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What is the King James Only Movement?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The King James Only Movement refers to a growing movement, particularly in conservative Christianity, that promotes the King James Bible Version (KJV) as the only acceptable text from which to interpret the word of God. This movement began in the 1960s as modernized texts of the bible, some with translation corrections, began to appear to appeal to a newer audience of bible readers. Some welcomed these new bibles, like the New American Standard Bible as better and more authoritative, and especially more accessible than the language in which the King James Bible is composed, a language comparable to that of Shakespeare.

While there is an inherent beauty in the King James Bible due to its use of language, many readers find it inaccessible, and not exactly in tune with modern language. Those versions of the KJV that were essentially copies of the original had not updated translation with more modern scholarship on ancient languages; so there are noted mistranslations. Other versions are updated to reflect more modern translations of certain words and texts, but the King James Only Movement may reject even this. It should be noted that this movement is restricted to those Christian religions, which accept the KJV as authoritative. Catholics, though they may possess a KJV will usually also have a catholic Bible, which includes the Apocrypha.

The movement to reject modern interpretations and use the KJV only gained impetus with the 1993 publication of Gail Riplinger’s book New Age Bible Versions: An Exhaustive Documentation Exposing the Message, Men and Manuscripts 
Moving Mankind to the Antichrist's One World Religion . Riplinger’s views can be condensed in the following way. The KJV is the only authoritative text, its translation was divinely inspired, and the manuscripts used for translation are perfect. Moreover occultists and satanists attempting to lead Christians away from God are duping people who don’t support the King James Only Movement.

Due to the King James Only Movement there are now some churches, which can usually be described as the most conservative ones, that teach on the basis of the original KJV, and accept no other alternative. Though these churches attract some serious biblical scholars, other similarly serious biblical scholars refute the movement as incorrect from a textual interpretation point of view and also because the movement appears needlessly divisive in Christianity. Since KJV churches may claim satanic conspiracy is behind all other biblical interpretations, this would place most mainstream Christians in the midst of practicing faith that is really led by Satan. It also refuels controversy between nominally Protestant faiths and Catholicism.

There are a number of less divisive reasons why people may prefer the King James Bible. It does contain some of the most examples of 17th century English, and it may be the version that people are accustomed to reading from childhood. This preference doesn’t necessarily make the leap that people using a more modern interpretation are somehow practicing a corrupt form of Christianity. It is merely preference without prejudice toward other Christians.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon113082 — On Sep 23, 2010

Just want to throw this out there. All these English versions are under copyright, which means, they have to be at least 30 percent different, right? So, the NIV has to be 30 percent different from the KJV, the ESV has to be 30 percent different from the KJV AND the NIV, the Message has to be 30 percent different from the KJV, the NIV, and also the ESV. There are countless different versions.

Yes, by changing "thee, thou, ye" and words like that, one version may still be pretty much the same but with so many translations, there is no way they can be so different and yet not perverted! Which ones? I don't know, so with that said along with the other comments, I personally stick with the KJV and encourage others to do so but if they don't, I don't look down on them.

I show them stuff I believe to be perverted in the translations they use and encourage them to always go back to the KJV and see side by side with their preferred version.

By anon89084 — On Jun 08, 2010

God will do what He wants to do. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

By serious — On Apr 29, 2010

The King James Bible has withstood attacks (from Satan) through time, it has withstood criticism from the 'new-agers' and the modern translations.

It is infallible truth.

And I must say that the post from anon47578 and

anon56320: thank you for those wonderful comments.

By anon56320 — On Dec 14, 2009

Dear anon51515: First, I never stated that God inspired King James and his bishops. I said the King James Bible was the preserved Word of God in the English Language. The millions of people who have come to the saving knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ and incredible revivals through the KJB are enough of a testimony for the faithful and preserved King James Bible.

Second, where in my statement do you read that King James at anything to do with the KJB? He approved of the translation, and that is why his name is used in the title. In England (where the translation took place) it has always been called the Authorized Version, because it was authorized by the King of England. It was the first Bible to ever be approved by the head of state (royalty) to be officially and legally produced. It was an answered prayer to the last words by William Tyndale (who translated the first Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English) “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”, as he was burned to death for his work in bringing the English people a Bible they could read. And God answer the prayer of this pious man.

Third, the men involved were not King James' bishops (one or two might have been his chaplains). For the very most part, they were great pious men of God, with incredible knowledge in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, etc. Some of these men spoke over 20 languages fluently. It was translated by over 50 men, over a span of seven years, and absolutely every single word in the entire Bible was reviewed a minimum of 14 times.

Fourth, yes these men trusted solely in the Holy Spirits guidance. Maybe you should read the preface “Translators to the Readers”, and the multitude of books that present the glorious history of the King James Bible. There attention to the smallest tittle and jot also reveal their great respect and honor for God’s Word.

Fifth, I do not imply that a faithful version could not be translated anymore from the Hebrew and Greek. As a matter of fact, I know of many faithful versions in other languages that are being translated today. But the difference between an unfaithful and faithful version lies in the Greek manuscripts and translation methodology utilized. The problem with every single modern English bible lies within these two most important principles of translation. They either use a faulty Greek text and/or the inaccurate and dishonouring methodology of dynamic equivalency. Translations from the original languages are considered the written Word of God in so far as these translations are accurate as to the form and content of the original.

Sixth, if you understand anything about accurate and God-honouring Bible translation work, you would understand why thee, thou, and ye were used in the King James Bible. These words were not in the common English language in those days anymore, and neither had been for many years. If you read the preface “Translators to the Reader” you will never see these terms used. Because these men were faithful to God’s inspired Word (Hebrew and Greek), they needed to differentiate between the plural and singular present within the inspired Word of God. Seeing that in the English language the word “you” is used for both singular and plural, they needed to use the words thee, thou and ye to differentiate between the singular and plural and be faithful to the original inspired word. The vast majority of modern versions do not do this, and are unfaithful to the original inspired Word of God (amongst many other reasons).

Seventh, you state “The only way to purity is to read the scripture in the original language in which it was written.” This is a gross and wicked lie. How about the billions of people that do not understand Hebrew and Greek? They, according to you, could then never achieve purity through Christ. God says He will preserve His Word for all generations (Psalms 12:6-7), and praise the Lord for that! The gospel of salvation is simple enough for a child to understand and it is by faith that we get saved and by faith that we know that God keeps His promises “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)

Eighth, why would you depend on King James and his bishops to know if I am of true faith? You have never heard my testimony of salvation. Before you judge a man’s motives, you should ask first. Just so you know, my salvation is based on the Bible. I was saved by the grace of God alone, by faith in Jesus Christ alone, by the works of Christ alone!

By anon51515 — On Nov 06, 2009

To 47578: You are kidding? You are saying that God inspired King James and his bishops and you are sure that they were trusting solely in the Holy Spirit to direct them? You also imply that God is unable to guide anyone to later update the English words used? Thee and Thou and mete and other outdated terms are required for the writings to have significance?

The only way to purity is to read the scripture in the original language in which it was written.

I will say that depending on King James and bishops you do not know is true faith.

By anon47578 — On Oct 06, 2009

The KJV is by far and foremost that most accurate Bible in the English Language. It is not difficult to understand (far off from the difficulty of Shakespeare)and as matter of fact it is considered (through research) the easier Bible to read compared to the vast majority of modern versions. Furthermore, I would rather read a Bible that is a little harder to understand then an inaccurate and dishonored one, that can mislead me. God promised He would preserve His pure word for *all* generations: Psalms 12:6-7 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”. Modern versions are anything but pure or preserved. First, *all* modern versions are based on two corrupted manuscripts (New Testament): Sinaniticus (found in a garbage can) and Vaticanus (found in the Vatican City, hence the name). These manuscripts were used to write the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament. This is a most corrupt text, written by two unbelievers and heretics. On a side note; both the above mentioned manuscripts contradicted each other in thousands of areas. This leaves no doubt to the massive confusion surrounding modern versions. Second, what additionally makes these manuscripts dishonoring to God and His Word, is the nearly 200 verse omissions (either in totality or partiality), the omission of over 5,000 words, and the addition of countless words. Furthermore, the vast majority of all modern versions were translated utilizing the unfaithful and disgraceful dynamic equivalence methodology (textual criticism). There are many, many more problems with the modern texts, yes to numerous to mention here. The King James Version on the other hand was translated from the faithful Erasmus Greek Text, which was based on over 5,000 manuscripts. It was translated by faithful piteous men of great knowledge, who trusted solely on the Holy Spirit in direction and guidance, and they translated utilizing the faithful methodology of word-for-word translation. I believe history itself reveals quite clearly and plainly what Bible God has honored above and beyond any other Bible, even outside the English language.

By anon44964 — On Sep 11, 2009

The problem with this movement is that there were at least four major, accepted English translations before the KJV was published. The KJV is Authorized, true. Authorized by King James and his bishops, that is. In fact, the KJV takes about 80 percent of its content from the Tyndale Bible, published in the early 1500s. The Geneva Bible, in fact, was the most popular English translation until the mid-1700s or so. The Geneva Bible was the Bible the Pilgrims used, often called "The Britches Bible" because in the story of the Fall, it says Adam and Eve made "britches" for themselves of fig leaves.

And no, anon25133, all people were not lost before 1611. Thank God.

The KJV is a beautiful, lyrical translation. However, there is no doubt that those who have a hard time understanding Shakespeare will have an equally difficult time understanding the KJV. If people cannot even comprehend the Scripture they are reading, they may as well be reading it in Sanskrit, for all the understanding it will impart.

My personal, preferred translation is the New American Standard. I find it to be a clear translation, and still maintains a great deal of the beauty of the KJV.

The King James Version certainly has a unique place in the history of the Protestant faith, to say nothing of its place in the history of the English language. It was a milestone work. Nevertheless, to say it is the only divinely-inspired, authoritative English translation is, in my opinion, short-sighted at best.

By anon25133 — On Jan 24, 2009

If KJO is only true translation were all people lost until 1611?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
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