The King James Only Controversy by James R. White
James R. White, an elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church and Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has written several apologetic books, including Is the Mormon My Brother, The Roman Catholic Controversy, and What’s With the Dudes at the Door. In The King James Only Controversy, White seeks to “oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God’s wrath for allegedly questioning His Word,” (p. VI). He explains his motivation for writing in the Introduction:
It is very important to understand the motivation behind this book. This book is not being written to push one particular translation of the Bible over another. There is no desire to get everyone to read the NASB, or the NIV, or the NKJV, or the RSV, or any other “modern” translation. On the other hand, I am not in any way seeking to stop those who use the KJV from reading that venerable translation. This book is not against the King James Version . . . However, I do oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God’s wrath for allegedly questioning His Word. I oppose KJV Onlyism, not the King James Version itself (p. VI).
White demonstrates his opposition in clear scholastic point–by–point refutation. He moves from discussing those who hold exclusively to the KJV (chapter 1) to the logical fallacies behind their arguments (chapter 2) to the formation of the Old and New Testaments (chapters 3 and 4) to the publications of the King James Only camp (chapter 5) to the translation differences between the King James Version and other translations of the Bible (chapter 6) to the differences in the texts used in the various English translations of the Bible (chapter 7). In short, White does not leave any stone unturned in regards to this issue. His Bibliography even contains a Greek Word Index (pp. 277–278).
The most interesting chapter for me personally was Chapter 5, entitled “The King James Only Camp.” In this chapter, White takes the time to discuss the writings of those who promote King James Onlyism. One example he cites is a book published in 1993 by G. A. Riplinger called New Age Versions. New Age Versions seeks to show the inaccuracies in the NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NAB, REB, RSV, CEV, TEV, GNB, The Living Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, and the New Century Bible; and to promote the latest research concerning the King James Version. Before showing the misquotations in New Age Versions, White quotes the back cover (p. 96), which says,
This book is the result of an exhaustive six year collation of new bible versions, their underlying Greek manuscripts, editions, and editors. It objectively and methodically documents the hidden alliance between new versions and the New Age Movement’s One World Religion.
Each page opens a door exposing new version editors – in agreement with Luciferians, occultists, and New Age philosophy – in mental institutions, séance parlors, prison cells, and court rooms for heresy trials – and most shocking of all – denying that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is absolutely staggering that any “scholar” would claim that the NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, etc. were edited by those “in agreement with Luciferians.” James White does a superb job of showing the absurdity of such a claim (pp. 96–104).
The vast majority of the writer’s time is spent discussing and debunking the scholastic fallacies that the King James Only Camp embraces, such as the belief that the Textus Receptus has been supernaturally preserved from error or that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit (pp.2, 33, 42–48, 53–60). (See footnote) Another fallacy he mentions is the thinking that the modern translations offer an altogether different meaning from that given in the original King James Version. As White himself explains,
It has already been noted that there is often more than one correct way to translate certain Greek and Hebrew words and phrases into English. But when KJV Only believers set the KJV up as the only correct translation, they view any other translation, even if it is perfectly valid and proper given the Greek and Hebrew constructions, as a “change” (to use the nicer term), or a “perversion” (to use the more common term). In the vast majority of instances, the differences are not vital to an understanding of the passage (p. 129).
The King James Only Controversy contains excellent material for scholars and those who are interested in ‘digging in deep.’ White’s use of charts and graphs would be helpful to someone who has a good understanding of Greek and the formation of the canon. Although he does cover some basic principles for the revision of Scripture (chapter 4) and the way in which the Bible was written and put together (chapter 3) for the purpose of aiding those who do not have training in the field of biblical scholarship, this book is definitely written on the scholarly level.
Such a scholastic approach is where I would find a problem with White’s book. In the Introduction, White claims to be writing for anyone struggling with whether to believe in the isolated inspiration of the King James Bible. “Rather, the wish is to provide a broad response to the general claims, providing reasoned response to the concept that there is any particular translation of the Bible in English that God requires the faithful Christian to use,” (pp. VI-VII). He certainly does accomplish the stated task of the book. But while his response is broad and effective, unfortunately, his audience is limited to academics and intellectuals.
Most church-goers who are struggling with whether to believe that the King James Bible is the only infallible word of God are not scholars. Anyone with a scholarly background could easily recognize the logical fallacies and erroneous positions the KJV Only camp presents. As such, most people who would benefit from this book (those who do not have a scholastic background) would not get past the numerous charts and the arguments from the Greek texts. It would go over a typical layperson’s head or beyond their interest. The point would be made but the reader would get lost in the process.
James White could also be accused of over-kill in proving his points. While it is important to discuss textual differences and the absence and addition of the references to Jesus’ deity, five or so illustrations would be enough. Chapter 7 contains over 30 charts, chapter 8 contains 17, and chapter 9 contains 16! Chapter 5 on the King James Only camp has over 20 quotations. That is more than enough documentation to prove a point. An average layperson at an average church would not understand or care about the necessity of such a large amount of information.
On the other hand, overkill can be good when driving a point home. White’s meticulous manner of providing charts about the differences between erroneous scholarship of KJV Only advocates, his presentation of the various translations contrasted with the KJV, and his discussion of the tools used by those who translated the King James Bible show that those who continue to think that the KJV is the only inerrant word of God do so against sound evidence. Such a work should be a “nail in the coffin” for anyone who teaches that the King James Bible is the only inspired Word of God.
In closing, The King James Only Controversy is a good book to flip through and own in case this issue comes up at a nearby church. There is more than enough information here to show your people that the King James Bible, while it is a good translation, is not the only one that can be trusted for its accuracy. It is, however, a difficult book for any lay person to read.
Footnote: The Textus Receptus is the ancient Greek manuscript that the translators of the King James Bible used. It is also known as the “Received Text.”
Book Review by Jeremy Cagle, Pastor, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, Illinois