By   •   June 1, 2004   •   Topics:


Is the King James Bible the only reliable Bible?


The work of Bible translation is very complicated, and misunderstanding easily arises. We do not have the original Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament or the original Greek New Testament as written by inspired men of God. What we have is an Old Testament in Hebrew/Aramaic and thousands of Greek manuscripts of part or all of the New Testament painstakingly copied and passed on to us through the centuries.

There are differences in the Greek manuscripts such as minor issues of punctuation, spelling, word order, certain verses included in some manuscripts and not in others, etc., but none of these differences affect any of the major doctrines of our Christian faith.

Some people prefer the King James translation because they have been familiar with it, often from childhood. Others prefer modern translations because they are more easily understood. Also, modern translators have the advantage of using many older Greek manuscripts of the New Testament discovered since the King James translation was made. Most scholars consider these older manuscripts more reliable than the few later manuscripts available to those who translated the King James Bible.

It is also helpful to remember that, while King James “authorized” a particular translation for the Church of England in the 17th century, it is no more authoritative for us today than any other translation. It was highly criticized in its day by those who preferred earlier translations, and it went through a number of revisions. The King James Version most widely used today is the 1769 revision.

People sometimes pick up two translations and expect them to be word-for-word the same. When they find words “missing” or changed, they think something sinister has happened. In reality, both can be perfectly faithful translations of the original language. The basic structures of languages differ from one another, and translation is not just a matter of taking a Greek sentence and finding English words to match. A helpful resource on this topic is the book “How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Do not get caught up into a divisive and fruitless controversy over which of many good translations is best. Instead, consider using a number of them in your study and reading, and join in prayer that all peoples in all countries of the world might soon have the Word of God in their own language.

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  1. Kerry HEICHELBECH says:

    Thank you for this informative review of this matter it may be very helpful , to put this question to rest in our temple , Amen

  2. Jon says:

    I grew up in a Baptist church and of course they used KJV, and while I understand it fine recently I’ve started doing devotions with a friend, someone new to Christianity and she has a very hard time understanding the KJV so we have been using the NLT, and not only does she enjoy it, I have been enjoying it as well. Part of me feels weird because I was brought up as “KJV is the only book for me” but, when it comes down to it, I don’t feel that way in my heart anymore. I’m truly enjoying studying the Word again!

  3. Charles D. Smith says:

    Many thanks for your clarification on this issue! It still presents problems for today’s Christians…

  4. Joe says:

    Why do people complain about every bible is a bad translation except for the KJV? Wasn’t that a translation too? Why can’t people just be thankful that others are reading God’s word and seeking him in their lives. If everyone would stop judging and criticizing others maybe we could love one another like God asks of us

    1. Deb says:

      I totally agree with you!!! I read several different versions. The KJV is so hard to understand. You can compare the verses with several bibles. I just saw this from someone -> Could the BGEA please advise about this? I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    2. BGEA says:

      Hi Deb,
      We think Billy Graham has already made his thoughts on this matter clear in his answer to the original question about whether KJV is the only reliable version Bible. We think the last point he made is particularly important: “Do not get caught up into a divisive and fruitless controversy over which of many good translations is best. Instead, consider using a number of them in your study and reading, and join in prayer that all peoples in all countries of the world might soon have the Word of God in their own language.” We do appreciate your comment and pray God will bless you as you study His Word. -BGEA team

  5. david says:

    The New Jerusalem Bible

  6. Stanley Herrod II says:

    I’m sorry I respectfully disagree. The constant revision and new translation additions have added much confusion and lose of deep truths of God’s Word. The NIV has multi thousands of words missing and it is supposed to be more complete. This whole article proves once again that “God is not the author of confusion” the first being who tried to change the word was the devil as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness and he responded with though shall not tempt the Lord theu God. This is a modern humanistic posting in favor of patting people on the back.

    1. E says:

      “Trying to change the word” , or twist it as you are referencing, and translating it to make it understandable to a particular culture are not the same thing..

  7. Ken Gardner says:

    I agree with many of the comments. This was extremely helpful, and makes total sense.

  8. Dale Meeks says:

    Tank you for making it clear about how our Bibles are saying the same thing and not changing the basic tenets and truths of Gods Word.

  9. Carol Dymond says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was so helpful!

  10. Victor says:

    Am so received the word of God in my heart.
    At this point of the end time this are coming challenging, but through the Lord by faith nothing is hard.