In the Dec 27, 2019, issue of Sword of the Lord, Dr. Shelton Smith says that the King James Version is inspired and inerrant. The title of his article is “Can You Tell Me about the King James Bible?” Under a heading entitled, “Is the King James Bible Inspired, Inerrant, and Infallible?” he answers, “Yes! Yes! And yes!” (p. 11). He then cites 2 Tim 3:16 to prove that the KJV is “therefore inspired, inerrant and infallible.”
I agree with much of what Smith says in this article. The so-called Critical Text (CT) did indeed result in most English translations today diverting from the Greek text of the NT found in the majority of manuscripts (hence the name of the view that I hold is called the Majority Text [MT] position). Smith is right that CT translations (like the NIV, NASB, NET, and HCSB) leave out some portions of Scripture (e.g., Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53–8:11, the woman caught in adultery).
I also agree with two underlying assumptions that Smith makes, but which he does state. First, he assumes that the Lord providentially protected the copying of the Greek manuscripts so that the majority of manuscripts accurately reflect the reading of the autographa, the original books of the NT, which we no longer have. I agree, though the resulting manuscripts are not all identical. We must compare the manuscripts in the MT in order to determine what the correct readings are.
Second, Smith assumes that the Lord providentially guided the KJV translators so that the resulting translation was accurate. I agree that God did see to it that the translation is accurate. But Smith goes way beyond claiming that the KJV is an accurate translation. He wrongly claims that there are no errors in it (e.g., the Johannine comma in 1 John 5:7-8 is not found in the MT, but it is found in the KJV; on every page in the NT there are several readings where the KJV/NKJV does not reflect the MT—this is especially true in the book of Revelation where the text of the TR was way off the MT). But the idea that the KJV is perfect and that we can correct the Greek manuscripts of the NT based on what the KJV says is going beyond Scripture and reason. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says nothing about translations.
If Smith’s understanding of 2 Tim 3:16-17 were true, then all translations of the Bible into every language would be inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Why would only the KJV be inspired? The KJV is not mentioned in 2 Tim 3:16-17.
Smith does not explain why it is unacceptable to update the wording in the KJV. I assume that he would say that the only way to get the Bible accurately translated into another language would be to translate the KJV. He surely would not recommend translating the MT, since in his view that is not inspired, but the KJV is.
Well, if the KJV is to be translated into German, Spanish, French and every other language, would it not be appropriate to translate it into modern English? If not, why not? Wouldn’t God oversee the translation work of Dr. Smith and his colleagues if they translated the KJV into modern English?
The other problem with Smith’s view is that the current KJV is not the KJV of 1611. The KJV had multiple revisions, that is changes. There were the Cambridge revisions of 1629 and 1638, the planned revision of 1653-57, the Cambridge revision of 1762, and the Oxford revision of 1769. The KJV in use today is the 1769 version. That requires a modification in Smith’s view. He has to say that the original translation had errors in it, but over the course of 150 years the Lord saw to it that all the errors were removed.
I have a 1611 edition of the KJV. I’ve compared it with the modern KJV. Here are some examples of the errors in the 1611 which were corrected by 1769:
- Ruth 3:15 reads “he went,” whereas the modern KJV reads, “she went.” Since Ruth 3:15 refers to Ruth, “he went” is an error, later corrected.
- Genesis 2:21 reads “in stead” in 1611 and “instead” in the modern KJV.
- 1 Corinthians 13:2 reads “have no charitie” in 1611 and “have not charity” in the modern KJV.
- Nahum 3:16 read “flieth away” in 1611 and “fleeth away” in the modern KJV.
Smith does not discuss the fact that the 1611 KJV contained the Apocrypha, books not found in the modern KJV. My 1611 KJV contains I Esdras, II Esdras, Tobit, Judeth, The rest of Esther, Wisedome, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, The song of the three children, The story of Susanna, The idole Bel and the Dragon, The prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees. Are those books inspired, inerrant, and infallible too? If not, why were they included in the 1611 KJV?
I use the NKJV, the New King James Version, in my writing and speaking. I do so because I believe it is the best major English translation. However, I never say that the NKJV is inspired or inerrant. The original manuscripts were inspired, inerrant, and infallible.
In fact, my NKJV has footnotes on every page which indicate when the CT or the MT have a reading different from the NKJV. On every page there are examples in which the NKJV reading is not the same as the MT. The reason this happened is because Dr. Art Farstad and his team of translators were not allowed to change the text of the KJV. They were merely to translate it into modern English. (I have four translations of the MT into English. If any of those were widely used in America today, I would use it in my writing and speaking.)
I’m glad that some Sword of the Lord writers are Free Grace and that many of its readers are as well. I’m glad that Curtis Hutson, a strong Free Grace proponent (see Salvation Crystal Clear) was its editor from 1980 to 1995. I have no problem with people using the KJV today. But I believe they should avoid claiming that the KJV is inspired, inerrant, and infallible.