Inside: why I am open to different Bible translations and no longer KJV Only
I fully realize this post may be dipping my toes into a more controversial territory than I am used to. But hear me out first, okay?
I mean no disrespect to anyone, ever.
And truthfully, finding a Bible translation to study, read, and, more importantly, comprehend should never be a point of contention for anyone. But nevertheless, Christians will argue one side of the KJV Only debate up one side and down the other for various reasons. And to that, I say, to each their own.
At one point, I was a KJV Only kind of person, too. That is, until about two years ago.
But things are different now, and here’s why.
KJV and a Religion Class from College
Time to take a tiny trip down memory lane for a second.
Way back in my college days, I had to take a class that was supposed to be a literary study of the Book of John. It ended up being more like a mix of a literary study, a religious study, and a good, ol’ fashioned debate.
I’m not one to debate much of anything, and more often than not, the class ended up in a debate about fundamental and core beliefs. There were a couple of reasons I was not a giant fan of this class. Debating was a major reason and the fact that I had to purchase the NASB translation of the Bible as the required text for the course.
My thinking was: I already had a perfectly good KJV Bible. I (and I admit, in my limited knowledge of Bible translations) was adamant it was the only version worth reading. Every other translation had added “stuff” to it, or key scripture was removed. Or, so I thought.
When I brought this point up to my very kind professor, he gently pointed out that if I wanted to read the scripture exactly as it was written, I needed to learn Greek and Hebrew to read the original texts.
*Gasp*. How rude. (Even though there was no hint of rudeness at all in his tone.)
At the time, I dismissed his comments and did what I needed to do to pass the class: read the NASB as the textbook. When I tell you I felt like a sinner, I mean that. The NASB was not the KJV translation. I had grown up believing the KJV was the only translation worth reading, and reading something else felt extremely wrong.
It wasn’t until about two years ago that I fully understood what my professor meant.
Where does the KJV fall on the Bible translation chart?
Did you know the King James Version of the Bible was originally released in 1611?
According to Britannica, in 1604, King James I commissioned a group of about 54 men to translate the original manuscripts of the Word to Common English (which is known today as the King’s Engish. You know, with the “thee” and “thou”). Seven years later, the KJV was published.
Is the KJV a bad translation of the holy texts?
No. No, it is not.
In fact, according to Bible Gateway, it is a pretty close word-for-word translation of the original texts. Bible Gateway ranks the KJV translation as the 6th top word-for-word translation.
So, what’s my issue with the KJV, and why am I no longer KJV Only?
KJV Only? Or Should I Consider Other Translations?
Technically, there is no inherent problem with the KJV. (Although some scholars will say otherwise.) If the KJV is the version you know, love, and understand, great!
Personally, though, the King’s English is hard for me to comprehend. It is not very modern, and no one I know speaks this way anymore. If we’re being honest, not even Jesus himself spoke like that.
If I am still honest with you, I have struggled with not fully comprehending the scriptures for a while. Not fully understanding what I was reading made it somewhat difficult to “study to show myself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15).
I wrestled with the idea of even considering branching out and looking at other translations. After all, I had been taught KJV is the only, true translation.
But, is it?
The answer is no.
According to the handy chart of Bible Gateway, there are five other Bible translations that are closer to word-to-word compared to the KJV.
As I studied the chart, I understood why my professor was adamant about using the NASB for the religion class. Besides the Interlinear translation (which doesn’t seem as readily available? Maybe I am wrong? Someone let me know if I am about this.), the NASB is at the top of the chart.
Another perk of the NASB and more modern translations? They are written in today’s common English. Meaning no “thee”, “thou”, or verbs that end with “-eth”.
Is the KJV Comprehensible?
If you didn’t know, reader, I teach Spanish as a second language. Since I started teaching nearly five years ago, comprehensible input is a topic I have intensely studied.
Without nerding out on you about it, comprehensible input means delivering comprehensible chunks of language to produce an intelligible output. Basically, if the student understands what I am speaking to them in Spanish, they will eventually begin to pick up on the language and speak it, too.
It’s a fascinating concept that I’ve seen in action over and over.
But the more I thought about Bible study, the more I realized the same concept applied.
If I did not fully understand the scriptures, how could I live a Christian life as Jesus intended? And how could I spread the Gospel or confidently answer questions about my faith?
So, what did I do?
I bought Zondervan’s NIV/KJV/NASB/Amplified Parallel Bible.
I chose this Bible because the NASB is the 2nd ranked word-for-word translation. The Amplified Version is is third highest-ranked word-for-word translation. And the KJV is the 6th-ranked word-for-word translation. The NIV falls smack in the middle of the chart between word-for-word and thought-for-thought.
This particular study Bible contains all four versions of the Word under one cover. Each page features two columns, and laying flat, the reader can compare the same scriptures from all four versions of the Word.
Imagine my complete and utter shock when I read a somewhat confusing scripture from the Old Testament in the King James Verison but then read the three other translations that used different words (the same across each of the three translations) that made sense. Suddenly, I wondered which other scriptures I had misunderstood because I did not fully understand the KJV.
(If you’re interested in this study Bible, Christianbooks.com actually has it cheaper than Amazon. But I think you might still have to pay shipping. So, do the math before you make a purchase to save some dollars, y’all. And none of these links are affiliate links, just FYI for good measure.)
Study to Show Yourself Approved
I won’t lie to you. It took a bit to be fully comfortable consulting other versions of the Word. KJV Only was ingrained deep in my head.
But I wanted to understand the Word. I wanted to live the Word.
I wanted to understand why I believed things the way I believed them. And I also wanted to know what was church tradition and what was the scriptural basis for those traditions.
I think it comes to a point for all Christians where we need to not rely on what others have said but really dig into the Word and discover it for ourselves.
To help me understand, I had to branch out and consult other translations. I needed to do what Phillipians 2:12 says and work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.
I needed to study, research, and learn for myself.
Pick a Translation that is Best for You
Don’t take this post as me saying ditch the KJV altogether. I am not saying that at all.
In fact, these days, I still consult the KJV for my Bible study, but I also compare it with the NASB and the Amplified Version.
It’s a proven fact that language changes over time. Although language might change and words or phrases may be sent into retirement to never be uttered again (like, “cool beans”, who, but dinosaurs, says that these days? Kidding.), modern translations of the Word have been carefully translated to the current language, but the integrity and the meaning of scripture has not changed.
If the KJV works for you and you can understand it, great! Seriously, I mean that.
But if you’re like me and it goes over your head, don’t be afraid to branch out to other translations. Just be sure to do your research first.
You’re not doing anything wrong by wanting to study and understand the scriptures. Promise.
P.S. If you like what you’re reading, subscribe to the mailing list. I won’t spam you, promise!
Tyler Combs says
Very well written. Short, sweet, and to the point. I too came to that conclusion a couple of years ago. It just didn’t make sense. I also started following this man on YouTube, by the name Mark Ward. Who does a series on “False Friends” in the KJV translations. He even wrote a book that I have reading through “Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible”. It is a very eye-opening book. Also Bro. Don Vanzant has him on his podcast, “The Lost Mission”.
Cassie Wilson says
I feel like it should have been evident to me when I was better able to understand the Spanish Bible than the KJV, but it still took years to be okay with branching out to other English translations. I will check out that series and Vanzant’s podcast! Thanks for the recommendations!