The Lofty and Worthy Endeavor or Goal of the KJV Translators

by Rick Norris

In their preface to the 1611 KJV, the translators stated that their endeavor or goal had been to make a good English translation better or to make out of many good English translations "one principal good one." Their mark or goal was a worthwhile one. They sought to revise and improve the early good English Bibles. If translators today attempt to accomplish such a goal, would it not be condemned by some as "pride" or as an attempt to corrupt God's Word?

The KJV translators were successful in improving or making the early English translations better in many places. Nevertheless, some important questions must be considered. Were the KJV translators infallible and perfect in all the revisions that they made of the early good Bibles? Did they actually improve the early good translations in every one of their changes? Is the KJV better, more accurate, and clearer in every verse than the early English Bibles?

Even if it were established that the KJV is much better overall than any one of the early translations, it would not prove that it is better in every rendering or every verse. One example of a clearer, more accurate, or better rendering in another translation would prove that the KJV is not a perfect translation.

Of course, anyone can make statements or claims that sound good. The important matter is whether the statements are established by the evidence. Consider the following examples.

At 2 Peter 1:1c, four early English translations [Tyndale's, Coverdale's, Matthew's, & Taverner's] have "righteousness that cometh of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Great, Whittingham's, Geneva, and Bishops' Bibles have "righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Do these early Bibles teach the deity of Christ clearer at this verse than does the KJV?

At Romans 9:5b, Tyndale's and Matthew's read: Christ came, which is God over all things, blessed forever." Coverdale's and Whittingham's read: "Christ came, which is God over all, blessed for ever." Great and Bishops' Bibles read: "Christ came, which is God in all things to be praised forever." Geneva Bible reads: "Christ came, who is God over all blessed for ever." Is not the deity of Christ taught clearer in these early Bibles at this verse than in the KJV?

At 1 Corinthians 14:4, several of the early English Bibles do not add the word "unknown" before "tongue" or "language." Did the adding of the word "unknown" in italics in the KJV make the understanding of this verse clearer?

While only one example is needed, a few more should establish the point beyond dispute. The same Hebrew word translated "fill" many times in the KJV was also translated "fill" in five of the early good Bibles at Genesis 1:28. At Leviticus 12:8, Coverdale's has "turtledoves" while the KJV has "turtles." At Exodus 5:8a, Tyndale's, Matthew's, and Geneva have "number" while the KJV has an archaic use of "tale." Coverdale's, Matthew's, and Great Bibles have "weapons" at 1 Samuel 20:40a while the Geneva has "bows and arrows." Is the KJV rendering "artillery" clearer or better at this verse? "Hateful" is the translation in the Geneva Bible at Proverbs 30:23 of a Hebrew word also translated 'hateful" in the KJV at Psalm 36:2 but rendered "odious" at this verse. At Isaiah 7:25, Wycliffe's, Coverdale's, and Geneva have "sheep" while the KJV has "lesser cattle." The same Hebrew word translated "bonnets" in the KJV at Isaiah 3:20 and Ezekiel 44:18 is translated "bonnet" at Ezekiel 24:17 in Coverdale's, but is translated "tire" in the KJV.

At 1 Corinthians 10:25, Tyndale's, Matthew's, and Bishops' Bibles have "market" while Coverdale's and Great Bibles have "flesh market." The Douay-Rheims and KJV have "shambles" At James 3:4, Tyndale's, Matthew's, Great, and Bishops' Bibles have "will" while the KJV has an archaic word "listeth."

Does the evidence show that the KJV is better, clearer, or more accurate than all other English translations in every verse? The attempted endeavor of the KJV translators is worthy of respect. Nevertheless, the fact that they had a lofty goal does not mean that they succeeded perfectly in accomplishing it. The KJV translators did not claim to be perfect. Instead, they argued that the pope were not "free from error by special privilege" and that "he is subject ot the same affections and infirmities that others are." The KJV translators would not have claimed some special privilege for themselves, and it is wrong for others to grant to them some unscriptural "special privilege" of being perfect in translating.