"Problems with the KJV - Refuting Some Challenges to the Olde Book
Unicorns, and Spiders, and Killing, Oh My!

The impetus for this particular article comes from an email which I received a while back from an individual who took exception to the KJV-advocacy stance of this website. While most of this gentleman's correspondence with me seemed to revolve around his repeated assertion that King James was a bisexual (his source being an opinion column written several years ago in some minor Florida local newspaper), he did include as part of his efforts at getting me to see the light an excerpt apparently coming from some KJV-Anti tract or pamphlet. The portions below to which I respond are from this email which he sent, and the responses are largely based off of my answers to him. If any readers out there have maybe seen the pamphlet or whatever which my correspondent was quoting from, please let me know what it is and who authored it so that I may properly source it.

I have to admit that I did not find any of these questions to be either troublesome or particularly difficult to answer. Indeed, many of this "problems" statement seems to be geared towards the Ruckmanite crowd, to which I do not belong. The Ruckmanites are the ones who view the King James Bible as ITSELF being inspired (i.e. the translators were inspired) and who say that the KJV can be used to "correct" the original languages. I do not hold to those positions. Indeed, it is out of faithfulness to the preserved original language readings that I hold to the KJV, since the crux issue between the KJV and the modern versions is really all about the underlying textual issues in the original languages. The Ruckmanite, second-inspiration, etc. issue is sideline, but one which Critical Text people often try to bring up to take the focus off of the textual arguments and onto strawman arguments about Ruckman and his teachings.

I use the KJV because it is translated from a better textual base than the erroneous, flawed texts underlying the new versions. See my article about Gnostic corruptions in the Critical text edition underlying the New International Version. This does not, however, mean that I view the translation itself to be inspired or perfect. Indeed, the translators didn't do everything perfect. There are a few chapter divisions that I have to scratch my head about, and so forth. BUT, this is not the crux of KJV-only. KJV-only, rightly understood, is a support of the Textus Receptus and Hebrew Masoretic of Bomberg as the preserved Words of God. The KJV is a very good translation from these texts (which even modern textual critics will usually admit), even if it does have archaic language and allusions to animals and whatnot befitting the time period in which it was translated. It is certainly superior to the NIV, NASB, etc. which, while perhaps having "up to date" language, are still translated from inferior texts, and hence are not trustworthy. PROBLEMS with the 4TH REVISION OF THE KING JAMES VERSION of the BIBLE

(The current version of the KJV is the 4th major revision. The Authorized Version, as it came to be called, went through several editions and revisions. Two notable editions were that of 1629, the first ever printed at Cambridge, and that of 1638, also at Cambridge, which was assisted by John Bois and Samuel Ward, two of the original translators. In 1657, the Parliament considered another revision, but it came to naught. The most important editions were those of the 1762 Cambridge revision by Thomas Paris, and the 1769 Oxford revision by Benjamin Blayney.)

There is something of a red herring here. It is incorrect to call these "revisions" of the KJV. A "revision" is when the actual body of text is altered in its meaning, message, etc. This is not what happened in 1638, 1762, and 1769. These are called "updates", in which printing errors, archaic spellings and phrases, etc. are updated. The most famous one perhaps is the changing of "he" to "she" in Ruth. Was that a "revision"? No. It was a correction to a mistake which had appeared in the previous edition and which was fixed. Printing errors and errors in transcription were quite common back in that day, especially in a work as long as the Bible. Remember, they did not have computer aided publishing like we have today, it was all block printing on hand-movable typeset.

Why do these types of corrections not count as "revision"? Because the actual meaning and intent of the text is not being changed. The work by Wescott and Hort in 1881 WAS a revision, because a different underlying textual set was being used (at least for the NT), and thus fundamental changes in the actual message of the Bible were being introduced into the revision.

The errors are in three areas of concern, and are listed in ascending order of importance:

1. The first area is where the words used in 1769 and earlier do not mean the same thing to us today. It is a matter of accuracy and understanding; 2. The second area is where there are contradictions that would leave the reader with the impression that God commands His people to sin against Him; and, 3. The final area is where a literal translation would lead one to believe that the very use of the KJV is in disobedience to the Word of God.

A. Two examples of concern in the first area, where words may have changed meanings over the years or the translation was just in error: 1. Although a product of the New World, the word corn probably was interchangeable with the correct word grain in the 1600's and 1700s'. Of course there is no Hebrew word for corn as there was no corn, as we know it, that grew in the Old World. The word corn is used 94 times in the KJV (4th revision); 2. Another word that was translated incorrectly is the word spider (Proverbs 30:28). The word should be lizard. There are other cases, but these are only of interest to those deeply concerned with accuracy. You can always say to yourself, or others if you may be teaching, "it doesn't mean that."

I'm not exactly how these can be considered "errors".

It is correct to consider "corn" to be a 16th-17th century term interchangeable with grain. Schmidt's "Shakespeare Lexicon" notes the use of the word "corn", stating that it is the seed or grain from which bread is made (most commonly wheat, as we know). This use, that it is wheat, can be demonstrated from Henry IV, Part II, Act IV, Scene I, lines 194-5,

"We shall be winnow'd with so rough a wind
That even our corn shall seem as light as chaff..."

Now, corn (as we think of it) isn't winnowed. Wheat is. Yet, we clearly see that in the English of the 16th-17th centuries, "corn" refers to wheat, and is probably a more general term for any sort of grain (after all, you can make bread from maize too - cornbread). However, any reasonable person reading the KJV ought to be able to understand the meaning of passages where "corn" is used, regardless of whether they had wheat or maize in mind. Hence, the use of this term does not constitute an error in the translated text since, a) the word IS correctly translated, and b) has no effect upon the contextual meanings of the passages. So what do we have here in the KJV? An archaism? Yes. An error? No. This is the sort of "problem" with the KJV which shows that KJV-Antis have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find anything with which to try to make their points.

Concerning the translation in Proverbs 30:28 as "spider", we see here that KJV-opponents do not seem to have done their research. The word in the Hebrew in question is semamiyth. It appears only once in the Hebrew scriptures, there in Proverbs 30:28. Because it appears only once, there is thus no direct way in which this word can be analysed to see whether it is "lizard" or "spider", comparatively with other passages. Hence, we have to look more indirectly. In Leviticus 11:30, we see that the lizard (right after the chameleon, to give us some context of the type of creature being discussed) is listed among those creatures unclean to Israel. The word translated as lizard is leta'ah, from an unused root meaning "to hide, to creep". That accurately describes a lizard. Hence, we see that there is a perfectly acceptable word meaning "lizard" in Hebrew, which if a lizard had been meant in Proverbs 30:28, would most likely have been used. Meanwhile, the word semamiyth used in Proverbs is from a root meaning "to poison, to stupefy". This also accurately describes what a poisonous spider would do to its prey when it bites, but does NOT accurately describe most lizards, including those in Palestine. There is really no good reason to think that Proverbs 30:28 contains "spider" as an incorrect translation, nor that it "should" have been translated as "lizard" (which would have been incorrect).

B. The first example in the area of contradictions is where the selections of words by the translators bring you to believe that Almighty God would actually command someone to break His commandments, or to do evil in His eyes:

1. In the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13), the Hebrew word ratsach is not kill but murder. If it were kill, then it would mean that God often commanded His people to disobey commandments. This incorrect translation has caused many problems among those that want to live by the Word, but see the contradiction. It accounts for people being against the death penalty, which of course was initiated by Almighty God Himself.

Some problems with the analysis here. First, it is somewhat inaccurate to say that ratsach means "murder". For instance, the word ratsach is used in Numbers 35:27 for the avenger of blood "killing" one guilty of manslaughter (hence, acting in a lawful fashion, as that was the right of vengeance of the nearest relative to the deceased). In Numbers 35:30, we again see ratsach used and translated as "put to death" in reference to a murdering being put to death (hence, upholding the law) for killing someone. Thus, while ratsach much of the time does refer to unlawful killing, it can also refer to killing done when justice is being served.

Further, we should note that there are a couple of other words which can refer to murder/murderers in the sense in which we mean in this discussion. Harag (Ps. 10:8, Jer. 4:31, Hos. 9:13), and nakah (II Kings 14:6).

Indeed, ratsach appears to be interchangeable with these others, as far as meaning goes (they all mean, essentially, to smite or strike someone to death). Thus, the argument for how to interpret Exodus 20:13 cannot be really answered from what the Hebrew word means or does not mean alone. Thus, it falls to being answered theologically, by taking the context of God's Word as a whole into account to determine the meaning of the passage (hence, systematic theology).

To say that the KJV is incorrect for saying "kill" in Exodus 20:13 is somewhat untenable. The KJV is no more ambiguous on this matter than WE are today when we talk about someone "being killed". Do we mean that they were murdered by someone, or that they fell off a cliff? Hence, common sense and context are the guides here, and the only reason that the new versions would translate this as "murder" is simply because the context is being used to explicitly clarify the theological meaning. That is fine, but does not make the KJV incorrect.

2. A second example of this is found when you look at Psalm 37:21 [The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth {KJV}] or [The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;{NIV}] It clearly says in both translations that to borrow and not repay is evil. Now look at Exodus 3:22 [But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.] Therefore, if you take it as it is written, you can say that God says to do something that makes you evil. The accurate translation reads: Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians." Exodus 3:22

Again, we should note that two different Hebrew words are being used between Exodus 3:22 (sha'el, meaning "to inquire, ask, or demand") and Psalm 37:21 (lavah, meaning "to twine, unite, also to borrow in the sense of creating an obligation in the sense of it being a loan). The word used in Exodus has the meaning of asking or demanding someone to give you something, which is what the context of the passage clearly shows. The word in Psalm 37:21, on the other hand, basically puts across the idea of borrowing something with the intention of returning it, thus creating an obligation on yourself to return the other's property. The context, again, clearly shows what is meant. This passage would only be confusing to someone who did not want to take the time to do some basic study on these passages (i.e. who wasn't being faithful to II Timothy 2:15)

Further, a lot of this objection by new text people is merely semantic. After all, if one were in a cynical mood, one could quite easily point out that the so-called "accurate" translation...

"Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians."

...is basically "borrowing" in all but name, and hence, just as much of a "contradiction". Again, though the language may be somewhat archaic, the meaning in context ought to be clear to anyone who puts a modicum of effort into studying the passage.

C. The final area of concern has to do with mythology. Are unicorns real or mythical? Should believing Christians have anything to do with them? The word unicorn, or unicorns, found in nine verses (NUM 23:22, NUM 24:8, DEU 33:17, JOB 39:9, JOB 39:10, PSA 22:21, PSA 29:6, PSA 92:10, ISA 34:7) in the original (1611) and next four revisions to the King James Version, and prior to the NKJV, translation of the Bible. Here are the results of brief research into the word, its origin, its uses in the bible and other places. Eight different sources were used as references, one from an Israeli Air Force Hebrew - English dictionary (8) which provided the information about the Hebrew word incorrectly translated as unicorn or unicorns. All the references support translations other than "unicorn/unicorns" and none support the translation "unicorn or unicorns" as in the King James Version(s) of the Holy Bible:

1. The first two are from King James Versions. The margins of Thompson's Chain Reference (KJV);

2. The Open Bible (KJV), have "wild ox or wild oxen" each time unicorn or unicorns is in the text;

This really isn't a "proof" for the incorrectness of the KJV nor the correctness of new versions. The word re'em in the KJV is only translated as "unicorn". It finds no other translation, and in context it seems to be referring to the same creature each time. Indeed, we find that the KJV translators' use of "unicorn" is likely of EXACTLY THE SAME CALIBRE as the use of "wild ox" or "wild bull" by modern translators. Since "re'em" seems to have only one context, we do not really have anything by which to compare it, and hence, the translator simply chooses what he imagines will be the closest to conveying the idea behind what a re'em was. The KJV translators used "unicorn" to convey the idea, modern translators use "wild ox". Either way, a horned creature is depicted and thus understood by the reader.

3. Next, the Pulpit Commentary, in the Exposition of each of the nine places in the KJV that has "unicorn/unicorns," it explains it as "wild ox/oxen" or "wild buffalo." In the exposition of Deuteronomy 33:17, it points out that there is a double error by translating "unicorn" (singular), "unicorns" (plural) to try to make it fit. "His horns are like the horns of the unicorns;". The author goes on to say "The Reem (the Hebrew word erroneously translated both 'unicorn' and 'unicorns') is supposed (assumed) to be the aurochs, an animal of the bovine species, allied to the buffalo, now extinct; but which the Assyrian bas-reliefs show them to have been formerly hunted in the region.";

To support the conclusion that there are errors where the KJV translates the word to "unicorns," it should be understood that the method of making a Hebrew word plural is to add "im" to it. If the authors of the Bible had intended the word to be plural, Reem would have been written Reem-im.

I would suspect that at this point, the translation of "unicorns" (plural) has something to do with an understanding on the part of the translators that it is talking about "unicorns" in the abstract, something not necessarily unknown in the Hebrew. Indeed, the evidence of other versions suggests that this might well be the case. The Septuagint at Deuteronomy 33:17 also uses plural forms for "horns" (kerata) while using a singular form for "unicorn". Further, the Greek word used in this passage is monokerotos, meaning literally "one horned". The Latin Vulgate likewise uses plural words for "horns" (cornua), while yet using a singular form for "unicorn" (rhinoceros). Indeed, Jerome seems to use "rhinoceros" and "monoceros" interchangeably, using each to translate re'em at various points. This indicates that Jerome also had in mind the concept of a single-horned creature when he translated rhinoceros.

Hence, in both of these other ancient versions of the OT, we see that the translators had a singular animal which was specifically designated with a term denoting a single horn, while yet spoken of as possessing a plural number of horns. Logically, we would expect in such a case that it would be understood that we would abstract the concept of the animal, speaking in general of "the horns of the unicorn", just as we would say, for instance, "the pelts of the racoon are prized for their softness". The pluralising of "unicorns" by the KJV translators might simply be a recognition of this sort of abstraction which they wanted to make more explicit, hence being true to the spirit of the passage.

8. Israeli Air Force Hebrew - English dictionary. There is a Hebrew word for one-horn. When spelled phonetically is had-keren, or had-qeren. The Hebrew word for one is echad and the Hebrew word for horn is qeren, or keren. When you use the Hebrew word for one in combination with another word, such as one-horned, you drop the ee and pronounce it had-keren. This is from the Hebrew-English dictionary; it can also be found in Strong's: one - number 259; and horn - number 7161.

This, of course, begs the question as to why, in inspiring the Hebrew originals, God would have used a mere DESCRIPTIVE term when He might very well have simply given us the NAME of this creature (sort of the same as why, if one were telling someone else about a cat, would you not simply say "the cat" instead of "the four footed creature with whiskers and a snotty attitude")?

We need to understand that, as the Vulgate and the Septuagint indicate to us, the initial conception among both Christians and Jews in those days was that the Hebrew text was speaking of a single-horned creature (though not the unicorn of mythology, per se). The Jewish rabbis who translated the LXX certainly understood that a re'em was a single-horned creature, else why would they have used the term monokerotos, which SPECIFICALLY denotes a single horned creature? Also, Jerome, in consulting the Jews to prepare his Vulgate version, apparently came to the same conclusion, as he used rhinoceros (nose-horned) and monoceros (one-horned) interchangeably when translating re'em.

It is only the MODERN DAY critics who feel the need to suggest that the re'em is a two-horned creature. The testimony of the ancients is contrary, and frankly, I figure that a group of ancient Jewish rabbis and a church father who consulted with Jewish rabbis probably know better what was meant by re'em than do the members of the NIV translating committee today. The resolution to this apparent problem might simply be that whatever the re'em was is now extinct (it happens, after all), and not available anymore for us to make the connexion.

An modern translation (NIV) of God's Word says: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:7) For some reason the translators and the revisionists of the KJV chose to us the word unicorn in lieu of wild ox.

Hmmmm....I would consider anyone who tried to make serious use of this "point" to be lacking in understanding of the real meaning of I Timothy 4:7. As we saw above, there is really no need to read "wild ox" into the passages where re'em is used. Indeed, to do so is eisegesis, but perhaps allowably so, since we do not really know for sure what a re'em really was. The KJV translators eisegeting "unicorns" (plural) into Deuteronomy 33:17 is certainly no worse than the "wild ox" explanation, after all. And as we also saw above, the term "unicorn", understood to be denoting simply a single-horned animal, is certainly well attested by the ancients who were a couple of thousand years closer to the fact than we are.