I had a conversation with one of my students about the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus. Our conversation provoked some thoughts that I would like to share here. First of all, I should say that there are two kinds of King James only people. There are those who believe the King James Version was God’s inspired translation that he intended for all English speaking people. There are others who prefer the King James because they see the Textus Receptus as a superior Greek text to other Greek texts. There may be some overlap between the two groups but they do not have to be the same.
In a way, I am sympathetic to the concerns of King James only people. They are bothered by what they see as omissions of inspired verses from modern translations. The Bible should not be edited down to remove verses we don’t like. As far as that goes, I am in agreement. However, that is not what I believe that modern translations do. This is how King James only people see the situation:
KJV (more verses) —> Modern Translations (less verses)
I see that as only half the story. What I think is really going on is this:
Oldest Greek MSS (less verses) —> Newer Greek MSS (more verses) —> KJV (more verses) —> Modern Translations (less verses)
When a person compares the KJV to newer translations, it can be troubling that there are verses that are missing. It feels wrong. But instead of relying on feeling, we need to rely on the facts. We must look at the verses that are missing and ask why they are missing. The measure is not what verses are in the KJV, but what verses are in the earliest Greek manuscripts. If those verses are missing from the earliest Greek texts, they do not belong in the Bible, even if they are in the KJV.