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Is the Authorized Version Perfect?

It is with some trepidation that we take up the question posed by one of our readers: "Are there translation errors in the KJV (king James Version - better known as the Authorized Version or AV), e.g., dates, names, numbers, etc.?"  We are ardent supporters of the AV, as those who have read our literature know, yet we do not believe that any version or translation can be perfect.

We would add, however, that there are no serious translation errors in the AV, i.e., no errors that affect Biblical doctrines or change the sense of the passage.  The AV is by far the best translation of the Holy Scriptures, not only because it is based on the best manuscripts, but also because the translators themselves were trustworthy men who had the highest possible regard for the Word of God, unlike many today.

We believe, too, that the multiplication of versions is a great evil.  Not only is the Word not recognized because of the many versions in use, but it is no longer learned and memorized for the same reason.  The many versions, rather than giving the Bible to the people in language they can understand, have effectively taken it away from them.

Nevertheless, we do not believe that a translation can be perfect.  No translation can perfectly reproduce the sense of every original Greek and Hebrew word or every nuance of meaning.  Nor can a translation retain such things as the word order of the Greek and Hebrew, which is often quite important.

The teaching that the AV is without mistake and perfect is untenable simply in light of the fact that the AV itself has been revised a number of times.  These revisions have all been minor (today they are mostly a matter of different spellings), but what is errorless should not need revision of any kind.

Against our position, there are those who hold that the AV translators themselves were inspired, so that their translation is errorless.  This, however, puts us into the charismatic camp, by allowing that infallibility and inspiration continue after the time of the Apostles.  If there can be inspired and infallible translators, there can be inspired and infallible prophets and prophecies as well.  That teaching we utterly reject.

The position that a translation can be errorless is the teaching of Romanism.  They claim that their Latin version (the Vulgate) cannot even be corrected from the originals.  Cf. Turretin, Institutes, vol. III, pages 112-134.

This is not to deny God's providence both in the preservation of the Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture and in the providing of such an excellent translation of Scripture.  It is a wonderful providence that the AV was given to the church and was, at least until recent times, used by the whole of the English-speaking church.

Some object that if the translation is not perfect, then we cannot say that English Bible is God's Word.  But that in no sense follows.  Not only is the AV an accurate translation, but it is a translation of the words God spoke, so that when we read the English version we are reading the Bible and know from it what God will have us to do.

Also, with the help of a good concordance or some careful study, even without a knowledge of the Hebrew or Greek, one can discover very easily what the Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture do say.  It is not difficult, for example to find out that the word "comfortless" in John 14:18 is not from the ordinary word for comfort, but a word meaning something like "orphans."  Such careful study we encourage.

Last modified on 27 March 2013
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Additional Info

  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 6
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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