The KJV: Is it THE Bible? Part 8: Textual Errors and Inconsistencies?
In our last post we saw that there have been multiple versions of the KJV over time. Now let us look at textual errors that have come about, and still persist in the KJV.
Despite what common King James enthusiasts argue, the King James contains a number of mistranslations and errors. “Printing errors plagued all of the early editions”, says Lewis (1). This is important to note, because many extreme KJV-only advocates suppose that because the KJV is special, it contains no errors, or that because it contains no errors, it is special. They never really explain this circular reasoning. A lot of the differences can be identified by looking these passages up in an online source like Biblesuite. These mishaps can be a stumbling block if we read under the impression that the KJV is a textually flawless delivery of God’s word unmatched by any other version. Here are some examples of these errors in the KJV, (some of which may or may not be correct in the edition you have on your shelf) that cast serious doubt on this “perfect translation” myth:
KJV adds the word “not“, saying, “he considered not his own body now dead when he was a hundred years old”.
Better manuscripts say that Abraham did consider his body as good as dead, as do modern translations.
1 John 4:19
KJV adds the word “him“, saying, “we loved him because he first loved us.”
Better manuscripts say “we love because he first loved us”.
The meaning difference is significant. The passage is about more than reciprocal love, but love shared and spread from the Holy source.
In the KJV “God” is actually missing from the first part of the verse: “All things work together.”
Better manuscripts (as well as the NASB and NIV) say “God causes all things to work together” or some variant of that.
Did a whale swallow Jonah?
Many people assume a whale is what swallowed Jonah as Jesus relates in Matt. 12:40. The word modern translations render more accurately is “great fish“. (For all we know, it was a sea creature now extinct.)
Was the body of Jesus broken?
In the KJV 1 Cor. 11:24 adds “broken“, making Jesus say, “this is my body, which is broken for you”
Better manuscripts (and most other translations) just have “this is my body, which is for you”.
This is important because John 19:36 tells us the bones of Christ were not broken, and contradiction creates confusion and doubt.
Did They Stop Prophesying or Prophecy Forever?
In the KJV Num. 11:25 tells us that the seventy elders prophesied and “did not cease“.
Better manuscripts (and modern translations) tell us that when the spirit rested on the elders “they prophesied, but did not do it again“, which is the opposite meaning.
Why can’t Mary touch Jesus?
In John 20:17 of the KJV Jesus tells Mary “touch me not“, which would be odd, considering he previously didn’t have a problem with women touching him.
In modern translations Jesus says, “do not keep clinging to me,” as he needed to leave the garden to do his Father’s business.
Tithing what I possess?
In Luke 18:12 of the KJV the Pharisee says, “I give tithes of all I possess”.
Every other translation makes the proper distinction, “I give tithes of all I get”.
The distinction is important, Lewis points out, “the tithing law applies to increase only, and not to capital holdings” (2).
Servant or slave?
In many places the KJV has “servant” where “slave” ought to be, the Greek word doulos specifically meaning slave.
Covenant or Testament?
In several passages the KJV does not help us distinguish between what a covenant is and what a testament is, even though those are different concepts and a good understanding of them is important.
What is a deacon?
The Greek word diakonos occurs 30 times in the scriptures, yet the KJV translates it “deacon” only some of the time. The only rationale you can find is that it is translated “deacon” only when it’s obvious we’re talking about church organization (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3).
Baptism—the sloppy transliteration of a key word
The King James Version shares with many other versions the transliteration of the Greek word for washing, baptizmos, to a new English word, “baptism.”
This is called transliteration, when instead of translating a word, we simply respell it in our own language. That is, we literally translate only the sound of the word, not into a word with the closest meaning. We do this with names in the Bible, because we would find it awkward and confusing to read a text in English calling people names like “God looks out for his people” and “God among us” over and over again. Or if we look at American Indian names, Pocahontas is tranliterated (it means “girl who likes to frolic”), and Sitting Bull is translated (the Lakota name is Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake).
Now, when we’re working with any other word, and there is a word, like “tree” or “run”, we’re supposed to actually translate to a word or phrase that conveys the best rendering in our language. But the KJV translators did not do this with the Greek word meaning “to immerse” or “be immersed”. Instead, they left it transliterated as “baptize”, an English version of the sound of the word, not the meaning. Many controversies surrounding the form of this “baptism” act have arisen because this translation among others does not give a plain English description of the act of immersion.
A new word was invented by the translators where there never should have been. The concept of washing oneself with water was not unique to Christianity, so there was no need for a term to be invented. The first century consistently immersed believers in water, which symbolically conformed to the burial and resurrection of Jesus, and thus, his followers in spirit. A word which in Greek typically meant “washing” fits more than an “invented” word that has now come to have several meanings in different sects and denominations.
For the Love of Money—One missing word makes a big difference
The King James rendering of I Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The correct rendering is given the NASB as well as the NIV, which say “the love of money is a root of all kinds of/sorts of evil.” Some sins are not motivated by monetary gain. Many people get this wrong. It’s an important distinction. We need to be aware of sins that are not tied directly to monetary gain. All sins are connected to selfishness, and most selfishness involves desiring things obtained through wealth. But not all.
(Incidentally, a lot of people also phrase the passage “money is the root of all evil,” which is impossible in Christianity, because that would make trade evil in the eyes of God, which would make carpentry evil, which would make the Christ a sinner. Money is problematic in Christianity, but it certainly is not evil. It is a representation of the value of property and labor, and if measured wisely and justly, is not evil at all.)
Slew and Hanged—What happened on the tree?
In the King James, Acts 5:30 records Peter telling the Jews that Jesus was the one they “slew and hanged on a tree.” This ambiguous language implies that Jesus was murdered and then crucified thereafter. Criticism of this error may be too harsh, however, since any reading of the gospel accounts tells of Jesus’ death after his crucifixion, and any basic understanding of Roman culture involves an understanding that crucifixion involved the victim dying after they were hung. Still, it’s a sloppy copy.
I Heard a Voice—No I Didn’t
Acts 9:7 and 22:9 contradict each other in the King James Version. The first verse states that the men with Paul heard a voice, but the latter says rather that they heard no voice. A correct translation, which is given in the NASB, states in the first verse that the men heard the voice, and in the latter that they did not understand it. Those who claim the King James to be textually inerrant have an issue with this clear contradiction in that translation.
Give a simple amount?
The KJV rendering of Rom. 12:8 is embarrassingly off:
“He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.”
Modern translations render more accurately, “with liberality” or “with generosity.”
Should we offend everybody all the time?
“We all stumble in many ways” read most modern translations of James 3:2.
KJV informs us of something unusual: “For in many things we offend all.” Given this line, we should apparently work hard to offend everybody in various ways all the time.
Jesus and Judas—Both Begin with J
Edward Hills (3) has pointed out that the original King James version also mistook the name Jesus for Judas in Matthew 26:36. Although this mistake has been corrected long ago, and the KJV copy you have doesn’t contain it, how could such an oversight be especially guided by the providence of God if such providence excludes other translations because they have error? This and the above examples beg us to question the claim of the King James Version’s alleged superiority.
Do modern versions have errors such as these? They most certainly do. So do all translations. The purpose of this demonstration is to reveal that the KJV is not the one exception to this rule, and therefore cannot be said to be so textually perfect that it should be the sole version we use. In fact, this makes other versions important for the sake of comparison when we do use a KJV, something the creators of the KJV themselves believed.
In our next post we will examine words and phrases that may have been translated with bias and have the potential for not just creating confusion, but for promoting false doctrine.
1 Lewis, Jack P (1992). The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation. 2nd Ed. Baker Book House. p.30.
2 Ibid. p.46.
3 Hills, Edward F. (1979). The King James Defended (Space Age Edition). The Christian Research Press.