The Line of Good Bibles

A great majority of KJVO apologists will claim that the King James represents the final, complete, purified Bible having gone through what they insist was a seven-fold purification process in the English language. This process began with the first Bibles translated into English by Wycliff and his Lollard followers, continuing to Tyndale’s work, onto Coverdale’s translation, then Matthew’s, then the Great Bible, the Geneva translation, the Bishop’s and finally the King James.  KJVO advocates will call this the Line of Good Bibles or the Tree of Good Bibles.

Additionally, they will set up their good line of Bibles in a comparison with a list of bad Bibles. Oddly, the list of bad Bibles will include non-English texts, like the Latin Vulgate and the Alexandrian manuscripts. Moreover, the bad Bibles listed by some KJVO apologists will include post-KJV English translations like the Revised Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard, the New American Standard, and the New International.

KJVO advocates draw their conviction for the line of good Bibles argument from Psalm 12:6,7 which reads:

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Though some KJVO proponents believe that Psalm is a promise from God to preserve His Word in the Masoretic Hebrew texts and the Greek Received Text, many of them point to the words “purified seven times” and believe it is a prophetic statement speaking to the published English translations leading up to the final product of the King James.

However, if KJVO apologists insist those verses are a prophetic announcement that God is providing a line of good Bibles which can be traced from the KJV back to the original, inspired text, those source texts, as well as the various translations preceding the KJV, must have the same purity or the final product will not be the genuine purified product.

What then are we to make of this “line of good Bibles” argument? I believe this argument is not only the weakest one put forth by KJV advocates, but it is also the most fantastic and contrived, and it is riddled with some serious flaws.

1) The line of good Bibles begins with an inaccurate interpretation of Psalm 12:6, 7.

I went into more detail about the misuse of Psalm 12:6, 7 by KJVO proponents when I considered the Promise Argument. To summarize, KJV onlyists believe that passage is specifically promising divine preservation applied directly to the physical copies of the biblical text. They then argue that those divinely preserved copies are found in the family of original language texts used to compile the base texts of the Hebrew and Greek languages from which the King James was translated.

The problem, however, is that Psalm 12:6, 7 is not promising a word-for-word preservation of the physical copies, so it is inaccurate for KJVO apologists to use the passage as a proof text for their “line of good Bibles” argument. Allow me to consider three problematic areas.

– The context refutes this argument: The context of Psalm 12 is God’s promise to keep His people, Israel, from being destroyed by the wicked who persecute them. The writer does not have in mind the preservation of textual copies.

– The expression, “purified seven times”: The idea of a seven-fold preservation is a Hebraic expression of certainty. In other words, God can be trusted to preserve His people from being destroyed by persecutors. The reason God can be trusted is the fact that He has a proven track record. He has demonstrated His faithfulness to His people over and over by keeping the promises He made to them through the various covenants. Thus, God can be tested just like silver purified seven times to reveal its purity. The writer has no thought of a future family of English translations that will be “purified” seven times to produce a finished product.

– Note that God’s WORDS are already purified: If one carefully reads the text, he or she will notice that it plainly states God’s word is purified, past tense. At the point of composing the Psalm, God’s word (His promises) have been shown to be faithful because they have been purified. This purification is something that has already taken place.

2) There is no standard or consistent list of the seven-fold line of good Bibles.

Even though KJVO apologists appeal to the notion of a seven-fold process of translating a perfect English Bible, there does not exist a consistent list of the “line of good Bibles” leading up to the King James. Each list may vary from author to author.

For example, King James advocate, William Bradly, provides the list of seven Bibles in his book Purified Seven Times: The Miracle of the English Bible, and names them as: Wycliff’s, Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, the Great Bible, Geneva, and then the King James. He leaves out of the list the major translation the Bishop’s Bible from which the King James was a revision.

On the other hand, KJV defender, Ed DeVries in his book Divinely Inspired, Inerrantly Preserved, lists Wycliff’s, Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, the Great Bible, Geneva, Bishop’s and then the King James. He omits the 1535 Coverdale translation.

Some KJV apologists recognize the difficulty of fitting all those versions into the “good line” list so as to arrive at the King James being the 7th, purified as silver translation. KJV onlyist, William Grady, presents a clever solution in his book Final Authority, in which he equates the number 7 to “perfection” and 8 to “new beginnings” and asserts that the King James is erected upon the seven-fold foundation of the Wycliff, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew, the Great, Geneva and the Bishop’s.

It is clear that the main reason for the confusion between KJV authors concerning the seven-fold list is the fact there are more than just seven English translations before the King James. Ultimately, the reality of all those translations place the entire “line of good Bibles” in the realm of subjectivity. Rick Norris, author of The Unbound Scriptures, wrote an exhaustive study critiquing the “line of good Bibles” argument. He observes:

What consistent criteria was used to determine objectively which translations to include? It seems that KJV-only advocates cannot agree on which Bibles to include on their lists and on which Bibles to leave off. Do they start with the assumption that the KJV has to be the seventh one and then subjectively pick out six others to make their count work?

That leads me to a third problem,

3) The “line of good Bibles argument is inconsistent with known history.

It is fairly obvious to the reader by now that there are more than just 7 English translations between Wycliff’s work and the King James of 1611. If we were to start the “good line” with William Tyndale’s translations, there are roughly 31 various translations published in English before the King James.

If we were to eliminate those translations of just portions of scripture (by the way, Tyndale never completed the Bible. He only translated the NT and some of the OT), there are 12 major translations published from Tyndale’s work to the KJV.

Moreover, we could ask the question: Are multiple editions of one specific translation to be counted with the “line of good Bibles?” All of the translations went through many editions with the newer edition improving upon the previous ones. David Daniell notes in his monumental work, History of the English Bible, that the Geneva Bible alone had a total of 140 editions between 1575 and 1645. The King James was re-published in 1612 to correct a number of misspellings and other “printing errors.” It saw subsequent editions way into the 1800s.

4) The “line of good Bibles” argument is inconsistent with itself and other KJVO polemics.

As I noted above, some KJVO apologists will contrast their “good line” of Bibles with a “bad line” of Bibles. They will often extend these two contrasting lines backward to include other ancient language editions and translations. Yet, in doing this, they contradict themselves and this argument.

For example, Peter Ruckman, the pope of all KJV onlyism, puts together his two contrasting lines of “good and bad” Bibles in his book, The Bible “Babel.” He has the Syriac Peshitta listed in his “good line” and contends that the Peshitta contained the OT and NT as it stands in the 1611. The problem with such a bold statement is the fact that the Peshitta omits the books 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Additionally, two favorite passages of KJV advocates, John 7:53-8:11 (the woman taken in adultery) and 1 John 5:7,8 (the Trinity passage) are omitted.

Ruckman also places the Wycliff translation in his “good line.” He places the Latin Vulgate in his “bad line.” He fails to note that Wycliff used the Latin Vulgate to translate his work. How then can a Bible be both in the “good line” and the “bad line” at the same time?

One last example will suffice to demonstrate inconsistency. Anyone familiar with the literature of KJVO advocates knows how the authors will have a set of verse comparison charts listing how all the modern versions will omit a word here or change a passage there.

One favorite passage is Luke 2:33, where the KJV reads “and Joseph and his mother marveled …” KJV advocates argue that Joseph is distinguished from Mary because he was not really the father of Jesus. The KJV, it is argued, is protecting the doctrine of the Virgin birth. Modern Versions render the verse as “his father” or “and his parents…,” which hints to Joseph being his physical father and thus undermining the Virgin birth. The KJV authors will condemn the various modern versions as “perversions” and as attacking the Deity of Christ.

However, nearly all of the pre-KJV translations listed in the “line of good Bibles” translate this passage as “his father.” That includes Wycliff’s, Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, the Great Bible, and Bishop’s. How is it then that KJVO advocates can defend their pet translation, the KJV, if it is revised from Bibles containing what they all describe as inexcusable and damnable corruption? Is not the fruit of the tree only as good as the tree itself? How can the perfect, seven-fold purified Bible be based upon previous works so obviously corrupted?

These four problematic areas of the “good line of Bibles” argument clearly reveal that it is really no argument at all. If anything, this argument only serves to ruin the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, because it suggests God has to make at least 7 attempts before He can provide an inerrant Bible. And, does this same seven-fold rule apply to all other languages? Meaning, does God need to produce 7 Spanish translations or 7 Russian translations before those people can have a purified copy of the scriptures in their language? This argument is pure subjectivism and it is only contrived to protect the KJV presuppositions.

9 thoughts on “The Line of Good Bibles

  1. When two “Bibles” clearly contradict one another, which one becomes the final authority? If all versions are “The Word of God” yet they differ in content and doctrine, how does one determine which one is correct as there haven’t been originals readily available for centuries? Isn’t one excercising mental reservation by claiming to believe in the perfect Word of God when the KJV/NIV/NASV etc. all differ from each other? How can they all be the perfect Word of God? Can two things be the same that are different? Isn’t the logical answer that either all versions are in error or one of them is right? If all are wrong and we don’t have the perfect Word of God, how could one be assured that important doctrinal truths that God wanted us to have are not lost forever? Why is it commonly heard, “The “blank” version states it best”? Who decides which one is best? What does one compare it to since the originals were removed from the scene centuries ago? Doesn’t that place the person deciding as the final authority and not God’s Word? How can you place your eternal security on God’s Word when there are hundreds of versions that all contradict one another? Which one is correct? Wouldn’t this give merit to the book of Mormon and the Quran? How do you know that they are not the Word of God? How do you know the Catholic Bible is not the pure Word of God since it is derived from the same manuscripts as the NIV, NASV etc? If God is not even powerful enough to perfectly preserve His Word, how can you expect Him to perfectly preserve your soul? Do you really believe in the perfect Word of God?

  2. Sirs,The Word of God is Perfect, for The Word is Jesus Christ Himself.The Truth is also Jesus Christ and to find Him in His written word we have to search and study like The Bereans. Common sense tells us the further back in time we delve, the nearer we are going to be to the original Scriptures. This immediately disqualifies most modern translations because they only make matters worse. Men with agendas tampering with Holy Scripture. The NIV in particular.No honest KJV reader will ever say it is without error, for Holy Scripture came through the hands of RC illegitimates via the Vulgate, before any English translator even tried to translate it. The KJV was written by Protestants and Protestants have never fully purged Rome from their religion. This means RC contaminations abound in The KJV.This in turn leaves us with only one option, the KJV with all its errors with the support of the Hebrew OT and Greek NT. Anything else will only complicate matters more than they already are.

  3. Hey JG,I take it that you went back and read my previous articles I mentioned before you posted? You are a pretty fast reader. I admire that. As for street preaching and soul winning, the fundamentalists perversion of biblical evangelism and discipleship; when was the last time you handed a tract to a cashier and he or she read it, repented of his or her sin and then you spent a good year discipling the person, getting in his or her life, helping the person re-order his or her life to be conformed to the image of Christ? Moreover, how many of those cashiers you have handed a tract to actually came to genuinely know Christ and is still walking with him to this day? 50? 10? How about just 5?Oh yeah, that’s right, soul winners are hit and run artists. Throw someone a tract, manipulate him into repeating a canned prayer, and cut another soul winning notch on your belt. So much for fundamentalist soul winnin’.Fred

  4. When I read the comments in here, it reinforces my conviction that KJVO’s do more harm to the credibility and reliability of scripture than anyone else. In their effort to defend a perfect, inerrant KJV, they actually do just the opposite by creating the same doubts about all Bibles as does Bart Erhman. They equate textual variants as well as variations in translation of words as contradictions and error.Theirs is a false dichotomy, and an all-or-nothing approach to matters of certainty regarding the text of scripture that has been handed down to us over thousands of years. In their zeal for perfect certainty about EVERY word, they actually propogate dangerous and unnecessary uncertainty about the core beliefs of the Christian faith.

  5. Hello Fred,You said:”y2tWhere exactly did you go to seminary? I take it you are versed in the original languages?”I went to the same ‘seminary’ as the twelve disciples, who became Apostles when they were Born Again.I am a Spirit Born Son of God and have no need of seminaries.y2t

  6. After reading your profile I understand your defense of a worldly and watered down version of the Word of God. Your choice of music speaks volumes (Police? Rush?). Modern versions are embraced by liberal, modern Christianity and produce carnal Christians. The Authorized Version (two edged sword) cuts too deep for you to accept. You must find a “Bible” that fits into your lifestyle and isn’t too abrasive. I understand now. This is the last message I will post. I will be praying for your conviction on both this issue and that of separation from the world.

  7. Bro Fred, Thank you for your articles. These KJOV people are for the most part hate mongers. They will gang up on this blog and attack you because they can’t answer your clear logic and explanations. I live near Pensacola, Florida. Not knowing at the time who Peter Ruckman was I went to his book store to get a nice NASB bible. I was treated like the plague. Later I found out why. My small church is mostly KJV not KJVO. We had a guy come to church about once a month or so who was KJVO and he always made a comments about some one not reading from the KJV. I ask him about that and found out he held Peter Ruckman in high regard. I told him that I wasn’t sure I could call Peter Ruckman a brother because of his attitude and hate speech toward non KJVO folks. He said well he talks like that because he was a drill Sergent in the military. I told him that is no excuse he does not speak as a Christian should. I got the distinct impression he was part of a KJVO missionary group from Ruchman who went from church to church preaching his KJVO stance.

  8. The irony is that KJV only advocates can not produce which Bible is the inerrant, infallible, preserved Word. They all claim the 1611 but they use the 1769. Further, which edition of the KJV is the Word of God. The Cambridge? The Zondervan? The Oxford? One of the other Bible publishers? And they do differ. The Cambridge edition is different from the Oxford edition. Which one is the Word of God? And on what basis? They all differ from the original 1611 so which one is the preserved Word and how do we know this?

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