I have been trying to study the translations of the Bible, specifically the King James Version (KJV). I have been asked to give an answer to the question, “How do we know the King James version doesn’t leave things out of the Bible?”  Also, the Geneva Bible translation came before the King James version. The Geneva Bible was not liked by King James because it was a Calvinist translation. Here is my question: Was the King James version translated from the original bible? I grew up learning that KJV is the most accurate, but I realized I didn’t know how to defend it. My ultimate questions are: How do we know nothing was left out through the translation? Is the King James the most reliable translation? What language was it translated from? How can I defend the conclusion that the KJV is reliable?


There is a segment of the community of Christians which, even to this day, teach that the King James Version is the best available translation.  They almost think of this translation as if it were itself inspired.  I hope you will not be offended if I tell you that this position is not tenable at all.  This belief is based on emotion or tradition, but not on evidence.  I have nothing against the King James version.  It was perhaps the best translation of the New and Old Testaments available in English in 1609.  What I can say with 100% confidence is that it is not the best translation available today!!!  Whoever told you it was the most accurate translation was either pulling the wool over your eyes, or was deceived him/herself concerning the facts.  This not the case.  Please do not spend a lot of your energy defending the KJV.

Here are a couple of reasons.  First of all, the answer to your main question is this.  Yes, the King James translation was made from the “original Bible.”  What I mean is that it was a translation from the available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts at that time.  It was a reasonably faithful translation from the original languages into English.  It was scholarly, careful and done by a reputable committee, not by a single person.  It was probably an improvement on the Tyndale, the Coverdale or the Geneva Bibles of the sixteenth century.  But here is why the translation is limited in its quality.  When the translation was made, it used a Greek text based on fewer than a dozen Greek manuscripts, none of which were more ancient that 1000 AD.  The manuscripts used were of relatively poor quality compared to the most ancient manuscripts.  The translation was made from what is known as the Byzantine text, which was put together in Greek about 1000 AD.  This is not a bad text, but it is not nearly as good as the current manuscripts we have.  We have Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Sinaiticus.  These are entire Greek texts from the fourth century.  We now have literally thousands of Greek manuscripts to work from in order to produce an fantastically reliable Greek text.  The translators of the KJV did not have such awesome information.  We also have the benefit of more than 200 years of detailed study of the Greek language from New Testament times.  Similar statements can be made about the Hebrew text used to make the KJV.  The oldest Hebrew manuscripts available in 1609 were from the second millennium AD.  We now have the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as truly ancient copies of the Septuagint Greek translation.  We have far better information to use to create the best possible translation–info that was not available to the group which created the KJV.

I have nothing in particular against the KJV, but it definitely is not the best translation out there–not even close.  Why anyone even uses this ancient translation, with its Elizabethan English and obscure use of old English words is beyond me.  I strongly urge you to begin using a more modern translation.  There are many excellent ones available.  Let me suggest the Holman Christian Standard, the Revised Standard, the New American Standard, the New International Version. Today’s English Version or any of several more.  You may want to put your KJV away.

John Oakes

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