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John R Rice Talks about KJV
Dr. John R. Rice Answers Important Questions about The KJV Bible
by Clifton Cauthorne, Assistant Pastor
Victory Baptist Church, Pikeville, KY
In this staged but documented discussion, Dr. John R. Rice, founder of The Sword of the Lord, is interviewed concerning his views on the King James Version, modern translations, and other textual issues. Documentation for his answers is found in the book, Our God-Breathed Book – The Bible, by Dr. Rice.
Q: Dr. Rice, is the King James Version (KJV) perfect?
A: “A perfect translation of the Bible is humanly impossible. . . . There are no perfect translations. God does not inspire particular translations.” (p.376)
Q: Should Christians be concerned that there are no perfect translations of the Bible out there?
A: “When we speak of a flaw in this translation or that, we should remember that the flaws are so few in any criticized translation as to be a minor and almost an insignificant part of the whole. Suppose there are 100 places in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) which I think are bad translations – and there probably are. That would be one verse, perhaps, in each 13 pages of the approximate 1300 pages in the edition! If liberals, biased against the deity of Christ, change “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 to “young woman,” as I think is wrong, or leave out “begotten” in John 3:16, which seems to be weak scholarship, and take indefensible liberty, yet all the great truths of God are taught in this version, all the comfort, all the commands. . . . So the translations are the Word of God, and our serious effort to have good translations and a proper opposition to liberal bias in translations and irresponsible paraphrases should not keep us from rejoicing that in any translation we know we can find Christ and salvation, can know the will of God and be comforted by His promises.” (pp. 376,377)
Q: When you say the Bible is inspired, are you referring to the KJV?
A: “When we say that the Bible is inspired, we do not refer to the translations or copies but to the original autographs, written down under God’s direction. It is true that we have so many copies of the original Scriptures that they can be compared and so the actual wording of the translations can now be checked, and we can be sure that in every essential matter we have exactly the Word of God. And since the Scripture plainly claims that it is settled forever in Heaven, that it is everlasting, and Jesus said that “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), we can be sure that God in loving providence guarantees that we will not lose these Scriptures, the Word of God. But we do not claim for any copy or any translation the absolute, divine perfection that was in the original autographs. Inspiration refers to the original manuscripts.” (pp. 68,69) “When we speak of inspiration, we speak of the original autographs, the original manuscripts. We have none of the original manuscripts. All we have are copies of copies.” (p. 354)
Q: What is your view of the Doctrine of Preservation?
A: “God has promised that His Word ‘liveth and abideth for ever.’ That did not mean that all of the Word of God was in one manuscript, as the autographs were originally given. That does not mean that all the Bible as a unit was perfectly preserved in one copy through the centuries. For example, among the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea, the book of Isaiah was perfectly complete but other books of the Bible were not. In the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript discovered by Tischendorf at the Monastery of St. Catherine near Mt. Sinai, was not all of the Scriptures. The Codex Ephraem manuscript has only a part. So let us say then that it is not necessary that all the Word of God be in any one manuscript or bound volume in order for it to be true that the Bible is kept perfectly and incorruptible in this world and that is shall never pass away. All of the translations together and all of the copies together guarantee that God’s Word is perfectly preserved.” (p. 369) “Although we do not have any of the original autographs of the Bible, we have so many copies of the Old Testament in Hebrew and in the Greek Septuagint, so many copies of the New Testament in Koine Greek, so many copies in Latin, that comparing one copy with other copies, one can find with almost perfect certainty any gloss, any mistakes by the scribe in copying, any addition of a word or change in a letter, from the original copy. (p. 364) “In the thousands of manuscripts available, the perfect Word of God is eternally preserved and we may be sure that it always will be preserved.” (p. 193) “If one copyist made a mistake, accidentally altering or leaving out a letter or adding a word, and if perhaps two or three others copied his mistake, yet we have hundreds of other manuscripts that did not make the same mistake so that we can compare them and almost certainly come to the very original words. God has promised to preserve His Word forever and we are sure He has.” (pp. 354,355)
Q: How do you reconcile your view of Preservation with Matthew 5:18 which says “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled?”
A: “Jesus makes it clear in what intricate detail the Scriptures will be preserved. Not a jot nor a tittle will pass away! The Lord here guarantees even the verbal accuracy of the translations and copies – not of one particular copy nor of one particular translation but of the inspired Word in all of them together. Here, then, is a clear Bible doctrine that the Word of God abides forever, it endures forever, it shall never pass away! So, if we know the detailed methods by which God preserves His Word, well and good. If we do not know how providence has overruled the wrath of men, the errors of copyists, the bias of translators, we can still know that He does overrule them. And not altogether, perhaps, in one copy or in one translation, but in them all collectively God has His perfect Word, never to be destroyed, never to pass away. The Word of God abides forever.” (p. 360)
Q: Do variants in the ancient manuscripts bother you?
A: “It has been shown again and again that with every possible variation found in any of the manuscripts, there is not a single doctrine of the Bible changed, not a single historical event affected, not a single duty commanded that is thus clouded. God has wonderfully preserved His Scripture. And we are sure that while in any particular single manuscript, there may be some gloss or mistake in copying, as between an ‘a’ or ‘the’ or between one letter in a word and another letter, we know that in all the manuscripts together there abides the incorrupt Word of God, and that every honest Bible reader thus can find the will of God for himself and divine truth on everything he needs to learn from the Scriptures.” (p. 367)
Q: What do you think of the New Scofield Reference Bible and other attempts to update the text of the KJV?
A: “The Scofield Reference Bible, using the KJV and scholarly, fundamentally sound notes, has been in wide use for many years. In the new Scofield Bible there has been some enlargement of notes, some corrections, and we find words as used today substituted for the archaic expressions. We think that is a good thing. Also the Modern King James Version, copyright by Jay P. Green, likewise corrects archaic words, and changes ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ to you, etc., except when referring to deity. And so do the companion Children’s Version and Teen-Age Version. These are not new translations but the KJV with the occasional obsolete word replaced by a word in common usage.” (pp. 381,382)
Q: What is your opinion of the American Standard Version (ASV)?
A: “The translators of the ASV had the advantage of having access to the three oldest manuscripts with which we are familiar – the Vatican, the Alexandrian, and the Sinaitic manuscripts. It corrects some mistakes in the KJV. One very serious error in the translation of the KJV makes Revelation 22:14 say, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ That would seem to make the plan of salvation by works and that people go to Heaven by keeping God’s commandments. But it is not a good translation. The ASV correctly says: ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. . . . Now there is available the new American Standard Bible New Testament, published by Moody Press. The ASV of 1901, widely acclaimed for its word-for-word fidelity to the Greek, has been painstakingly revised by the Lockman Foundation in the light of the latest textual advances. Dr. Wilbur M. Smith says, ‘Certainly the most accurate and most revealing translation of the New Testament that we now have.’ The scholar and the preacher would do well to have the ASV at hand and to consult it when necessary, but generally would do well, we think, to use the KJV in the pulpit, in memory work, and in class teaching, since it is actually the translation of the mass of people.” (pp. 382,383)
Q: Why do you prefer the KJV?
A: “Since 1611, the KJV of the Bible has been more widely spread and more greatly used than all the other English translations of the Bible combined. The beauty, the stately dignity and reverence of the language is far beyond that of any other translation. It has done more to influence Western civilization, Western language, viewpoints and morals than anything else in England or America in these three and a half centuries. Of course the translation itself is not inspired, is not infallibly correct, but as the Holy Spirit some way let the Christian millions to a consensus of opinion on the Scriptures that should be accepted in our canon as our Bible, so surely the Holy Spirit and God’s providence have led millions to love and favor the KJV. (pp. 379,380)
Q: Could you cite an example of a passage in the KJV that is faulty or inaccurate?
A: “Once I was troubled as I read Hebrews 4:9-11. . . . In verse 10 we are told that one enters into the heavenly rest by ceasing from his own works. But verse 11 says in the KJV, ‘Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.’ I thought then, as I do now, that labor is not the way to get salvation and to have the heavenly rest. I felt certain the meaning was different, the translation faulty. So I looked in Young’s Analytical Concordance and found every way that the word there translated labor was used, and it means rather to ‘give diligence.’ One should give diligence, that is, he should urgently set out to ‘enter into that rest.’ Not ‘labor,’ but earnestly attending to the matter at once, is taught here. You see, the blessed Holy Spirit within made the meaning clear despite what seems to be a faulty translation. God never lets His Word perish.” (pp. 373,374) “The KJV of Luke 1:3 is, unfortunately, inaccurate.” (p. 165)
Q: Are you concerned that the presence of many translations might water down God’s Word and confuse God’s people?
A: “There are many, many translations. The differences in the translations are so minor, so insignificant, that we can be sure not a single doctrine, not a single statement of fact, not a single command or exhortation, has been missed in our translations. And where the Word of God is not perfectly translated in one instance, it is corrected in another translation. And if the Word of God is not perfectly portrayed in one translation, it is portrayed, surely, in the winnowed sum of them all. And besides, one can go back to the original Greek and Hebrew texts to check for himself the translations. Or those who do not know Hebrew and Greek may use Young’s Analytical Concordance. There you will find in every single case the original Greek or Hebrew word, find how it is used, and thus can check the translations. . . . Do the various translations differ materially on any doctrine, any fact of history, any Christian duty, on the plan of salvation, or the Person of Christ, or any comfort or instruction? No, they do not!” (p. 355)
Q: Should a preacher ever use modern translations in the pulpit?
A: “A preacher should refer, when necessary, to other versions, as I do many times. When I quote John 5:24 in a message, then I may quote the same verse from the ASV because ‘and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life’ seems to add emphasis to the King James statement, ‘and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (p. 380)
Q: What books do you recommend on the topic of the inspiration of God’s Word?
A: “The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by L. Gaussen, published in America by Moody Press, Chicago, probably the most useful book ever written on inspiration of the Scripture. Gaussen was a Swiss theologian, born 1790, died 1863. Charles Spurgeon said: ‘If we have in the Word of God no infallible standard of truth, we are at sea without a compass, and no danger from rough weather without can be equal to this loss within. “If the foundation be removed, what can the righteous do?” and this is a foundation loss of the worst kind. In this work the author proves himself a master of holy argument. Gaussen charms as he proclaims the divine veracity of Scripture. His testimony is clear as a bell.’ . . . This book was translated from the French by David D. Scott of Glasgow. Even in his translation the book has wonderful literary charm and a warmth of devotion that makes it a joy, while it is a must for the scholarly study of the Bible doctrine of inspiration. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield of Princeton Seminary. Introduction by Cornelius Van Til. A collection of Dr. Warfield’s articles on inspiration of the Bible. On the essentials concerning inspiration, Warfield is at the very top, and perhaps had more influence on theologians of the present day than Gaussen. This book, with Gaussen’s, stands above others in scholarly defense of the verbal, plenary inspiration of all the Scriptures and their infallible accuracy and authority.” (pp. 393,394)
Q: Dr. Rice, thank you for your time. Do you have any concluding thoughts or advice?
A: “Let us suggest again that every Christian, every minister, every scholar make the KJV the principal basis of his Bible study. Students and ministers probably ought to have the ASV to consult and a Young’s or Strong’s Analytical Concordance by which he may look up the usage in the Bible of any particular Greek or Hebrew word and thus check the translation by its inspired use in more than one place.” (p. 391)
[All answers are from Dr. Rice’s book Our God-Breathed Book – The Bible, Copyright 1969, Sword of the Lord Publishers. The pages on which each answer is found in this book are beside each answer. Please pass this along. The prayer of the compiler of this interview is that it might help young Fundamentalists in their search for where to stand in the modern KJV-Only debate.]