The KJV in Group Studies?

Should I bring my King James Bible to a group Bible study?

Should I bring my King James Bible to a group Bible study?

A brief look at various and troubling difficulties with the KJV Bible translation

Have you ever been in a group Bible study where everyone is asked to read a verse of a particular passage? Everyone is tracking as each person reads a verse from one of many modern translations. Well, at least until someone reads from their King James Bible. And then the train crashes. Everyone

looks up, sighs, and asks a collective “What was that?”

While the King James Bible is a fine Bible for devotional purposes, there are a number of reasons that it may not be the best translation to be used in a group setting. Remember, your group Bible study isn’t about building you up; it’s about building others up, and to do that, everyone in the room needs to understand what you’re reading. The question to ask yourself is if reading from a King James Bible is to the advantage of others, or is it a distraction? Let’s take a look at over a dozen reasons why you might want to put your King James Bible on your nightstand and start bringing a more modern translation to your Bible Study.

1. Vocabulary

The KJV uses some words that don’t mean the same thing in 2024 as they did in 1611. Unless one has access to a 17 th century dictionary, it’s easy to get thrown for a theological loop.

Note: by necessity, there exists a website that explains 331 extremely dated words in the KJV. 1

Here are four examples of vocabulary words that didn’t do well with the passing of time.

  • Flowers: (not something you pick up on Valentine’s day at a flower shop, but “menstrual impurity”)

And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean. Lev. 15:24 (Compare with 1 Kings 6:18)

  • Suffer: (not endure or feel pain, but “to allow”)

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 19:14

  • Quit: (not “give up” but “to act”)

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. 1 Cor. 16:13

  • Mansion: (not a Newport, RI mansion like The Breakers, The Elms, or The Marble House, but simply “a room”)

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2

2. Archaic Expressions

Does anyone today really know what the following expressions mean? More to the point, do the people who attend your group Bible study know what they mean, or do you need to stop after you’ve read the verse and try to explain the meaning?

  • “…having turned aside unto vain jangling” 1 Tim. 1:6

  • “…charity vaunteth not itself” 1 Cor. 13:4

  • “…wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” Rom. 7:8a

  • "...destroy them that speak leasing” Ps. 5:6a

  • “…a damsel came to hearken…” Acts 12:13

3. Dated Measurements

The original Greek New Testament used monetary measurements common to the day. Of concern, the KJV converts the Greek (mna) “mina” into English pounds, which means one needs to find out what an English pound was worth in 1611 to give it the correct value.

(Side note: in the below example, what or how are we supposed to “occupy?”)

  • And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

4. Unfamiliar Verb Endings

Verbs are often times given “-eth” endings because that’s how people spoke in and around Great Britain 400 years ago. The problem is that modern English has since dropped these endings.

(Side note: in the below example, the Greek word (anakeimai) means sitting or reclining at a table; it has nothing to do with meat whatsoever.)

  • For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth. Luke 22:27

5. Thee, Thou, & Ye

The KJV uses pronouns that are not in use today that can be a bit confusing to the modern reader. In response to the argument: “The King James Bible uses 'biblical' English that is superior to anything published in modern 'bible' versions,” 2 one need to only consider that the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, therefore “biblical English” does not exist.

  • And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. Gen. 2:16

  • And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? Gen. 3:11

6. Unicorns

It’s tough to defend a mythological creature being referred to [nine times] in the KJV Bible as a real animal. Most modern Bible translations translate the Hebrew word (rieym) as “wild oxen.” 3

  • Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Job 39:10

  • And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. Isa. 34:7

7. Minor Errors

There are a small number of translation errors that, for some unknown reason, have never been corrected in the KJV.

  • “Ashes” instead of the literal Hebrew word (‘apher) which means covering or bandage.

So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. 1 Kings 20:38

  • “Flagons of wine” instead of the literal Hebrew words (‘ashiyshah and ‘enab) which means “cakes of raisins (or grapes).”

Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. Hos. 3:1 (See Song of Sol. 2:5).

  • “Easter” instead of the literal Greek word (pascha) which means “Passover.”

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Acts 12:4

8. Revisions

Between 1613 and 1850, there were [close to one thousand] minor and [three] major revisions in the KJV to correct spelling, grammar, and phrasing as well to cover the addition and deletion of words. The revisions occurred in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1644, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, and the last one in 1850. These [necessary] revisions are evidence that the KJV today is not the same as originally penned and therefore loses its claim to be the one and only perfect or “inspired” translation.

9. Readability

No one in the 21 st century speaks English the same way as people did in 1611. The reality is that when people read it aloud (especially in group Bible studies or Sunday School classes), they often stumble over the words and awkward phrasings which, in a group setting, takes away rather than contributes the understanding of the text or the flow of the discussion.

10. Evangelism

If one is doing an evangelistic group Bible study, it would see that it would be best to share from a Bible translation that everyone in attendance can understand. It wouldn’t make sense to read a Bible verse or passage in very old English that someone today can’t fully understand. Now, there are those who will say that the Holy Spirit can help a person understand the KJV. While expecting divine intervention from the Holy Spirit is a [remote and presumptuous] possibility, it‘s actually more likely that the Holy Spirit can move the person who is sharing the gospel to use a translation that is in the common language of the day, much like the New Testament writers who chose to write in the common language of their day (Koine Greek ) so that everyone could understand.

11. Superiority of Manuscript

The claim that the KJV is more accurate than all other Bible translations because it exclusively utilized the Greek manuscript known as the Textus Receptus (“Received Text”) is faulty at best and misleading at worst. 4 As it so happened in the 16 th century, a Dutch Renaissance theologian and scholar named Erasmus had access to about a half dozen 12 th century (and exclusively eastern) Greek manuscripts and used them to make a Greek Bible translation that became known as the Textus Receptus. This new Greek translation become the textual basis for the New Testament in the 1611 English KJV.

Interestingly, since the manuscripts Erasmus used weren’t complete, he actually ended up translating some of his work from the 4 th century Latin Vulgate back into Greek. In fairness, Erasmus used the best manuscripts he could find at the time. However, time has elapsed, and discoveries have been made. To ignore numerous early and majority Greek (both eastern and western) manuscripts such as the Alexandrian, Byzantine, or Western as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls (that the KJV Bible translators didn’t have access to that now shed light on the original text), is non-scholarly and borders

on being pridefully headstrong.

12. The “Authorized” Version

Some people use the KJV because it calls itself the “authorized” version of the Bible. But who authorized it? It wasn’t Jesus, the apostles, the Holy Spirit, or even the Church, but rather King James I of England. Due to both real and perceived errors in the existing three Bible translations, in 1604 King James authorized a translation committee of fifty-four scholars (of which forty-seven were actually chosen) to come up with a new English Bible translation to be used in the Church of England and by the general populace. After seven years, in 1611, the committee completed their work and the first KJV Bible was published and printed.

A problem with people bringing their KJV Bibles to a group Bible study is that they might [incorrectly] assume or project that they have the “right” or “most correct” Bible translation because of its claim to be the “authorized” version. But again, its translation wasn’t authorized by God or the Church, but by a man who happened to be a king at the time. In a sense, it’s not more or less authorized than any other Bible translation that is available today.


2 Personal Pronouns - Thee, Thou, Ye, etc


3 Why does the Bible mention the mythical unicorn?

4 The Textus Receptus – What is it? Also: The Textus Receptus