King-James-Only movement

The "King James Only movement" advocates the superiority of the Authorized King James Version (KJV) of the Protestant Bible. Use of the term is itself disputed. For instance, KJV proponent D. A. Waite states the term is a "smear word."[1][2] However, theologian and apologist James R. White states that the phrases "KJV Only" and "KJV Onlyism" are not "insulting" or "inaccurate."[3]

Adherents of the movement hold the King James Version of the Bible to be superior to all other translations, with some teaching that it is the greatest English translation ever penned, needing no further enhancements.[4] Previous to the completion of the King James version, a series of other English Bibles were created in succession gradually improving the quality of English translation. It is believed by many that this version of the Bible has more greatly influenced the positive direction of Christianity than any other English Bible ever created. Even today, the Authorized Version is still considered an outstanding translation of the Greek and Hebrew Bible texts into English.

Many Christians and Protestant church leaders will use no other translation of the English Bible for their individual studies and public preaching. The major reason for many moving away from this translation to other newer translations is the outdated readability of the 400-year-old English text contained in this version of the Bible.[5] Since languages naturally evolve, English being no exception, over time, older translations become more difficult to understand as the current day speech of that language progressively evolves and becomes more different from the older, written text. Opponents of the King James Only movement propose that it is this natural evolution of language which demands that eventually a Bible translation will need to be replaced by a newer version.


James White has divided the King James Only movement into five main classifications:[6]

  • "I Like the KJV Best" – Although White lists this point of view as an aspect of the KJVO group, this is disputed by others. This group simply regards the KJV as a very good translation and prefers it over other translations because the church they attend uses it, has always used it or prefers its style.
  • "The Textual Argument" – This group believes that the KJV's Hebrew and Greek textual bases are more accurate than the alternate texts used by newer translations. Many in this group might accept a modern version based on the same manuscripts as the KJV. White claims Zane C. Hodges is a member of this group.[7] However, Hodges considers that the Majority Text "corrects" the Received Text as seen, for example, in the Majority Text textual apparatus of the New King James Version. The Trinitarian Bible Society fits in this division, but "the Trinitarian Bible Society does not believe the Authorized Version (KJV) to be a perfect translation, only that it is the best available translation in the English language,"[8] and "the Society believes this text is superior to the texts used by the United Bible Societies and other Bible publishers, which texts have as their basis a relatively few seriously defective manuscripts from the 4th century and which have been compiled using 20th century rationalistic principles of scholarship."[9]
  • "Received Text Only" – Here, the traditional Hebrew and Greek texts are believed to be supernaturally (or providentially) preserved. The KJV is believed to be an exemplary translation, but it is also believed that other translations based on these texts have the potential to be of equal quality.
  • "The Inspired KJV Group" – This faction believes that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They view the translation to be preserved by God and as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Sometimes this group will even exclude other language versions based on the same manuscripts, claiming that the KJV is the only English Bible sanctioned by God.
  • "The KJV As New Revelation" – This group claims that the KJV is a "new revelation" or "advanced revelation" from God, and it should be the standard from which all other translations originate. Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original-languages, Hebrew and Greek, can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called "Ruckmanism" after Peter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view.

These latter two views have also been referred to as "double inspiration".[10]

These classifications are not mutually exclusive nor are they a comprehensive summary describing those who prefer the KJV. Douglas Wilson, for instance, argues that the KJV (or, in his preferred terminology, the Authorized Version) is superior because of its manuscript tradition, its translational philosophy (with updates to the language being regularly necessary), and its ecclesiastical authority, having been created by the church and authorized for use in the church.[11] The KJV's wide availability, popularity and public domain status also come into play on top of or apart from any theological preference.

The debate also extends to a deeper level in regards to editions of the King James Bible, especially in the idea that there should be a standard or exemplary edition.[12]


The history of the King James Version Only (hereafter KJVO) movement can best be described by a genealogical outline of writers whose books have not only given birth to the movement but also influenced their doctrines. Dr. James D. Price's book, published in 2006, gives the same information in a summary.[13]

Jasper James Ray (1894–1985), a business manager, missionary and Bible teacher, wrote a booklet entitled God Wrote Only One Bible (1955). It was nearly identical to Wilkinson's Our Authorized Bible Vindicated book without note or acknowledgement to Wilkinson's authorship.[16] The result was a continued propagation of Wilkinson's statements but with the misconception of a separate, corroborating affirmation of Wilkinson's ideas.[17]

Regular Baptist pastor David Otis Fuller (1903–1988) edited a book entitled Which Bible? published in 1970. It is an anthology by authors such as Robert Dick Wilson (1856–1930), Zane Clark Hodges (1932–2008) and others, who distinctly reject the "Textus Receptus only" / "KJV-Only" viewpoint and whose writings actually give some information refuting some of the extremes of the KJVO movement.[18] This book, however, is singularly responsible for [the birth of] the "King James only" / "Textus Receptus only" controversial viewpoint that gained wide acceptance among KJV-Only believers.[19] Almost half of the book is dedicated to the ten out of sixteen chapters from Wilkinson's Our Authorized Bible Vindicated.[20]

Peter Sturges Ruckman (1921–present), a Baptist preacher, wrote many books: a series of uniformly bound books that are claimed to be commentaries on various Bible books, topical books on Bible-related subjects and books related to Bible text and translation issues. At least some of his books are characterized by harsh criticism of almost everyone involved in textual criticism, such as Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921), Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863–1934), Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892) with the likes of Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) and Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969). The Christian's Handbook of Manuscript Evidence (1970) is among them. Ruckman was influenced by J. J. Ray's God Wrote Only One Bible, and Ruckman's The Bible Babel (1964) is nearly identical to Ray's 1955 book.[21] Some supporters of the KJVO movement reject Ruckman's position that the King James Version Bible is superior to existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts,[22] and they also criticize Ruckman because "his writings are so acerbic, offensive and mean-spirited that the entire movement has become identified with his kind of confrontational attitude."[23]

Edward F. Hills (1912–1981), who wrote Believing Bible Study (1967) and King James Version Defended (1956, 1973) and wrote a chapter on Dean John William Burgon in Fuller's Which Bible?, did not advocate the inerrancy of the King James Version nor the Origenian origin of the Septuagint. However, Hills’ works are commonly cited to give support to the KJVO's position even though Hills never supported such KJVO positions.[24]

Gail Riplinger (1947–present), especially known for her book New Age Bible Versions, and a number of other works, has also addressed in some detail the issue of differences in current editions of the King James Bible.[25]

See also

Christianity portal


Further reading

External links

Pro King James Only

  • The Bible For Today
  • Way of Life Literature
  • AV Publications
  • Bible Believers
  • King James Bible Society
  • Bible Inspection Checklist with downloadable Authorized Version
  • A Wiki style site promoting the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible

Anti King James Only

  • Confessions of a King James Only Advocate
  • Missing Verses? What Missing Verses?
  • King James Only Movement
  • The King James Only Resource Center
  • The KJV-Only Issue
  • The KJV Only Debate Blog
  • Ruckmanism
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