Lesson 8: The Principles of Biblical Interpretation | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 8: The Principles of Biblical Interpretation

In Lesson Seven, we learned that the Bible has both divine and human authorship. Although God is the source of Scripture, he used men to write it. In order to communicate His message to mankind, God has providentially overseen the production, compilation, and preservation of the Bible. The successful communication of any message, whether from God or man, requires correct interpretation . Interpretation is the process which allows one to understand the author’s intended meaning .

[The intended meaning is also known as “authorial intent,” that is, the message the original author intended his audience to receive. The primary task of the interpreter is to get back to this intended meaning and build his interpretation from there. Doing this is important because a text cannot mean what it never meant. That is, one should not try to get from a text something that the author never intended to be there.]

We usually do not think about the principles of interpretation because we use them naturally. We automatically understand the author’s intended meaning because we are familiar with the author’s language, customs, and circumstances. The Bible, however, was written thousands of years ago by men living in cultures much different from ours. Therefore, we must strive to consciously apply the various principles of interpretation that we unconsciously use every day.

[The rules or principles of interpretation is called hermeneutics. ]

The proper method of interpretation is called literal or normal interpretation. The consistent application of the principles of normal interpretation will yield consistent interpretations. [The normal/literal/literary approach can successfully handle every type of biblical literature. We need not switch interpretive methods when we switch to a different literary form.] Varying interpretations of the Bible’s message exist because not all interpreters “play by the same rules .” This lesson will explain the biblical principles of interpretation based on the following facts:

1. All communication has a historical context.

2. All communication has a literary context.

3. All communication has a grammatical context.

I. All Communication Has a Historical Context.

Each book of the Bible was written at a particular time in a particular place for a particular purpose. These and similar factors make up a book’s historical context.

A. Interpret every biblical text in light of its purpose .

Every author has a purpose for writing that which he writes. His audience, his theme, and his tone are some of the factors which reflect his purpose. Therefore, in order to understand a text’s meaning, one should determine the author’s purpose.

[Audience = who written to; theme = what it’s about; tone = the character of the text. Differences in authorial intent would explain some of the difference found in the Gospel accounts, for example.]

1. The purpose for a book may be stated .

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.   1 John 5:13 [See also John 20:31]

2. The purpose for a book may be implied . [I.e., there are hints. ]

a. The purpose may be implied by statements within the book.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.   Galatians 1:6 (See also 3:1 and 6:12.)

It is apparent from these and other statements within the book that Galatians was written to attack false teaching that threatened to win over the Galatian believers.

b. The purpose may be implied by what one knows about the author and recipient(s) of the book.

For example, Paul wrote two letters to Timothy. In the first, he explicitly stated his purpose:

I am writing you these instructions so that . . . you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household.   1 Timothy 3:14

Although Paul did not state his purpose in the second letter, one can easily recognize such by noting the relationship between Paul and Timothy seen in 1 Timothy (See also Acts 16:1 5.). In light of Paul’s “mentor” relationship with Timothy, the purpose for his second letter becomes clear: to prepare Timothy to assume greater leadership responsibilities as Paul’s ministry comes to an end (2 Timothy 2:1 7 and 4:1 8).

Note: This point assumes that one can determine the author and/or recipients. Often, these are stated in the text. In cases where they are not, a good study Bible and/or commentary will be helpful. Recommendations for these and other resources will be included in Lesson Nine.

B. Interpret every biblical text in light of its chronology . [I.e., time frame ]

As stated in Lesson Seven, God did not produce the Bible all at once . Rather, the Bible was composed over a period of 1,600 years. Furthermore, the last book of the Bible was written almost 1,900 years ago! Therefore, in order to recognize the author’s intended meaning, one must place a given book within the time period in which it was written. One can often determine this by statements made within the book regarding events and/or people about which dates are known. Again, a good study Bible or commentary is helpful.

[For example, when Luke tells the story about Jesus’ birth, he gives the date by saying who was governor, who was Caesar, etc. By finding the dates of these well-known people or events, we can accurately date the account. This is especially important for dating OT events.]

C. Interpret every biblical text in light of its geography .

Most of us live thousands of miles from the locations where Bible events took place. Therefore, we should become familiar with the Bible’s geography. It is also valuable to learn about the terrain of Bible lands. Bible atlases are valuable resources for this type of information.

D. Interpret every biblical text in light of its culture .

Modern thought and behavior are different from that of Bible times. Furthermore, there are cultural differences between groups of people mentioned in Scripture. For example, the Roman culture of Paul’s day was totally different from the Hebrew culture of Moses’s day. Thus, it is important to understand the culture behind a text.

[For example, several NT passages deal with whether or not it’s OK to eat meat offered to idols. This practice was a cultural issue that the early Christians had to deal with. We don’t. So we’ve got to determine whether or not something is specifically addressed to the cultural setting of the first century, or if the principle is timeless. This is often clear, but sometimes quite difficult. A book on manners and customs of Bible times and lands is helpful in this regard. ]

II. All Communication Has a Literary Context.

In addition to the historical setting, interpretation is influenced by literary factors. The Bible uses various literary forms and figures of speech which the interpreter must take into account in order to correctly interpret a text.

A. Interpret every biblical text in light of its literary form .

The Bible contains various forms of literature, such as poetry , narratives , proverbs , parables , and letters . Each of these must be interpreted accordingly. For example, narrative passages describe the actions of others, while the epistles often prescribe actions for others. Thus, Acts 1:12 14 (narrative) describes the fact that the disciples went to Jerusalem. However, it does not tell others to do so. On the other hand, Paul’s letter to the Romans (epistolary) [an epistle is a letter] prescribes actions for us:

[O]ffer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.   Romans 12:1

[Understanding the literary form of a text is very important because you interpret different forms in different ways. You can’t handle every part of the Bible the same way. I.e., you don’t interpret a poem (like the Psalms) in the same way as you do historical narrative (like Acts).]

B. Interpret every biblical text in light of its figures of speech .

Normal human communication often employs figures of speech such as metaphors . For example, one might say, “My mouth is on fire,” if he has just tasted something very hot. In John 10:7, Jesus said, “I am the gate.” Obviously, Jesus was using a metaphor to make a point. Just as one’s mouth is not actually in flames, Jesus is not actually a gate. Literal (or normal) interpretation takes into account those places where the Bible employs figures of speech.

[Jesus used figures of speech all the time. He said, “I am the door,” and “I am the good shepherd,” but he wasn’t really/literally a door or a shepherd. He was describing one thing in terms of something else. The literal/normal method of interpretation makes room for such figures of speech.]

III. All Communication Has a Grammatical Context.

The difference between the original language of a biblical book and the language of modern readers creates a further obstacle to interpretation. However, one can overcome this by applying the following rules of interpretation:

A. Interpret every biblical text in light of its original language .

As mentioned in Lesson Seven, the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek (and a small portion in Aramaic). Since most individuals do not know these languages, one should consult a good translation which converts the original languages into one’s own language.

[To some extent, if you don’t know Hebrew and Greek, you are at the mercy of the translation you use. That’s why it’s so important to get a translation that is accurate and understandable. It may also be beneficial to compare how two or three versions translate a troublesome text. Pastors and teachers spend a great deal of effort to learn Hebrew and Greek so that they can more accurately handle God’s Word.]

An important principle to keep in mind when interpreting the language of Scripture is that a word can only mean one thing in a given context. If this were not the case, communication would be impossible because any word could mean anything.

[For example, you take it for granted that when I say “dog” I mean the four-footed hairy animal that barks. If, when I say “dog” I really mean “fruit loops,” then we have a problem. Effective communication can happen only when the speakers/writers and listeners/readers agree on the general meaning of words. Words like “run” can have many meanings, but the context generally tells you what such words mean. That’s why understanding the context is so important.]

B. Interpret every biblical text in light of its larger grammatical units .

All communication is made up of sentences . Sentences, however, are only one part of a larger grammatical chain: words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. Thus, the interpretation of a given word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph is dependent on the other larger units of which it is a part.

[So it may be necessary to understand a previous verse or paragraph before you can reach the correct interpretation of the verse you are trying to figure out.]

C. Interpret each biblical book in the light of its overall biblical context.

Since the Bible as a whole has but one author, the largest logical unit for a biblical text is the entire Bible. Overall biblical context refers to both content and time . That is, an individual book of the Bible fits into the overall message of the Bible and was written at a specific time within God’s progressive unfolding of biblical revelation.

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. All communication has a historical context. Interpret a biblical text according to its purpose, time, place, and culture.

2. All communication has a literary context. Interpret a biblical text according to its literary form and figures of speech.

3. All communication has a grammatical context. Interpret a biblical text according to its original language and larger grammatical units.

Learning to Live It

You and your family have just moved to a new community and have begun the search for a new church. You are determined to find a Bible preaching church. One Sunday morning you visit a church whose pastor is an interesting and dynamic speaker. On this particular morning he is speaking from Judges 16, the story of Samson. In his sermon, he states that Samson’s compromise and loss of spiritual power represents the sin that God’s people fall into today. Each lock of Samson’s hair that Delilah cut off represented a step of compromise. The first lock of hair was his sanctification, the second was his separation, and so on. By the time the sermon is finished, each of Samson’s seven locks is made a symbol for lost spiritual strength.

[This is what we call an allegorical interpretation. Details of the text have been assigned meanings that the text does not justify. ]

Evaluate this sermon by answering the following questions:

1. Is there any indication the author of Judges meant the locks to represent these steps when the text was written? no

2. What type of literature is this text? narrative

3. Therefore, was this passage written to prescribe action for us? no

4. Whose message did this sermon communicate? the pastor’s

5. Since the pastor is preaching his own message rather than God’s Word, what should you conclude about your search for a Bible preaching church? Your search is not over.

Lesson 7: The Bible: Human & Divine | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 7: The Bible: Human and Divine

In the previous lesson, we learned that God’s only means of special revelation today is the Bible.

[Review difference between special and general revelation.] The Bible is unique in that it was written over a long period of time by many people. Therefore, God has taken special care to guide man in the production, compilation, and maintenance of the Scriptures.

[Production: it’s inspiration/writing; compilation: it’s assembly/canonization; maintenance: it’s endurance/preservation ]

In this lesson, we will learn that:

1. The Bible is inspired .

2. The Bible is complete .

3. The Bible is preserved .

I. The Bible is Inspired.

The word “inspiration” is used to describe the process by which God gave the Bible to man. “God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message to mankind in the words of their original writings” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 71). This definition includes both the divine and human activity involved in the production of Scripture.

A. The divine aspect of inspiration

1. God is the source of all Scripture.

All Scripture is God breathed.   2 Timothy 3:16

The word “God-breathed” is a descriptive way of saying that God is the source of the Bible. Even though God Himself did not do the actual writing, the words, sentences, and thoughts of the Bible are those which God wanted written .

Theologians use the word “ plenary ” (meaning “full”) to indicate that the Bible as a whole is the Word of God. The Bible does not merely contain God’s Word; rather, the Bible is God’s Word.

[What’s the difference? If the Bible only contained God’s Word, it could possibly contain factual errors and parts that are not really God’s Word. Saying the Bible is God’s Word means that every part of it is exactly what God intended.]

2. The significance of the Bible’s divine authorship

a. The Bible is without error (inerrant).

God, who does not lie . . . .   Titus 1:2

Your word is truth.   John 17:17

[What about matters of history and science? It’s still true, although the Bible is not a science textbook.

Does inerrancy pass over to a specific version? No. Inerrancy properly pertains to the original autographs, the manuscripts that the biblical authors penned. No version or copy is truly inerrant, because there are very likely minor scribal errors, mistranslations, and the like. Does lack of inerrancy make our versions useless or corrupt? No. Several versions have a high degree of accuracy and are thus very reliable. But they are inerrant in a derivative sense–to the degree that they reflect the inerrant original, they are inerrant.]

Since God Himself is the source of the Scriptures, they are without error. Furthermore, since the entire Bible is inspired, the entire Bible is inerrant.

b. The Bible is authoritative (infallible).

The Scripture cannot be broken.   John 10:35

Although closely related, inerrancy and infallibility are not synonymous. Inerrancy emphasizes the Bible’s truthfulness , while infallibility emphasizes its

authority . Infallibility means that because the Bible is the Word of God, it is the final authority on all matters.

[Inerrancy and infallibility are pretty much synonymous. Infallibility stresses the idea that the Bible makes no false or misleading statements and is incapable of leading one astray. ]

c. The Bible is relevant .

[Relevant means meaningful, useful, practical. It speaks to us today. ]

All Scripture . . . is useful.   2 Timothy 3:16

Although God has revealed truth about Himself to specific people in specific places at specific times, the value of the Bible’s message is not restricted to any particular time or place.

d. The Bible is unified .

Because God Himself is the author of the Bible, it never contradicts itself. Passages that are difficult to grasp may be understood by comparing them with the clear teachings of other biblical texts. As a result, the Bible often interprets itself .

[You may hear the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This means that one part of the Bible explains another part. “The analogy of Scripture” is the same idea. Rule: always let the clear passage interpret or explain the unclear passage. Also, never base a doctrine on an unclear passage.

What about apparent contradictions? There are several places in which the Bible does apparently contradict itself. E.g., 1 Sam 17:51 vs. 2 Sam 21:19. Often times with study, the contradiction disappears. Or a scribal slip (especially with numbers) could be the reason. There are no real/valid contradictions, only apparent ones.]

B. The human aspect of inspiration

1. The Bible was written in human language .

The Bible was written in the languages commonly spoken by its writers and readers (the Old Testament primarily in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek). Therefore, one should interpret the Bible as he would interpret normal written communication.

[For some time scholars thought that the Greek of the NT was some special, heavenly Greek. But researchers found that the Greek of the NT is actually “koine” or common Greek. It was the language of the market, of the common person, not a special language at all.

Why do pastors, teachers, theologians, etc. want to study Greek and Hebrew? To achieve greater accuracy in understanding the text. We pay great attention to the language (grammar and syntax) of the Bible because through them we are able to better understand and interpret God’s Word.]

2. The Bible was influenced by the human authors’ backgrounds and personalities .

The Bible was composed over more than 1,600 years by over 40 different authors. Each author wrote from the context of his own vocation, circumstances, intellect, etc. Each of these elements influenced the final product.

God did not mechanically dictate the Scriptures to the human authors. Rather, He superintended or “carried along” the writers (2 Peter 1:21) without destroying their individual vocabularies, writing styles, etc. in such a way that the final product was exactly what He wanted.

God’s guidance of the human authors extended to the very words they wrote (1 Corinthians 2:13), not merely to their thoughts or ideas. Theologians refer to this as verbal inspiration.

[You may hear the expression “verbal, plenary inspiration.” This simply means that each and every word is fully inspired. Matt 5:18 indicates that the smallest details of the words of the text are preserved. ]

3. The Bible contains various writing styles .

Because the Bible ultimately has but one author, one might expect a consistent style of writing throughout. However, one finds many writing styles in Scripture. This is a further indicator of the human aspect of inspiration.

[The language and style of writing between authors sometimes differs widely. E.g., the styles/vocabularies of John and Paul differ widely.]

II. The Bible is Complete.

The word “ canonization ” refers to the process by which the individual books of the Bible came to be recognized as Scripture. The word “canon” literally means a “rule” or “standard.” In time, the word was commonly used to refer to the collection of inspired writings. The 66 books found in our Bibles were included in the canon because they met various rules or standards of canonicity set forth by the early church.

A. The Old Testament canon is complete.

1. God’s people collected the Old Testament books.

[Joshua] drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God.   Joshua 24:25 26

2. Christ confirmed the Old Testament books.

Jesus replied, “. . . this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.”   Luke 11:46 51

The arrangement of the 39 books of the Old Testament in Jesus’s day began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles. The deaths of Abel and Zechariah are recorded in Genesis and 2 Chronicles respectively. So, this was Jesus’s way of saying, “From the beginning to the end .” In this way, Jesus was confirming the boundaries of the Old Testament canon.

Christians have little difficulty recognizing which Old Testament books meet the standard for inclusion in the canon, seeing they have the words of Christ Himself   the standard.

B. The New Testament canon is complete.

1. Christ pre authenticated the New Testament books.

In Lesson Six, we learned that the apostles were uniquely chosen and commissioned by Christ to write the New Testament. As a result, their writings carried divine authority and, thus, were to be included in the canon.

2. God’s people recognized the New Testament books.

a. The apostles recognized their own writings as Scripture.

Paul recognized that his letters were inspired and expected his readers to recognize this as well.

If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.   1 Corinthians 14:37

“Scripture” is a technical term for those writings which believers recognized to be God’s Word. In the New Testament, it usually refers to the Old Testament (Luke 24:27 and 2 Timothy 3:15 16). However, Peter applies the term to Paul’s letters, showing that God’s people began to recognize the New Testament books as canonical shortly after their composition.

[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.   2 Peter 3:16

  1. The church recognized the apostles’ writings as Scripture.

The early church applied several “ tests ” to determine which books were Scripture. These tests did not determine a book’s authority; rather, they simply helped the church to recognize such.

1) The church recognized books which had apostolic authority.

To be considered Scripture, a book must have been composed by an apostle or under the direction of an apostle (For example, Luke wrote under the direction of Paul.).

2) The church recognized books which were commonly accepted as authentic.

Since apostolic authority was the primary criterion for authenticity, it was only natural that the very churches the apostles established would readily accept the authenticity of their writings.

3) The church recognized books which were orthodox .

A book had to teach doctrine which was consistent with that of the other books of the Bible in order to be considered canonical.

[“Orthodox” literally means “straight,” and it refers to doctrine that is accepted or approved or correct. Something unorthodox is unapproved, different, odd, and/or incorrect.

Note: the Scriptures were authoritative the moment they were written. They were not recognized right away, tho.

The Apocrypha is not part of the canon because it does not meet the criteria. By the way, the 1611 KJV included the Apocrypha.]

Note: The canon of Scripture has been closed for nearly 1,900 years. John, the last of the apostles, died at the end of the first century A. D. shortly after writing the book of Revelation, which closed the canon.

III. The Bible is Preserved.

Not only has God used men to produce and compile His Word, He has also used them to maintain it. Theologians call this process preservation . God has preserved His Word providentially , not miraculously .

[Why do we draw a distinction between miraculous and providential preservation? Because miraculous describes a special, supernatural intervention by God beyond the normal state of affairs. If miraculous preservation were the case, we would expect to find no problems or errors with any Bible copies or versions. Unfortunately, that is not the case. No version of the Scripture is miraculously free from error. The miracle was in the inspiration, not in the preservation. Providential preservation stresses the fact that God maintained His Word through normal, every-day processes. Such processes may have introduced a certain number of mistakes or differences into various copies, which is what we find. Had God preserved the originals, perhaps that could have been called miraculous.]

A. The Old Testament is preserved.

1. Christ confirmed the preservation of the Old Testament.

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished   Matthew 5:18

One should note that Jesus’s comments regarding the extraordinary preservation of the Old Testament Scriptures were made at a time when no original manuscripts of the Old Testament existed! Jesus’s confidence in God’s preservation of the Bible extended to the copies that had been passed on for centuries.

[It’s interesting to note that Jesus and the apostles most likely used the Septuagint (LXX), which is quite corrupt in several places. Yet they had confidence in it as the Word of God. Thus, even if a version is not totally accurate, it can be considered Scripture.]

2. The apostles confirmed the preservation of the Old Testament.

The New Testament writers frequently quoted from the Old Testament, thereby showing their confidence in its accurate preservation. For example, in one New Testament passage, Paul quotes from no less than eight Old Testament passages:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1 3; 53:1 3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Psalm 5:9). “The poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140:3). “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Psalm 10:7). “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know” (Isaiah 59:7 8). “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Psalm 36:1).   Romans 3:10 18

B. The New Testament is preserved.

There are approximately 5,000 extant (known to exist) Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Comparison of these manuscripts confirms the amazing degree to which God has providentially preserved His Word.

Note: It is important to distinguish between “inspiration” and “preservation.” Inspiration deals with the original writings of the Old and New Testaments. Preservation deals with copies . Technically, the copies are not inspired. Rather, they derive inspiration as they accurately reflect the content of the originals. Therefore, it is incorrect to equate inspiration with a particular version of the Bible.

[There is a whole debate concerning which Greek manuscripts (of the New Testament) ought to be used or which are the best. Our English versions are based on different Greek manuscripts. This is why we see differences in translations. The differences between the Greek manuscripts are many, but they are relatively minor. Most of the differences are in spelling, word choice, and word order. Only about 40 of the differences are of any major significance, and none of these change the overall teaching of the Bible. As far as versions go, we recommend or use only a few, such as the KJV, NKJV, NIV, or NASB. Later lessons will deal with this issue more fully.]

Learning to Live It

1. As you are scanning the dial on your radio, you come across a sermon. The preacher’s topic is the inspiration of the Bible. During the sermon, the preacher describes God’s activity upon the human writer by saying, “God said to Paul, ‘Take a letter.'” Does this preacher’s illustration accurately reflect how inspiration took place? Why or why not?

no; God did not dictate the words to the human authors.

Later in the sermon, the preacher makes it clear that he believes that the particular version from which he is preaching is the only “inspired” version. What is wrong with the preacher’s assertion?

Versions are not inspired; only the originals are. Versions are valid/good to the degree that they conform to the originals.

2. A friend of yours is not a believer but has shown interest in religious issues and likes to talk with you about them. After coming across a book that says there are several lost writings of the New Testament, he comes to you for answers. What would you tell him?

Since God has not seen fit to providentially preserve them, we can safely conclude that these writings are not canonical. Any “lost” writings are not part of the canon.

3. The same friend says the same book claims that the writings we do have are not accurate because our translations are so far removed from the original writings. What do you tell him now?

How does the author know this–Has he seen the originals? Our copies are not distant from the originals, especially in the NT. Only a few years passed between the making of the originals and the oldest extant copies. Furthermore, textual criticism has shown that our translations are reliable and accurately reflect the originals to a remarkable degree. The quality and care of the copying process, plus the number of available manuscripts, yields a product that very closely reflects the originals, even if many years have passed between the original composition and the oldest extant copies. E.g., little difference exists between a copy of Isaiah from 9th century AD and one from 1st century BC found in Dead Sea caves.

Is the 1611 KJV Bible God’s Only Inspired Word?

Is the 1611 King James Bible God’s Only Inspired Word?

In the early 1970s, a movement swept across the country. This is called the King James Only movement. Though not a new idea, a man by the name of Peter Ruckman began to aggressively teach that the 1611 King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the only inspired Bible. They commonly refer to every new version as “perversions.”

Just go to YouTube and search “KJV Only.” With few exceptions, you will notice from the profile of the video authors, this movement has basically affected only a generation of believers. Most of the creators are 40 and older. While most conservative Bible colleges and universities still use the KJV as their primary text, they are, for the most part, no longer King James Only.

What does the KJV Only crowd teach? Why do they make the claim that the KJV Bible is the only Bible people should use? They believe that the KJV Bible is God’s perfectly preserved Word and is based on the best Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to have ever existed. This article examines that position.

Is it correct that the KJV Bible contains no errors?

At least one person thinks so. “The King James Bible, AV 1611 is the preserved words of God. It has no errors, that means the text is perfect.” (Lawrence Bronsing, Peter Ruckman)

Already, the KJV has undergone many revisions. The KJV that most people have today is not the 1611, but a revised version that dates back to the 1800’s. The earliest known revision was made in 1612, one year after the original was printed. This was necessary because typographical errors were made.

Was it a surprise to those who translated the KJV that mistakes would be made? No. According to the preface in the 1611 Bible, the translators knew this was a possibility. “If anything be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the originall, the same may be corrected, and the trueth set in place.” “…some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting foorth of it.”1

Unlike the translators in 1611, the original authors of the Bible (Moses, Paul, John and many others) knew full well that what they were writing was guided by the hand of God. When they composed, they knew their work was Scripture. That is not true of the 1611 translators. While they performed a great task, they knew their humanity would pass errors along. Since the original translators of the 1611 KJV knew their work was open to scrutiny and there may be “some imperfections and blemishes,” why do we have a movement of people today that think otherwise? Simply, they have a distorted (or in many cases puerile) understanding of inspiration and preservation.

Is it true that the KJV Bible is based on superior Greek and Hebrew manuscripts?

James Jaspers Ray states that the Greek text behind the KJV (Textus Receptus {TR}) is made of the original Greek manuscripts that Paul the Apostle and others wrote. He says, “Any version of the Bible, that does not agree with the Greek Textus Receptus, from which the King James Bible was translated in 1611, is certainly to be founded upon corrupted manuscripts.”2 Is the TR really based on the best manuscripts?

A man named Erasmus gathered several manuscripts of the New Testament. Of all the manuscripts he had, not one of them contained the last six verses of Revelation. He translated those verses from the Latin Vulgate, not the Greek.

When Erasmus translated 1 John 5:7-8, several men charged him that he left out the phrase “…the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth…” He simply replied that no Greek manuscript was available to support the reading. A few days later a manuscript appeared. Was this “made to order?” Erasmus thought so, and included the phrase only as a marginal note. 3 Though Erasmus was diligent in compiling a Greek translation, he did so with the best resources available to him. Today, the resources are greater and more reliable, thus providing the basis for more reliable versions.

What does the Bible teach about translating, inspiration, and preservation?

So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. (Nehemiah 8:8,12)

The Israel exiles returned to Jerusalem. During their 70 year captivity, their language changed. When Ezra (and the scribes) read from the book of the Law, it was necessary for Ezra to explain what was being read. The book of the Law was in Hebrew, however the people who returned to exile no longer understood everything in the older Hebrew. What was the response of the people? Was it, “You can’t do that to God’s Word!”? No, the people were able to understand God’s Word because it was updated to the language of their day. The response of the people was a repentant attitude from sin and obedience to God’s Word. The people understood the message, then they became changed individuals!

One comment that is made to support the sole use of the KJV is “The people through prayer and Holy Spirit illumination will understand the KJV!” If that is true, then why don’t people read the language of the originals–Greek and Hebrew? It is necessary to know the meaning, then the Holy Spirit has a tool by which to cause the Christian to understand how the Scriptures apply to their lives.

All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)

Paul the Apostle wrote this verse 1500 years before the KJV was translated. The originals were “God-breathed.” Therefore, if a modern version is an accurate reflection of the original document, there is a sense in which the translation is inspired.

What about preservation? Doesn’t God promise in His Word that “not one jot or tittle shall pass away?” (Matthew 5:18) Yes, and that is true, not one has passed away! We have God’s Word. However, God did not promise that one manuscript or version would be preserved in this fashion. With the thousands of manuscripts and fragments in our possession today, God has given us His Word. We should take heed to God’s Word when He says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“Practical KJV Only” Position

Many churches, colleges, and other institutions are declaring positions that the KJV is the only Bible to be used. While these same pastors and teachers may reject the KJV Only position, they are actually teaching by practice that the KJV is the Only Bible to use. This is problematic for at least a few reasons.

  1. If one demands that the KJV is the only translation to be used, then what real difference is there between this position and the KJV Only position?
  2. Instead of responding biblically to those who are KJV Only, this position concedes to them and allows them the freedom to propagate error.
  3. Conformity becomes the rule rather than unity to truth. Many good translations are available, why not teach the next generation about other reliable translations?


The translators of the KJV knew that the KJV itself would not be readily accepted. The Geneva Bible was the most widely circulated Bible in their day.6 The preface to the 1611 KJV says, “Many mens mouths have bene open a good while and yet are not stopped with speeches about the Translation so long in hand, or rather persuals of Translations made before…”

The purpose of this article is not to destroy one’s faith, but rather show that some modern translations are also reliable. The many books and pamphlets that are circulated today promoting the “KJV Only” position are actually destroying people’s faith. It is a divisive issue over which many Christians are confused. The KJV Only position is a heresy that must be combated. The proponents of this position are misleading sincere Christians by using poor logic, misguided facts and contentious language.4

For further study on this topic see:

James White, The King James Only Controversy

Donald Carson, The King James Version Debate

Jack Lewis, The English Bible from KJV to NIV

Bruce Metzger, The Test of the New Testament

  1. All words in these quotes are retained with their original spellings.
  2. J.J. Ray, “The New Eye Opener”, (Eugene, OR: The Eye Opener Publishers), p. 3.
  3. Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, (New York: Oxford University, 1968), p. 101.
  4. Some examples of this are found in the writings by Peter Ruckman. Note the recent publication called New Age Versions by Gail Riplinger. The presupposition of the book tries to link any translation, except the KJV, with the New Age phenomenon. The author of this book fails to recognize that most modern versions were made before the New Age Movement existed.