The King James Bible was used with little competition from 1611 until 1952 with the publication of the Revised Standard Version (RSV). It was not until the late 20th century that ‘updated, more accurate’ translations began to be published, based on different manuscripts (please see our manuscripts page for more information on this).
Now we have over 200 English translations of the Bible. The translators and scholars behind them claim that each different version is more accurate, easier to read, useful for comparison and so on, but we will see that the whole intention behind producing so many Bibles is both to confuse God’s people and also to make money.
Is money involved?
1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Modern Bibles have financial copyrights, which means they have the exclusive right to print, use and sell the text in their Bibles. Any printing of their translation, concordances or explanatory texts using their translation earns them money. A small allowance is allowed freely, for example the 1978 NIV allowed users to quote or reprint only 100 verses without getting written permission.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:” God wants his word to have “free course”, we should not be concerned with the monetary benefits of spreading the word of God but should help it spread freely. The King James Bible is the only English Bible that does not have a financial copyright (while every modern version does), so it can be freely printed, copied or published without permission.
When the King James Version was first published, the title page said “Cum Privilegio” which means “with privilege”. This means the royal printers had the right to publish the King James Bible, called a crown copyright. In 1611, this copyright would last 50 years after the death of the author of the text, today it lasts 70 years. The text of the King James Bible itself is not copyrighted, only printed editions with notes or maps and so on.
For example, compare the copyright notices http://www.biblegateway.com provides with different translations of the Bible:
Another aspect of copyright law is how different a translation has to be for it to be considered a ‘derivative’ work (meaning based on another translation) with its own copyright. When scholars create a new Bible version, the text has to be substantially different to certify for another copyright, so that they can make money from selling copies of the new Bible and any concordances, study notes or books using it. However, there are only so many ways of saying the same thing, and eventually the meaning becomes distorted or changed to make the text different. A specific number of changes have to be made, so translators go through the text removing verses and changing words to qualify for a copyright and gradually becoming less accurate and precise. Is this how God speaks to us?
For example, in the King James Bible, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God commands us to study the Bible. However, modern Bibles need to change the verse to qualify for a copyright, so “study” becomes “be diligent”, “do all you can”, “do your best”, “make every effort”, “do the best you can”, “work hard”, “be eager”, “try” and so on. Firstly, these do not all have the same meaning as none of these other translations give the instruction to study God’s word, and secondly, why are all of these different versions necessary if not for copyright? They are not any more understandable than “study” – the sole intention of the modern Bibles is a money making scheme.
Are modern Bibles easier to read?
Another claim translators give is that the modern Bibles need to be produced so they are easier to understand, and can be read by a contemporary audience. However, God’s word is unchanging and does not need to be updated. Psalm 119:60 says, “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgements endureth for ever.”
Refuting this claim, modern Bibles are actually often more difficult to understand. Any language in the King James Bible is not ‘archaic’, but necessary and easily understood with an English dictionary if needed. However, as we will see, many terms used in the modern Bibles (in their attempt to be unique and original for copyright) are unclear and often not even found in the dictionary.
Comparing the first chapters of Genesis, Malachi, Matthew and Revelation in a range of Bible versions, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Indicator consistently rates the King James Bible as easier to read. For these passages, the King James Bible has an average reading level of grade 5.8, while the NIV is 8.4, the NASB is 6.1, the NKJV is 6.9 and so on. The King James Bible is suitable for children almost three years younger than the NIV is. Due to its poeticism and use of shorter more monosyllabic words, it is easier to memorise than modern Bibles, and is often easier to understand.
One example of a verse that becomes less clear in modern Bibles is Job 6:6. The King James Bible says, “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” The NIV says, “Is tasteless food eaten without salt, or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?”
The Amplified Bible is also often very unclear in its translation, for example Romans 10:4 in the King James Bible says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” In the Amplified Bible, this reads, “For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him.” Is this clearer?
Genesis 35:4, the NKJV changes “oak” to “terebinth tree”.
Judges 8:13, the NASB changes “the sun was up” to “the ascent of Heres.”
1 Samuel 22:6, the NIV changes “tree” to “tamarisk tree”.
2 Samuel 6:5, the NKJV changes “cornet” to “sistrums”.
Isaiah 13:12, the NRSV changes “man” to “mortal”.
Daniel 6:2, the ESV changes “princes” to “satraps”.
Acts 27:17, the NIV changes “quicksands” to “sandbars of Sartis”.
There are many more examples of this, but these show briefly that although modern Bibles claim to be easier, they are actually just substituting God’s words for less accurate (and often more confusing) synonyms.
What about ‘thee’ and ‘thou’?
One key difference in the language used in the versions is the use of ‘thou’ and ‘ye’. The King James Bible uses these terms as well as inflected verbs (such as “praiseth”) to distinguish between the second person singular and plural, as is done in the Greek and Hebrew. ‘Thee’, ‘thou’ and ‘thy’ refer to one person, ‘ye’, ‘you’ and ‘your’ refer to multiple people.
Modern languages today still make this distinction, such as the Spanish ‘tu’ and ‘vosotros’, the French ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ and so on. Every English Bible since the King James has indiscriminately used ‘you’ for both singular and plural, which can miss the precise meaning of many verses. However, the use of ‘thou’ and ‘ye’ was not really used even in the time when the King James Bible translators were at work, but they chose to use those terms to keep the true meaning of the original manuscripts, and be more faithful to the language used in the Bible.
This distinction is very important throughout the Bible in determining who certain people are talking to. For example, in John 3:7, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, and he says, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” So Jesus says “I said unto THEE” (singular, Nicodemus), “YE must be born again” (plural, everyone must be born again). This is much clearer regarding who Jesus is talking to and who he is talking about.
Another example is Luke 22:31-32, which says, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Reading this in a modern version, we would presume that Jesus is talking only to Simon Peter in verse 31, but the pronoun “you” is used, so he is referring to a plural number of people. In the next verse, it switches to “thee”, so now Jesus is speaking directly to Simon Peter only. This distinction is lost in all modern versions.
Furthermore, Joshua 1:3 says, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses” and verse 7 says, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.” Verse 3 says “you”, showing God’s promises to the nation of Israel collectively, whereas verse 7 switches to “thou”, showing God’s message to Joshua singularly.
Also, Jeremiah 5:14 says, “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.” Collectively (“YE”) they speak the word, so God will make Jeremiah’s (“THY”) words fire. Modern Bibles lose this.
In conclusion, the demand for modern Bibles has risen purely out of a love of money, and people are willing to sacrifice the accuracy of the Bible for a translation that is more popular and supposedly easier, when in fact the King James Bible always has been and always will be the superior English Bible, which truthfully records God’s words for us.