The Authorised Version

The Authorised Version, PDF format

by J.C. Philpot

[Introduction by Shaun Willcock: this article was written by J.C. Philpot in 1857 in response to the request of a reader of the magazine he edited – decades before the “Revised Version”, the first major new Bible version in English, based upon a very corrupt Greek New Testament text, was produced in 1881.  Prior to that date, virtually all English-speaking Christians the world over used only one version of the Scriptures: that known as the Authorised, or King James Version.  But from 1881 until today, the English-speaking world has been flooded with modern versions, each one worse than the one before, so that the very situation which Philpot dreaded has indeed come to pass.  The reasons, then, that Philpot gave for rejecting a revision of the Authorised Version are even more applicable today than they were then.  The King James Version is an utterly faithful and accurate version of the Holy Scriptures in English, and there is no need to desire another.  No version produced since 1611 has ever equalled it, and we firmly believe that none ever will, in the time left before the Lord’s second coming.]

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  Dear Sir, – Since the new translation of the Bible has been talked of, there has been much written on the subject.  It has been taken up in almost every newspaper; and some are clamorous for a new version.  I wish for your opinion on the subject, knowing that you have had as good an education as most men, and have read the Bible in different languages.  Seeing such statements circulating throughout the kingdom [the United Kingdom – Ed.], and thinking it might do much mischief, I feel induced to write to you.  If you think it would not be a proper subject for the “Gospel Standard,” I would not for one moment wish you to notice it; but, if otherwise, I should feel thankful to see a few words from you.

                                                      Yours affectionately, for the gospel’s sake,

                                                                                            OBSERVATOR.

  We have… an opportunity to… express our opinion upon a question of late much agitated, viz., whether it would be desirable to have a new, or at least a revised translation of the Scriptures.  We fully admit that there are here and there passages, of which the translation might be improved; as, for instance, “love” for “charity” all through 1 Cor. xiii.;[1] but we deprecate any alteration as a measure that for the smallest sprinkling of good would deluge us with a flood of evil.  The following are our reasons:

  1. Who are to undertake it? Into whose hands would the revision fall?  What an opportunity for the enemies of truth to give us a mutilated false Bible![2]  Of course, they must be learned men, great critics, scholars, and divines.  But these are notoriously either Puseyites[3] or Neologians;[4] in other words, deeply tainted with either popery or infidelity.  Where are there learned men sound in the truth, not to say alive unto God, who possess the necessary qualifications for so important a work?  And can erroneous men, men dead in trespasses and sins, carnal, worldly, ungodly persons, spiritually translate a book written by the blessed Spirit?  We have not the slightest ground for hope that they would be godly men, such as we have reason to believe translated the Scriptures into our present version.
  2. Again, it would unsettle the minds of thousands, as to which was the Word of God, the old translation or the new. What a door it would open for the workings of infidelity, or the temptations of Satan!  What a gloom, too, it would cast over the minds of many of God’s saints, to have those passages which had been applied to their souls translated in a different way, and how it would seem to shake all their experience of the power and preciousness of God’s Word!
  3. But besides this, there would be two Bibles spread through the land, the old and the new, and what confusion would this create in almost every place! At present, all sects[5] and denominations[6] agree in acknowledging our present version as the standard of appeal. Nothing settles disputes so soon as when the contending parties have confidence in the same umpire and are willing to abide by his decision.  But this judge of all disputes, this umpire of all controversy, would cease to be the looser of strife if the present acknowledged authority were put an end to by a rival.
  4. Again, if the revision and re-translation were once to begin, where would it end? It is good to let well alone, as it is easier to mar than mend.[7]  The Socianising[8] Neologian would blot out “God” in 1 Timothy iii.16, and strike out 1 John v.7,8, as an interpolation.  The Puseyite would mend it to suit Tractarian[9] views.  He would read “priest” where we now read “elder,” and put “penance” in the place of “repentance.”  Once set up a notice, “The old Bible to be mended,” and there would be plenty of workmen, who, trying to mend the cover, would pull the pages to pieces.  The Arminian would soften down the words “election” and “predestination” into some term less displeasing to Pharisaic ears.  “Righteousness” would be turned into “justice,” and “reprobate” into “undiscerning.”  All our good Bible terms would be so mutilated that they would cease to convey the Spirit’s meaning, and instead of the noble simplicity, faithfulness, and truth of our present version, we should have a Bible that nobody would accept as the Word of God, to which none could safely appeal, and on which none could implicitly rely.
  5. Instead of our good old Saxon Bible, simple and solid, with few words really obsolete, and alike majestic and beautiful, we should have a modern English translation in the pert and flippant language of the day.[10] Besides its authority as the Word of God, our present version is the great English classic – generally accepted as the standard of the English language.  The great classics of a language cannot be modernised.  What an outcry there would be against modernising Shakespeare, or making Hooker, Bacon, or Milton talk the English of the newspapers or of the House of Commons.
  6. The present English Bible has been blessed to thousands of the saints of God; and not only so, it has become part of our national inheritance which we have received unimpaired from our fathers, and are bound to hand down unimpaired to our children. It is, we believe, the grand bulwark of Protestantism; the safeguard of the gospel, and the treasure of the Church; and we should be traitors in every sense of the word if we consented to give it up to be rifled by the sacrilegious hands of Puseyites, concealed Papists, German Neologians, infidel divines, Arminians, Socinians, and the whole tribe of enemies of God and godliness.

Joseph Charles Philpot (1802-1869) was an Anglican minister who came to see the errors of that institution.  He seceded from it and became a Baptist pastor.  This article was excerpted from the book, Biblical Approach for Present Issues, pgs. 119-123, by J.C. Philpot, Old Paths Gospel Press, Choteau, Montana, USA. 

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Endnotes:

[1].There are indeed passages where the translation could be improved; but this does not mean that the word used by the KJV translators is incorrect, merely that a better word could be used today.  It is not a matter of an incorrect word (in the KJV) versus a correct word, but rather of a correct and good word versus a better word.

[2].And this is exactly what happened!  The enemies of the truth advanced their cause by the production of the Revised Version in 1881, and by the over 100 versions that followed that one.

[3].Puseyites: supporters and promoters of the teachings of E.B. Pusey (1800-82), who along with others was at the heart of the so-called “Oxford Movement” which sought to establish Roman Catholic doctrine and observance in the Anglican institution.

[4].Neologism is the tendency to, and adoption of, novel, rationalistic views in theological matters.

[5].Although these days, the term “sect” is often used almost interchangeably with “cult,” and therefore has a very negative connotation, in earlier times it was used as simply meaning a branch of the Christian faith.

[6].It must be remembered that in Philpot’s day, many denominations which today have departed from “the faith once delivered to the saints” were, in many respects, scripturally sound.

[7].The passage of time has proved just how true this statement of his was.  Once the door was opened just a crack, the enemies of the Gospel continued to push it open more and more, and the result is what we see today: a veritable flood of false versions, in which men falsely claiming to be the Lord’s servants have “handled the Word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2).

[8].Socinianism: the denial of the divinity of Christ.

[9].A Tractarian was one who held to the Anglo-Catholic doctrines and practices of the “Oxford Movement” as set forth in a series of pamphlets known as “Tracts for the Times.”

[10].Again, the passage of time has proved the truth of this statement.  We have such versions as “Today’s English Version,” “The New Testament in Modern English,” “The Contemporary English Version,” and “The New International Version – Inclusive Language Edition,” to name just a few.

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