It has been a number of months since I took up Jack McElroy’s KJV only book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? I had to put aside my reviews for a little while because the book was just becoming so wearisome to read. However, I didn’t want to abandon the project entirely. There are a few remaining posts I can draw out of the book. As I noted in my last entry, rather than providing a chapter by chapter review, I plan to interact with specific topics he addresses.
With this post, I come to chapter 10, “Which edition of the King James Bible is “The Bible”?” It is McElroy’s attempt with the use of double-standards and inconsistency to explain away all the differences between the various English editions of the KJV that have been updated and published since 1611. His basic assertion is that all of the KJVs ever published can be called the “Word of God.” In fact, he insists that the Lord would never be ashamed of any edition of the KJV because God has used them all.
Some of his reasoning is odd; perhaps even desperate. In the biggest “for instance,” he defends the insertion of the Apocrypha in the earlier editions of the KJV claiming it “provides valuable background information on the Old and New Testaments.”  He further writes, “Even if they’re not inspired [the books of the Apocrypha], those books would never have been originally included if they didn’t have some value” [ibid]. Really?
I find those comments strange given his previous rant in chapter 6 of his book about the influence of Roman Catholics in modern version production. Surely he is aware that the Catholics intentionally declared the Apocrypha inspired during the Council of Trent for the express purpose of refuting the Protestant Reformation? But he is either unaware of it or conveniently dismisses that historical nugget in order to preserve his KJVO apologetic.
But let me unpack that claim a bit more. His entire thesis throughout his book is that the KJV is God’s Bible. In his introduction, McElroy writes,
It’s [the Bible] the only authority we have. We have no pope, no cardinal, no priest, no Watchtower Society, no Church in Salt Lake City. The book is our only and exclusive source of truth. It’s our only and final authority. The Bible (and when I say Bible I mean book) is the foundational document for everything we believe. Our thoughts about God, about why we are here and what we are here for, and the reasons for our hope of eternal life are contained and defined for us in that book .
He goes on for a few more paragraphs with similar gushing praise for the King James version being that book and likening it unto the perfection of Jesus Christ. At one point he writes, “Like him, it should be pure — containing all of God’s words and not adulterated with men’s words” [8, emphasis mine].
So let’s break this down:
The earlier editions of the KJV contained the Apocrypha. In fact, the NT in the original KJV has marginal notes cross-referencing back to books from the Apocrypha. For example Hebrews 11:35 with 2 Maccabees 7:7,
There are others like Matthew 6:7 referenced with Sirach 7:14, Romans 9:21 with Wisdom 15:7, and John 10:22 with 1 Maccabees 4:59. Certainly the KJV translators saw some connection to the NT.
Even though he says those books are not inspired, you know, breathed out by God, McElroy insists they are valuable none the less because if God initially included them, He must’ve had a divine reason for doing so. Yet now those books no longer exist in any published King James one would find available at the local Bible Baptist Bookstore. Why is that?
If the books of the Apocrypha are not inspired, does that make them “men’s words?” But McElroy has told us that our Bible should be pure, containing ALL of God’s words and should never be adulterated with men’s words. If we follow his logic here, God included the Apocrypha, and if God included the Apocrypha for some unstated purpose, those books cannot be adulterated men’s words, which I think would mean they are inspired, right?
Yet they are no longer found in the KJV. Did God choose to remove them? If so, why? Especially given McElroy’s claim that they would not have been included if God hadn’t intended them to be. Does he not see how goofy his defense of the KJV is becoming? I can only concluded that God either made a mistake or at some point changed His word for no apparent reason and rescinded His revelation.
McElroy pulls together comparison lists of what he calls, “insignificant matters” that show slight changes in grammar, standardized spelling, word order, and the like between the published English editions of the KJV. He argues that those changes had to do solely with the readability of the English printed text of the KJV, and nothing to do with changes or updates to the base Hebrew and Greek text from which the English in the KJV was translated. That is the key distinction. The editions of the KJV only change the English presentation in the printed text. Those changes do not affect the Hebrew and Greek that would transmit doctrinal error into English.
So for example, modern versions, translated from an altered base text, allegedly insert textual error into the Bible when they eliminate the last 12 verses of Mark, or switch the word “God” to “who” in 1 Timothy 3:16, or remove the proof of the Trinity by leaving out 1 John 5:7-8. Whereas the modern versions have their underlying original language source text revised over and over again, the KJV does not.
Of course, anyone with any basic working knowledge of textual and translational studies knows that is a ridiculous exaggeration and grossly disingenuous. It’s an argument against the modern versions that has emerged from the conspiratorial fever swamps of KJV apologists who claim sinister groups and heretics have corrupted the ancient copies of the Bible.
The one area that seems to be completely ignored throughout all of his book is the issue of marginal notes. The KJV, like any good language translation, will have marginal notes explaining a difficult reading or even an alternative reading that maybe found in other original copies of the Hebrew or Greek. The King James translators even noted when a particular reading wasn’t found in the best manuscripts. Take for example the marginal note for Luke 17:36 as it reads in the KJV,
The note states that verse 36 is “wanting in most of the Greek copies.” Why are those dastardly KJV translators casting doubt upon God’s pure Word? It’s like one of those modern perversions Roman Catholic “scholars” have tampered with!
KJV apologists typically dismiss the marginal notes as unimportant and irrelevant. However, that dismissive attitude is easily challenged when the Hebrew qere and ketiv readings are considered.
The qere are marginal notes in the original Hebrew that became main text readings in our English Bibles. As copyists copied, they would come across a reading in the text that was odd, or perhaps unclear, or one the scribes believed was not originally part of the text, or even one that was difficult to read out loud. A scribe would leave the text unchanged, but place a marginal note with the reading he believed really belonged in the text. The word ketiv means, “as it is written” and is the unchanged text associated with a particular qere, or marginal note.
The King James Only Issue site has a more detailed article on the subject, Something “qere” is going on in the KJV. That article links to an extensive list of qere readings that are switched out with the ketiv readings as found in the King James translation. I will highlight one example taken from the KJV Only Issue article to show you what I mean.
In the KJV, Job 13:15 reads, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” The English of the KJV basically gives the idea that even though Job can have his life easily taken away by the Lord, he will still trust him. That’s a solidly orthodox understanding of the English text.
There is one problem, however. The words “in him” comes from the qere marginal reading. The KJV translators inserted it into the main Hebrew text when they translated into English. The words “in him” are translated from a little word “lo.” Combined with the Hebrew word for “hope” or “trust” the verse presents the idea of trusting in him, or trusting in God.
The RSV comes closest to translating the actual ketiv text of the written Hebrew, “Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope; yet I will defend my ways to his face.” The ketiv reading “he will” is pronounced the same as the qere “lo.” The ketiv “lo,” however, is spelled differently. Essentially, they are Hebrew homophones, similar to our English words “morning” or “mourning.” In this instance, though, when it is combined with the Hebrew word for “hope” or “trust” the word is negated to mean “no hope.”
Given the overall themes of the book of Job like eternal security, retributive justice, the folly of trying to earn God’s favor, the verse could be Job’s expression of uncertainty as to what God is doing in his life. “I have no hope in him,” Job complains. In Job’s limited understanding, God is doing what he wants with him; but he will muscle along anyway attempting to justify himself before the Lord.
What needs to be made clear, and is completely left out of McElroy’s book, is that the KJV translators changed the Hebrew text like this in many places. Now, they did what every sensible and honest translator of the Bible does: picked the readings they believed best explained the context. But it cannot be ignored that they altered the base text in doing so.
It is those sorts of little details that are conveniently left out of KJVO polemics. When they are examined, they demonstrate the major inconsistencies in the KJV apologetic.