On Using Revelation 22:18-19 to Support King James Onlyism

One of the favorite verses used by advocates of King James Onlyism is Revelation 22:18-19 which says, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (KJV). Here are a few pastoral responses to the King James Only people’s misuse of this verse:

  • I agree that no one should add or take away from God’s Word.
  • That’s not the issue here. We’re talking about translation of the original text into English.
  • If the KJV contains verses not in the original manuscripts then it is guilty of violating this verse.
  • There were other English translations before the KJV. Those who used those translations could have used the same argument against the KJV.
  • The KJV itself has gone through a number of editions. The currently used edition differs substantially from the original 1611, thus it should be rejected as adding and taking away from God’s Word by this standard.
  • Rev. 22:18 is technically about the book of Revelation “this prophecy” not the whole Bible.
  • To use this verse to argue KJV only is to assume that the KJV is the original and that everything else is a distortion of the original.
  • We have access to thousands more (and older) Greek manuscripts than the translators of the KJV had access to. Scholars use these manuscripts to try and produce a translation which is closer to the original. It can be argued that the modern translations are closer to the original than the KJV, thus the KJV may be guilty of adding and taking away from God’s Word.
  • We should strive for the most literal, accurate, and readable translation possible. This is the best way to express the spirit of Revelation 22:18, not by requiring people to read from a translation which uses archaic words which they cannot understand.

For more of what I have written on the necessity, purpose, and history of Bible translations see here.

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11 comments

  1. Steve,

    What a great post! Emily still talks about the series you did on bible translations. That series is what finally made the problems with KJO clear to her. Thanks!

    DJ

  2. Brother Steve, in your fifth bullet you write that “The currently used edition differs substantially from the original 1611.” I have never done a detailed comparison, but I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the modern KJV and have read through Nelson’s 1611 reprint. What do you consider a substantial difference? Things that stood out to me were old typeface, spellings, some changes in punctuations. I would be interested in knowing to what you refer. Thanks.

  3. R.L. Vaughn,

    I’m not sure that “substantially” is the correct word. I wasn’t totally comfortable with it when I used it and I’m still not but I couldn’t and can’t think of a better word now. Help me.

    The point is that the current KJV edition differs in ways which are “considerable in quantity” which is one of the definitions of “substantially”. As you know, between 1629 and 1769 there were five major revisions of the King James Version resulting in approximately 100,000 changes which were mostly spelling, but some words were changed as well.

    The point to my point is that most KJV only people that I am dealing with would consider those kind of changes to be “altering” God’s Word. I’m simply pointing out their inconsistency in using Revelation 22:18 as an argument for the KJVO position.

    Thanks for letting me clarify,
    Steve

  4. Steve, thanks for clarifying. I read substanial more as changes that affected the essence of meaning, etc. But substantial in quantity is a correct assertion. Anyone who would deny that has not compared their 1769 KJV with a 1611.

  5. Thank you Steve for the posting. When I have had conversation with someone who is KJV only this is the number 1 verse quoted to me. Or I’ve gotten responses – I was raised on KJV. I’m not as educated and as knowledgeable than most of the people that may post on your blog and I am curious about many things but one thing that lays heavy on my heart – How can any church that is only KJV say they support missionaries all over the world without being hyprocrites. When missionaries are supported they are “translated” into another language for the people to understand and grow in God’s word. They are not sent KJV bibles. What I’ve read of history of KJV – this is why King James translated from Greek and Hebrew so the 1600 century people would be able to read God’s word and be saved. Again “translated”. You stated how many times it was redone and it was for the purpose of understanding better and the English word changed. I was saved at a young age and did not grow as a christain, in the word of God. I stuck to verses I was familiar with. Until one time I was doubting my salvation and when asked I told a dear friend I could not understand the KJV I got lost in a lot of the words. I nearly failed Shakespeare too because of Old English. This dear friend introduced me to the New KJV and the doors were open to me to understand. Read Habakkuk 2:3…KJV is a translation, so is NKJV, NIV, and ESV. Are we willing to hold people to only KJV because of trandition (being raised that way) or taking scripture out of content (Rev.22:18) and risk that people may not be able to understand God’s word, come to repentance, and be saved. Not me – I will continue to allow my children to read their ESV, and NKJV for they are reading and understanding their bible where I did not for many years. If I were one that only believed in KJV as the only translation (and I’m not) I would much more fear facing God with this to answer to than to stand up to my parents. God Bless you and your family.
    Lesa

  6. Thanks Lesa for your comment. Well said. I fixed the reference. I didn’t get the impression that you had a “smiley face” when writing your comment. :)

    Yours is a powerful testimony about why this issue is so important. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Good thoughts. I am amazed at how dogmatic people get over the KJV. It is great that we have some competing voices out there getting people to think critical about some of these issues.

  8. I appreciate your candor regarding this “controversy.” However, there are far more reasons to use only the KJV than the others. For example, you may say that you would not support homosexual or any propoganda that supported such a lifestyle. However, one should note that the NIV was translated with the help of Virginia Mollenkott. Now, this is a woman who has been quoted as speaking out in support of her lesbianism. Quite disgusting if you as me. This is also one of the reasons that you find a “lighter” approach/response to homosexuality. I would rather have a sword like the KVJ than a butterknife like the NIV when going into battle.

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