The KJV vs. Modern Translations  

By J.R. Ensey


From time to time ministers are confronted with questions about Bible versions. Do the modern translations represent a conspiracy to dilute the Scriptures? Should the King James Version (hereinafter, KJV) of the English Bible be considered “the” Bible? Do particular renderings in modern versions that differ somewhat from the KJV indicate that words and phrases are being “removed” from “the Bible”? These are serious questions to many who are deeply committed to the purity of the Word of God, and I include myself in that number. No one desires to hold the Bible in higher esteem than I. I embrace its precepts, trust its principles, and I glean hope from its prophecies. In its original form, it is inspired by God. It is forever settled in heaven and is unchanging.

The curiosity of many who wonder about the discrepancies between the KJV and the newer translations remains unsatisfied. Should the modern translations be trusted? How do we account for the different renderings? From that launching point, let’s see if we can address some of the above concerns in the format of questions and answers.

1) Most of us in the United States and the English-speaking world are accustomed to the KJV. Shouldn’t it alone be considered “the” Bible and others containing different wording be set aside as illegitimate and polluted?

To denigrate modern versions and promote the traditionally popular KJV is fairly safe in conservative American churches because not many people, preachers included, have taken the time to do serious research in this area. So the idea of any differences or variant renderings is easily viewed as an attempt by liberal translators and unbelievers to discredit the Bible and thereby dilute Christian doctrine. While we can’t get into another person’s head totally to know his every motive, there just doesn’t seem to be enough evidence for that to be the case with the major versions. Different renderings of the Hebrew and Greek texts do not necessarily make a new version less credible. The KJV itself was suspect and ill thought of when it first appeared. It took a couple of generations, along with political and cultural events, to displace the Geneva Bible and come into widespread prominence. Any new version can be made to appear suspect when we come from the position that the KJV is “the” Bible, as though the Apostles handed it to the elders of the various churches and said, “Here is the Word of God.” Of course that did not happen. Only the original autographs constitute “the” Bible. The KJV is one of several English versions that appeared in Medieval England. If it is “the” Bible—the only credible Bible [version]—then that makes all those that appeared before it illegitimate since all of them have slightly different wording in places.

This position prompts these questions: Were Bible readers prior to the KJV reading something other than the Word of God? Are those translations done in languages other than English, and incorporating different ways of saying the same thing, not the Word of God? Where do the KJV Onlys believe the Word of God was prior to 1611?

This paper is not meant to downgrade the KJV. I take it to church every week (sometimes along with others in a parallel edition). It was what I used when I was weighing the Pentecostal message before I came to God. It has its strengths and weaknesses. But we have to acknowledge that it is a Bible version also—one in a string of English versions from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

2) But what about the words and phrases, and in some cases, verses, that appear in the KJV that are absent from the others, e.g., the New International Version? (Since the NIV is the most popular modern translation, we will use it to represent the others.1)

When we approach the subject of the Bible from the standpoint that there is only one legitimate version, it is then easy to say when a variant reading is noted, “They have excised entire verses...they have left out seventeen verses in the New Testament alone.” To some, that means that someone is “changing the Bible.” The observation begs the question: Excised from what? Obviously what is meant is the KJV, but is the KJV “the” Bible that John and Paul and Peter wrote? The English language wasn’t around then. “The” Bible consists of the original Hebrew and Greek autographs. We don’t have those. We only have copies of copies, many of which have variant readings. Because the copies don’t all agree for one reason or another, the discipline of textual criticism was developed. That enables scholars to gather all of the fragments, codices, uncials, minuscules, papyri, lectionaries, references in extant writings by church fathers, etc., and compare them, setting standards for credibility where there are differences in the readings.

So verses were excised from what? The KJV? A particular manuscript copy? The Textus Receptus? The Majority Text? Those are the questions to be answered when the inference is made that someone or some group just unilaterally “excised” certain verses and printed new Bibles to accommodate their doctrines. That is what some will think when it is said, “They excised....” Whoever “they” are, they are automatically demonized. All of that sounds very conspiratorial to the average reader. We could ask, “What did the KJV translators do with ‘Jesus’ in Acts 16:7; 24:24 or Romans 8:34? Or why did they omit the ‘cross’ in Colossians 2:15?”

Continual usage of the words “removed” or “left out” conjures up the image of a bunch of theological thugs sitting around a table somewhere with a penknife, grinning as they slash at the Bible. That is not a fair representation of the real truth. I can point out some things I would have liked the NIV to have rendered differently, but that is also the case with the KJV or any other version. I am not taking up for anyone—the NIV translators can fork their own broncs. Those who take serious issue with them should have some credentials or substantial study time in the field of textual criticism. It could be asked, “Why did the KJV translators add/take away words seemingly at whim?” They certainly added words that were spurious (interpolations) and left out some that were a part of the Greek text. Perhaps the real answer lies in the fact that they had fewer and newer manuscripts with which to work.

Certain writers such as J. J. Ray, Peter Ruckman, David Otis Fuller, and Gail Riplinger have made notable reputations for themselves by writing tracts and booklets about this issue, often employing shoddy scholarship that feeds on fear and ignorance. Because few would take the time or go to the bother to mount a challenge, many doubts and misconceptions were put into the minds of their readers. Also, biblical criticism is a fairly new and daunting realm of thought and study for most of us. We had always considered the KJV too absolutely sacred and beyond question. Case closed. However, there is too much material accessible to too many people for us to ignore the realities involved in this issue. The fact is, there are legitimate reasons that some wording in the modern translations is not the same as that in the KJV. Hopefully, this discussion will illuminate some of those reasons.

3) Does the NIV say that there are certain passages contained in the KJV whose credibility is suspect and that the reader should be informed?

This question focuses on particular passages that are footnoted in the NIV. In the footnotes, the readers are informed along this line: “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not contain this phrase (or word or verse).” Probably the most significant examples are John 5:7b,8a, John 7:53-8:11, and Matthew 12:47, Acts 8:37. The NIV will usually print the verse or word in question in the text, merely footnoting that information. In these cases, the KJV translators chose to include the passage without notes as to its historicity regardless of its textual credibility. The NIV translators decided to footnote and inform their readers of the background of the texts.

A similar question could be asked the KJV Onlys: Why does the KJV have marginal notes giving the original Greek and how it differs from how they chose to render it? Matthew 5:11 is an example. Did the KJV translators have privilege with the text that no one else has?

Acts 9:5,6 reads differently in the NIV because manuscript evidence does not support the KJV rendering. This is one of the many examples where the Textus Receptus (TR) varies from the Majority Text. Erasmus, the sixteenth century developer of the Greek text that became the basis for the TR, indicated that the verse’s inclusion in the Latin Vulgate and the parallel passage in Acts 26 caused him to insert the phrase “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” in Acts 9:5. The Vulgate is also the source of much of Acts 9:6: “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him….” Why should any version be attacked that would omit what is obviously not in the original Greek text?

Another example is Acts 8:37. Some state that the verse is omitted from the text of the NIV (it is included in the footnotes), but they usually fail to inform their readers that the verse does not appear in any Greek manuscripts earlier than the sixth century. Erasmus picked it up and included it because it was in the corrupt Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church for a thousand years. Obviously, it is an interpolation.

4) Some claim that the NIV “demotes Jesus in numerous places” because the name of Jesus is omitted in the text of the NIV. Is this true? Could this indicate a conspiracy on the part of the NIV translators?

It is true that the name of Jesus appears in the KJV in places that it does not in the NIV. We should keep in mind that a translation is made from the Greek text. If the Greek text has “Jesus,” the rendering should have Jesus. There are places where the KJV took the liberty to add the name when the manuscript evidence did not support it. So the argument is easily turned around: What about the places where the NIV has “Jesus” but it is “omitted” from the KJV when the Greek text has it (e.g.: Acts 16:7; Romans 1:4, 8:34)? Were the KJV translators conspiring to demote Jesus by omitting His name in these verses? I think not. The argument is ludicrous on both sides.

Another perceived example of the supposed demotion of Jesus is Matthew 8:2, 9:18, and 20:20 where “worshipped” appears in the KJV and “a man...knelt before him” appears in the NIV. The Greek word translated “worshipped” in Matthew 8:2 is proskuneo, which literally means “to kiss towards.” Would that have been a better English translation? Obviously not. “Knelt before him” is what the man evidently did, and what we would normally do if we were to worship someone in person. To use another word or phrase which describes what the man actually did is not doing violence to the passage; it actually clarifies the incident. Yet another word change is viewed as demoting Jesus. In Acts 3:13,26 the NIV translates the term pais or paida, which can can denote either “child” or “attendant,” as God’s “servant” rather than “son” as in the KJV. Note that the Greek term is not huios (son). In the Septuagint (LXX, a pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT Scriptures), Jesus is referred to in Isaiah 42:1 as the “Servant of Jehovah” (pais Kurios). He is presented in the “passion chapters of Isaiah” as the Suffering Servant, doing the bidding of Jehovah for the redemption of mankind. The NIV rendering is correct and thus justifiable, and is used almost exclusively in all modern versions. Critically, it fits better than the alternative “child,” although technically correct, and certainly better than “Son” since huios is not used.

5) Does the NIV attack the Virgin Birth and the Incarnation of Christ in Matthew 1:25 by omitting the word “firstborn”?

The specific term “firstborn” is lacking in early manuscript support. It appeared in at least some of the Greek texts used by the KJV translators, but it is quite likely that it was a scribal insertion. They chose to use it. Others do not. Some use “her first son” or “a son” (NIV). It is a parallel occurrence that appears in Luke 2:7 where “firstborn” is used in the NIV, “first child” (NLT), and “firstborn” (NASB). If there was a conspiracy to deny the virgin birth by this wording, wouldn’t it have been consistent to have omitted the reference also in Luke 2:7?

All of the translations show that Joseph did not have intercourse with her until the son that was in her womb was born. It is difficult to see how this rendering “attacks” the Virgin Birth. I know of no one who holds the view that it suggests otherwise. The entire story in the NIV substantiates the Virgin Birth (see Luke 1:27; Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Why select this particular rendering and try to force it to represent the record of the whole version? Nor does the verse seem to “attack” the incarnation of Christ. Does anyone actually know of a scholar who denies the Incarnation of Christ based on this verse? The only ones I know of that even refer to the idea are the conspiracy buffs like J. J. Ray, Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger.

Modern versions are often attacked because the 1901 Revised Standard Version appeared with “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14 rather than “virgin.” Although the RSV is the only major version that uses that term, it soured many on all modern versions. Conspiracy theorists jumped on it as a clear sign of creeping compromise, although the version’s NT references had “virgin.”

Permit a little background. During the latter part of the first century and into the second century, the Jews attacked the LXX because it was so widely used by Christians. One point of disagreement between the two camps was the text of Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew Masoretic text has the word almah, translatable as “young woman,” while the Christians insisted on the LXX Greek parthenos, which literally and specifically means “virgin,” and translated it as such. The Jews claimed that the Christians changed the word in the LXX. Therefore, they disdained the LXX from the outset because they asserted that it had been corrupted by the Christians. The RSV translators in 1901 unwisely chose to render the Masoretic Hebrew almah as “young woman,” rather than “virgin.” While “young woman” could certainly mean a virgin, as clearly indicated in the NT verses, those who wish to assail all modern versions have for a century used it as a major reason to dismiss them. That all other major versions contain “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 does not seem to satisfy the critics. The RSV continues to be the whipping boy and the standard by which all modern versions are judged.

6) Why did the NIV render Micah 5:2 to read “from ancient times” rather than “from everlasting”? Does this prove an effort to limit the deity of Christ?

The NIV does indeed render Micah 5:2 as “from ancient times.” The KJV translators preferred “from everlasting.” Perhaps they felt that would somehow strengthen the image of the Godhead. But KJV owners of Bibles with marginal notes are able to glance at their margins and see the explanation that the literal Hebrew actually reads differently from the way the KJV translators said it. The closest rendering to the Hebrew is “from days of eternity,” but can be translated “from ancient times.” The NIV translators considered both and a majority chose the latter based on the context.2 I have never read of anyone who has raised a doubt about Christ’s deity based on this verse.

7) What about I Timothy 3:16? Were the NIV translators attacking the deity of Christ by saying “He appeared in a body” rather than “God was manifest in the flesh...”?

In the effort to be faithful to the original Greek, hard choices had to be made by the translators here, regardless of the version. Some early manuscripts have “God” and some do not. As the context shows, the use of “He” does not change the meaning of the passage at all. Paul is speaking implicitly of God (v. 15); therefore, the question is moot. One translation (ANT) renders it, “He (God) was....” Regardless of the translators’ choice, the clear projection here is that God, as and through Christ, was involved in the after-mentioned events. Actually, some see evidence that theos was a later introduction into the text in place of the relative pronoun “Who.”

Truly, if we were to compare the KJV to the NIV concerning the deity of Christ, the NIV would win hands down. Trinitarian scholars know this. They recognize the KJV rendering of I John 5:7,8 is spurious and Matthew 28:19 is highly questionable.

8) Does the NIV “attack” the Virgin Birth in Luke 2:33 by calling Joseph Jesus’ father?

This has been a popular claim made by the KJV Onlys. The modern Greek texts have “the father and mother of him,” as does the original Erasmus text. That was not a doctrinal statement. Joseph was indeed His stepfather. In Christ’s growing up years Joseph fulfilled the role of father. Mary herself, although knowing that she had been a virgin when she conceived, called Joseph the father of Jesus fifteen verses later in Luke 2:48 in the KJV! But the doctrine of Jesus’ paternity was already firmly and clearly established in the first chapter (v. 35) where the NIV calls Christ “the holy one” instead of a “holy thing” (KJV). This verse (2:33) was merely saying that those who served as His earthly parents marvelled and were amazed at Him (another proof that they knew they were not the full parents of this Son).

9) Acts 2:30 and I John 4:3 in the NIV are said by some to promote the “divine flesh” doctrine by not employing the word “flesh.” Is this true?

There is insufficient manuscript evidence for the phrase “according to the flesh” (I John 4:3) is why some versions chose to exclude it. Some Greek texts read simply “acknowledge Jesus Christ,” and others “acknowledge that Jesus has come in flesh,” or “Jesus the Lord has come in the flesh,” and the TR’s “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” A literal translation from the Greek would read something like this: “And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus is of God is the spirit of the antichrist.” If having that phrase is so important, just back up just one verse in the NIV to verse 2: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Voila! The phrase, “has come in the flesh” is there in the Greek. Wouldn’t someone who was trying to dismantle the doctrine of Christ’s humanity by removing the phrase do so in both places which appear back to back in the same context? It is a principle of textual criticism that where there are a number of different readings, almost invariably the shorter rendering is the best (most likely closer to the original) since it probably gave rise to all the other variants of that verse in the numerous manuscripts. There are now more than 5,800 Greek manuscripts from which textual critics may work. That is thousands more than the KJV translators had to work with, most of them hundreds of years older than any available in 1611.

In the Acts passage, there is no indication in the NU Greek of “according to the flesh.” Some use “a descendent of of David’s own descendents... etc.” A descendent is a child of the named forefather, in this case, David. Jesus is called “David’s son” in the KJV. Should a point be made about that? Does that detract from His deity? Is that an attack by the KJV on the divinity of Christ? Of course not. And, by the way, didn’t the chief promoter of the divine flesh doctrine quote exclusively from the KJV to support his doctrine?

10) Should the NIV have kept the phrase “take up the cross” (KJV) from Mark 10:21?

This is a point that Gail Riplinger tries to make in her book New Age Bible Versions, which in my opinion—and that of many others—is literally filled with sloppy, biased scholarship. Does this verse truly reflect some prejudice of the NIV translators against taking up the cross? Absolutely not. They have it two chapters earlier for all to see—Mark 8:34! The NIV and other modern versions all have the cross-bearing statement in Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23 as well. So where is the conspiracy? Again, the reason that “take up the cross” is not in Mark 10:21 is that it lacks sufficient manuscript support. Think about it: If “take up the cross” appears only three times in the text instead of four, does that suggest that cross-bearing is not a legitimate theme of Christianity? Or does that indicate that it has been “removed” in some kind of clandestine effort to discredit cross-bearing? It makes no difference that modern translators chose on the basis of manuscript evidence to omit it from this verse; it is there in three other places. Even so, the modern versions did not “remove” the phrase; they are merely saying that its inclusion in the original was unlikely.

Rather than why the NIV did not include the phrase in this verse, perhaps the question needs to be, why did the KJV include it? Adding to the Word bears the same penalty as taking from it (Revelation 22:19). Removing words and phrases that were added earlier is not a violation of that principle.

11) In Luke 10:1 some Greek manuscripts read “70” and others read “72.” The KJV translators chose to render it as 70 while others selected 72. Which is the most credible?

Have you or I personally examined all the available Greek manuscripts and considered the “weight” of each one carefully? If not, we are going to have to trust someone who has. It is interesting to note that Wycliffe (1380) had 72, as did Cranmer in his 1539 edition, and the Rheims translation in 1582. When the KJV appeared in 1611 with 70, I suspect some of the KJV critics (and they were plenteous) were quick to point it out.

In The Text of the New Testament, Bruce Metzger, one of the leading textual critics of the twentieth century, lists the Greek manuscripts which have 70 and those which have 72. He then explains:

“The external evidence is almost evenly divided; the chief representatives of the Alexandrian and the Western groups, with most of the Old Latin and the Sinaitic Syriac, support the numeral seventy-two. On the other hand, other Alexandrian evidence of relatively great weight join in support of the numeral seventy. The factors bearing upon the evaluation of internal evidence, whether involving transcriptional or intrinsic probabilities, are singularly elusive. It is likely that in most of the early manuscripts (as in p45 and p75) the numeral was written with letters of the alphabet. It was easy, therefore, for either number to be accidentally altered to the other. If the variation was made deliberately, one can imagine that an Alexandrian scribe with a mathematical penchant altered seventy to seventy-two for the sake of what he may have regarded as scholarly symmetry. On the other hand, if the alteration was made unwittingly, it is perhaps more likely that the precise number should be transformed into the round number seventy than that the ‘solemn’ number seventy should be transformed into seventy-two.

“Those who transmitted the account prior to its inclusion in Luke 10 may have wished to convey a symbolic meaning in the number of the disciples, and it is easy to find parallels in Jewish antiquities for either seventy or seventy-two. Seventy elders were appointed by Moses to assist him (Num. 11:16-17,24,25). There were seventy sons of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:2), seventy sons of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1), and seventy priests of Bel (Bel and Dragon, vs. 10).

“On the other hand, according to the Letter of Aristeas (Para. 46-50) seventy-two elders (six from each of the twelve tribes) were chosen in order to prepare a Greek translation of the Torah (the Septuagint), and in 3 Enoch the number of princes of kingdoms on high is seventy-two, corresponding to the seventy-two languages of the world (17:8; et al.).

“It is, however, exceedingly difficult to ascertain what symbolism is intended in Luke’s account. On the one hand, if the mission of this group of disciples is to be understood as a mission to Israel, the number may have been chosen as a multiple of the twelve tribes of Israel. On the other hand, since several New Testament writers presuppose a parallel between Jesus and Moses, it may be that this group of Jesus’ disciples is intended to correspond to the seventy elders who assisted Moses. So evenly balanced are these two possibilities that it is hazardous to dogmatize as to which is more probable.

“A total appraisal of both external and internal evidence bearing on these variant readings must remain indecisive. Though the reading ‘seventy-two’ is supported by a combination of early witnesses that normally carries a high degree of conviction of originality, yet the diversity of witnesses which read ‘seventy’ is so weighty and internal considerations are so evenly balanced that the textual critic must simply acknowledge his inability to decide with assurance between the two. If one is editing the Greek text of Luke perhaps the least unsatisfactory resolution of the dilemma is to have recourse to brackets (which are always a tacit confession of the editor’s uncertainty) and to print ‘seventy [-two].’”

So that is why you have some translations which say “70” and others that say “72.” You make the choice.

12) Some critics of modern translations complain that they remove Lucifer from Isaiah 14:12 and makes it appear that we are waiting for Satan to arise in our hearts when compared to II Peter 1:19, and that Jesus is Satan in Revelation 22:16. That sounds serious. Can you unravel that?

The name “Lucifer” means “shining one.” The KJV translates it “son of the morning.” Others translate it as “morning star.” KJV uses “day star” in II Peter 1:19. Others use “morning star.” It does not appear that Revelation 22:16 in the NIV is saying that “Satan is Jesus” because of these renderings. Someone is applying a “spin” here to try to make a case. Permit me to quote from James White (The King James Only Controversy) on this point:

“The term ‘Lucifer,’ which came into the biblical tradition through the translation of Jerome’s [Latin] Vulgate, has become so entrenched (even though it does not come from the original authors of Scripture) that if one dares to translate the Hebrew by another term, such as ‘star of the morning’or ‘morning star’ (both of which are perfectly acceptable translations of the Hebrew word), one will be accused of ‘removing Lucifer’ from the Bible! Such a ‘change’ surely ‘preaches’ well, and this example is often used as the ‘capper’ to prove the true intention of the ‘devilish modern versions.’

“Yet, a person who stops for a moment of calm reflection might ask, ‘Why should I believe Jerome was inspired to insert this term at this point? Do I have a good reason for believing this?’ Given that Jerome’s translation is certainly not inerrant itself, one would do well to take a second look and discover that the very translations being accused of ‘hiding Lucifer’s name’ refer to Satan, the accuser, the ‘old serpent,’ the devil, each and every time the terms appear in Scripture. Again, the inconsistency of the argument is striking.

“‘But,’ someone is sure to retort, ‘isn’t Jesus the ‘morning star’ at Revelation 22:16?’ Yes, He certainly is. ‘So doesn’t translating Isaiah 14:12 with ‘morning star’ identify Jesus with Lucifer? Aren’t the modern translations trying to connect Jesus with the devil?” Only if one does not read things in context very well. The person under discussion in Isaiah 14 is obviously not the Lord Jesus Christ, and how anyone could possibly confuse the person who is obviously under the wrath of God in that passage (note verse 15) with the Lord Jesus is hard to imagine. Further, aren’t the terms being used in Isaiah 14 sarcastic in nature? Didn’t this person claim lofty titles that were proven to be misapplied? Doesn’t the Scripture speak of his ‘pomp’ (v. 11) and his inward boasting (v. 13)? Should we not recognize that the terms that are applied to him in verse 12 are meant to be taunts rather than actual descriptions of his person? And doesn’t this differ dramatically from the personal description that Jesus applies to Himself in Revelation 22? All of these considerations make it obvious that there is no logical reason to take offense at the proper translation of Isaiah 14:12 in the NIV or NASB.”

13) Why does the NIV have an “eagle” flying across the sky rather than an “angel” (KJV) in Revelation 8:13?

The Majority Text has “eagle” here. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown point out that “angel” is supported by none of the oldest manuscripts and gives reasons why it doesn’t fit here. Wycliffe (1380) had “eagle,” as did the Rheims (1582) version. Tyndale used “angell” (sic), so Cranmer, the Geneva and the KJV picked it up.

Confusion only reigns when we don’t do our own research and become too eager to take the biased concepts of some author who is reading the Word with a definite agenda that probably involves selling his conspiratorial books. And who is the prime source of the confusion: the KJV translators who had only a relative few manuscripts, virtually all within one textual family, to consult, or the later critics who have had much more information to work with?

14) Since the NIV does not include the word “holy” in passages like II Peter 1:21 and Matthew 25:31, as does the KJV, does that indicate that the NIV is “attacking” the message of holiness?

The same argument surfaces here—the KJV translators used a limited and late group of manuscripts. The word “holy” is not uniform in the Greek where the KJV shows it to be. The KJV translators chose to add it (like they did “usurp” in I Timothy 2:12) or put it there in place of other possibilities like “consecrated,” or “worthy.” It does not make the passage wrong in these cases, but adding words when they are not there can get to be a problem just as deleting them can be. This “Word Left Out” game the KJV Onlys play can be played by either side. Below are some NIV renderings where the word “holy” appears but has been “omitted” or rendered in another way in the KJV:

Eph. 5:3 - “These are improper for God’s holy people.” (left out of KJV)

Col. 1:2 - “To the faithful and holy brothers at Colosse.” (excised from KJV)

I Thes. 4:4 - “One should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy.” (not in KJV)

II Thes. 1:10 - “His holy people” (omitted in the KJV)

II Tim. 2:21 - “If a man cleanses himself...made holy” (not in KJV)

Heb. 2:11 - “The One who makes men holy” (omitted from KJV)

Heb. 3:1 - “Holy brothers” (omitted from KJV)

Heb. 10:10 - “We have been made holy” (not in KJV)

Heb. 13:12 - “To make the people holy through his own blood” (not there)

Jude 14 - “Thousands of his holy ones” (taken out of the KJV)

So now should we say without explanation that the KJV “attacks holiness” because it lacks these particular renderings? Of course not. It would not be fair. Nor is it a credible argument against the NIV’s variant readings. We have to remember there is a flip side to these Riplinger/Ruckman/Ray/Fuller word games.

And as far as holiness in the NIV is concerned, I (and others) view it as stronger on the holiness lifestyle than the KJV. Examples abound. There is no compromise on holiness there that I have found. I have never heard anyone say, “Oh boy, the NIV lets us off the hook! It is not as rigid on holiness as the KJV!” Never. There is certainly no blatant “attack” on holiness. Even a casual reading of the version will confirm that fact. Continual usage of the word “removed” conjures up the image of a bunch of theological thugs sitting around a table somewhere with a penknife, grinning as they slash at the Bible. That is not a fair representation of the real truth. I can point out some things I would have liked the NIV to have said differently, but that is also the case with the KJV or any other version. I am not taking up for anyone—the NIV translators can fork their own broncs. Those who take serious issue with them should have some credentials in the field of textual criticism. Again, why did the KJV translators add/take away words seemingly at whim? They certainly added words that were spurious and left out some that were definitely a part of the Greek text. Perhaps the real answer lies in the fact that they had fewer and newer manuscripts with which to work.

On the issue of morals, some suggest that the NIV may be soft on homosexuality since at one time, early in the translation process, a woman who turned out to be a lesbian was hired as an English stylist. She eventually was “outed” and was no longer employed by the NIV committee. The truth is, she did not do any translating. Her work as an English stylist touched on none of the passages dealing with homosexuality. Her name appears on no NIV Bible and she had no significant impact on the actual translation. However, those owning a KJV Bible have the name of a homosexual imprinted on the cover of their Bible—King James! And he did have a fairly significant role to play in the development of the version that bears his name. Those who suspect that either version is soft on homosexuality need to put the passages side by side, comparing them for clarity and accuracy. Both strictly and fervently condemn the practice as moral sin. (See the article in this series on the website titled The King In An Open Closet.

15) Why does the NIV omit the phrase “through his blood” in Colossians 1:14? Are they trying to do away with the blood of Christ?

By now the reader should be able to answer some of these queries without help. Here the argument is the same. The phrase simply lacks manuscript evidence, appearing in only a few late manuscripts. But there is no conspiracy to remove the blood from the redemption process. The NIV plainly says “through his blood, shed on the cross” just six verses later (Colossians 1:20). You might also check out Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:13, and Hebrews 13:20 in the NIV. Those passages plainly teach redemption “through the blood.” So, could not the KJV translators have added the phrase not only because they discovered it in a few late manuscripts, but because it fit so well and they wanted to express their commitment to the redemptive blood of Christ? Not to be redundant, but adding to the Word is just as improper as taking from it, even if what is added is absolute truth.

16) Does the NIV promote New Age concepts by its renderings in Ephesians 4:24, Revelation 21:24, and John 4:24?

What a stretch to make these verses represent New Age thought! Ephesians 4:24 has “self” instead of “man,” and I personally don’t prefer that rendering, but in a real sense, isn’t the “new man” (anthropos) a “new self”? When the NIV says “like God” rather than “after God” (KJV), or “in the likeness of God” (NASB), there doesn’t seem to be violence done to the scripture at all.

I like the rendering “a Spirit” in John 4:24 (KJV) because it sounds more like we would say it. However, the question is created because of the indefinite article (pneuma o Theos) and the absence of a predicate. The article precedes “Theos.” (Note the asterisk and the reference in the NIV.) There must be some reason that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Greek scholars working on translations agree that “God is Spirit” is the correct rendering of that verse. While that fact in itself does not make it right, does the fact that a relative handful of men in 1611 deciding on “God is a Spirit” make that rendering absolutely right and beyond question?

The Pulpit Commentary says this in its exposition section: “The article indicates the subject, and the predicate is here generic, and not an indefinite; therefore we do not render it, ‘God is a Spirit.’ The most comprehensive and far-reaching metaphor or method by which Jesus endeavored to portray the fundamental essence of the Divine Being is ‘Spirit,’ not body.”

So there probably are good reasons the later versions say, “God is Spirit.” But somehow I seriously doubt if any of them were purposely created to play into the hands of the New Age advocates. If anyone wanted to use the Bible for support of some New Age concept, it seems that the KJV renderings of “God is light” and “God is love” passages might be more attractive places to look. However, have you personally ever heard of anyone trying to promote the New Age with any of those verses? If I were a New Age advocate I would probably turn to the “unicorn” and “satyr,” and “cockatrice” (KJV renderings that conjure up mythological creatures) passages to point out mythology in the KJV Bible. It is incredible that Riplinger even brings up the New Age subject since the KJV would probably be more suspect than other versions. Why would the KJV translators choose such wording? Superstition in the Middle Ages was rampant and may have spilled over into the work of the translators. Virtually anything that can be claimed about the NIV can be claimed about the KJV.

We may not like the way the Bible presents some of its truths, but we must recognize the authority of the original Scriptures. There are many renderings in the KJV that are awkward and confusing, even bearing on fundamental doctrine. The Trinitarians love some of the KJV renderings. For example, Titus 2:13 in the KJV reads, “the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” making it sound as though there are at least two divine persons. But God (Theos) here is articular, and Christ (Christou) is anarthrous. Both nouns are in the same case, and according to the Granville Sharpe rule should therefore read “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” A similar wording appears in II Thessalonians 1:12. And what of I John 5:7,8? It is a clear interpolation that lends great encouragement to the Trinitarians. Paul’s clear statements on the Godhead were obviously confusing to the KJV trinitarian translators. Was that why they wrote it like they did? There is insufficient evidence to make such a statement.

A common challenge by the KJV Onlys is to hand someone a NIV Bible and tell them to find certain verses and read them (e.g., Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; I John 5:7b,8a; etc.). You guessed it. The verses they want you to look up in the NIV are some of those that are footnoted in later versions or do not appear for lack of manuscript evidence. But note, for instance, Matthew 18:11 is not there in the NIV, but it is there at Luke 19:10. Compare Matthew 17:21 with Mark 9:29 (“and fasting” lacks strong manuscript evidence; however, there are plenty of fasting scriptures in the NIV and other versions). Compare Matthew 23:14 with Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. Compare Mark 11:26 with Matthew 6:15. And so on. Check out the reasons for those “omissions.” Also, that same “exercise” could be played like this: hand someone a KJV and ask them to try to find “Jesus” in Acts 16:7; 24:24 or Romans 8:34, or find the “cross” in Colossians 2:15, or find “salvation” in I Peter 2:2 (clearly in the Greek but omitted completely in the KJV). There is little profit in these word games, however.

Speaking of a want of manuscript evidence, over 165 years ago Alexander Campbell counted at least 357 interpolations in the KJV New Testament. Later textual critics could likely list more than that. Critics of modern versions often quote Revelation 22:18,19, especially the part about the curse upon those who “take away from the words of this book....” It also says (in the KJV), “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Italics mine) Inserting potentially misleading interpolations into the Scriptures carries a heavy curse just as it does for the one who “takes away.”

Careful study, common sense and intellectual honesty will guide us to the safest positions on this issue.

Endnotes: 1. A more exhaustive list of modern versions are evaluated and compared in The Book We Call the Bible. See addendum below. 2. Dr. Kenneth Barker, General Editor of the NIV Study Bible referred to his own reference note at Romans 9:5, wherein he listed a number of passages that teach the deity of Christ. He noted that the NIV has been criticized by liberals for being too conservative and/or being too strong on the deity of Christ. “If they want to accuse me of being biased toward the deity of Christ, I’m honored!” (Quoted in The King James Only Controversy [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995]; p. 217.) Why don’t the KJVOs report that kind of statement? It is obvious that they would not want to since it strikes at the very root of their conspiracy thesis.

Addendum: Have you ever read the original KJV Preface? The men who produced that translation did not claim divine inspiration, as well they shouldn’t. They made a number of frank and candid confessions. It is interesting to see how they went about their translating. A full rendering of the preface appears in some Bibles, but it can be read and printed from several Internet websites. It would be worth any person’s time to read it. If you would like more information on this topic, it can be found in the book, The Book We Call the Bible, available from A more recent treatment of this issue is now available for serious researchers titled “Searching the Scriptures: Looking For Truth In and About Bible Translations.” Both are authored by J. R. Ensey, available from

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