No. In fact, there are a number of problems with the idea that the King James Version (KJV) is the ‘only true, unchanged version of the Bible’.
For one thing, the King James Version of the Bible has its own history of revision.1 For example, changes were made to the text in 1769 (the changes were mostly based on Estienne’s 1550 Greek New Testament), as well as an updating to modern (for that time) spelling and correction of printers’ errors. Another example of change is that modern versions of the KJV generally don’t include the Apocrypha, whereas the old KJV did. So, it is not true to say that the KJV is unchanged. Over the years the KJV has changed. The KJV most use today is not the same as the one produced back in 1611.
That is a historic problem with the idea that the KJV is the ‘the only true, unchanged version of the Bible’ — it has changed. But there are also theological problems with the idea. For example, in Acts 2 God sanctions (to say the least) translation of his word. The disciples were delivering God’s word in many different languages of the world, so that all of the people present could understand them in their own languages (Acts 2:1-11). The people who are receiving the word exclaim:
…we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! [Acts 2:11]
The reason for this is that God loves the whole world (John 3:16) and his desire is for his message to go out into all the earth and for it to be understood by all people (Mat. 28:19; cf. Ps. 19:1-6). To say that the KJV is the only true, unchanged version of the Bible is to truncate, handcuff, cripple God’s love and his desire for all people to know him. Of course, some translations of the Bible are inaccurate in places (the KJV included [see below]), but the principle of translation, and translation so that people can understand God’s word better, is sanctioned by God.2
Ironically, the people who produced the KJV would agree with this against people who think the KJV is the only proper version of the Bible; the people who produced the KJV would agree with the need for continued translation and revision so that the Bible is understandable for people in their usual language. In their preface to their KJV they wrote that the Bible should be translated into the language common to the people who read it, and they castigated people who wouldn’t do such. They also saw the need for a ‘variety of Translations’ when the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew was unclear.3
In addition to this, the idea that the KJV is the only true, unchanged version of the Bible is a very Anglocentric idea and, in that, a very tribal idea, which, in turn, turns God into a small, limited, tribal god. In reality, though, God is God of the whole world (Gen. 1). He is the God of old English as much as he is the God of modern English; he is the God of American English, Australian English, Indian English, etc., as much as he is the God of KJV English; he is the God of any English as much as he is the God of Hindi, Ao, Indonesian, etc.
There is also the problem that the KJV is often not very accurate in its translation. At the admission of the people who produced the KJV themselves, they used a variety of words to render the same Hebrew and Greek words,3 which sometimes could minimize accuracy and original intertextuality. A few examples of inaccuracies of translation in the KJV are:
- Acts 19:37: ‘robbers of churches’ (anachronistic: churches didn’t exist at the time; inaccurate: ‘temple’ would be far better)
- Acts 12:4: ‘Easter’ (inaccurate: ‘Passover’ is the accurate translation)
- Rom. 3:4,6,31; 6:2,15; 7:7,13; 9:14; 11:1,11; 1 Cor. 6:15; Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14: ‘God forbid’ (inaccurate: the word ‘God’ is not in the Greek. A better translation is ‘May it never be!”)
- Gen. 12:6: ‘plain of Moreh’ (inaccurate: ‘plain’ should be ‘oak’)
In conclusion, the KJV is simply not the ‘only true, unchanged version of the Bible’. That idea goes against the intentions of the people who originally produced the KJV and, worse than that, against the intentions of the God of the whole world who wants all people to come to know him and is happy to communicate to them in their own language.
J. Burke, Examine your Bible (a comparison of the KJV and the NET Bible)
1. See Michael D. Marlowe’s brief overview: Changes in the King James Version (accessed 09/04/13)
2. Also see the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 14:1-25.
3. See the preface here.