The KJV Only Controversy

I noticed that David Ettinger encountered a little opposition to one of his posts yesterday, which you can view here, with regard to the broader topic of what is defined as being “inspired”, as in “without error”, when we discuss the Holy Bible. I happen to agree with David where he states in his post that “The Bible’s perfection comes from its original communication of God to the human writers of Scripture. It was those original communications ­– penned by the authors in the original texts and unsullied by clerical translation and transmission – which are perfect.” One of the controversies that has arisen from this particular topic is the “KJV Only Movement” and I thought it might be prudent to provide some additional information about this debate, because, as in most things that may appear to be relatively simple to make an informed decision on, this subject has a little more to it than it being simply black and white.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I located an excellent source document, which I recommend that you read here in its entirety, should you wish to do so, but for the sake of brevity, I shall only be making selected quotes hereafter. Please note that I do not necessarily recommend other topics discussed on this particular site, but this topic has been documented quite well.

A controversy has arisen, originated by a staunch Seventh-day Adventist missionary called Benjamin G. Wilkinson (1872–1968), but now pretty much a Protestant-only affair, over the spiritual status of the King James Version. There are essentially three positions:

1. THE KING JAMES-ONLY POSITION which maintains that the King James Version was especially preserved by Elohim (God) as a 100 per cent error-free version to be used, to the exclusion of all other versions, by the Christian Church. The ‘King James Only’ movement is advocacy by a loosely associated group of Protestant Christians, that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to other English translations, and that other versions, especially those based on Westcott and Hort’s revision of the text of the Greek Testament, are not to be trusted and are based on corrupted manuscripts. Adherents of the movement believe that the KJV is the last and best of a series of translations based on what they consider the most reliable of Greek New Testament manuscripts, the Textus Receptus or ‘Majority Text’. They believe that most new translations of the Bible are inferior to the King James, and are not as true to the original text. They disapprove of the versions which use the minority text known as the ‘Alexandrian Text’ or are based upon it. King James Only believers would say that the Alexandrian texts contain the accumulated corruptions of different scribes over many years, in a manner that the Aaronic priests and Masoretes would never have tolerated when making copies of the Scriptures.

They see the King James Version as the greatest English translation ever produced, needing no further enhancements, some even claiming that it was dictated word for word by the Ruach (Spirit) to the scholars that made it. They believe the ‘Westcott and Hort’ revision of the Received Text to be a deliberate change to the text of the Greek Testament by ‘irresponsible scholars’ because of personal animosity for the Textus Receptus. They believe that modern translators have conspired to corrupt Scripture and lead believers away from the true Christian faith and cite alleged flaws in the modern English translations which originated in Alexandria, Egypt identified with Origen, Westcott-Hort, and Aland, also called the Novum Testamentum Graece or critical text. They believe these Alexandrian manuscripts, such as the Codex Vaticanus, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus, were used by Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton Hort to create the critical text to undermine the validity of the Textus Receptus which was used as the Greek source for the King James Version as well as the Bibles before that;

2. THE OLDEST MANUSCRIPT POSITION which maintains that the oldest manuscripts (MSS) of the Bible are the most reliable even though they are numerically in the minority (1 per cent of all MSS) and there is considerable variation between them. These are called MINORITY MS versions as opposed to MAJORITY MS versions (99% of all MSS). The KJV is the only Majority MS version in English and is based on what is also called the Textus Receptus or Received Text; and

3. THE KING JAMES-BEST POSITION which maintains that the King James Version is to date the best version because the Textus Receptus is the best MS.

There is a growing movement which takes the King James Only Position. It is a highly dogmatic, unscholarly and intolerent position that condemns (in a most unchristian way) all those who do not use the KJV, with some of its fanatical adherents claiming that those who have been saved using other Bible translations are not really saved at all. Worse, it is without biblical or historical foundation and is manifestly irrational. There are some who maintain, with considerable justification, that this position is cultic. As mentioned earlier, this movement was started by a Seventh-Day Adventist in order to defend preconceived Adventist doctrines (such as soul-sleeping) which were overturned by more accurate modern versions!

Since its publication in 1611, there have been over 1,700 corrections to translation and printing errors in the KJV, some dating before those used in translation. The original translators, for all their expertise and scholarship, had a limited knowledge of Hebrew and did not, as mentioned earlier, have access to many manuscripts (MSS) that were later discovered, some dating before those used in the translation. Those earlier MSS often showed the absence of text found in later MSS, indicating suspect additions by later scribes who made the copies. Many of these errors remain uniquely in the KJV today which to KJV-Onlyers confers a kind of bogus ‘mystique’ to them. They are used, without any objective warranty, to criticize all other versions.

Dr. James White’s book ((James R. White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? – Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minnesota: 2009) is the definitive study on the subject and is essential reading for Pastors, Bible-teachers and for all those who want to know the truth about the KJV-Only position. The book traces the development of Bible translations old and new and investigates the differences between newer versions and the Authorised Version of 1611. New and second-hand copies are easily obtainable online at Amazon and elsewhere.

There is an additional source post from Crossroads Church which you can view here, which I also highly recommend, that quotes Dr. James White’s book, plus it explains the difference between translation and transmission, and addresses the numerous accusations often times made about the various variants that have been identified in numerous manuscripts. I would also strongly advocate that you read this post in its entirety.

As scholar James White has written, “The simple fact of the matter is that no textual variants in either the Old or New Testament in any way, shape, or form materially disrupt or destroy any essential doctrine of the Christian faith. Any semi-impartial review will substantiate this.” (The King James Only Controversy, p. 67).

Will the two source posts that I have quoted put an end to this controversy for everyone? Probably not, but for the vast majority of Bible believers who are ardent students of God’s Holy Word, the major translations that are now readily available, are well able to keep us on that narrow path that Jesus told us to walk in. Word for word are the obvious way to go for serious study, thought for thought is acceptable for casual reading and young or new believers.
Screen Shot 2022-01-22 at 9.37.38 AM
There are additional informative links available on this subject on my “Christian Resources” page under “K” – See King James Only Movement

Followup Note:
As per both Craig’s and Frank’s comments below, there are additional factors and considerations that can and do make this “controversy”, anything but simplistic. Just some additional insights to be aware of.

Hope this helps.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. May I make a slight correction to your otherwise excellent explanation? The Textus Receptus, aka
    ‘Received Text’ is not the same as the Majority Text. Many times they are one and the same, but not always. An example of incongruence is found in the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7–8). From the Modern reception section on Wikipedia (last subsection Grammatical analysis, just above The Grammar section) [bold added]: In 1 John 5:7–8 in the Critical Text and Majority Text, though not the Received Text, we have a shorter text with only the earthly witnesses

    I would like to also add a brief comment. I have White’s book, and at times I see him answering KJVO snarkiness with snark. I don’t think that’s helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the underlying problem is which Greek source one should trust. Should one trust the Textus Receptus or the Alexandrian manuscripts? There are other translations besides the King James Version that uses the Textus Receptus. See the Textus Receptus Bibles site for a selection.

    My own view is that most of the originals, the autographs, of the NT were written in Hebrew which were used as a model to write the Greek versions. If there is a discrepancy in the Greek text, I prefer the Textus Receptus, but if not then any of those other translations are fine. It is good to have a variety of translations by the way because translators are not infallible. The ideal situation is to know enough Greek and Hebrew to read these sources, but I still have to rely on translators.

    Also keep in mind that there are political factors involved. The Reformation relied on the inerrant bible rather than church tradition. The Counter Reformation wanted to discredit the bible as inerrant by offering other Greek sources to bring people back to the church. The churches involved were primarily state churches. Those supporting the KJV only position are supporting the Reformation against what they see as Counter Reformation efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Frank for your additional information. I agree that being able to read Hebrew and ancient Greek well, would be a desired capability, but for the common Christian, that mostly is not the case. And as you have indicated, there are always additional extenuating aspects to be considered. Much appreciated. Blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m trying to get a visual here Gary, but it’s not working well! However, not to worry, I understand and trust me, I hesitated on approaching the subject myself. Thank you for taking the time to comment, sincerely appreciated. Blessings!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Gary, . . . abstract, I wish more of us were “abstract” like you. Sometimes its only when one gets to see some of the blending within the body of Christ, that one just barely begins to perceive the likenesses and differences within and between us, and the beauty of the variety that exists, just like the handiwork of God’s creation in nature all around us, that you so often share with us. Not to worry Gary, blessings!


  3. Thanks, Bruce. Good summary of the KJV 1611-Only controversy. There was a comment that James R. White examines the KJVO debate with a bit of snarkiness. I’m not here to defend James White, but after many years of debating ardent false religionists, it’s not a wonder White has developed a bit of a thick skin. Also, White’s snarkiness is a minor footnote compared to KJV-Onlyists’ attacks on those who don’t agree with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Achilles heel of the KJVO advocates is the Johannine Comma. There are no serious textual critics who stand behind its authenticity. As a result, the entire house of cards falls.


    • Hi Craig, yes, I think that was addressed in the “complete” article of the first link I provided, the one in which I only published some “selected extracts”. In my younger days I did read and study a number of books on this subject and recall that point being made. I very much appreciate your knowledgeable and balanced comments and thank you for taking the time to clarify as you do. Always helpful and adding to the conversation! Between you and I, you’re more of the teacher and I being the student, so please feel free anytime to jump in. God’s blessings on you and yours Craig.


Comments are closed.