QUESTION: Haven't there been
several revisions of the King James Bible since 1611?
ANSWER: No. There have been
several editions but no revisions.
EXPLANATION: One of the last
ditch defenses of a badly shaken critic of the Authorized Version 1611
is the "revision hoax." They run to this seeming fortress
in an attempt to stave off ultimate defeat by their opponents who overwhelm
their feeble arguments with historic facts, manuscript evidence and
to obvious workings of the Holy Spirit. Once inside, they turn self-confidently
to their foes and ask with a smug look, "Which King James do you
use, the 1611 or the 1629 or perhaps the 1769?" The shock of this
attack and the momentary confusion that results usually allows them
time to make good their escape.
Unfortunately, upon entering their castle and closing
the door behind them they find that their fortress has been systematically
torn down, brick by brick, by a man with the title of Dr. David F. Reagan.
Dr. Reagan pastors the Trinity Baptist Temple in Knoxville,
Tennessee. He has written a devastating exposé on the early editions
of the King James Bible entitled "The King James Version of 1611.
The Myth of Early Revisions."
Dr. Reagan has done an excellent job of destroying the
last stronghold of Bible critics. I see neither a way, nor a reason
to try to improve on his finding. So I have secured his permission to
reproduce his pamphlet in its entirety.
THE KING JAMES VERSION OF 1611
THE MYTH OF EARLY REVISIONS
Men have been "handling the word of God deceitfully"
(II Cor. 4:2) ever since the devil first taught Eve how. From Cain to
Balaam, from Jehudi to the scribes and Pharisees, from the Dark Age
theologians to present-day scholars, the living words of the Almighty
God have been prime targets for man's corrupting hand. The attacks on
the Word of God are threefold: addition, subtraction, and substitution.
From Adam's day to the computer age, the strategies have remained the
same. There is nothing new under the sun.
One attack which is receiving quite a bit of attention
these days is a direct attack on the Word of God as preserved in the
English language: the King James Version of 1611. The attack referred
to is the myth which claims that since the King James Version has already
been revised four times, there should be and can be no valid objection
to other revisions. This myth was used by the English Revisers of 1881
and has been revived in recent years by Fundamentalist scholars hoping
to sell their latest translation. This book is given as an answer to
this attack. The purpose of the material is not to convince those who
would deny this preservation but to strengthen the faith of those who
already believe in a preserved English Bible.
One major question often arises in any attack such as
this. How far should we go in answering the critics? If we were to attempt
to answer every shallow objection to the infallibility of the English
Bible, we would never be able to accomplish anything else. Sanity must
prevail somewhere. As always, the answer is in God's Word. Proverbs
26:4-5 states: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also
be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise
in his own conceit.
Obviously, there are times when a foolish query should
be ignored and times when it should be met with an answer. If to answer
the attack will make you look as foolish as the attacker, then the best
answer is to ignore the question. For instance, if you are told that
the Bible cannot be infallible because so-and-so believes that it is,
and he is divorced, then you may safely assume that silence is the best
answer. On the other hand, there are often questions and problems that,
if true, would be serious. To ignore these issues would be to leave
the Bible attacker wise in his own conceit. I believe that the question
of revisions to the King James Version of 1611 is a question of the
second class. If the King James Version has undergone four major revisions
of its text, then to oppose further revisions on the basis of an established
English text would truly be faulty. For this reason, this attack should
and must be answered. Can the argument be answered? Certainly! That
is the purpose of this book.
I - THE PRINTING CONDITIONS OF 1611
If God did preserve His Word in the English language
through the Authorized Version of 1611 (and He did), then where is our
authority for the infallible wording? Is it in the notes of the translators?
Or is it to be found in the proof copy sent to the printers? If so,
then our authority is lost because these papers are lost. But, you say,
the authority is in the first copy which came off the printing press.
Alas, that copy has also certainly perished. In fact, if the printing
of the English Bible followed the pattern of most printing jobs, the
first copy was probably discarded because of bad quality. That leaves
us with existing copies of the first printing. They are the ones often
pointed out as the standard by which all other King James Bibles are
to be compared. But are they? Can those early printers of the first
edition not be allowed to make printing errors? We need to establish
one thing from the outset. The authority for our preserved English text
is not found in any human work. The authority for our preserved and
infallible English text is in God! Printers may foul up at times and
humans will still make plenty of errors, but God in His power and mercy
will preserve His text despite the weaknesses of fallible man. Now,
let us look at the pressures on a printer in the year of 1611.
Although the printing press had been invented in 1450
by Johann Gutenburg in Germany (161 years before the 1611 printing),
the equipment used by the printer had changed very little. Printing
was still very slow and difficult. All type was set by hand, one piece
at a time (that's one piece at a time through the whole Bible), and
errors were an expected part of any completed book. Because of this
difficulty and also because the 1611 printers had no earlier editions
from which to profit, the very first edition of the King James Version
had a number of printing errors. As shall later be demonstrated, these
were not the sort of textual alterations which are freely made in modern
bibles. They were simple, obvious printing errors of the sort that can
still be found at times in recent editions even with all of the advantages
of modem printing. These errors do not render a Bible useless, but they
should be corrected in later editions.
The two original printings of the Authorized Version demonstrate
the difficulty of printing in 1611 without making mistakes. Both editions
were printed in Oxford. Both were printed in the same year: 1611. The
same printers did both jobs. Most likely, both editions were printed
on the same printing press. Yet, in a strict comparison of the two editions,
approximately 100 textual differences can be found. In the same vein
the King James critics can find only about 400 alleged textual alterations
in the King James Version after 375 years of printing and four so-called
revisions! Something is rotten in Scholarsville! The time has come to
examine these revisions."
11 - THE FOUR SO-CALLED REVISIONS
OF THE 1611 KJV
Much of the information in this section is taken from
a book by F.H.A. Scrivener called The Authorized Edition
of the English Bible (1611), Its
Subsequent Reprints and Modern Representatives.
The book is as pedantic as its title indicates. The interesting point
is that Scrivener, who published this book in 1884, was a member of
the Revision Committee of 1881. He was not a King James Bible believer,
and therefore his material is not biased toward the Authorized Version.
In the section of Scrivener's book dealing with the KJV
"revisions," one initial detail is striking. The first two
so-called major revisions of the King James Bible occurred within 27
years of the original printing. (The language must have been changing
very rapidly in those days.) The 1629 edition of the Bible printed in
Cambridge is said to have been the first revision. A revision it was
not, but simply a careful correction of earlier printing errors. Not
only was this edition completed just eighteen years after the translation,
but two of the men who participated in this printing, Dr. Samuel Ward
and John Bois, had worked on the original translation of the King James
Version. Who better to correct early errors than two who had worked
on the original translation! Only nine years later and in Cambridge
again, another edition came out which is supposed to have been the second
major revision. Both Ward and Bois were still alive, but it is not known
if they participated at this time. But even Scrivener, who as you remember
worked on the English Revised Version of 1881, admitted that the Cambridge
printers had simply reinstated words and clauses overlooked by the 1611
printers and amended manifest errors. According to a study which will
be detailed later, 72% of the approximately 400 textual corrections
in the KJV were completed by the time of the 1638 Cambridge edition,
only 27 years after the original printing!
Just as the first two so-called revisions were actually
two stages of one process: the purification of early printing errors,
so the last two so-called revisions were two stages in another process:
the standardization of the spelling, These two editions were only seven
years apart (1762 and 1769) with the second one completing what the
first had started. But when the scholars are numbering revisions, two
sounds better than one. Very few textual corrections were necessary
at this time. The thousands of alleged changes are spelling changes
made to match the established correct forms. These spelling changes
will be discussed later. Suffice it to say at this time that the tale
of four major revisions is truly a fraud and a myth. But you say, there
are still changes whether they be few or many. What are you going to
do with the changes that are still there? Let us now examine the character
of these changes.
III - THE SO-CALLED THOUSANDS
Suppose someone were to take you to a museum to see an
original copy of the King James Version. You come to the glass case
where the Bible is displayed and look down at the opened Bible through
the glass. Although you are not allowed to flip through its pages, you
can readily tell that there are some very different things about this
Bible from the one you own. You can hardly read its words, and those
you can make out are spelled in odd and strange ways. Like others before
you, you leave with the impression that the King James Version has undergone
a multitude of changes since its original printing in 1611. But beware,
you have just been taken by a very clever ploy. The differences you
saw are not what they seem to be. Let's examine the evidence.
For proper examination, the changes can be divided into
three kinds: printing changes, spelling changes, and textual changes.
Printing changes will be considered first. The type style used in 1611
by the KJV translators was the Gothic Type Style. The type style you
are reading right now and are familiar with is Roman Type. Gothic Type
is sometimes called Germanic because it originated in Germany. Remember,
that is where printing was invented. The Gothic letters were formed
to resemble the hand-drawn manuscript lettering of the Middle Ages.
At first, it was the only style in use. The Roman Type Style was invented
fairly early, but many years passed before it became the predominate
style in most European countries. Gothic continued to be used in Germany
until recent years. In 1611 in England, Roman Type was already very
popular and would soon supersede the Gothic. However, the original printers
chose the Gothic Style for the KJV because it was considered to be more
beautiful and eloquent than the Roman. But the change to Roman Type
was not long in coming. In 1612, the first King James Version using
Roman Type was printed. Within a few years, all the bibles printed used
the Roman Type Style.
Please realize that a change in type style no more alters
the text of the Bible than a change in format or type size does. However,
the modem reader who has not become familiar with Gothic can find it
very difficult to understand. Besides some general change in form, several
specific letter changes need to be observed. For instance, the Gothic
s looks like the Roman s when used as a capital
letter or at the end of a word. But when it is used as a lower case
s at the beginning or in the middle of a word, the
letter looks like our f. Therefore, also
becomes alfo and set becomes fet.
Another variation is found in the German v and u.
The Gothic v looks like a Roman u
while the Gothic u looks like the Roman v.
This explains why our w is called a double-u and not
a double-v. Sound confusing? It is until you get used to it. In the
1611 edition, love is loue, us
is vs, and ever is euer.
But remember, these are not even spelling changes. They are simply type
style changes. In another instance, the Gothic j looks
like our i. So Jesus becomes Iefus
(notice the middle s changed to f)
and joy becomes ioy. Even the Gothic
d with the stem leaning back over the circle in a shape resembling
that of the Greek Delta. These changes account for
a large percentage of the "thousands" of changes in the KJV,
yet they do no harm whatsoever to the text. They are nothing more than
a smokescreen set up by the attackers of our English Bible.
Another kind of change found in the history of the Authorized Version
are changes of orthography or spelling. Most histories date the beginning
of Modern English around the year 1500. Therefore, by 1611 the grammatical
structure and basic vocabulary of present-day English had long been
established. However, the spelling did not stabilize at the same time.
In the 1600's spelling was according to whim. There was no such thing
as correct spelling. No standards had been established. An author often
spelled the same word several different ways, often in the same book
and sometimes on the same page. And these were the educated people.
Some of you reading this today would have found the 1600's a spelling
paradise. Not until the eighteenth century did the spelling begin to
take a stable form. Therefore, in the last half of the eighteenth century,
the spelling of the King James Version of 1611 was standardized.
What kind of spelling variations can you expect to find
between your present edition and the 1611 printing? Although every spelling
difference cannot be categorized, several characteristics are very common.
Additional e's were often found at the end of the words
such as feare, darke, and beare.
Also, double vowels were much more common than they are today. You would
find ee, bee, and mooued
instead of me, be, and moved.
Double consonants were also much more common. What would ranne,
euill, and ftarres be according to
present-day spelling? See if you can figure them out. The present-day
spellings would be ran, evil, and
stars. These typographical and spelling changes account
for almost all of the so-called thousands of changes in the King James
Bible. None of them alter the text in any way. Therefore they cannot
be honestly compared with thousands of true textual changes which are
blatantly made in the modern versions.
Almost all of the alleged changes have been accounted for.
We now come to the question of actual textual differences between our
present editions and that of 1611. There are some differences between
the two, but they are not the changes of a revision. They are instead
the correction of early printing errors. That this is a fact may be
seen in three things: (1) the character of the changes, (2) the frequency
of the changes throughout the Bible, and (3) the time the changes were
made. First, let us look at the character of the changes made from the
time of the first printing of the Authorized English Bible.
The changes from the 1611 edition that are admittedly
textual are obviously printing errors because of the nature of these
changes. They are not textual changes made to alter the reading. In
the first printing, words were sometimes inverted. Sometimes a plural
was written as singular or visa versa. At times a word was miswritten
for one that was similar. A few times a word or even a phrase was omitted.
The omissions were obvious and did not have the doctrinal implications
of those found in modern translations. In fact, there is really no comparison
between the corrections made in the King James text and those proposed
by the scholars of today.
F.H.A. Scrivener, in the appendix of his book, lists the
variations between the 1611 edition of the KJV and later printings.
A sampling of these corrections is given below. In order to be objective,
the samples give the first textual correction on consecutive left hand
pages of Scrivener's book. The 1611 reading is given first; then the
present reading; and finally, the date the correction was first made.
1 this thing - this thing also (1638)
2 shalt have remained - ye shall have
3 Achzib, nor Helbath, nor Aphik - of
Achzib, nor of Helbath, nor of Aphik (1762)
4 requite good - requite me good (1629)
5 this book of the Covenant - the book
of this covenant (1629)
6 chief rulers - chief ruler (1629)
7 And Parbar - At Parbar (1638)
8 For this cause - And for this cause
9 For the king had appointed - for so
the king had appointed (1629)
10 Seek good - seek God (1617)
11 The cormorant - But the cormorant (1629)
12 returned - turned (1769)
13 a fiery furnace - a burning fiery furnace
14 The crowned - Thy crowned (1629)
15 thy right doeth - thy right hand doeth
16 the wayes side - the way side (1743)
17 which was a Jew - which was a Jewess
18 the city - the city of the Damascenes
19 now and ever - both now and ever (1638)
20 which was of our father's - which was
our fathers (1616)
Before your eyes are 5% of the textual changes made in
the King James Version in 375 years. Even if they were not corrections
of previous errors, they would be of no comparison to modem alterations.
But they are corrections of printing errors, and therefore no comparison
is at all possible. Look at the list for yourself and you will find
only one that has serious doctrinal implications. In fact, in an examination
of Scrivener's entire appendix, it is the only variation found by this
author that could be accused of being doctrinal. I am referring to Psalm
69:32 where the 1611 edition has "seek good" when the Bible
should have read "seek God." Yet, even with this error, two
points demonstrate that this was indeed a printing error. First, the
similarity of the words "good" and "God" in spelling
shows how easily a weary type setter could misread the proof and put
the wrong word in the text. Second, this error was so obvious that it
was caught and corrected in the year 1617, only six years after the
original printing and well before the first so-called revision. The
myth that there are several major revisions to the 1611 KJV should be
getting clearer. But there is more.
Not only does the character of the changes show them to
be printing errors, so does their frequency. Fundamentalist scholars
refer to the thousands of revisions made to the 1611 as if they were
on a par with the recent bible versions. They are not. The overwhelming
majority of them are either type style or spelling changes. The few
which do remain are clearly corrections of printing errors made because
of the tediousness involved in the early printing process. The sample
list given above will demonstrate just how careful Scrivener was in
listing all the variations. Yet, even with this great care, only approximately
400 variations are named between the 1611 edition and modern copies.
Remember that there were 100 variations between the first two Oxford
editions which were both printed in 1611. Since there are almost 1200
chapters in the Bible, the average variation per chapter (after 375
years) is one third, i.e., one correction per every three chapters.
These are changes such as "chief rulers" to "chief ruler"
and "And Parbar" to "At Parbar." But there is yet
one more evidence that these variations are simply corrected printing
errors: the early date at which they were corrected.
The character and frequency of the textual changes clearly
separate them from modern alterations. But the time the
changes were made settles the issue absolutely. The great majority of
the 400 corrections were made within a few years of the original printing.
Take, for example, our earlier sampling. Of the twenty corrections listed,
one was made in 1613, one in 1616, one in 1617, eight in 1629, five
in 1638, one in 1743, two in 1762, and one in 1769. That means that
16 out of 20 corrections, or 80%, were made within twenty-seven years
of the 1611 printing. That is hardly the long drawn out series of revisions
the scholars would have you to believe. In another study made by examining
every other page of Scrivener's appendix in detail, 72% of the textual
corrections were made by 1638. There is no "revision" issue.
The character of the textual changes is that of obvious
errors. The frequency of the textual changes is sparse, occurring only
once per three chapters. The chronology of the textual changes is early
with about three fourths of them occurring within twenty-seven years
of the first printing. All of these details establish the fact that
there were no true revisions in the sense of updating the language or
correcting translation errors. There were only editions which corrected
early typographical errors. Our source of authority for the exact wording
of the 1611 Authorized Version is not in the existing copies of the
first printing. Our source of authority for the exact wording of our
English Bible is in the preserving power of Almighty God. Just as God
did not leave us the original autographs to fight and squabble over,
so He did not see fit to leave us the proof copy of the translation.
Our authority is in the hand of God as always. You can praise the Lord
IV - CHANGES IN THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES
An in-depth study of the changes made in the book of
Ecclesiastes would help to illustrate the principles stated above. The
author is grateful to Dr. David Reese of Millbrook, Alabama, for his
work in this area. By comparing a 1611 reprint of the original edition
put out by Thomas Nelson & Sons with recent printing of the King
James Version, Dr. Reese was able to locate four variations in the book
of Ecclesiastes. The reference is given first; then the text of the
Thomas Nelson 1611 reprint. This is followed by the reading of the present
editions of the 1611 KJV and the date the change was made.
1 1:5 the place - his place (1638)
2 2:16 shall be - shall all be (1629)
3 8:17 out, yea further - out, yet he
shall not find it; yea farther (1629)
4 11: 17 thing is it - thing it is (?)
Several things should be noted about these changes. The
last variation ("thing is it" to "thing it is")
is not mentioned by Scrivener who was a very careful and accurate scholar.
Therefore, this change may be a misprint in the Thomas Nelson reprint.
That would be interesting. The corrected omission in chapter eight is
one of the longest corrections of the original printing. But notice
that it was corrected in 1629. The frequency of printing errors is average
(four errors in twelve chapters). But the most outstanding fact is that
the entire book of Ecclesiastes reads exactly like our present editions
without even printing errors by the year 1638. That's approximately
350 years ago. By that time, the Bible was being printed in Roman type.
Therefore, all (and I mean all) that has changed in 350 years in the
book of Ecclesiastes is that the spelling has been standardized! As
stated before, the main purpose of the 1629 and 1638 Cambridge editions
was the correction of earlier printing errors. And the main purpose
of the 1762 and 1769 editions was the standardization of spelling.
V - THE SO-CALLED JUSTIFICATION
FOR OTHER REVISIONS
Maybe now you see that the King James Version of 1611
has not been revised but only corrected. But why does it make that much
difference? Although there are several reasons why this issue is important,
the most pressing one is that fundamentalist scholars are using this
myth of past revisions to justify their own tampering with the text.
The editors of the New King James Version have probably been the worst
in recent years to use this propaganda ploy. In the preface of the New
King James they have stated, "For nearly four hundred years, and
throughout several revisions of its English form, the King James Bible
has been deeply revered among the English-speaking peoples of the world.
"In the midst of their flowery rhetoric, they strongly imply that
their edition is only a continuation of the revisions that have been
going on for the past 375 years. This implication, which has been stated
directly by others, could not be more false. To prove this point, we
will go back to the book of Ecclesiastes.
An examination of the first chapter in Ecclesiastes in
the New King James Version reveals approximately 50 changes from our
present edition. In order to be fair, spelling changes (cometh
to comes; labour to labor;
etc.) were not included in this count. That means there are probably
about 600 alterations in the book of Ecclesiastes and approximately
60,000 changes in the entire Bible. If you accuse me of including every
recognizable change, you are correct. But I am only counting the sort
of changes which were identified in analyzing the 1611 King James. That's
only fair. Still, the number of changes is especially baffling for a
version which claims to be an updating in the same vein as earlier revisions.
According to the fundamentalist scholar, the New King James is only
a fifth in a series of revisions. Then pray tell me how four "revisions"
and 375 years brought only 400 changes while the fifth revision brought
about 60,000 additional changes? That means that the fifth revision
made 150 times more changes than the total number of changes in the
first four! That's preposterous!
Not only is the frequency of the changes unbelievable,
but the character of the alterations are serious. Although many of the
alterations seem harmless enough at first glance, many are much more
serious. The editors of the New King James Version were sly enough not
to alter the most serious blunders of the modern bibles. Yet, they were
not afraid to change the reading in those places that are unfamiliar
to the average fundamentalist. In these areas, the New King James Version
is dangerous. Below are some of the more harmful alterations made in
the book of Ecclesiastes. The reference is given first; then the reading
as found in the King James Version; and last, the reading as found in
the New King James Version.
1:13 sore travail; grievous task
1:14 vexation of spirit; grasping for the wind
1:16 my heart had great experience of wisdom; My heart has understood
2:3 to give myself unto; to gratify my flesh with
2:3 acquainting; guiding
2:21 equity; skill
3:10 the travail, which God hath given; the God-given task
3:11 the world; eternity
3:18 that God might manifest them; God tests them
3:18 they themselves are beasts; they themselves are like beasts
3:22 portion; heritage
4:4 right work; skillful work
5:1 Keep thy foot; Walk prudently
5:6 the angel; the messenger of God
5:6 thy voice; your excuse
5:8 he that is higher than the highest; high official
5:20 God answereth him; God keeps him busy
6:3 untimely birth; stillborn child
7:29 inventions; schemes
8:1 boldness; sterness
8:10 the place of the holy; the place of holiness
10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to
send forth a stinking savour; Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment
10:10 If the iron be blunt; If the ax is dull
10:10 wisdom is profitable to direct; wisdom brings success
12:9 gave good heed; pondered
12:11 the masters of assemblies; scholars
This is only a sampling of the changes in the book, but
notice what is done. Equity, which is a trait of godliness, becomes
skill (2:21). The world becomes eternity (3:11). Man without God is
no longer a beast but just like a beast (3:18). The clear reference
to deity in Ecclesiastes 5:8 ("he that is higher than the highest")
is successfully removed ("higher official"). But since success
is what wisdom is supposed to bring us (10: 10), this must be progress.
At least God is keeping the scholars busy (5:20). Probably the most
revealing of the above mentioned changes is the last one listed where
"the masters of assemblies" become "scholars." According
to the New King James, "the words of scholars are like well-driven
nails, given by one Shepherd." The masters of assemblies are replaced
by the scholars who become the source of the Shepherd's words. That
is what these scholars would like us to think, but it is not true.
In conclusion, the New King James is not a revision in
the vein of former revisions of the King James Version. It is instead
an entirely new translation. As stated in the introduction, the purpose
of this book is not to convince those who use the other versions. The
purpose of this book is to expose a fallacious argument that has been
circulating in fundamentalist circles for what it is: an overblown myth.
That is, the myth that the New King James Version and others like it
are nothing more than a continuation of revisions which have periodically
been made to the King James Version since 1611. There is one problem
with this theory. There are no such revisions.
The King James Bible of 1611 has not undergone four (or
any) major revisions. Therefore, the New King James Version is not a
continuation of what has gone on before. It should in fact be called
the Thomas Nelson Version. They hold the copyright. The King James Version
we have today has not been revised but purified. We still have no reason
to doubt that the Bible we hold in our hands is the very word of God
preserved for us in the English language. The authority for its veracity
lies not in the first printing of the King James Version in 1611, or
in the character of King James 1, or in the scholarship of the 1611
translators, or in the literary accomplishments of Elizabethan England,
or even in the Greek Received Text. Our authority for the infallible
words of the English Bible lies in the power and promise of God to preserve
His Word! God has the power. We have His Word.
Individual copies of Dr. Reagan's excellent pamphlet
can be obtained by sending one dollar to:
Trinity Baptist Temple Bookstore
5709 N. Broadway
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918