KJV 1611 vs. KJV 1769: The KJV-onlyist’s Dilemma
“The only changes made since the 1611 translation of the KJV until now have been changes of spelling or printing only.” I’ve heard this often, usually from well-meaning people who wish to defend the King James Version’s pedigree as a “perfect” translation of the Bible.
That statement, however, is a lie or at the very least, a piece of innocent misinformation; it is unfit for repetition by folks who claim an affinity for the truth.
One does not have to look far to find (often fundamentalist) ministries, tracts, or websites using “KJV 1611″ as if it were a brand, the connection to which meaning that the ministry, tract, or website agrees with the “perfect” Bible.[note]You’re guaranteed to find more than a few in this index.[/note] Immediately at issue with those instances is that those groups don’t use the 1611 KJV, which would not only be much more difficult to reach and preach from, but which doesn’t represent the same text as the version of the KJV which they are using.
To illustrate, here is a list of significant changes (i.e., changes which affect the meaning of the passage) made to the KJV text since 1611. The 1611 reading precedes the 1769.
- Joshua 3:11 – “Arke of the Couenant, euen the Lord” vs. “ark of the covenant of the Lord”
- 2 Kings 11:10 – “in the Temple” vs. “in the temple of the LORD”
- Isaiah 49:13 – “for God” vs. “for the LORD”
- Jeremiah 31:14 – “with goodnesse” vs. “with my goodness”
- Jeremiah 51:30 – “burnt their dwelling places” vs. “burned her dwellingplaces”
- Ezekiel 6:8 – “that he may” vs. “that ye may”
- Ezekiel 24:5 – “let him seethe” vs. “let them seethe”
- Ezekiel 24:7 – “powred it vpon the ground” vs. “poured it not upon the ground”
- Ezekiel 48:8 – “which they shall” vs. “which ye shall”
- Daniel 3:15 – “a fierie furnace” vs. “a burning fiery furnace”
- Matthew 14:9 – “the othes sake” vs. “the oath’s sake”
- 1 Corinthians 12:28 – “helpes in gouernmets” vs. “helps, governments”
- 1 Corinthians 15:6 – “And that” vs. “After that”
- 1 John 5:12 – “the Sonne, hath” vs. “the Son of God hath”
If anyone wants to check out the above readings for themselves, both the 1611 KJV and the 1769 KJV are available freely for e-Sword.[note]The list itself can be found in Differences between Bible Versions by Gary F. Zeolla.[/note]
Additionally, even in today there are two versions of the KJV in use: the Oxford and the Cambridge editions. Some of the differences in them affect the meaning of the text as well. For example, here are a couple Cambridge passages vs. their Oxford counterparts.
- Jeremiah 34:16 – “whom ye had set” vs. “whom he had set”
- 2 Timothy 2:2 – “heard from me” vs. “heard of me”
One cannot help to wonder about KJV-onlyism in light of the above. Was the King James Version of 1611 perfect? If yes, why were there such substantial changes made to the text between then and 1769? By using a modern edition of the KJV, are not the onlyists admitting that the 1611 translation was flawed?
And what about the more modern versions? Which one is correct? Why? Upon whose authority?
Which edition of the KJV is perfect?
Between 1611 and 1769, was there a perfect English translation?
Why is the 1769 edition perfect? What about the more recent Comfortable Edition?
If you believe that translations can be inspired or that the KJV is advanced revelation of some kind, as some KJV-onlyists do, why did God take over a hundred years to continue to revise his 1611 work? Does God work on a trial and error basis?
I think these are all legitimate questions.
From my experience of being a KJV-onlyist, I always heard that there were no substantial differences between the 1611 and the 1769. It is often claimed, as I noted above, that only spelling & printing errors were fixed. But clearly, there were changes to the content as well.
KJV-onlyists should be aware of these claims, especially if they’ve bought into the idea that there were no substantial changes.