King James Only movement

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The First Page of the Book of Genesis in the 1611 printing of the KJV

The King James Only movement asserts that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations. Adherents, largely from evangelical and Baptist churches, believe that the KJV is the greatest English translation ever produced, needing no further improvements, and that all other English translations produced after the KJV are corrupt.

These assertions are generally based upon a preference for the Byzantine text-type or Textus Receptus and distrust of the Alexandrian text-type, or critical text of Westcott-Hort, and Aland, on which the majority of twentieth and twenty-first century translations are based.


Christian apologist James White has divided the King James Only movement into five main classifications:[1]

Church sign indicating that the congregation uses the Authorized King James Version of 1611
  • "I Like the KJV Best" – Although White lists this point of view as a subdivision of the KJVO group, this is disputed by some. This group simply regards the KJV as a very good translation and prefers it over other translations because the church they attend uses it, has always used it, or prefers its style.
  • "The Textual Argument" – This group believes that the KJV's Hebrew and Greek textual base is more accurate than the alternative texts used by newer translations. Many in this group might accept a modern Bible version based on the same Greek and Hebrew manuscripts used for the KJV. White claims Zane C. Hodges was a member of this group.[2] Hodges considered that the Majority Text "corrects" the Received Text.
  • "Received Text Only"/"Textus Receptus Only" – This group holds the position that the traditional Greek texts represented in the Textus Receptus are supernaturally (or providentially) preserved and that other Greek manuscripts not used in this compilation may be flawed. The KJV is viewed as an exemplary English translation that is based on this Greek grouping of Bible manuscripts put together by Desiderius Erasmus, but it is also believed that other translations based on these texts have the potential to be of equal quality. The views of the Trinitarian Bible Society fit into this TRO division. The Trinitarian Bible Society does not believe that the Authorized Version (KJV) is a perfect translation, only that it is the best available translation in the English language.[3] The Society believes this text is superior to the texts used by the United Bible Societies and other Bible publishers, which use texts that incorporate as their basis a relatively few manuscripts from the 4th century, and some going back to the early 2nd century.[4]
  • "The Inspired KJV Group" – This faction believes that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They view the translation to be an English preservation of the very words of God and that they are as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Often this group excludes other English versions based on the same manuscripts, claiming that the KJV is the only English Bible sanctioned by God. They believe that this English translation should never be changed.
  • "The KJV As New Revelation" – This group claims that the KJV is a "new revelation" or "advanced revelation" from God, and it should be the standard from which all other translations originate. Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called "Ruckmanism" after Peter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view. [5]

These classifications are not mutually exclusive, nor are they a comprehensive summary describing those who prefer the KJV. Douglas Wilson, for instance, argues that the KJV (or, in his preferred terminology, the Authorized Version) is superior because of its manuscript tradition, its translational philosophy (with updates to the language being regularly necessary), and its ecclesiastical authority, having been created by the church and authorized for use in the church.[6]

Though not expressly "King James Only", The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recommends the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.[7]


Benjamin G. Wilkinson (1872–1968), a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, theology professor and college president, wrote Our Authorized Bible Vindicated (1930) in which he asserted that some of the new versions of the Bible coming out came from manuscripts with corruptions introduced into the Septuagint by Origen and manuscripts with deletions and changes from corrupted Alexandrian text. He criticized Westcott and Hort, believing they intentionally rejected the use of the Textus Receptus and they made changes to the text used in translation using their revised Greek text based mainly on the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.[8]

Gail Riplinger (born 1947) has also addressed in some detail the issue of differences in current editions of the King James Bible.[9] However, a lengthy critical review of her book New Age Bible Versions, originally published in Cornerstone magazine in 1994, authored by Bob and Gretchen Passantino of Answers in Action, described the book as "erroneous, sensationalistic, misrepresentative, inaccurate, and logically indefensible".[10]

Jack Chick (1924–2016), a fundamentalist Christian best known for his comic tracts, was an advocate for the King James Only movement.[11] He wrote a comic called Sabotage advocating the King James Only movement.[12][13][14]

Joey Faust, a Baptist pastor and researcher, is the author of The Word: God Will Keep It: The 400 Year History of the King James Bible Only Movement. The book documents a number of KJV Only proponents throughout history.

Textus Receptus vs Alexandrian Text[edit]

Wilkinson writes in his book Truth Triumphant:[15]

The Protestant denominations are built upon that manuscript of the Greek New Testament sometimes called Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It is that Greek New Testament from which the writings of the apostles in Greek have been translated into English, German, Dutch and other languages. During the dark ages the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. It was restored to Christendom by the labours of that great scholar Erasmus. It is altogether too little known that the real editor of the Received Text was Lucian. None of Lucian's enemies fails to credit him with this work. Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament. However, Lucian's day was an age of apostasy when a flood of depravations was systematically attempting to devastate both the Bible manuscripts and Bible theology. Origen, of the Alexandrian college, made his editions and commentaries of the Bible a secure retreat for all errors, and deformed them with philosophical speculations introducing casuistry and lying.

Dean John William Burgon opposed what he called the "two irresponsible scholars of the University of Cambridge" (Brooke Foss Westcott and Professor Fenton John Anthony Hort) and their revised Greek Text.[16]

Herman Hoskier:

the text printed by Westcott and Hort has been accepted as "the true text", and grammars, works on the synoptic problem, works on higher criticism, and others have been grounded on this text.[17]

J. H. Greenlee:

The textual theories of W–H [Westcott & Hort] underlies virtually all subsequent work in NT textual criticism.[18]

D. A. Carson:

The theories of Westcott and Hort ... [are] almost universally accepted today. ... Subsequent textual critical work [since 1881] accepted the theories of Westcott and Hort. The vast majority of evangelical scholars hold that the basic textual theories of Westcott and Hort were right and the church stands greatly in their debt.[19]

Wilbur N. Pickering:

The two most popular manual editions of the text today, Nestles-Aland and U.B.S. (United Bible Society) really vary little from the W–H [Westcott & Hort] text.[20]

Prominent KJV Only promoters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ White 1995, pp. 1–4.
  2. ^ White 1995, p. 5.
  3. ^ Watts, Malcolm H. (2007). "The Accuracy of the Authorised Version" (PDF). Quarterly Record. Trinitarian Bible Society. 578 (1): 8.
  4. ^ "The Text of the Bible used", Principles, The Trinitarian Bible Society.
  5. ^ White 1995.
  6. ^ Wilson, Douglas. "Hearers of the Word". Credenda/Agenda. 10 (1). Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  7. ^ "400 Years of the King James Bible - ensign". Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  8. ^ Westcott and Hort, The New Testament In The Original Greek (New York: 1882).
  9. ^ Riplinger, Gail A. "Settings of the King James Bible" (PDF). Our KJV.
  10. ^ New age vers. (book review), Answers
  11. ^ "FAQ's Concerning Bible Versions". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  12. ^ "Sabotage? – by Jack T. Chick". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  13. ^ "Comic List". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  14. ^ "A Critique of the King James Only Movement", James R. White, chapter in Translation that openeth the window: reflections on the history and legacy of the King James Bible. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. 2009. p. 200. ISBN 1-58983-356-2.
  15. ^ Wilkinson B.G., Truth Triumphant: The Church in the Wilderness, Hartland Publications, (Rapidan, Virginia, 2004),p50
  16. ^ Book review of John William Burgon's The Revision Revised. Review by J. H. Thayer, found in The Andover Review, Volume 1 (1884), page 458
  17. ^ Herman C. Hoskier, Codex B and Its Allies – a Study and an Indictment, (1914), Vol I, p. 468
  18. ^ J. H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, (1964), p. 78
  19. ^ D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate, (1979), p. 75
  20. ^ Dr. Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text (1980), p. 42.


Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Robert (1903). The Bible and Modern Criticism.
  • Ankerberg, John; Weldon, John (2003). The Facts on the King James Only Debate. Eugene, OR: Harvest House. ISBN 0-7369-1111-1.
  • Beacham, Roy E.; Bauder, Kevin T (2001). One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. ISBN 0-8254-2048-2.
  • Carson, D.A. (1978). The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. ISBN 0-8010-2427-7.
  • Comfort, Phillip W. (2000). Essential Guide to Bible Versions. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 0-8423-3484-X.
  • Dewey, David (2005). A User's Guide to Bible Translations: Making the Most of Different Versions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-3273-4.
  • Macgregor, Alan J (2004). Three Modern Versions: A Critical Assessment of the NIV, ESV and NKJV. Salisbury, Wiltshire, ENG, UK: Bible League. ISBN 0-904435-87-3.
  • Mauro, Philip (1924). Which version?: Authorized or revised?. Boston: Hamilton Brothers. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  • Paisley, Ian RK (1997). My Plea for the Old Sword. Emerald House Group. ISBN 1-84030-015-9.
  • Ryken, Leland (2002). The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN 1-58134-464-3.