We’ve all heard the arguments from our King James Only friends that “the NIV, and other modern versions, remove, modify, and delete from the Word of God.” When asked for examples they may have a nice fold-out sheet of 100 examples where “God” in the King James Bible is rendered as “he” in the NIV/Modern Version. These lists can be found all over the internet, in books, and at your local 1611 Baptist Bookstore. I’ll admit, the lists are really impressive – I bought into it when I first saw one (ultimately leading me to adopt the King James Only perspective). But is this really an “attack” on God’s Word, as some would have us believe? No. Pretty blunt and straight forward, right? Let me explain why I am no longer convinced this is an attack on God’s Word.
Rotten at the Core
This argument fails for many, many reasons. But at the very heart of it, it’s fallacious. When a King James Only advocate suggests the NIV “changes the Word of God” when it doesn’t say what the King James Bible says, he is begging the question. Most proponents of King James Onlyism don’t get called out on this very often, but they should. They arbitrarily assume from the beginning that the King James is God’s perfect Word. This hasn’t been established Scripturally, or Historically. Instead, they base it on feelings.
By this reasoning, you could assume from the beginning that the NIV is God’s perfect Word, meaning the King James “changes the Word of God” every time it disagrees with he NIV. You could even make pretty strong cases for this using King Jame Onlyism reasoning. Consider the following:
Jude 1:25, New International Version:
to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Compared to the following
Jude 1:25, King James Version:
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Note how the King James “deletes” the part saying “through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages.” We could continue down the King James Only mindset adapted to fit the NIV and argue that the translators of the King James clearly didn’t think that Jesus Christ was our Lord, and so they removed it. Furthermore they didn’t like the idea of Christ being before all ages, so they removed that too.
Two can play this game. But in all honesty, neither should.
Special Pleading – A Fallacy of the King James Only Advocate
Any truthful position ought to be a consistent position. If a text that replaces a more specific title like “God” with a pronoun like “he” is bad in the NIV, it’s bad anywhere it happens. King James Only advocates are often times very illogical, speaking from the gut rather than from their mind. One such fallacy that you will see in King James Only literature is “special pleading.” To put it briefly, if the King James Only advocate tells you the NIV can’t do something, but the KJV does that very thing, they are arguing fallaciously.
King James Only Advocates vs Luke, Jesus, and the prophet Isaiah.
Often times in Scripture the New Testament will quote the Old Testament and the two sources will vary in details, and even at times contain something completely different. Such is the case in the book of Luke, where Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah (Esaias). Isaiah’s words happen to be recorded in our Bibles today, so we are able to line up the two sources (as we have them today) side-by-side and follow through.
Luke 4:17-20 King James Bible:
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
The “place where it was written” is available for us to read today:
Isaiah 61:1-2 King James Bible:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
The Internal (in)Consistency of King James Onlyism
Recall all the times that you were told how evil, and corrupt the NIV was because it says something other than what the early text (King James) says. Well, here we have two texts which also differ one from the other. Isaiah’s text, written several hundred years before Christ, and Luke’s record of Isaiah’s text – both available in your nearest Bible. When we examine the two passages more closely, we see a lot of what the typical King James Only advocate would scoff at.
They’ve Removed “GOD”!
For starters, Jesus read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” whereas our King James Bible records Isaiah saying “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me.” So why does the book of Luke not include Jesus saying “GOD” during his reading of Isaiah’s text? If this were the NIV, we’d have all sorts of reasons: Satanic corruption, attacks on “God” in the text, etc.
Isaiah continues with “because the LORD hath,” whereas Jesus reads “because he hath.” Here we have an example of a pronoun in the place of a noun. This is another thing the NIV is constantly attacked for, but why are we not told that the very same thing happens in the KJV, while Jesus is reading from the Prophets, of all places?
They’ve Weakened the Word!
And then we arrive at “the gospel,” a phrase that is deeply protected by King James Onlyists. Note how Jesus says “…he hath anointed me to preach the gospel,” whereas the actual text provided for us by the King James Bible says “…the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings.” I’ve heard complaints that the modern translations “water down the word,” or “weaken the word” when it does stuff like this. Of course then there’s the issue of whether Isaiah said “…unto the meek” like our King James Bible says, or “…to the poor,” like Luke records from Jesus’ reading.
They’ve Denied the Miracles!
Our next point of emphasis is a big deal. Jesus, while reading from the book of Isaiah adds the statement “and recovering of sight to the blind,” when according to the copy of Isaiah in our King James Bible, that wasn’t actually there. Read the Isaiah passage again, you will not find that message in there. Imagine for just a moment what would happen if several words turned up missing in the NIV like this. Well, no need to imagine it, because they do. And every instance of it is called an attack on God’s Word. Why doesn’t the King James Only advocate conclude that whoever translated the text of Isaiah for the King James Bible removed this part to keep people from thinking Jesus was the Messiah? That’s the kind of things they say of the modern versions.
And they’ve Attacked the Savior!
Of course this isn’t the only omission we find between these two texts. Note how Isaiah concludes this portion of the text, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” But the book of Luke cuts us off short, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down.”
Why didn’t Luke record the words “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn“? Or why didn’t Jesus read the rest of the text? Was he or Luke trying to soften the Word by not talking about “vengeance” and making Jesus seem unloving by not talking about comforting “all that mourn“? You can be sure that if the NIV missed something like this, we would hear about it.
So does the King James Bible survive the same scrutiny applied to all other versions? No. Not by a long shot. Do these differences matter? No, not really. It is true that “God” may be rendered as “he” in some places, but you would only find ambiguity if you read a single verse in exclusion, which is contrary to the moral obligation that Christians have to be studious, to “study to shew thyself approved unto God” as commanded in 2 Timothy 2:15.
It’s not uncommon for a King James Only advocate to pull a verse out of its context, paste it onto a paper, and then run around trying to convince others the modern version is corrupted. Any serious student of God’s Word doesn’t study that way to begin with. We don’t read a single Bible verse, we study dozens, hundreds, and even thousands for an understanding of how they relate to one another, what is being stated, taught and defended, etc.
The text of the NIV, when studied, will render the same teachings as the KJV. This point is rejected by King James Only advocates though. They argue that the NIV fails to teach the Virgin Birth, the Eternal existence of Christ, and so much more. We’ll leave those attacks for another time though.