Welcome! If you are new to the KJV-only issue, you're in for an interesting journey! Let's start with some basics:
Basically, KJV-onlyism is the belief that only the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the "true" Bible. That is, that it is totally inerrant, totally infallible, and totally inspired - not even one word was translated except as guided by the Holy Spirit and that any deviation of the words, even minutely, constitues changing God's word, as the text of the KJV is exactly how God intended the Scriptures. It equates the word of God, in the very real sense of the autographs, with the King James Version.
A large part of the KJV-only position hinges on "preservation". Supporters of KJV-onlyism say that God promised to preserve word-for-word the Scriptures, and that the KJV is the fulfillment of that promise. Unfortunately for both sides of the debate, we don't have ANY original manuscripts of the Scriptures, which would put an end one way or another to this whole debate. What we do have are copies and copies of copies, etc. The problem with the KJV-only position of "preservation" is that even the KJV differs from the Hebrew and Greek it was translated from, thus where are the "word-for-word preserved" Scriptures prior to 1611? Also, even if you believe God promised to preserve the Scriptures word-for-word, there is no mention in the Bible about this promise being fulfilled 1600 years after Christ, and then only in English, and only in one translation.
Basically, the common beliefs that define "KJV-only" are:
- the idea that there are no errors or problems of translation in the KJV.
- the idea that there are no internal errors or problems in the text of the KJV.
- the idea that any changes of words of the KJV constitutes changing God's word (and thus no other English translations are "the word of God")
- God promised to preserve the Scriptures word for word throughout the centuries.
- the idea that the KJV translators were divinely guided, and thus the words they used were given to them by the Holy Spirit to be implemented without any alternates.
There is a range of KJV-onlyism. The following beliefs are held by SOME, not all KJV-only supporters, but you'll run into these beliefs before long if you get into the issue in any detail:
- the idea that all other translations are inspired by Satan.
- the idea that all translators and readers of new versions have ulterior motives
- the idea that Christians who use other versions are spiritual cripples at best, and destined for Hell at worst.
- the idea that where the KJV differs from the Greek and Hebrew from which it was translated, the English is an improvement over the Greek and Hebrew.
- the idea that English is the language God chose to give us Scripture in, and if anyone on Earth wants inerrant Scripture, they must learn English so they can use the KJV.
- the idea that we no longer need the Greek and Hebrew.
- the idea that the KJV translators were "super-human" (i.e. much more qualified than any translators before or after them).
- the idea that the KJV translators were under divine inspiration when translating, but totally out to lunch when they wrote the preface, marginal notes, and cross-references
- the idea that someone who doesn't agree with them about the status of the KJV is automatically a "heretic" or an "apostate", and is certainly "unteachable".
Those views are not held by all KJV-only supporters, but they are quite common in the KJV-only side of the debate.
KJV-onlyism is not simply a preference for the KJV. Many people, myself included, use and love the KJV without being KJV-only. Nor is KJV-onlyism the belief that the KJV is simply superior to all other translations but still has problems.
Some people that support the KJV because they believe its underlying text base is the closest to the "originals". People that believe this are not "KJV-only" - they can be described as "KJV-preferred". They are people who simply prefer the KJV over all other versions, while agreeing that the ideas of the translation itself being "inerrant, infallible", exclusively "the word of God", etc., are not justified.
So, if you're new to the issue and have an interest in it, dive right in. It is a wonderful medium to learn about Scripture, no matter which side you end up agreeing with. I encourage you to examine each specific argument from either side in as much detail as you can. Ask God for guidance. Ask you pastor for help. Also, remember that both sides are Christians and brothers and sisters in Christ - try to act like it! :-) This is an important issue, and combining that with deep-running emotional attachments to ideas, people can take things personally and sometimes react in ways they shouldn't.
The issue is huge, and my pages only scratch the surface. I hope they are enough to whet your appetite and to get you thinking about the issue. If you want to discuss any aspect of the issue, email me or visit this great discussion forum. Above all, keep the right attitude and you will surely be blessed in your studies.