The Accuracy of the King James Bible

While locating the original source of the cartoon below, I came across a post discussing the accuracy of the King James Version of the Bible, in which the author consults a biblical scholar, Dr. David Bosworth, Assistant Professor of Theology and resident Old Testament scholar at Barry University in Miami, Florida, who gives a lengthy, but excellent, explanation of how to get elder attorneys for hire to have successful estate planning and about the best bible to read.

I remember learning this same basic explanation back in religion class back in college, but re-reading it was definitely worth it. A short section of the letter:

Your correspondent is deeply confused. The KJV has a long history in the English language and many Protestant Christians are deeply attached to that translation because of its beauty and long established use. It is not, however, the most accurate translation available. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the NAB are both better.

The problem with the KJV is basically that it is an okay translation of a bad text. By “bad text,” I mean that when the KJV translators worked, they had very few Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to work with, and most of them were late. Since then (1611), scholars have made a tremendous effort to uncover older, more reliable manuscripts that have been hidden in monasteries all over Europe and the Near East. Great progress was made in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we now have several thousand manuscripts of the New Testament alone (the KJV translators had a mere handful). All these manuscripts have been carefully compared with one another and, through a process known as “textual criticism,” scholars have determined which are the more reliable texts and reconstructed as closely as possible what the biblical writers originally wrote.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. MT

    You might want to look up and check out that old PBS documentary “The Story of English” narrated by MacNeil of MacNeil-Lehrer. It had a great segment on the KJV and was all around fascinating. My spouse and I rented it from our public library.

  2. King James Bible For Use On

    King James Bible For Use On

    Because all the major Bible aides are based on the facts Why the King James? version) I normally use the RSV for liturgy and the KJV for mu…

  3. Kirk Slinkard

    Thanks for discussing this subject. It’s far more important than most people think. One example that sticks in my mind is something Jesus said in John 19:30. After he completed his work on the cross, he spoke a Common Greek word “tetelestai” (unsure of English spelling). If you translate that directly into English, you get: “it was finished in the past with the result that it stands finished forever”. 14 English words to convey the meaning of one Common Greek word. What do the translations say – “It is finished”. The part about it being permanent was completely removed, and what remains was changed from past tense to present tense. This is very typical of how the translations were done. And the Hebrew was not handled any better. There is NO translation currently available that is adequate for Bible study! Too bad for Protestants, but thank God we still have traditional Christian Churches teaching from the original languages.

  4. Tatiana A.

    Personally, I use the NWT (New World Translation) Bible. It has been credited by most unbiased scholars to be the most accurate. (I saw this on Jeporady, and later researched it myself)

  5. B Scott

    NWT??? The Jehova Witness Translation? It is as corrupt as the KJV.
    There are 2 translation that are as close as we can get to the original–Concordant Literal and Rotherhams

  6. Kirk Slinkard

    Thanks for telling us about those two translations. They both put the King James translations to shame. But thank God for modern pastors who are fully competent Biblical scholars and still teach only from the original languages. These two translations still have a lot of problems such as some words not even translated at all (transliterations), and some of the same old mistranslations. For an example they both put the first man in a “garden” rather then the park described in The Bible itself (which may well have contained several gardens), and they both still call it “Eden” as opposed to the actual English language translation “Pleasure-Delight”. And I was surprised to see that they both have anachronisms, they must have been translated a long time ago.

    So we still do not have any published English language translations good enough for Bible study.

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