search this site the web
search engine by freefind

BIBLE HISTORY: IS OLDER REALLY BETTER?

Dateline: 09/20/97

I've had the dubious pleasure of witnessing a few arguments among Christians who couldn't agree on which is the best English Bible translation. Going beyond mere preference, "best" is usually defined as being the most accurate English expression of what the original text says.

That's a pretty good definition. But the arguments sometimes get a bit heated after this point, especially concerning the King James Version. Some KJV proponents insist that it is the best because it is the oldest -- the very first English translation, in fact. Some claim that scholars in 1611, when the KJV was published, had a better sense of ancient Greek and Hebrew. After all, those languages were already very old even in 1611; today they're almost 400 years older.

Folks tend to get passionate over this. One Sunday evening, at a Denny's post-church fellowship (read: we were pigging out on pie), a KJV-versus-everything-else discussion between two friends of mine almost broke out into fisticuffs!

The "older is better" position does have its merits, the central one being that it really is a good idea to get as close to the original languages as we can. That being the case, the ideal for the Bible student would be to learn both Greek and Hebrew. But that's simply out of range, financially and academically, for most of us. However, anyone can get access to concordances and Greek or Hebrew lexicons (I think the NIV Exhaustive Concordance is about the best layman-level tool on the market today, personally). But that's a different issue than that of one Bible version vs. another.

So the question remains -- is the KJV the best Bible? Does it, due to its age, "outrank" the New International Version, the New American Standard, the Revised Standard, and the dozens of other English Bibles available?

A side note: one aspect of the KJV's continued popularity is surprisingly simple. The King James text is not copyrighted -- so it's very popular with the Gideons and other organizations who distribute Bibles in bulk, due to the low cost of printing it. Nothing unethical or immoral about that -- but I suspect that fact alone would badly skew any popularity chart based on sales.

Let me address a few common misunderstandings about the King James Version:


First, the KJV is not the first translation of the Bible. The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek about 200 BC (the Septuagint). The whole Bible was translated into Latin around 300 AD (the Latin Vulgate). An obscure missionary named Ulfilas translated parts of the Bible into the language of the Visigoths around 500 AD. And on and on -- the Bible appeared in many other languages before English. English is a relative latecomer, both as a language and when it comes to translation.


Second, the KJV is not really 385 years old. It has undergone several revisions, some of them being fairly extensive -- including a revision in the 1800s that removed the Apocrypha, which was originally included.

Third, and perhaps most important, the King James is not even the first English translation of the Bible -- it's more like the 25th!

The very first English Bible came out sometime around 700 AD, more than 900 years before the King James (although only fragments survive, so we don't know if the whole Bible was translated or not). This KJV precursor was translated from Greek and Hebrew into Old English.

Wait a minute: Isn't the King James Old English -- you know, as in "Ye Olde Gifte Shoppe"? No, the King James is actually written in early Modern English. Old English is as different from Modern English as Swahili (or, more accurately, ancient German -- ever read "Beouwulf"?).

Here, for example, is The Lord's Prayer in Old English:

Foeder ure, thu the eart on heofonum,
si thin nama gehalgod. Tobecume thin rice
Gewurpe jin willa on eorjan
Swa swa on heofonum.
Urne gedoeghwamlican hlaf syle us to doey
And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfaj urum gyltendum
And ne geloe the us on rostnunge,
As alys us of yfele.

Sothlice

Can you read that? Neither can I; in fact, only a handful of scholars in the world today can read Old English. Old English really ought to be called "Anglo-Saxon;" it's called English only because it provided the roots of Modern English. Having a name similar to our current language doesn't keep Old English from being an entirely different language.

Let's be fair, then, and move up to the first English (as we understand it) translation, which was completed in 1384 -- long after the Old English version, but still nearly 250 years before the King James was published. It was translated by John Wycliffe, and many other translations appeared between it and the King James, including Tyndale's (1526), Coverdale's (1535), Matthews' (1537), Hollybushe's (1538), Cranmer's (1540), and the Rheims-Douay (1609). Martin Luther also translated parts of the Bible into both English and German.

Now, remember that even KJV's English is different from today's. The KJV does not use quotation marks, for instance. The syntax is archaic (the "thees" and "thous"). And it uses many obscure words (when was the last time you used "ustowards," "peradventure," or "concupiscence" in a conversation?).

If the differences between even today's English and Early Modern English are noticeable, Middle English almost looks like another language entirely. English is a living language -- meaning that it continues to change to this very day. And this exposes the main difficulty with the "older is better" school of thought.

Let's look at a familiar Scripture, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, in the King James Version, translated in 1611:
"Another parable he put forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
OK, now let's remember that if older is better, we should go back as far as possible. Let us therefore read the same passage from Wycliffe's version in Middle English -- the very first English translation, which appeared in 1384 -- which should be much better than the King James, since it is more than 225 years older:
"The kyngdom of heuenes if maad lijk to a man, that sewe good seed in his feld. And whanne men slepten, his enemy cam, and sewe aboue taris in the myddil of whete, and wente awai. But when the herbe was growed, and made fruyt, than the taris apperiden. And the seruauntis of the hosebonde man camen, and seiden to him, Lord, whether hast thou not sowun good seed in thi feeld? And he seide to hem, An enemy hath do this thing. And the seruautis seiden to him, Wolt thou that we goon, and gaderen hem? And he seide, Nay, lest perauenture ge in gaderynge taris drawen vp with hem the whete bi the roote. Suffre ge hem bothe to sexe in to repying tyme; and in the tyme of ripe corn Y shall seie to the reperis, First gadere ge to gidere the taris, and bynde hem to gidere in knytchis to be brent, but gadere ge whete in to my berne."

Yikes! Now, I'm not trying to say that older is worse: in fact, the reason the Church condemned Wycliffe for publishing this was because, believe it or not, it was too modern and full of contemporary idioms and slang for the Church to handle! In Wycliffe's translation, "Chariot" was rendered "cart", "child" was "brat" ( ! ), "Father" was "Dad", and "Mammon" was "richesse" (a slang term meaning "cash", basically).

This was so down-to-earth and easy to understand by the common person that the Church was outraged. They felt that it was not faithful to the original manuscripts, that the common man -- the everyday schmoe like you and me who was not lucky enough to have been trained in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin -- was simply not qualified to read Holy Writ for himself. They condemned Wycliffe (although he died of a stroke before they could arrest him), but he had already started something that couldn't be stopped: the continual translation of Scripture into modern and contemporary languages so that the everyday person could understand it. And so in 1611, by King James' decree, an ecumenical groups of scholars published a new English translation, a revision of several 16th-century Bibles known as the King James Version.

In a recent essay, Jack Boyd discussed this phenomena, among others, and pointed out that since English is a living language, if we try to set the Word of God in cement, it will not be able to breathe or move or speak to us (his words; I'm not that eloquent). Definitely food for thought.

It may surprise many who read this to realize that the KJV translators apparently felt the same way. In fact, they hardly believed that they had any sort of a benchmark on their hands. Indeed, the original King James preface says several startling things: that God can speak to man through any Bible translation, that our duty is to keep the Word of God fresh and alive with new translations, and that the best way to achieve accuracy in Bible study is to use more than one translation:
Many men's mouths have been open a good while (and yet are not stopped) with speeches about the Translation so long in hand, or rather perusals of Translations made before: and ask what may be the reason, what the necessity of the employment: Hath the Church been deceived, say they, all this while?

Now what can be more available thereto, than to deliver God's book unto God's people in a tongue which they understand?

Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the King's speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere.

Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures.
(From the King James Version preface; emphases mine.)
The bottom line is this: you can trust your Bible, whether it be a King James Version, a New International Version, a New American Standard, a Revised Standard Version, or any one of dozens of other excellent and reliable translations which have come out since 1611. I personally own 39 different English translations, including the King James. All of them are excellent, and I'll just conclude by saying this: I'd have a hard time deciding which one to grab first if I only had time to save one of them from a fire!

Is Older Really Better? Part 2

Dateline: 09/28/97

This piece begins with a really long letter that was sent to me by a concerned reader. He is convinced that the KJV is the only legitimate Bible there is, and that newer versions are not only inferior, but deliberately inferior -- viz., liberal theologians are playing with them to change doctrine.

I have included his letter in its entirety because I don't want anyone accusing me of not giving him a fair hearing. My reply appears after the letter. Enjoy!

DN: May I share with you a burden on my heart? It appears that you, (like myself until recently), use a new version of the Bible, which I have discovered, is great cause for concern. Please understand, that as a fellow brother in Christ, I care about your well-being, your spiritual vitality, and those who are influenced by you. So if I may, could I share some brief thoughts regarding the new Bible version scenario upon us, and see if that position lines up with what God says in His Word about His Words? God's Word has to be our final authority. Obviously, no true believer should hold to a belief that is contrary to the Bible. To begin with, please try to recall the Scripture verses that state:

(1) God lies.
(2) God can fail
(3) God can change.
(4) God will not preserve His Words.
(5) His Words are not important, and they will pass away.
(6) Every Word of God is not always true.
(7) Every Word of God is not always precious.
(8) Every Word of God is not always pure.
(9) His Words were inspired only in the original language of the original manuscripts.
(10) Only the concepts, doctrinal positions, or general principles found in Scripture are important; not each and every word.
(11) God has no problem with men who add to His Words, or who take away from His Words.
(12) "Man's wisdom" can override God's Word as the final authority.

At this point, you are undoubtedly thinking, that there are no verses of Scripture that state, or even allude to the above 12 statements. You are exactly correct, and that is exactly the point! Yet, in reality, those 12 foolish positions are exactly where the new version advocate finds himself trapped in; that is, if he honestly evaluates his version posture in the light of God's Word!! Simply put, a new version proponent is faced with a huge dilemma. His so-called "higher critical" assumptions not only do not match up with God's Words, they are in defiance of it! By using a new version of the Bible, in effect, one ignores nearly all of the scripture verses regarding what God says about His Words! It is absolutely impossible to hold to both positions. You either believe the Bible, or you assume that modern higher-critical theories are correct.

In order for a proponent of the new versions to justify the multiplying versions climate, whereby thousands of word changes (especially deletions) exist in hundreds of new Bible version/paraphrases, he has to deny the Bible verses that state that all of God's precious, pure Words will be preserved forever! I realize that these are shocking statements, for what born-again believer would dare to treat Scripture in this manner? Yet, (unknowingly perhaps), the person using the new Bible versions can no longer believe that every Word of God is true, pure, precious, inspired, and preserved; nor can one respectfully heed God's warnings towards those who "add to or take away His Words." For example, try to explain how the popular NIV Bible can excuse the removal of over 64,000 words, including 17 complete verses! There are also many major discrepancies where incredibly, vital doctrine is affected. Generally speaking, the new versions lower God and elevate man, erode the deity of Christ and the holiness of the Holy Spirit. For example, if you compare the following verses in the KJV with most new versions, the differences are incredible. (Psalms 8:5; Acts 8:37; Isaiah 14:12-15; I John 5: 7,8,13; Luke 2: 33,43 etc.) To be sure, many of the thousands of word differences may seem to be trifle by some readers, but to God, it is no small matter, (as stated in Psalms 138:2, "for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."). If God is serious about His Words, shouldn't we be? Scripture says: (1) God has a very high regard for His Word: Psalms 119:105,130. Psalms 138:2. Ephesians 6:18. Hebrews 4:12.
(2) All Scripture is inspired: II Timothy 3:16-17. II Peter 1:21. (3) Every one of His words are precious and pure: Proverbs 30:5-6. Deuteronomy 8:3. Matthew 5:18. Psalms12:6-7. Psalms 18:30. Psalms 19:8. Psalms 119:140.
(4) God promised He would preserve continuously, forever, every one of His pure precious Words: Psalms12:6-7. Psalms 119:160. Isaiah 40:8. I Peter 1:23-25. Matthew 4:4. Matthew 24:35. I Kings 8:56. (5) God has strong warnings for altering His Words: Revelation 22:18-19.
Deut. 12:32. Deut. 4:2. Proverbs 30:5-6. Psalms 50:16-17.

Skirting the issue, proponents of the new versions compound further their heresy by pontificating, "All of the versions contain God's Words, but only the original manuscripts are without error." Well that doesn't add up with God's Word either; because God, holding His Words (all scripture-every word) in such high esteem, has promised to preserve them forever. Has modern day Christianity's view of God turned toward Deism, relegating the Almighty so weak and distant that He couldn't preserve His Words as He promised? Would God (who places such a high premium on the importance of each and every Word) then fail to preserve all of them? Of course not!
Does it say in the Bible that only His thoughts or concepts are inspired, not each and every Word? No, it says the opposite. Finding God's Words is not some mystical search, "like looking for the Holy Grail;" or after reading and comparing several versions, YOU can come up with an idea of what YOU think God is communicating to you. I can't help but get the opinion now days, that when the typical new-version pastor prepares his sermons, he mistakenly compares versions with versions; instead of searching the Bible, comparing Scripture with Scripture. There were no other versions around when Jesus said to search the Scriptures. He did not say, "search all the versions you can and get a consensus of opinion."

Does it say anywhere in the Bible, that only the original manuscripts are inspired? No, it says the opposite. Does it say that God was not going to preserve His Words? No, it says the opposite. So who do we believe? the marketing ploys of the lucrative publishing industry, man's wisdom, (even if many well known Christian leaders and Christian institutions have "shelved" God's Words, and have become vulnerable to deception), or do we believe God's Word? If you say that you do believe God's Word, then which English Bible (out of all those hundreds of versions/paraphrases the lucrative publishing business has been marketing upon us) is the real, true, preserved Word of God? There can be only one, for one cannot condone all these thousands of word differences, additions and deletions, in all these versions; and in the same breath, then say that one lines up with Scripture. If God has promised in his Word that He would preserve His Word, and He holds each and every word in such high esteem, then which Bible is accurate, the one that God preserved? (a question that new version advocates cannot answer, or desire to think about, it seems). The wonderful promises God has concerning His Words, especially regarding preservation, are a crushing condemnation of the "hodgepodge" of Bible versions we have this century. It would be disastrous for them to decide on only one Bible, because then they would have to admit that all the other versions are corrupted, and would have to be discarded. Modern scribes would be stripped of their "license" to mutilate the Words of God; greed and profit would be exposed as the real forces behind the lucrative publishing companies, that are churning out version after version. Their deceptive marketing ploys would be exposed as false, for God's truth (that He and His Words are unchanging) would prevail. As for all of our Christian leaders, seminary and Christian college teachers, and pastors who have "gone with the flow of the new version status quo," (our duped watchmen of the church walls, I'm sad to say), I would hope there would be genuine repentance. We should weep and pray for our brother believers, not attack them. We all have feet of clay, and but by the Grace of God, there go you and I. Let the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God do their mighty work in our pastors; and then fully armed, pastors would be enabled to lead their flocks the way God intended. Then, feasting on the "nutritious" Word of God, instead the "junk-food" versions, the anemic Bride of Christ would be become nourished and strengthened. She would forsake her former address, "Laodicea," (armed with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God") and effectively attack Satan's kingdom. How else can the body of Christ stand against the powers of darkness (especially when end-times are upon us), unless she has the unquenched power of the Holy Spirit wielding the indomitable Word of God?.

The believer's only offensive spiritual weapon, (the "sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,...which is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword,") has been relegated to that of a "butter knife" by the new versions. No longer can the typical new version pastor, say with conviction upon the authority of God's Word, "Thus saith the Lord," because having joined the popular "flow of the status quo," (new version thought), he doesn't know for sure what God's Words truly are! Sometimes, when confronted by clear scripture that is not to his liking, so often the "pet" response is a retort, "That is just your interpretation!" (which may be nothing more than an attempt to avoid the unpleasant truth; for his opinion can conveniently, and ever so subtly, replace God's Word as his final authority) With the "wisdom of man" eroding our once "firm foundation," the new version scenario has spawned a Biblical climate of doubt and confusion that has contaminated the body of Christ. Is God the author of confusion? Faced with stacks of different Bibles, with thousands of word deletions, additions, and even whole verses removed, not to mention damaging editors' notations, who is to say for sure any more, that every Word in their Bible is the true Word of God?...and so people wonder, "Did God really say that?"...which is precisely the same Satanic deception the Serpent attacked God's Words with in the Garden of Eden, when he hissed, "Yea, hath God said...? Satan knew he could never destroy God's Words, but if he could cause people to have doubt as to what are God's Words, their faith would waver. With a climate of uncertainty shadowing the Bible, Satan's seduction continues. Man is not so inclined to obey and be guided by all of God's Words, especially in those areas that are now so "religiously or politically correct." It comes as no surprise too, that as our Bible seems to become less credible, believers become more reluctant to obey God's Word. Worldliness abounds in the church; and even in the name of Christianity, some believers are being carried away by ideas and activities that are not backed up by scripture. Doesn't this erosion of our sure foundation, our final authority, remind us of God's warnings in Scripture's descriptive "end-times" verses: I Timothy 3:1-7; 4:1-4. II Thessalonians 2:3-4. Titus 1:15-16. Ephesians 5:6-7.
II Peter 2:1-3, 18-19; 3:3-5,16.

Check the men and the manuscripts who are behind the new versions, and you will be amazed how Satan has pulled off this incredible hoax. All English new versions were translated from a far different manuscript base than that of the Authorized KJV Bible. God's hand of preservation is clearly seen in the men and the manuscripts of the KJV, (more than 90% of the 5000 plus manuscripts, and the very oldest ones as well). Shelved and ignored for more than 1500 years, the inept sources of the new versions show no evidence of God's preservation and handiwork. Instead, what is really evident is Satan's corruption and deception.

I say all of this for your own good...("faithful are the wounds of a friend...") Please "do your homework." The choice is yours. You can "mount up with wings as eagles," or you can be like an "ostrich sticking his head in the sand," ignore the issue, and foolishly hope it will all go away. It won't, because God has promised that "my word shall not return unto me void." Do you want your life to waver in the "shifting sands of the new versions," or do you need the firmness of a rock, the real "Word of God?" God's Word has to be our final authority, and thereby totally sufficient to meet man's every need. May the Holy Spirit guide you and may the Holy Bible be your firm foundation. Let us never forget Psalms 12:6-7 where it says, "The Words of the Lord are pure Words; thou  shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." In closing, I am reminded of the words of the old hymn, "Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus," and how precious they are:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.



(And here's my reply:)

Dear DN:
You have apparently read one of the works circulating recently that pretend to scholarship regarding the issue, claiming the KJV is the only "real" English Bible and that the NIV, NASB, et al. are somehow tampered with or even have had "New Age thought" injected somehow.

I hope this doesn't sound too rude, but your letter is absolutely packed with mistakes. For instance, you said, "There were no other versions around when Jesus said to search the Scriptures." This simply isn't true. During Jesus' ministry, there were already two different versions of the Old Testament: the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint, which was the Old Testament translated into Greek. The Septuagint was already more than 200 years old by the time of Christ. Not only that, Jesus used both versions in His ministry, and translated other passages of Scripture into Aramaic to boot! Like most Judeans of His day, Jesus spoke Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic (he would have known Hebrew and Aramaic from being schooled in the Scriptures, like most Jews -- see Matt. 5:22, Mark 14:36 and John 1:42, f'rinstance; "Raca," "Abba," and "Cephas" are all Aramaic words [Aramaic was a Babylonian trade language widely used in Jesus' day. Also, portions of the Old Testament are in Aramaic rather than Hebrew]). And almost everyone in the Middle East at that time spoke Greek.

When Jesus quoted from Isaiah at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:18-19), He was reading a Hebrew version of the Old Testament. But when He quotes the Old Testament in other places during His public preaching, his words are taken directly from the Septuagint. Not only that, when He quoted Psalm 22:1 while He was on the cross, he quoted it in Aramaic! (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34).
Let me tell you some other things about your letter and about Bible translation that might startle you:

1. All Bible translations are paraphrases. Why do I say that? Because Greek is so different from English that a "literal" translation would be unintelligible.

Here is John 3:16 rendered in a word-by-word formal equivalent:

"Thus for he-loved the God the world that the son the only-born he-gave that every the believing into him not he-might-perish but he-might-have life eternal."

The only reason that has any clarity at all is because you've already read John 3:16 in a more dynamic translation, so that the meaning got across; there's enough here for you to recognize -- but just barely. And keep in mind that John's Greek is extremely simple, almost grade-school level. Paul's Greek, on the other hand, is extremely sophisticated and complex, on the level of classic Greek poetry. A literal translation of, say, Romans 3:23 like the one I just gave you for John 3:16 would look like a bowl of alphabet soup.

2. The KJV is actually a revision of three or four Bibles the church was using in the 1500s, including the Geneva Bible, the Bishop's Bible, Douay's version, and especially the Great Bible and Tyndale's Translation. The translators used all these as references and sources. Furthermore, the KJV itself has undergone numerous changes and updates since its first publishing. Many of these were to correct printing errors, but not all. In fact, a few of the revisions have been radical, and corrected some really big translation errors.

I say this to stand against the idea that the KJV's effect on the world is monolithic -- in other words, that it stood recognized as superior from Day One and has remained so. The reality is that Erasmus' text, from which the KJV's New Testament was translated (see below), underwent major revision after the KJV's publication, and the KJV did too. Not only that, the KJV was not unversally accepted at first. Finally, even the books of the KJV have undergone revision: until relatively recently, the KJV included the Apocrypha!

3. I don't know where you got the figure about the NIV removing 64,000 words but I don't buy it for a minute. The KJV's rendition of the Book of Psalms -- the longest book in the Bible! -- is just 43,743 words long. But you're accusing the NIV's translators of removing half again that amount, which would be over 100 pages! The KJV as a whole contains 783,137 words, so you're saying the NIV translators removed more 8 percent of the Bible's text -- without anyone noticing!

So let me ask you: Where are these radical differences between the KJV's length and the NIV's? I own 39 English versions of the Bible and the only difference I know of between most of them and the KJV is the hotly-contested second half of Romans 8:1 -- which appeared on only a few very late manuscripts, and which does appear in the NIV's footnotes.

And if the "17 verses removed" is John's account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, the only difference between the NIV and the KJV is that the NIV tells you that not everyone agrees this passage is really a part of John's Gospel. The KJV's translator's knew about the problems with that passage as well. Like the NIV translators, they included it; unlike the NIV translators, they chose not to inform the reader that the verse is contested.

4. Let's talk manuscripts. You mention two things above I'd like to address: first, off you claim that the KJV was translated with "5,000 manuscripts." This is simply not true; the New Testament in the KJV was translated from about six manuscripts. They didn't even have 5000 manuscripts back then! The KJV's Old Testament used much the same manuscripts as today's Bibles -- except for the additional witnesses of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which weren't found until 1948.

Second, you claim that the newer versions use "a far different manuscript base" than the KJV did. This is very misleading. The fact is, the only "manuscript base" the KJV had for its New Testament was the Byzantine family of texts. Today, we also have the Alexandrian and Egyptian text families, among others. In fact, the Codex Alexandrinus, generally recognized as the best and most complete manuscript we have, is Alexandrian, not Byzantine -- the KJV's translators did not have it. So it's simply not accurate to say that newer Bibles use different manuscripts than the KJV -- the fact is, the newer Bible incorporate all the texts the KJV used, plus thousands more!
Here's how we got the KJV's New Testament; the story is rather different than the "5000 manuscripts" you've been told. In the 1500s, a guy named Erasmus entered a race to be the first to submit a full Greek New Testament manuscript to be printed by Gutenberg and his new-fangled press. He went to Switzerland, where he found about six -- count 'em, six -- late Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts were very late -- all dated from the 1200s. In other words, they were only about 300 years old, and 1,100 years removed from the originals. All the manuscripts were from the Byzantine family, and did not include other manuscript families, such as the Egyptian or Alexandrian manuscripts.

Erasmus whipped together a manuscript in nine months, and later was embarrassed at its poor quality. Some scholars later had to revise his work to get it up to academic standards; it was then that it got the name the "Textus Receptus." This "egalitarian text," or blending of the six manuscripts, is what the translators used for every single English Bible's New Testament made up through the KJV -- the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Douay's, and so on. They all were translated from a set of just six manuscripts.

Now on the other hand, the NIV translators had thousands of manuscripts available to them -- including the oldest manuscripts ever discovered (i.e., the Dead Sea Scrolls). Many of these manuscripts are over a thousand years older than the manuscripts Erasmus had to work with -- one manuscript, called P52, is conservatively dated at 125 AD, which means that it is at the latest only 75 years older than the original Gospel autographs, and it may be much newer.

The plain fact of the matter is that today's Bible translators have more and better materials to work with than Erasmus and his contemporaries. Don't get me wrong -- the KJV was and is a wonderful translation, especially considering what little they had to work with; it's lasted 386 years and is still popular. But there is really no rational basis to insist that it's "better" than any other given translation -- they're all good.

5. I hate to burst your bubble, but if the actual words of Scripture are inspired (as opposed to sentences/meaning), doesn't that mean the words in the Bible could only be in the Bible? After all, the Bible is not written in a special holy language invented or reserved for Scripture alone -- both the Old Testament and New Testament were written in common, everyday language -- the same language other writers used for other works. How could the Bible use the same words as everything else if the words have to be inspired? A few questions spring to mind:

First off, more than 90 percent of the words in the New Testament are also used in an ancient Greek poem called "The Golden Ass" -- which was actually a work of pornography! How can this be, if the words in the Bible are inspired? Wouldn't it make better sense to discuss the meaning or sentences being inspired?

Second, how can Paul quote pagan philosophers and poets (Aratus, Epimenedes, Aristotle, and Menander -- see Acts 17:28, Titus 1:12, Gal. 5:23, et al.) and include these quotes in his letters if the words are inspired? Again, it's the sentences and meaning -- Paul uses them to make certain points in his works, which happened to be inspired as a whole; the other guys used the same sentences for something else.

Also, you don't seem to know the difference between "higher criticism" and "textual criticism." Higher critics claimed four different people, not Moses, wrote the Pentateuch. This does indeed contradict what the Bible says.

But textual critics compare variations in Bible manuscripts to weeds out errors, redactions, and missing pieces to reconstruct, as accurately as possible, what the original autographs said (and there are errors and variations in manuscripts -- all manuscripts, including the six used to translate the KJV). The very plain fact of the matter is that most manuscripts have some errors -- but when you have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts to compare, you can reconstruct what the originals said and weed out the errors. That's what Bible translators do; it's what the translators of the KJV did every bit as much as the translators of all the versions since -- the only difference being that today's translators have more to work with.

Finally, there is simply no logical basis for your claim that only one English translation can be the "real" one. The fact is, the best way to work with the Bible, apart from actually learning Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, is to compare as many different translations as possible to get the full scope of meaning. Believe it or not, this is what the KJV translators said in the KJV's preface.

It's only been comparitively recently that this nonsense of "only one legitimate translation" has come about. Origen assembled a six-translation parallel Old Testament in 240 AD, with Hebrew, Hebrew transliterated into Greek, and four different translations into Greek, all side by side. Why didn't this early Church father worry about which one was the "real" Bible?

One other question -- language changes, and English is no exception. If we insist on sticking with the KJV, what will we do as English continues to change? Our grammar and syntax is already very different than it was in 1611 (how often outside of church or the prayer closet do you use words like "Thee" and "thine"?). So has our vocabulary: "peradventure," "ustowards," "concupiscence," and "wheretofore" were common vernacular in 1611, but they are basically dead words reserved for academia today. If the Lord tarries, in another 100 years or so, 1611's Early Modern English will almost be like another language entirely (Old English already is totally different from today's English -- it's more like German or Russian than the English we know today. [Ever seen "Beouwulf?]). How will we get around all that if we can't make new translations to keep up with our own language?

God has indeed promised to preserve His word for us. But that doesn't give us the right to pour it into concrete. It is alive, sharper than any two-edged sword. Ever wonder why the New Testament writers quoted the Hebrew Old Testament -- in Greek? Because they wanted it to be understood! Our responsibility is not to set Scripture in stone and demand everyone learn ancient languages, such as Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic -- or archaic English! Our responsibility is to keep it fresh and alive for each new generation.
Grace and peace,

Greg Hartman