Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Q&A: Churches That Exclusively Use the KJB

A King James Bible only church in Alabama. Photo by Richard David Ramsey (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons”.

Jason Hentschel is in University of Dayton’s doctoral program in theology. Here, Jason discusses the King James Only movement, in which certain churches use the King James Bible translation exclusively, believing that it is the most accurate and doctrinally correct translation available. This topic arose during one one of the programs offered in conjunction with the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition here at University of Dayton.

 Q: Why do certain churches choose the King James translation?

The churches themselves tend to explain their exclusive use of the King James in terms of an appeal to the only perfect and pure—we might say inerrant—Bible.  All other translations—be they RSV, NIV, NASB, The Message, etc.—are understood to be ultimately misleading at points, usually on account of the fact that they are translated from the modern critical text and not the Received Text. In other words, King James Only (KJO) churches see other translations as corrupting the Bible, particularly the doctrine of Christ, and so they only read from the King James because they believe that it perfectly preserves the true biblical text and thus the true doctrines of the faith.  This does not include churches that prefer the King James translation for “merely” literary or stylistic reasons.

 Q: What do you think the KJB-only movement accomplishes for congregations?

 The movement provides a measure of certainty often questioned in the face of opposition. The KJO pastors around Dayton, OH whom I visited often directed me to one or another author—Samuel Gipp, Edward Hills, Wilbur Pickering, to name a few—whom these pastors found authoritative. Not only can these churches champion the King James Bible, they can champion these defenders of the King James Bible. There is nothing new about appealing to scholarship, of course, but in a group of evangelicals that is more often than not willing to reject such appeals in favor of either emphasizing the priesthood of every believer or the perspicuity of the text, this authoritative claim is significant.

Q: What surprised you about the churches here in Dayton?

Most surprising was their diversity. Whereas one of the churches I visited maintained a hard, polemical stance in its assertion of the King James’ Bible sole validity, another church argued for the validity of other professing believers’ perspectives on the translation debate. The three churches I visited did not see themselves as still in a battle for the Bible. That was a thing of the past. This translated into a rather nonchalant attitude toward visitors and members who resisted the churches’ exclusive use of the King James Bible. Hence, while the pastors I spoke with expressed without fail the importance of the King James Bible over and against the modern translations, that concern failed to translate to the congregation. This raises the question: About what are these churches truly concerned?

Jason Hentschel earned his M.Div. at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary and is currently working on his doctorate in historical theology at the University of Dayton. Besides the theological and cultural foundations of local KJV-only congregations, his research interests lie in American Cold War evangelicalism.

 Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.

One response

  1. Karen Roberts

    Thanks for getting this post up so quickly following the closing lecture about Manifold Greatness.

    September 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm

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