the TR in 1678 there has been over 30 editions, which prompts the question to KJV Only advocates: “Which TR is the correct one?” This same question can be asked of the KJV since there had been so many revisions of the KJV since 1611. Moreover, what most KJV Only supporters utilize today is not the 1611 KJV, but rather the 1769 Blayney edition, which differs (mostly on minor points) from the 1611 KJV in at least 24, 000 places. Hence, it is meaningless for KJV Only advocates to argue for the impeccability of the 1611 KJV when most do not use it (which, by the way, contained the Apocrypha and thousands of marginal notes).    

[4] How can Jesus be “the only Lord” in Watchtower theology? Interestingly, the NWT has not, as of yet, changed its rendering of Jude 1:4: “our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ” (NWT).         

[5]It is rule #1 that pertains to Jude 1:4 (and Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1, as addressed above). Briefly, the rule states: when the copulative conjunction kai (“and”) connects two nouns of the same case/number and the first noun has the article (“the”), but the second noun does not, both nouns refer to the first named person. Thus, according to the rule, both nouns here (“Master” and “Lord”) refer to the first named person—“Jesus Christ.” Conversely, the TR does not read this way: ton monon despotēn theon kai kurion hēmōn Iēsoun Christon (lit., “the only Master God and Lord of us Jesus Christ”). Hence, the KJV omits this clear affirmation of the deity of Christ—as being the “The only Master and Lord.”   

[6] Erasmus’ first edition (1516) was based upon about six Greek MSS.   

[7] The Final Authority, (Schererville, 1993), 72.