KJV Only, rebuffed

I know this topic has been covered but I couldn’t find anything all that recent. For anyone who must debate with friends or family who insist that the KJV is the only truly inspired text I believe the link below will be of immense help.

We Catholics have our own version with Douay Rheims onlyists. Both get rather annoying. If it is your preference, that’s cool, but the truth is NO translation is perfect. (And yes, I know KJV onlyists, I live in the deep south in the US).


What I find funny about KJV-onlyists is that they so exalt the KJV while rejecting all episcopal governance, given that the KJV was edited to favour the episcopal polity against Puritan objections.


Me too, there are two KJV-only Baptist churches near my home. I am a “Douay-Rheims ‘prefer-ist’”, if I had to make up a word, but I by no means shun some more modern translations. I am entirely fine with the RSV and the New English Bible — don’t like the NAB at all. Actually, my preferred translation would be St Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, but my Latin is very spotty and I can’t just open up a page at random and read it fluently. (I do have a copy, clothbound from Spain, very nice.)

My take on the KJV-only movement is that it includes a streak of Anglo-American, English-speaking exceptionalism — “the various reformations happened, Christian believers were finally free from the yoke of papal Rome, and God inspired and protected in a special way English translators, for He knew that England would spread her influence throughout much of the world in a few decades and beyond, and that English would become the principal language of world evangelization as well as colonization”. In other words, English became the fourth sacred language, after Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (with an honorable mention to Aramaic, I suppose), for God’s reformed Christian Church, and the KJV became the next best thing to the original MSS.

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There’s a form of Onlyism for every Christian community: Vulgate-Onlyism, Septuagint-Onlyism, Church Slavonic-Onlyism, Statenbibjel-Onlyism, etc.


And let’s not forget Traditional Latin Mass-onlyism (not to be confused with TLM-preferism).


One of the issues with arguments rebutting KJV Onlyism is that they’re primarily made by Protestants, some of which don’t have a particularly high opinion of Catholicism (e.g. James White, who’s done a lot of critiquing of the KJV Only position). I suppose it makes sense that critiques are so strongly offered only by Protestants, because the whole controversy goes away from a Catholic perspective anyway. And of the Protestant translations, the KJV is probably one of the most in line with Catholic theology because James wanted it to support the beliefs of the Anglican Church, probably the most Catholic of the Protestant churches. (it also includes, or at least originally included, the Deuterocanonical books)

This forum actually has a lot of useful information in rebutting KJVO arguments, though it is as noted primarily Protestant.

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You are dealing with “true believers” - the same is seen with JWs and LDS and others. Only the Holy Spirit will convict and correct them.

The KJVO movement actually has rather odd origins. The first person to really argue for it–and I mean that the KJV is the Bible, not just that it’s a better translation than everything else–was this guy named Benjamin Wilkinson. Prior to that there were those who strongly liked the KJV and denigrated other translations, but their position was more nuanced. Dean Burgon was highly critical of other translations, but this came not from a belief that the KJV was perfect (in fact he thought it needed revision), but that he thought the other translations were relying on faulty manuscripts and that the Textus Receptus–the base for the KJV–was better. Though he also thought the Textus Receptus was in need of revision.

KJV Onlyism as we know it seems to derive from this guy named Benjamin Wilkson, a Seventh-Day Adventist, and an SDA of the “what Ellen G. White was as inerrant as the Bible itself” variety at that. He really liked the KJV because he thought some of its verse renderings supported his belief. So in 1930 he published a book in which most of the usual KJVO arguments were brought up. It didn’t really attract much attention, because he put a lot of Seventh-Day Adventist stuff into it. But a few people made strong use of his arguments and wrote their own books that were more in line with mainstream Christian thought, and that made the idea more popular. There’s a decent article on its origins here:

I think a reason for KJVOism to be popular is because it’s simple. You don’t have to worry about whether a particular verse is better supported by manuscripts, you don’t have to wonder about how something is translated, it’s all done perfectly for you. And it’s even in your own language! (convenient for KJV Onlyists that the one perfect version of the Bible is in their own language)

The printed word.
The Word made Flesh.
Both good, One is priceless.

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Our magisterium alone tells us “this is the scripture” speaking of the 72 book compilation which is compiled under its authority for use in “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in justice”.

A protestant touting KJV to you is not of your magisterium. And King James martyred Catholics and their priests rather than being subject in obedience to the magisterium.

The rebuff is in what it is (stolen and mutilated manuscript compilation) and who developed it (protesting destroyers of Catholics).
Sure, it sounds nice - all counterfeits appear nice to buyers, secretly defective in real value.

I think for most people, it’s not whether the KJV is more perfect or more true. It’s just more beautiful. You can read it for the language. So much of it reads like poetry. So you can read your favorite passages again and again, and it’s just sort of relaxing.

Long ago, somebody gave out Living Bibles. I think it was a church study group; I was Protestant then. So, where the bible says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…”, the Living Bible said “Your word is a flashlight to me.” I guess the thought is about the same, but you wouldn’t read the second one for the pleasure of the sound of it. The prose was just so plodding, we all laughed at it.

Course, as kids, we got some laughs out of the KJV, too. When reading:

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet , and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

We imagined going into the coat closet in summer and standing there among the boots and winter coats, and then Mom comes along and says, “What are you doing in there?” Well, the whole idea is praying in secret, so we wouldn’t actually know what to say. “Oh, nothing.”

Well, it was the occasion of much giggling. Hey, we were ten years old.


I think Chesterton said something to the effect that the scholars of the modern translations likely had a better knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, but the KJV translators certainly had a better knowledge of English.


It’s one thing to consider a specific translation inspired because none are (although the universal authority of the Church has given special authority to certain translations, like the old Vulgate).

On the other hand, it may be reasonable to think its safer to rely on an older translation because of the mixed bag of influences on modern translations (sometimes there are better sources, but other times they are influenced by certain Modernistic ideas incompatible with orthodox Christianity).

I used to stick with DR–and verses in that translation come to mind more easily–but I’ve been into the RSV-CE primarily for a while now. I’ll compare the two, and even the NAB, if something sounds wonky in one or the other.

I think for KJV-onlyists, it helps them have a fixed reference point as sola scriptura believers. Constantly updated translations kind of ruin the principle of sola scriptura by removing whatever appearance of a sure, fixed foundation might have been there. There is a logic there, but their premises are in error.

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I used to drive to work with a Baptist. She was KJV Strongly Prefer, maybe KJV only.

She said the new translations didn’t properly convey doctrinal Truth. But if Scripture is your sole guide to doctrine, and doctrine is your sole guide to what is Scripture, it’s circular reasoning.

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Point well made. I can profitably read the KJV, being aware of some glitches such as “repent” for “do penance” and “elders” for “priests”.

Couldn’t be more well put (but then again, we are talking about GKC).

Nobody could love the well-crafted word, in one of the most nuanced, supple languages the world has ever known, more than I do. I know we have not had a native English-speaker as Pope since Adrian IV (Nicholas Breakspear, a quintessentially English name if ever I’ve heard one) — high time for another one, Peter Cardinal Turkson, anyone? The Church of Rome does not exactly have an esteem and reverence for the English language as part of its Swiss Army Knife of resources. That’s best left to those who actually speak, think in, and love the language. I’ve heard it said that Anglicans (may have been some traditionalist “continuing church” as opposed to the AC) view themselves as the natural missionaries of the Catholic Faith [sic] to the English-speaking world. There’s a kernel of truth to that. Maybe that’s the role the various Anglican Use ordinariates could fulfill.


I would agree. I use an RSV most of the time for reading, but when I need to look something up I use a KJV concordance and bible since that’s the one I know the best.

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I use the RSV for lectio and study, but if one looks for sheer English beauty in a Bible, the King James Bible wins hands down. I cannot think of any other Bible that holds a candle to its literary quality.

However, there is no way I will use it as a primary Bible for study or lectio.


I use RSVCE, and RSV seems to be a really common one for Protestants, so like when I go to a doctor’s office and they have a Bible in the lobby, I’m completely comfortable with it, although there are some differences , I mean besides the deuterocanonical books. it’s actually pretty good version.

I meant, also, to post for you the online KJV concordance I use often. A very good and easy to use site.


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