Most King James Onlyists claim that the 1611 KJV is God’s Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible and Perfect Word. They do this while shaking their leather-backed and neatly bound Bible labeled “KJV” on the cover. But the fact is that the book they hold in their hand is not the 1611 – not even close. The point of this post isn’t to discuss how they got their Bible from the original 1611 Bible. Instead, I want to share with everybody a very neat resource I make daily use of – an actual 1611KJV online:
I spent hours last night viewing each page at 8x zoom, and soaking in the margin notes (many of which are missing in more modern King James Bibles, unfortunately) and the commentary provided by the translators. This is truly a rich historical document that will be of interest for most Christian bibliophiles like myself.
If you would like a physical copy (like I do I got one! Praise the LORD!), you can purchase a facsimile from ChristianBooks.com
Preservation is one of the most central issues to King James Onlyism. Typically rooting from such verses as Psalm 12:6-7, which says:
Psalm 12:6-7 King James Bible:
“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”
From the look of these verses, it appears that the Psalmist is claiming God will preserve His words for ever, from that generation on. I happen to disagree with this interpretation, but that isn’t really important right this minute, since I agree with the idea that God will preserve His Word. You may be wondering what basis I could have for assuming this. Let me share a syllogistic approach to this issue:
God, with all of His attributes, is eternal, perfect, and unchanging
God’s “Word” is an attribute of God
∴ God’s Word is eternal, perfect, and unchanging
This syllogism declares that preservation of the Word is not something that God can choose to do, or not to do. This is like other things that God cannot do, such as tell a lie. God simply cannot contradict himself. As long as God is, so too is His Word.
This is merely one avenue for demonstrating the fact that God’s Word will always exist. Of course there are many scriptural reasons too (such as Matthew 24:35), but the most common one you will see is the aforementioned passage above.
It’s important to point out that no manuscript, codex, scroll, matrix, book or pamphlet is God’s Word. I’m speaking of essence now. These items are collections of ink molecules (or some alternative) organized on paper (or some alternative). These items can communicate God’s Word, but are not themselves the essence of God’s Word. This follows from the Matthew 24:35 passage which states that Heaven and Earth could pass away (including all the material therein: books, scrolls, etc) and yet God’s Word could not pass away.
That being said, it’s convenient for us to call the Bible “God’s Word.” Much like sunlight is seen bouncing off the surface of the moon (“moonlight”), so too is God’s Word found proceeding from the pages of the Bible. This is what I mean when I speak of the Bible as “God’s Word.”
Confidence in that which is written
So God’s Word will not pass away, alright. But how do we know we are reading God’s Word, not Man’s Word when we read the Bible if the Bible wasn’t preserved by God himself? Perhaps you’ve heard claims like the following:
“I don’t know why you read that Bible. For all you know some monk penned those words in the dark-ages!”
I know I’ve heard things like this. And years ago they caused me concern because I was ignorant of how the text of the Bible was transmitted down throughout history. Fortunately, much study will cure a lot of uncertainty and doubt regarding God’s Word.
Years ago I viewed the Bible as some type of magical book that was handed down from generation to generation. Never altered, never edited, never touched. It just existed, from the days of Christ, to today. That is how it was “preserved.” Unfortunately, there are many severe issues with this understanding.
If there were only one line of transmission for God’s Word, that would mean that the probability for it to be corrupted would be astronomically high. When a scribe sat out to make a copy of any particular portion, but was about to make an error, he would have had to burst into flames, or be struck dead or prevented in some way from accidentally messing up our only line of transmission for God’s Word.
A single line of transmission also means that if a certain power gained enough authority, or enough influence, they could destroy the transmission. Or, they could change it to suggest things like Jesus and Satan were brothers, or Jesus married and had children, or that Jesus was never crucified. A single line of transmission is vulnerable, very vulnerable.
But this isn’t the way it is. Instead, as Christianity began to grow, copies of scripture were made more frequently, and dispersed all over. With the rapid growth, this lead to many, many lines of independent transmission. At no point could anybody gain access to all lines so as to compromise the integrity of them all and ultimately damage the preservation of God’s Word in written form.
In this method, extracting God’s Word from the various lines is much like the common venn-diagram we all see growing up to express various things.
So while errors, issues, and problems may show up within individual lines of transmission, it’s unlikely that the same exact errors will show up within dozens of lines, and even less possible that the same exact issues would show up within hundreds or thousands of lines.
This method preserves the original Revelation that God delivered to man through history. It also doesn’t require any special guard over an individual line. It permits early Christians to make unintended errors when copying scripture without allowing those errors to persist into the final canon we have today.
Because no man, or group can add, remove, or modify all of these lines, you can be certain that when they agree on something, it was what the original authors penned, and not some “monk in the dark-ages.”
Granted, this is a bit simple. Keep in mind too that down throughout history the numbers of manuscripts for one type over another would change, so just blindly taking the majority text would render different results depending on what point in history you were in. It is for this reason that different sources would be weighted as well – older ones were closer to the actual events, and therefore had less time for records to be confused.
A terrific sermon by James White offers an even more eloquent description of how God preserved His Word down through history. You can listen to this online for free through the sermonaudio website: KJV Onlyism and Can You Trust Your Translation?.
So there you have it, the understanding of preservation that at least one non-kjvo advocate holds. Although I think this explanation is clear, and sufficient, I will no doubt continue to hear from my King James Only friends that I deny the existence of God’s preserved word. I will no doubt continue to hear the claim that God’s Word must exist within a single volume, even though that idea originates with them, and not from Scripture.
So the next time you hear somebody argue the false dilemma that you either accept the King James Bible as God’s preserved Word, or deny preservation altogether, I hope you’ll speak up with an alternative that is more true to Scripture, and history. Perhaps one by one we can slowly bring our brothers and sisters in Christ back to a sound mind, and away from this anti-intellectual position that glorifies man’s arbitrary ideas of preservation.