04 July 2015

The King James Version and a Bogus Meme

I haven’t seen it lately, but this meme was one of the favorites circulated on fb by so called “Freethinkers” and Atheist.   

Whoever invented the picture meme is a genius. It’s probably the most effective way to get your point across apart from an essay or YouTube.  

The problem with memes is that it doesn’t give you the whole story, and at best it simply gives a summary of the overall argument.

If the meme said the King James Version was not an accurate translation I might have agreed.  Many Biblical scholars and textual critics have problems with the KJV too. 

One such scholar is Daniel Wallace; the Executive Director for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and a leading expert in New Testament criticism. He wrote an excellent 4 part essay on the history and development of English Bible. I will post the link at the end this article.

For starters, it wasn’t 8 men from the church England: 

James (king James) assigned six panels of scholars to do the work: three for the Old Testament, two for the New Testament, and one for the Apocrypha. Two teams met at Oxford, two met at Cambridge, and two at Westminster Abbey. Altogether, there were forty-seven (47) men who worked on this new version.  –Daniel Wallace  (bold type mine)

However, the meme did get one thing right. The original manuscripts for the both the Old and New Testament haven’t been found. This doesn’t prove the extant copies are not reliable; in fact, there are over 5,600 copies not 8000 of the New Testament alone, more than any other ancient manuscript in history. This is supposed to be the Achilles Heel because, “no two are alike...”. 

This is also true.  But what the meme doesn’t tell you is the variants contain in the copies are mostly spelling errors or changes in word order, none of which affect major theological doctrines, nor does it affect Biblical inerrancy. For instance, Greek is a highly inflected language. It does not depend on word order for emphasis, instead case endings determine the subject and direct object of a verb, etc. As far as misspellings -- who likes a grammar cop?

Another little fact the meme doesn’t tell you is no mother language fits perfectly into its receptor language. When translating a text from Kione Greek to English there are a range of words which may be used. Take ανθρωπος / man, for example. It could mean mankind, person, people, human being. There are often several English cognates for any given word in Greek. Because of this, context "rules" as the old saying goes.

Another omission the meme doesn’t tell you is the difference between verbal inspiration and inerrancy. For example, Lansing is the capitol of Michigan is a true statement, therefore, inerrant. Verbal inspiration is a little more complex than space would allow here, much less for a meme.

The KJV may not the best translation according to some, partly because no one speaks in Elizabethan language these days. Regardless of the translation, any serious critic of the Bible, including Bible students, will have at least two good translations on hand along with a decent Hebrew and Greek lexicon to deal with these issues.

Finally, the King James meme is based on willful ignorance. It is a sloppy, oversimplification of a vast and complex subject obviously meant to discredit the Bible.  This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in textual criticism to have an opinion; however, you should at least make an attempt to read the latest articles on the subject to make an informed argument, even when using a meme.

Most so called “Freethinkers” and Atheist are not interested in honest discussion about the Bible. The purpose for this bogus meme is to refute the veracity of Scripture and to shore up their own misconceptions. They claim to be critical thinkers or open minded about ideas, when in reality they are not interested in having a rationale debate. They claim what Christians believe about the Bible is insane, but it seems to this writer those who publicize the King James meme have themselves -- “abandoned reason for insanity”. 

Link to The History of the English Bible by: Daniel Wallace. 


  1. Who cares? The point of the meme is to illustrate how ridiculous the bible is. Job done. People will waste their time (and pay the church tons of money) sitting on an uncomfortable bench listening to a pedophile tell them how to live their lives, based on an old book full of stories of rape, slavery, murder, and incest to then consider themselves better than their neighbors who are smart enough to know it's all hogwash.

  2. Who cares. The point of my essay was to demonstrate how rediculously inaccurate the King James Meme is. Job done. If anything you have reaffirmed my contention that neither atheist nor so called free thinkers are willing to have an honest discussion about the Bible and its message. All you're doing here is parroting the same kind of drivel I've heard time and again. When you can come up with a reasonable, mature argument we might have some something to talk about.

    1. What is there to discuss about the bible?? It is a book of fairy tales written by uneducated men who thought the world was flat and did not know where the sun went at night. It's sole purpose was to scare people into behaving in such a way that was deemed appropriate. It was a tool for controlling the measses ... the same way conservatives have bought and own entire news networks so they can continue to scare people into believing their fake news. There are over 1400 religions being practiced on this planet. You believe all of the others are ridiculous and silly. You and I are alike in that I also believe they are all ridiculous and silly. The only difference between us is I also believe yours is. And before you try to just label me as some close-minded atheist, know that I have a PhD in world religions and most certainly know more about all religions including yours and your bible than you do.

  3. What I find really annoying is your inference that atheists and freethinkers aren't open to a frank and honest discussion. I have been an atheist since the age of 8. I have read and educated myself on multiple religious teachings, all of which I don't believe in so that I can have a discussion with people on why I don't believe. So what if most freethinkers & atheists think the Bible or religious texts are insane, that's their point of view, the same as Christians thinking atheists are lost and need saving. To live your life guided by a story book about a guy from over 2000 years ago is insane! Live your life for you, be kind to others, be good and loving and stop blaming others when things go wrong.

    1. @ anonymous,

      I am curious about two things... First, if your philosophy is to "live your life for you" then why come to an insignificant blog by a Christian layperson to go on an anonymous rant?

      We could certainly argue about the relative sanity vs. consistency of the Christian worldview but I am not sure what any of this has to do with the actual content of the OP. The point the blog author made is that the meme is a mischaracterization of how translation and transmission work. He is absolutely correct in at least that much. You are trying to link a series of assertions (rather than arguments) to what is a straw man meme and it all amounts to absolutely nothing. I have to say, if you have a PhD from an accredited institution as you claim then I think defending internet memes, especially factually inaccurate ones, is probably not the best use of your energies.

  4. ...

    The second thing I am curious about is where does the blog author blame anyone for anything in this post?

    Are you willing to openly discuss the issues related to translation and transmission targeted by the meme or is this interaction simply both sides calling the other side names?

  5. Religion has been so successful for this world . ( that's sarcasm ) .

    1. You may wish to consider what the world would be without it. The available examples of societies built upon atheistic worldviews haven't provided much reason for you sarcasm.

      Religion has certainly been abused, but the fruits of the Judeo-Christian worldview in terms of science, medicine, philosophy, etc. have left us much better off than we see in the East on many levels.


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