King James Version vs Other Versions
The single most important thing Christians must know is that they can trust their Bible. there is an immense amount of controversy regarding the King James version vs other versions. I'm writing this short paper to help with understanding that you, as a Christian, can trust your Bible. the first thing to know is that I personally love the King James Version. It's an outstanding translation, it is elegant, powerful, and it has had greater influence than any other book in the English language. In the days when I was in Seminary, I found that the King James was so accurate that I could use it almost as an “interlinear” in the Old Testament. When I read a passage in Hebrew, I could see a near word for word equivalency. The New Testament, in Greek, was not quite as easy, since Greek forms its sentences differently, but those differences did not detract from its essential accuracy. So the King James version is an outstanding version. Recently (1982), Thomas Nelson re-worked the King James and called it the “New King James.” Although it makes some changes (mostly for clarity), it is also a very good version. You can follow along in the King James if your Pastor is using the New King James, and vice versa. They are very close.
There are many other versions, such as the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the New Living Translation, and the New International Version, to name a few. These versions differ from the King James and the New King James in some ways.
The main reason is NOT translation. The translators of all the above versions, for the most part, gave us an honest translation of what is actually in the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek text that they used. I know this because I spent a number of years studying both Hebrew and Greek, teaching Greek, studying these versions, and using them.
The main reason is that many of the modern versions use a text that differs in some respects from the text used to translate the King James and New King James versions.
What do I mean?
I mean that there are several “text families” within the original texts. In order for you to understand this, you have to think with me for a minute about how the original texts were made. John, for example, was an eyewitness of the things he saw and heard. He tells us so. However, after he wrote down what God gave him, other people copied what he said. They copied the New Testament documents so extensively that there are more copies of the New Testament than of any other ancient book. They were not always perfect in their transcription and copying. As important as the New Testament is, they didn’t all get it completely right. We know this because the Greek texts we have differ a bit from one another. Not much, actually. It’s been estimated that 95+ per cent of the material is the same overall.
In addition, people from different areas had different types of copies in Greek. In other words, the texts we have resolve themselves into some main types. I will discuss two of these:
There is the “Received Text,” and the “Critical Text.”
The Received Text is the text from which the King James and New King James versions are translated.
The Critical Text is the text from which the other versions are translated.
Why the change? Why do some translations prefer one text over the other? The answer comes as something of a history lesson.
In the 19th century, a manuscript was discovered in the Vatican library (called, appropriately enough, “Vaticanus”); when the manuscript was studied, the people who studied it discovered that they had found a very old manuscript of the New Testament. About the same time, a scholar named Tischendorf found another ancient manuscript in the Sinai Desert (which was, of course, called “Sinaiticus”); this manuscript was also ancient.
The manuscripts that comprised the Received Text were quite a bit “newer;” in other words, they didn’t have the age that was true of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
Because these manuscripts were older, the scholars favored them over the Received Text, and used these as the basis for their Greek New Testament. Virtually every Greek New Testament since that day has used these two manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, as the basis for its text. Originally, there were a number of translations made of these manuscripts, and eventually these translations became what we know as the “English Revised Version,” And the “American Standard Version.”
These are important, because for the most part, no matter what the translators say, the modern versions use some form of the Critical Text as the basis for their translation. So we have the American Standard Version, then the Revised Standard Version, then the New American Standard Version, then the New International Version (I’m leaving out quite few here), the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and lots more. All of them use the New Testament text based on these two andcient Greek manuscripts.
On the other side, we have the King James Version and the New King James Version, translated from the Received Text, which is deemed to be much less “accurate,” because it doesn’t use the “oldest” texts.
Of course, there are scholars on both sides of this battle, and the battle rages on.
When you say, “That translation is not accurate,” and you are referring to the King James version, you’re not being quite accurate yourself. Most of the so-called “inaccuracies” in the KJV are merely differences in text.
On the other hand, when you say, “The NIV leaves things out, therefore it’s the Devil’s spawn,” you’re not being fair.
These translations were made (for the most part) in good faith that the texts were the best. Some prefer the Critical Text. Others (as I do, and no doubt I will be flamed for this) prefer the Received Text.
The argument for the Received Text is simply that there were several “text-types,” defined by geography; the received text represents many more manuscripts, and though the manuscripts we have are newer, they offer a consistent, clear witness.
The NIV leaves things out (and so does NASB, ESV, and so forth) because it’s not in the Greek text the translators used to translate their version.
The KJV puts things in because they are in the Greek text the translators are using.
There are two points to remember here:
- The variations are, for the most part, minor (there are some pretty important ones, too, but the modern versions typically include them). The version you have, whichever it is, is much more accurate than, say, Plato. We have far more information about the New Testament than we do about Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, or other ancient writers. The version you have will give you all you need to know about God and His Son Jesus Christ. You can trust the version you have. It’s accurate. The manuscripts all agree on virtually everything.
- You should use the version you can understand. Many people can’t read well nowadays, and because of that, these people need to use a version that fits their reading ability. I well remember being literally forced to use the NIV because the people I served could not “get” the KJV; we had one man who was almost a non-reader, but he could read the NIV, although with difficulty. We had another who was dyslexic. For him the KJV was simply impossible to understand. Was I supposed to force its use and ruin Bible study for him? NO. So we used the NIV. I preached from it for years, because people could understand it. Later, I moved on to the New King James Version, and used that. As far as my personal life, I still like the KJV, and use it extensively in my devotional life. I understand it.
These versions are all close enough in wording that you can follow along, whichever the minister or teacher is using.
The most important things to remember are:
You can TRUST your Bible. You should READ your Bible. Get a version you can understand, and read that. If you like the King James, use it. If you like the New Living Translation, use that. Read your Bible!!