The Delusion of Extreme KJV Onlyism

A Lesson For The KJVOx From Early American History

In this simple paragraph from the Massachusetts General School Law of 1647, aka “The Old Deluder Satan Law”

Yt being one cheife piect of ye ould deluder, Satan, to keepe men from the knowledge of ye Scriptures, as in formr times by keeping ym in an unknowne tongue, so in these lattr times by pswading from ye use of tongues, yt so at least ye true sense & meaning of ye originall might be clouded by false glosses of saint seeming deceivers, yt learning may not be buried in ye grave of or fathrs in ye church & comonwealth, the Lord assisting or endeavors,—

lt is therefore ordred yt evry towneship in this jurisdiction, aftr ye Lord hath increased ym to ye number of 50 householdrs, shall then forthwth appoint one wthin their towne to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write & reade, whose wages whall be paid eithr by ye parents or mastrs of such children, or by ye inhabitants in genrall, by way of supply, as ye maior pt of those yt ordr ye prudentials of ye towne shall appoint; pvided, those yt send their children be not oppressed by paying much more ytn they can have tm taught for in othr townes; & it is furthr ordered, yt where any towne shall increase to ye numbr of 100 families or househouldrs, they shall set up a gramer schoole, ye mr thereof being able to instruct youth so farr as they may be fited for ye university, pvided, yt if any towne neglect ye pformance hereof above one yeare, yt every such towne shall pay 5 Ito ye next schoole till they shall pforme this order.

Now, let me revise the above highlighted clause in order to make it easier to read.

“. . . so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, that so at least the true sense and meaning of the original [Old Testament Hebrew & New Testament Greek, that is] might be clouded by false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers . . . ”

What is the moral of this story? If you simply prefer the use of the King James Version of the Holy Scriptures for your own personal study and devotional reading, or even if you believe after a considerate examination of the issues of textual criticism, that it is best to retain the Byzantine readings of the New Testament, and therefore ought to not revise the King James Version with a modern, eclectic, critical Greek text, this post does not criticize your view (even though I certainly disagree with your view). But if you believe that the King James Version of the Bible was given by the special inspiration of God, and that it’s English text is superior to the lost original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts for the simple reason that we can hold the KJV in our hands, while we cannot hold the original manuscripts in our hands, and that therefore, we need not bother burdening our congregations with recourse to the original languages to properly interpret the words of the KJV, the Massachusetts General School Law of 1647 identifies those who would undermine the need to understand the Word of God in the original languages as “saint-seeming deceivers” whose efforts would in effect, bury learning in the graves of our fathers in the church. If only you would see the error of your ways, and stop deceiving unlearned believers under your care that it’s dangerous to “correct the King James” with anything, even the sense of the original Hebrew and Greek languages.

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7 responses

  1. Amen John, one of the reasons I first thought about going into the ministry was that I wanted to learn the original languages. Having had occasion to deal with Mormons and JW’s I thought it would be prudent to learn the text’s in their original language. I think every serious Christian should. I know this will not happen, but that does not change my belief that it should. Great post.

  2. As for myself, I’ve at least memorized the Greek alphabet. That’s about it. But I’ve got brothers in the Lord whom he gave as gifts to the church who understand it and live to exposit the Word to me in the sense of the original languages.

    You’ll be able to detect a little bit of spiritual autobiography in the last extended paragraph in my post. The first faction of KJV Onlyism, to whom I give a pass, is the kind I was raised in for twenty-four years; the second faction, who I’m throwing under the bus with those who were described by the early Massachusetts government as “saint-seeming deceivers” who are deluded by Satan, are the kind I spent about nine years learning from until I began to finally admit the superiority of the view which is informed by modern critical textual criticism. Actually, come to think of it, in my teen years, when I worked for a Christian bookstore, I was exposed to the pro-modern translation way of looking at things, and embraced it temporarily until I decided to re-examine the issues by first learning what the tradition in which I was raised in believes, and only leave it if my studies find that they are wrong about what they believe. That’s what began my march toward the lunatic fringe of KJV Onlyism. I tried it on for as long as I could until I just had to admit that this whole KJV Onlyism thing doesn’t fit me. It’s like President Bush says about the Middle East: once you get a taste of freedom, you don’t want to stay in the clutches of tyrrany. That’s definitely true of me on this issue.

  3. I will leave a humorous comment.

    I was asked to teach a Thursday night bible study at a church I do not attend, for a man on a trip. I was a last minute fill in. I was glad to be instant in season and come and teach on the assigned topic.

    This man was and still remains an Onlyist. However, I have noticed that the folks who gathered to hear my brilliance were very judgmental especially after I used the word “damn” in my teaching.

    What I did was truncate the word damnation as I was quoting a verse from the KJV saying damn instead!

    The next morning the Pastor called and wanted to meet with me.

    He said, Michael, we probably will not have you come back and teach next Thursday night. Your message was brillant but some in attendance were offended because you cursed!

    I asked, huh? What did I say? I don’t remember cursing when I was teaching the Lord’s Word.

    We thought a bit and he then refreshed my memory to when I cursed and said, you said DAMN when reading the bible.

    I thought, the guy said they only read the KJV bible and I should not use my ESV or NASV or or or translations but stick to KJV. So I did and I would have done better if I said damnation instead!

    There is a God in Heaven isn’t there and He knows His Word, yes? 🙂

    There is man on earth and we should think like onlyists when with them making sure we speak correctly the KJV when teaching them the Word of the Lord.

  4. Michael,

    That sounds typical. Perhaps you should have been circumspect and at least only truncated the “d” word to the King’s Canonical truncation, “damned.” As in Mark 16:16; Romans 14:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:12.

    Yes, KJV Onlyists are very zealous for precision in wording. Superstitiously zealous. When I was an Onlyist myself, and was with my first wife (both before and after we were married), she was so zealous for the precise wording of the KJV that if I were to read aloud to her the KJV text out of a copy of it in my hand, she would grab it and check the spine to make sure I was reading a KJV if what I read didn’t coincide with how she’d memorized it. I may have made her suspicious of me, because when we met, I was working at the Christian bookstore where I’d been “defiled” by modern versionism. Perhaps she feared I was slipping a modernized per-version on her now and then.

    Ahh, memories!

  5. damn! why didn’t I think of that? ooops!

  6. Cecilia D Holland | Reply

    I nstill believe that the KJV is the unerring Word of God and carries His power within it! And Iam sticking to it!Cecilia

  7. Hey, Cecilia! Long time no see!

    Sorry to rattle your cage, but as I wrote in the post, it’s one thing to prefer it for one’s own reasons, it’s another to assign inspiration (or something like it) to it and enforce its exclusive use, the way the Roman Catholics did the Latin Vulgate. That’s repeating an unlearned from mistake of history.

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