Mailbag

The Mailbag: What is KJV-Onlyism, and Is It Biblical?

 

I’m a fairly new Christian and still trying to get my footing in many areas of basic theology, including which Bible translation is best to use. A friend of mine is a “KJV-Onlyist” and has been very critical when I’ve explored other translations. I’ve tried using the KJV, but I find it very hard to understand. Is it wrong or unbiblical to use a modern English translation such as the ESV? If not, how can I explain this to my friend?

Welcome to the family of Christ! Having been raised in church and saved at an early age myself, I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be to assimilate into a totally new culture and begin trying to understand so many different aspects of the Christian life all at once.

A little background information for readers who are not familiar with some of the terminology in your question: KJV stands for King James Version, the 1611 English translation of the Bible that contains all the “thee’s” and “thou’s”. It’s the translation most familiar to the English speaking world. ESV stands for English Standard Version, a modern American English translation of the Bible first published in 2001.

In a nutshell, “KJV-Onlyists” generally believe that the KJV is the only acceptable translation for use by Christian individuals and churches. Many believe this because they mistakenly think that the translation itself is inspired by God in the 2 Timothy 3:16-17 sense. (The correct understanding of inspiration is that the original autographs – the actual words Moses, David, Paul, James, etc. wrote – are what were inspired by God.)

As with most belief systems, KJV-Onlyism is a spectrum of beliefs. On one end of the spectrum are KJVO’s who hold that you’re not saved or that you’re promoting false doctrine if you use any translation other than the KJV (Ironically, this extreme belief is itself false doctrine, or actual heresy if use of the KJV is in any way tied to salvation. Even the King James Version of the Bible does not teach this.). On the other end of the spectrum are what I, personally, would call KJVP’s (preferred). These are KJVO’s who strongly prefer KJV. This is the “official” version they use in their churches and want their church members to use, but they do not tie its use to salvation or disparage those who use other accurate translations. This stance is merely a preference of a particular church or individual, and is not false doctrine. And, of course, there are varied beliefs between the two ends of the spectrum.

The KJV is a perfectly great translation to use if it’s what you prefer. Christians have used it for hundreds of years and have grown in their relationship with Christ just fine. However, it can be confusing for speakers of modern English. Additionally, while it is still an acceptably accurate translation, several modern translations are technically more accurate due to the discovery of thousands of biblical manuscripts over the last 400 years. It is for these reasons I typically recommend either the ESV or the New American Standard (NASB) version. Both are highly accurate and easier to understand for 21st century readers. I used the NASB for about twenty years, then switched to the ESV about four years ago. I love both of them for their accuracy and ease of reading. For more information on choosing an English Bible translation, please see my article The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?.

If you need some materials to share with KJVO’s or would like to study the issue more yourself, please see the Additional Resources section below.


Additional Resources

King James Onlyism by James White

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by James White

Are the translations of the Bible inspired? at Compelling Truth

Why I Changed From KJV to ESV by Josh Buice

The King James Only Controversy by Trevin Wax

What is the KJV Only movement? at Got Questions


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Children’s Bible Recommendations

I continue to update this article as new Bibles and information become available. You will notice I have retracted some of my previous recommendations. I considered removing them since it makes the article a little clunky to navigate, but I decided to leave them in so you can see which Bibles I don’t recommend, and so you can see how once-trustworthy sources can, sadly, become untrustworthy over time.

 

Do you have any recommendations for a trustworthy Bible for children? My son is almost 6 and still learning to read well. I’m looking for a Bible that he might be able to grow with and use until he’s 10 or so. We’d love to get him in the practice of bringing his own Bible to church. I saw you have a large family so I thought you might have some insight.

Getting your kids started on Bible ownership and reading at an early age is definitely something Christian parents should be doing, and finding a great Bible for young readers can take some searching.

I do have six kiddos, but my youngest is almost fourteen- a little above the age bracket you’re looking at. I couldn’t remember which kids’ Bible we had most recently used with our own kids, so I asked my almost fourteen year old and my fifteen year old. They both reported that we had given them the **NIV Adventure Bible when they were around six or eight. It contains the entire text of Scripture and it looks like the current edition has a lot of good study features. You might also want to take a look at the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers version depending on his reading level.

My friend Rachel over at danielthree18 recently wrote a helpful review of the ESV Following Jesus Bible she and her husband bought their son for Christmas. It wasn’t available when we were Bible shopping for our own kids, but if it had been, it’s probably the one we would have chosen.

As I was gathering links for this article, I stumbled across a couple more kids’ Bibles that, while I haven’t read them, look like they might be worth checking out: the ESV Grow Bible and the ESV Children’s Bible. I can’t personally vouch for either of them, so examine them carefully, but ESV Bibles generally have a reputation for being trustworthy.

 

More recently, Steadfast Bibles and Three Sixteen Publishing released the NASB (New American Standard Bible) Children’s Edition. The NASB is one of the most accurate and reliable English translations of the Bible on the market today. I used the NASB as my primary reading Bible for over 20 years and highly recommend it. I have no doubt that the children’s edition is equally stellar. Read more about the NASB Children’s Edition here.

If you’d rather get your son a simple, non-child themed, no frills Bible, I’d recommend an **NIrV (New International Reader’s Version- It’s the NIV in simpler language), an NIV, or an ESV. If you’d like to examine these or any other translations, you can “try before you buy” at BibleGateway.com. They have numerous Bible versions you can take a look at online for free. There’s even a side by side comparison feature:

You can also check your church’s library or your local public library and examine their children’s Bibles to see what’s available out there, and what your child likes, before purchasing him a Bible.

For our readers with smaller children, I’d like to suggest two Bible storybooks. They do not contain the full text of Scripture, but can be a good introduction to the Bible for your little ones. I have not personally read either of these, but they both come highly recommended by reliable sources. Still, remember, no matter how reliable the source, you must do the work of comparing everything you read, and read to your children, to Scripture to make sure it’s biblical.

Tim Challies reviewed The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. His take: “We gladly commend it to families with young children and have purchased the curriculum for use in some of our children’s programs at Grace Fellowship Church. It remains one of my top picks in its genre.”

Update (3/23/19): The Jesus Storybook Bible was released in 2007. In 2018, Sally Lloyd-Jones released a children’s book entitled Goldfish on Vacation which included an illustration of a homosexual couple. When a homosexual man commended her for this on Twitter (the tweet has since been deleted) she had this to say:

As of this update, I haven’t found any additional evidence that Sally affirms homosexuality, but this tweet is troubling enough that I am rescinding my recommendation of the Jesus Storybook Bible and any of Sally’s other materials until such time as repents and resumes a biblical stance on this sin.

Kevin DeYoung is a solid, trustworthy pastor and teacher of God’s word, not to mention a dad of young kids. In 2015, he released The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, a children’s “overview of the Bible’s entire redemptive storyline—beginning with creation, ending with new creation, and centering on Jesus, the ‘Snake Crusher’.”

On a “wear and tear” note- we’ve purchased both soft cover (paperback) and hard cover Bibles for our elementary-aged kids, and both seem to get torn up pretty easily. (Or maybe my kids are just tough on Bibles!) With soft covers, the front and/or back cover can get ripped clean off, and with hard covers, the binding tends to detach. The only solution I can think of for this is to purchase a hard cover edition and some sort of case to keep it in (maybe one made of whatever those airplane “black boxes” are made out of). Perhaps training your child to keep his Bible in a certain place (on his dresser, the coffee table, etc.) whenever he’s not reading it might help. We neglected to do this and I often found Bibles on the floor, in the toy box, at the bottom of the closet, and other places conducive to Bible destruction. Anyway, keep the duct tape handy is all I’m saying.

The main thing, when you’re looking for a Bible for your kids is to find a good translation, avoid paraphrases, and be on the lookout for false doctrine, which has, unfortunately, trickled down into kids’ Bibles and devotionals (such as the kids’ versions of Jesus Calling – click on the Popular False Teachers tab at the top of this page for more information). You might find my article Which Bible Do You Recommend? (for selecting an adult Bible) helpful.


**I am retracting my recommendation of the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible (and any other NIV or NIrV Bible). As you may be aware, in 2005, Zondervan revised the trustworthy 1984 translation of the NIV to include gender neutral/inclusive language. It was called the T(Today’s)NIV. In response to completely appropriate backlash from the Christian community, Zondervan again revised the NIV in 2011. Unfortunately, they did not revise out the gender neutral/inclusive language, but, rather, essentially merged the NIV with the TNIV, dropping the “T,” and simultaneously took the 1984 NIV and the TNIV out of print. The current editions of the NIV/NIrV Adventure Bible contain the 2011 gender neutral/inclusive text of the NIV.

For a better grasp of the problems with the gender neutral/inclusive verbiage of the 2011 NIV, please read: A fair analysis of the new NIV.

Here is an excerpt from the preface of the current edition of the NIV Adventure Bible. (Click on “look inside” at the upper left of the page for the entire preface.):

I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience my mistake may have caused my readers. I assure you it was a simple error due to the fact that we purchased the Adventure Bible for our children before gender neutral/inclusive language was an issue, and it didn’t occur to me to check the current edition for the 2011 revisions.

Maybe my mistake can serve as a reminder to us all that just because something or someone was once biblically trustworthy doesn’t mean it will remain that way. Always be a good Berean and check everything.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

 

Bible, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

mailbag

 

I was saved out of Mormonism but, as a new Christian, spent some time in the Word of Faith movement. I want a Bible that hasn’t been tampered with by a false religion, but I’m not sure which one I can trust. Which Bible do you recommend?

What a blessing it is to even be able to ask this question! You would not ask this question if God had not graciously saved you, and you could not ask this question if there weren’t a ton of different Bibles available in English, nor if you lived in a country where it is illegal to own a copy of God’s word. It’s a dilemma, but it’s a good dilemma to have.

The good news is that there are many fantastic Bibles out there- far more good ones than bad, and far more than I could recommend in this brief article. So, please don’t take this as an exhaustive list or think that because I’ve left a certain Bible out that it isn’t any good.

The first thing you want to look for is a good translation, not a paraphrase. You want to know what God said through Paul, not what somebody 2000 years later thinks about what God said through Paul. You’re looking to get as close to the original wording as is possible.

There are several great English translations on the market. I started using the English Standard Version (ESV) about four years ago, and I love it. Prior to that I used the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for about 20 years. It is also an excellent translation. If you’re familiar with various Bible translations, ESV is, in my opinion, like a more accurate, more linguistically sophisticated 1984 New International Version (NIV). NASB is like a cross between the King James Version (KJV) and the 1984 NIV, but more accurate. In my opinion, ESV and NASB are the two best translations out there today.

There are, however, several other solid translations such as the New King James Version (NKJV), the Lexham English Bible (LEB), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB– This is a newly revised version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible {HCSB}, and they’re dropping the “Holman”. So HCSB and CSB – whichever one you happen to see – are the same thing.), and the “old” or “1984” NIV (You want to stay away from the TNIV {Today’s New International Version}, now out of print, and any 2011 or later NIV, as those both contain gender neutral/inclusive language. The 1984 edition is also out of print, but you may be able to acquire one from a second hand store.)

The KJV is a good translation and the language is beautiful, but if you have trouble with 1611 English, it’s not the only game in town anymore. Some of our modern translations are actually more accurate than the KJV because thousands more biblical manuscripts have been discovered since it was first published, allowing translators to be more precise.

Below is a helpful chart from Brent MacDonald of Not Just Another Book comparing a number of different translations and paraphrases. (On this chart, it’s good to be a “leftist”).

bibletranslationcomparisonsmall

You can try most of these translations out for free at Bible GatewayThere’s even a great feature that allows you to compare several versions side by side:

biblegateway-compare-translations

Just as there are a number of good Bible versions I would recommend, there are a few I’m familiar with which I would strongly recommend againstThe Message, The Voice, The Passion Translation, and The Amplified Bible.

peterson-shackMore than a few articles have voiced concerns over The Message’s – a paraphrase – often misleading texts. (I would add that Eugene Peterson {author of The Message} frequently shows poor discernment. One recent example is his front cover endorsement of the heresy-laden book – and movie – The Shack.)

The Voice is not only a paraphrase, its contributors include female “pastors” and false teachers such as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Chris Seay, and Leonard Sweet.

The Passion Translation is a New Apostolic Reformation version of the Bible which actually changes the wording of many verses in order to fit the NAR agenda. Click here for a Bible translation scholar’s review of Passion’s version of Psalms.

The Amplified Bible falls prey to an improper translation technique called illegitimate totality transfer.

If you’re looking for a good study Bible (or want to avoid a bad one), I’ve discussed that a bit here (#4). I frequently use and highly recommend both the ESV MacArthur Study Bible and the Faithlife Study Bible (which is FREE!). When shopping for a study Bible, do you homework and vet the contributors. Avoid any study Bibles whose contributors are false teachers, theologians from apostate churches, female “pastors,” etc.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.