Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
-Psalm 138:2, KJV

Did the KJV translators claim divine inspiration?

Related articles: Inspiration and Translation; Two Lies, The

The following is from Sam Gipp's The Answer Book.

QUESTION: Did the translators of the Authorized Version claim to be inspired by God?

ANSWER: No. But Biblically that does not mean that they could NOT have been inspired.

EXPLANATION: The men on the translation committee of the King James Bible were, without dispute, the most learned men of their day and vastly qualified for the job which they undertook. They were overall both academically qualified by their cumulative knowledge and spiritually qualified by their exemplary lives.

Among their company were men who, academically, took a month's vacation and used the time to learn and master an entirely foreign language; wrote a Persian dictionary; invented a specialized mathematical ruler; one was an architect; mastered oriental languages; publicly debated in Greek; tutored Queen Elizabeth in Greek and mathematics; and of one it was said, "Hebrew he had at his finger's end." Yet head knowledge can be a curse if not tempered by a fervent, pious heart.

In this, the spiritual realm, they were light years ahead of many today who flaunt their education yet fail in any attempt at a practical, personal witness.

This company was blessed with men known for their zeal and tact in debating and converting Romanists to Christ. They spent hours in private and family devotions. Many did the work of evangelism and even that of missionary representatives of later Queen Elizabeth. One lived to the age of one hundred and three years. In the closing years of his life, after preaching for two full hours, he said to his congregation, "I will no longer trespass on your patience"--to which the entire congregation cried out with one consent, "For God's sake go on!" He then continued his exposition of the Word of God at length.

Yet humanity was a universal trait shared among them as is so amply revealed in the Epistle Dedicatory:

"So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God's holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self- conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil;...."

Yet, in spite of their outstanding character, they never claimed divine inspiration. (A claim which, if they had made, would overjoy their detractors as evidence of a prideful spirit.) They never even claimed perfection for their finished work.

Does this mean that, because they did not claim God's hand in translating the Scripture, that He could not be or was not in control of their commission? For the answer we must look to the Bible, our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

When John the Baptist was accosted by the Levites in John chapter one and asked if he was Elijah (John 1:21) he answered that he was not Elijah. Yet in Matthew chapters 11:7-14 and 17:10-13 Jesus Christ plainly stated that John was Elijah.

Did John the Baptist lie? No. Did Jesus Christ lie? Of course not. The answer is very simply that John was Elijah but he didn't know it! Thus we see from our Bible example that a man can have God working through him and not know it. Likewise, God could easily have divinely directed the King James translators without their active knowledge.

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