Why the King James Version Should Be Retained

Six Reasons Why the King James Version Should Be Retained

(from The King James Version Defended by Edward F. Hills, p. 218)

“The Old Testament in Hebrew ... and the New Testament in Greek
... being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular
care and providence kept pure in all ages ... ”

(Westminster Confession of Faith 1:8).

1. In the first place, the English of the King James Version is not the English of the early 17th century. To be exact, it is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. It is biblical English, which was not used on ordinary occasions, even by the translators who produced the King James Version. As H. Wheeler Robinson (1940) pointed out, one need only compare the preface written by the translators with the text of their translation to feel the difference in style. And the observations of W. A. Irwin (1952) are to the same purport. The King James Version, he reminds us, owes its merit, not to 17th century English—which was very different—but to its faithful translation of the original. Its style is that of the Hebrew and of the New Testament Greek. Even in their use of “thee” and “thou” the translators were not following 17th century English usage but biblical usage, for at the time these translators were doing their work these singular forms had already been replaced by the plural “you” in polite conversation.

2. In the second place, those who talk about translating the Bible into the “language of today” never define what they mean by this expression. What is the language of today? The language of 1881 is not the language of today—nor the language of 1901, nor even the language of 1921. In none of these languages, we are told, can we communicate with todayís youth. There are even some who feel that the best way to translate the Bible into the language of today is to convert it into “folk songs.” Accordingly, in many contemporary youth conferences and even worship services there is little or no Bible reading but only crude kinds of vocal music accompanied by vigorous piano and strumming guitars. But in contrast to these absurdities the language of the King James Version is enduring diction which will remain as long as the English language remains—in other words, throughout the foreseeable future.

3. In the third place, the current attack on the King James Version and the promotion of modern-speech versions is discouraging the memorization of the Scriptures, especially by the children. Why memorize or require your children to memorize something that is out of date and about to be replaced by something new and better? And why memorize a modern version when there are so many to choose from? Hence, even in conservative churches children are growing up densely ignorant of the Holy Bible because they are not encouraged to hide its life-giving words in their hearts.

4. In the fourth place, modern-speech Bibles are unhistorical and irreverent. The Bible is not a modern, human book. It is not as new as the morning newspaper, and no translation should suggest this. If the Bible were this new, it would not be the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is an ancient, divine book which nevertheless is always new because in it God reveals Himself. Hence, the language of the Bible should be venerable as well as intelligible, and the King James Version fulfills these two requirements better than any other Bible in English. Hence, it is the King James Version which converts sinners soundly and makes of them diligent Bible students.

5. In the fifth place, modern-speech Bibles are unscholarly. The language of the Bible has always savored of the things of heaven rather than the things of earth. It has always been biblical rather than contemporary and colloquial. Fifty years ago this fact was denied by E. J. Goodspeed and others who were pushing their modern versions. On the basis of the papyrus discoveries which had recently been made in Egypt it was said that the New Testament authors wrote in the everyday Greek of their own times. This claim, however, is now acknowledged to have been an exaggeration. As R. M. Grant (1963) admits, the New Testament writers were saturated with the Septuagint and most of them were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. Hence, their language was not actually that of the secular papyri of Egypt but biblical. Hence, New Testament versions must be biblical and not contemporary and colloquial like Goodspeedís version.

6. Finally, in the sixth place, the King James Version is the historic Bible of English-speaking Protestants. Upon it God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval through the usage of many generations of Bible-believing Christians. Hence, if we believe in Godís providential preservation of the Scriptures, we will retain the King James Version, for in so doing we will be following the clear leading of the Almighty.

Why Bible-Believing Students Should Use
the King James Version—A Recapitulation

(from The King James Version Defended by Edward F. Hills, p. 242.)

In regard to Bible versions many contemporary Christians are behaving like spoiled and rebellious children. They want a Bible version that pleases them, no matter whether it pleases God or not. “We want a Bible version in our own idiom,” they clamor. “We want a Bible that talks to us in the same way in which we talk to our friends over the telephone. We want an informal God, no better educated than ourselves, with a limited vocabulary and a taste for modern slang.” And having thus registered their preference, they go their several ways. Some of them unite with the modernists in using the RSV or the NEB. Others deem the NASV or the NIV more “evangelical.” Still others opt for the TEV or the Living Bible.

But God is bigger than you are, dear friend, and the Bible version which you must use is not a matter for you to decide according to your whims and prejudices. It has already been decided for you by the workings of Godís special providence. If you ignore this providence and choose to adopt one of the modern versions, you will be taking the first step in the logic of unbelief. For the arguments which you must use to justify your choice are the same arguments which unbelievers use to justify theirs, the same method. If you adopt one of these modern versions, you must adopt the naturalistic New Testament textual criticism upon which it rests. This naturalistic textual criticism requires us to study the New Testament text in the same way in which we study the texts of secular books which have not been preserved by Godís special providence. In other words, naturalistic textual criticism regards the special, providential preservation of the Scriptures as of no importance for the study of the New Testament text. But if we concede this, then it follows that the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures is likewise unimportant. For why is it important that God should infallibly inspire the Scriptures, if it is not important that He should preserve them by His special providence?

Where, oh where, dear brother or sister, did you ever get the idea that it is up to you to decide which Bible version you will receive as Godís holy Word? As long as you harbor this false notion, you are little better than an unbeliever. As long as you cherish this erroneous opinion, you are entirely on your own. For you, the Bible has no real authority—only that which your rebellious reason deigns to give it. For you, there is no comfort, no assurance of faith. Cast off, therefore, this carnal mind that leads to death! Put on the spiritual mind that leads to life and peace! Receive by faith the true text of Godís holy Word, which has been preserved down through the ages by His special providence and now is found in the Masoretic Hebrew, the Greek Textus Receptus, and the King James Version and other faithful translations!

Dr. Hills Condemns the American Standard Version
as Being Modernistic

Letter to The Banner, September 28, 1956

“You have a different Bible. Your Bible is modern.” Such are remarks which have been made to me several times during the past year by “outsiders” who have attended the worship services of the congregation to which I minister. And there is a great deal of justice in these observations. Our denomination still recommends the American Standard Version (1901)—a translation no longer used, it seems, by any other ecclesiastical body in the country. Does not this particularly stamp us as a sect and make mission work much more difficult than it needs to be? Certainly it is very disconcerting to a prospective convert to find that not only our worship service but even our Bible differs from his. Our use of the American Standard Version also stands as a barrier to proper training of our own covenant youth. How can we in good conscience require our young people to memorize a version which differs from everyone elseís and which is universally conceded to be of inferior literary quality?

Those are some of the practical difficulties attendant upon our continued use of the American Standard Version, but there is a basic, underlying objection to this version which is much more serious. If we are to continue to use this version, then we must defend this practice. And if we are to defend our use of the American Standard Version, then we must adopt not merely the version itself but also the theory which produced this version. But the theory which produced the American Standard Version is a modernistic theory which rests squarely on the fundamental principle of modernism; namely, that the Bible is only an ordinary book, not different in kind from any other book. The chief architects of the New Testament portion of the American Standard Version were F. J. A. Hort and B. F. Westcott, both of whom prided themselves on treating the text of the New Testament just as they would treat the text of any other book. Listen, I beseech you, to the ominous words of Hort in his celebrated Introduction (1881): “For ourselves we dare not introduce considerations which could not reasonably be applied to other texts, supposing them to have documentary attestation of equal amount, variety, and antiquity.” Can anyone who is truly Reformed and consistently Christian approve of these sentiments of Hort? Is not the inspiration of the New Testament text unique? Is not the providential preservation of the New Testament text unique? And are not these factors considerations which do apply to the New Testament text and do not apply to the texts of other ancient books?

Thus our Christian Reformed Church is faced with a dilemma. If we continue our use of the American Standard Version, we must defend this practice. And if we do defend our use of the American Standard Version, we must adopt as our own the theory which produced this text. In other words, defense of the American Standard Version leads us to adopt as our own the modernistic viewpoint of Dr. Hort, namely, that the text of the New Testament is just like the text of any other ancient book and that no consideration may be applied to the text of the New Testament which could not reasonably be applied to the text of any other ancient book. Thus the use of the American Standard Version involves the defense of the American Standard Version, and the defense of the American Standard Version leads eventually to downright modernism.

The way out of this dilemma is not to adopt the new Revised Standard Version (1952) in place of the American Standard Version. The solution of the problem does not lie in this direction but rather in the working out of a consistently Christian view of the New Testament text, the formulation of principles which are based squarely on the Reformed doctrines of the divine inspiration and providential preservation of the Scriptures. Such principles will lead us (I am persuaded) back to the New Testament text of the Protestant Reformation and to the King James Version, the great, historic English translation of this Reformation text.

Edward F. Hills, Th.D.
Des Moines, Iowa

The author held a Th.D. from Harvard University and was a minister in the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Christian Reformed Church.
Published with the permission of Mrs. Edward F. Hills.