Those are some extremely lofty claims for a translation of scripture. The implications are profound. It means no other English Bible translation before or after the publication of the KJV can rightly be called “God’s Word.” Moreover, any revision done to the KJV text with either updating spelling or English usage for the purpose of clarifying difficult to read passages is, in a manner of speaking, changing “God’s Word.” That certainly holds true for any meaningful revision involving the re-translation of specific words or phrases where the KJV translators could have been more accurate with their translation into English.
I have been writing on KJV-onlyism for a few years now, and one of my key ojectives has been to demonstrate the absurdity of the exclusive claims made on behalf of the KJV. King James apologists have good intentions with their beliefs. They merely wish to up hold God’s revelation as being infallible and inerrant. Yet, regardless of how well intentioned their motives may be, the apologetics they have developed to defend the exclusivity of the KJV are woefully misguided. Instead of helping Christians stand confidently upon the Bible as God’s Word, they only serve to undermine a Christian’s faith when challenged to defend his beliefs against intelligent critics.
That is because the KJV-only view of how the scriptures were preserved and transmitted over the course of time is historically inaccurate. More importantly, the claim that the KJV has never been in need of any serious textual re-translation is dangerously false. In other words, if it can be shown that there is a better English translation for specific words and phrases from the original biblical texts than what the KJV has translated, then the KJV-only claim of perfect preservation for the King James is made a mockery which in turn ruins any meaningful defense of scripture.
With in recent months, this Achilles Heel in the KJV-only apologetic has become vividly clear to me when I have been considering the translation of the NT Greek word doulos. The primary definition of doulos is “slave.” The word is used over 100 times in the NT and carries the idea of slavery in the sense of a person being owned by a master. Ever since Christians have been translating the scripture into English the word “servant” or “bond-servant” has been used to translate doulos, and the KJV is no exception. In fact, the only time the KJV uses the word “slave” is in Jeremiah 2:14 and Revelation 18:13 and neither one of those passages is even translating the word doulos.
Now, there isn’t anything specifically wrong with translating doulos as “servant.” A slave is definitely a servant to a master; however a slave is a servant who serves involuntarily and in many cases, under severe compulsion. There are several key instances of doulos being used by biblical writers where the concept of slavery is clearly being expressed and the word “servant” just doesn’t capture the true intent of the original author’s meaning and hence the claim of “most accurate” translation for the KJV is erroneous.
My study is born out of a series of email exchanges I have been having with a couple of cranky KJVers who frequent an email discussion group where I participate. During the course of our interchange on the subject of “superior” Bible translations, I raised the problem with the KJV translating the word doulos consistently as servant rather than slave. Pressed to back up my challenge, I began the process of doing some research, but figured it would be beneficial for a larger audience, so that is why I am making it available as a blog post.
In order to keep this brief study manageable for my readers, I will close my introduction here and go into more depth with the next post. What I would like to do is consider some lexical definitions both Greek and English, demonstrate the theological importance of the word doulos and the necessity of it being translated as “slave” in the English text, and then draw some conclusions in relation to the KJV-only claim of perfect accuracy in translation for the King James Bible.