James White's Shell Game

"Now you see it, and now you don't"

© Will Kinney, used with permission.

Shell game - Definition

1. The game in which spectators bet on the final location of an object hidden under one of three walnut shells or cups that have been shuffled.

2. A scheme for defrauding or deceiving people.

James White is a well known critic of the inerrancy of the King James Bible. I have read his book, The King James Only Controversy, many times and I wish to address some of the issues he brings up regarding the accuracy of some of the readings found in the King James Bible.

You should first realize that James White does NOT believe ANY Bible or any text in any language IS NOW the complete, inerrant, and 100% true Holy Bible. He now works for the NASB committee, and James even "corrects" his own favorite version, according to his own understanding.

In spite of the fact that modern versions like the NASB, RSV, NIV omit some 3000 words from the New Testament text of the King James Bible, and either substitute or add another 1000 words, James tells us on page 48 of his book: "their text is NEARLY IDENTICAL to even the most Byzantine manuscript...ONE of those variant readings is indeed the original. We are called to invest our energies in discovering which one it is."

I have read the Holy Bible several times in my life, and I have yet to find the verse that tells me we are called to invest our energies in finding out what God did or did not cause to be written in His word. In spite of Mr. White's loftly calling, modern scholarship has resulted in a constantly changing series of new versions that contradict each other and the King James Bible in literally hundreds of verses, and the number of Christians who no longer believe in the inerrancy of Scripture continues to grow each day.

I have written several articles on my website which address some of the points James White brings up in his book. May I suggest you take a look at the following:


In this particular study I would like to focus on several readings found in the King James Bible in the book of Revelation. Mr. White spends a lot of time in his book listing examples from the book of Revelation that he thinks are errors in the King James Bible.

James makes a remarkable statement on page 66 regarding the underlying texts of the KJB. He says: "The TR (Textus Receptus) often gives readings that place it in contrast with the united testimony of the Majority Text and the modern texts such as the United Bible Societies' 4th edition and the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text."

First of all, Mr. White cares nothing at all for the so-called "Majority Text". There really is no such thing as the majority text since what passes for this today is based on Von Soden's work of PARTIALLY comparing only about 400 of the 5000 Greek manuscripts that presently exist.

We freely admit there are some "minority readings" found in the King James Bible, but for every one minority reading in the KJB there are at least 20 minority readings found in versions like the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV, etc. So why does Mr. White make a show of upholding the Majority Text, when his own favorite versions reject it so often?

For a fuller description of what the so called Majority text is, see this site. Scroll down to the section which explains what others have said about this very incomplete and inaccurate text.


Since Mr. White mentions so many readings found in the book of Revelation, let's take a look at some facts about what the "Majority Text" says, and compare it to the others. Do many readings found in the NASB, NIV, NKJV also differ from the "majority text"?

I will be referring to the Majority Text put out by Hodges and Farstad, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 1982. These very few of many examples I could note are taken only from the book of Revelation, and they are found in the actual TEXT of the "Majority" Greek version, not from its many and varied footnotes.

There is also another so called "Majority Text" edition on the internet, and it often differs radically from the Hodges-Farstad edition.

In Revelation 1:4 "Grace to you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come". So read the KJB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, ESV. However the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text reads: "Grace to you and peace from GOD, who is, and was, and is to come." Yet none of the modern versions (mvs) follow this reading.

Mr. White tells us on page 65: "Other places where Erasmus' work, and hence the TR, fall short would include Revelation 1:6, where the KJV has "made US KINGS and priests", whereas the vast majority of manuscripts have "made us to be a kingdom and priests (NIV)"

Mr. White should know better than to say something like this. First of all, his own NASB and the NIV reject the "vast majority of manuscripts" easily 20 times as often than does the King James Bible. Secondly, it is not true that the vast majority of manuscripts say what he says they do. The Hodges- Farstad Majority is generally divided up into 5 sections called a, b, c, d and e. In the Hodges-Farstad edition the footnote tells us that sections d and e read "kings and priests" as does the KJB and many others. What is beyond all question is that Revelation 1:5 reads "WASHED us from our sins in his own blood" in the "vast majority of all manuscripts", whereas Sinaiticus, A and C read as is found in the NASB, NIV, RSV - "LOOSED us from our sins in his own blood." The hypocricy and shell shuffling of men like James White boggles the mind.

The online English Majority Text Version (http://www.emtvonline.com/) reads just as it is found in the King James Bible. Revelation 1:5 "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and who WASHED us from our sins in His own blood, and He made us KINGS AND PRIESTS to His God and Father, to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

"kings and priests" fits the context of Revelation 5:10 and 20:6, and is the reading of not only a very large portion of remaining Greek manuscripts, but also that of Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Mace's N.T. 1729, Wesley 1755, the Italian Diodati, the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Reina Valera of 1909 and 1960, the NKJV 1982, Green's 1998 Modern KJV, Youngs, the KJV 21, the Afrikaans 1953, Dutch Staten Vertaling, Basque bible, and the Modern Greek version used in the Orthodox churches today.

Revelation 4:8 "And the four beasts...rest not day and night, saying Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty..." All versions read "holy, holy, holy" three times, yet the Majority text reads: "holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty..." Nine times the word "holy" appears in the Majority Text. By the way, one of the "oldest and best" manuscripts upon which the modern versions are based is Sinaiticus, and it has the word "holy" EIGHT times.

Revelation 6:9 "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." So read the modern versions as well as the KJB, but the Majority text says: "slain for the word of God and the testimony OF THE LAMB which they had."

Revelation 9:16 "and the number of the army of the horsemen were TWO hundred thousand thousand", and so read the modern versions too. However the Majority text says the number was "A hundred thousand thousand".

Revelation 13:10 "He that LEADETH into captivity, SHALL GO INTO CAPTIVITY; HE THAT KILLETH WITH THE SWORD, must be killed with the sword."

The Majority text actually reads: "If any HAS CAPTIVITY, HE GOES. IF ANY BY SWORD, he must be killed." The Majority omits the verb "leadeth" and omits "into captivity". Then it also omits "He that killeth with the sword". No Bible version follows the Majority text here.

The Nestle-Aland text is constantly changing every few years. The older Nestle text used to read as does the King James Bible with "He that killeth with the sword, must be killed by the sword" and so read the Revised Version, American Standard Version, the NASB, RSV and NRSV. This is also the reading found in Sinaiticus and C as well as the TR. However, later on the Nestle text changed again and now follows manuscript A (Alexandrinus) and the NIV, ESV and Holman now read it as a passive with: "If anyone IS TO BE KILLED with the sword, he must be killed with the sword."

Revelation 14:4 "These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." So read all the bible versions, but the Majority text has: "These were redeemed BY JESUS from among men, the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." No version follows the Majority text here.

It is of interest to note that Sinaiticus reads in this place: "these were redeemed from among men FROM THE BEGINNING unto God and to the Lamb" instead of "the firstfruits", yet the NASB, NIV, ESV etc. did not follow this "oldest and best" manuscript, nor that of the Majority text reading of "Jesus".

While we are here in Revelation 14 let's look at Mr. White's comment on Revelation 14:1. On page 65 he says: "Another important accidental deletion in the text of Revelation is found at the beginning of chapter 14."

The NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV, and the Catholic versions all contain a few words not found in the Greek texts used in the making of the King James Bible. The NASB reads: "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000, HAVING HIS NAME and the name of His Father written on their foreheads."

James then goes to say that the omission of the words "having his name" is found in only six Greek manuscripts. Well, need I point out that 6 Greek manuscripts is far more support for the KJB reading than that of many readings found in such versions as the NASB, NIV and RSV?

Not only does the King James Bible not contain the extra words of "having His name", but so also do Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Webster's, Youngs, the NKJV 1982, Green's Modern KJV, the KJV 21st Century, the Third Millenium Bible, Luther's German Bible, the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras of 1569, the Reina Valera of 1602, 1858 and 1909, the Dutch Staten Vertaling, and the Modern Greek version which is used by the entire Greek Orthodox church. The Greek texts of Stephanus, Beza, Elziever and Scrivenir do not contain these extra words Mr. White is so concerned about.

To show the fickle inconsistency of scholars like James White it should also be pointed out that in Revelation 14:3 we read: "And they sung AS IT WERE a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, AND THE ELDERS: and no one could learn that song but the HUNDRED AND FORTY AND FOUR THOUSAND, which were redeemed from the earth."

In this verse the word for "as it were" ('ws) IS FOUND in the TR and in the present Nestle-Aland, UBS Greek texts, A and C. But Sinaiticus omits the word and so do the NASB and NIV. Not only do the NASB, NIV not follow their own Nestle text, but the words "and the elders" ARE FOUND in the Majority text, but Nestle's and the NASB, NIV, RSV omit them. Then to top it all off, instead of reading "the 144,000 which were redeemed" Sinaiticus actually reads 141,000 while manuscript C has 140,000! "Now you see it, and now you don't."

Revelation 15:3 "thou King of saints"

One of the silliest comments James makes is his criticism of the KJB reading found in Revelation 15:3. Here we read: "And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy words, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King OF SAINTS."

James says on page 66 that King of saints "should be either "King of the AGES (NIV) or "King of THE NATIONS" (NASB), the TR's reading again fails to have Greek manuscript support."

James is such a joker, isn't he? In his book he recommends three different versions as being "reliable and trustworthy" - the NASB, the NIV and the NKJV, yet all three of these "reliable versions" differ from each other, and every "erroneous" reading of the KJB in the book of Revelation that he discusses in his book is also found in the NKJV which he recommends! Then he now gives us two different versions with two different readings, and then lies when he says the KJB reading fails to have Greek manuscript support.

According the Jack Moorman's book, When the KJV Departs from the "Majority" Text, on page 110 he gives the evidence for the reading found in the King James Bible, as well as that of Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops' Bible, the Geneva Bible, Young's, Webster's, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909 and 1960, Luther's German Bible, the NKJV, KJV 21, Green's Modern KJV, and the Modern Greek version used throughout the Orthodox churches. This is the reading found in the Greek manuscripts of 296, 2049 and 2066. It is also the reading of the Greek texts of Stephanus, Beza, Elziever, and Scrivenir. "King of saints" is also quoted by various church fathers like Victorinus, Tyconius, Apringius, and Cassiodorus.

Not even the modern versions agree among themselves. The UBS text says "king of NATIONS" and so read the NASB, NRSV, ESV, Jerusalem bible, and Holman Standard. However, versions like the Revised Version, the American Standard Version, RSV, Douay, and the NIV all read: "king of THE AGES".

Notice that the RV, and ASV read "king of the ages", but then the revision NASB changed this to "king of nations". The RSV read "ages" but the revisions of the RSV now read "nations". The Douay read "ages" but the other Catholic revision now says "nations". The NIV says "ages" too, but wait! Now the revision of the NIV has come out. It is called Today's NIV (TNIV of 2005) and it now reads: "king of the NATIONS". NONE of the revisions agree with the previous versions, and yet Mr. White has the temerity to recommend three different bible versions, none of which agrees with the others, and then he lies to us about the KJB reading not having any Greek support. Would you trust this man to sell you a used car?

Revelation 17:4 "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour....having a golden cup in her had full of abominations and FILTHINESS of her fornication."

Here Mr. White again reveals his blind bias and ignorance against the Book of books. On page 64 of his book he criticizes this passage as found in the KJB by saying: "The most famous of these textual errors are found in Revelation chapter 17. In verse 4 the scribe created a new Greek word, never before seen, "akathartetos" - the actual term is "akatharta" - which is still to be found in the pages of the Trinitarian Bible Society's Textus Receptus. And then there is Revelation 17:8, where the scribe mistakenly wrote "and is not, and yet is" KJV, for the actual reading "and is not and will come" NASB".

I have run into this false allegation by other Bible critics over the years. They tell us that there is no such Greek word as "akathartetos", but according to several Greek lexicons there is such a word. There is a textual variant here with this word. It is ironic that the Greek text that underlies the UBS and the NASB, NIV, RSV versions is actually grammatically INCORRECT. The words "abominations and filthiness" should grammatically both be in the genitive case, and they are in the TR, but the Nestle text commits a blunder by placing "abominations" in the genitive, but gives a plural rather than a singular word, and places it incorrectly in the accusative case.

Thayer's lexicon is the only one that tries to "correct" the KJB reading, and even he does not go as far as James White to suggest that the scribe invented a non-existing Greek word. Thayer merely says of akathartetos "impurity - Rev. 17:4 - not found elsewhere, and the reading here is ta akatharta."

All Thayer does is give the incorrect plural accusative word found in the UBS text, but he does not say the KJB word (which again, is the only grammatically correct word in the sentence) is non-existent. Liddell and Scott's Abridged English-Greek Lexicon, 17th edition, 1887, on page 23 merely gives the Greek word as found in the Textus Receptus and says that it equals the other Greek word akatharsia. No mention is made that it is a fake word.

Likewise the Baer, Arndt, and Gingrich English - Greek Lexicon, page 28, gives the Greek word as found in the TR and references Revelation 17:4, and gives the definition of "uncleanness" with no mention of it not being a legitimate Greek word.

Even Vine's Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words on page 1189 merely says: "The A.V. follows texts which have the noun akathartes - filthiness."

Also showing the inconsistency of Mr. White's arguments regarding Revelation 17:4 we should consider the following point. In the KJB we read: "full of abominations and filthiness of HER fornication." This is likewise the reading of all the versions, but the Majority text says: "full of abominations and filthiness of THE fornication OF THE EARTH". Sinaiticus again is corrupted and reads: "full of abominations and filthy things of HER fornication AND OF THE EARTH." No version adopts the readings here of either the Majority text or that of Sinaiticus.

Revelation 17:8 "and they shall wonder, whose NAMES were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and YET IS." The reading "and yet is", criticized by Mr. White, is the reading found in several Greek texts, including Stephanus, Beza, Elziever and Scrivenir.

The reading James White prefers - "is not, and will come" is not that found in the TR or in Sinaiticus. The Sinaitucus reading (both the original and the third corrected form) agrees in sense with the KJB, saying: "and again is". Jack Moorman points out that not only does Sinaiticus give the same sense as that found in the TR, but so also do manuscripts 2049, 1854, 2014, 2034 and 31 other Andreas type manuscripts.

The reading of "the beast that was, and is not, and YET IS" is found in the Geneva Bible, Bishops' Bible, the NKJV, Young's, Green's Modern KJV, the KJV 21, Third Millenium Bible, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, and the Italian Diodati.

Another textual difference in Revelation 17:8 is between the plural reading of "whose names were not written" which is found in many Greek manuscripts including Sinaiticus and is the reading of the KJB, NKJV, NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV and Holman Standard; but the NASB, ASV follow the Alexandrinus manuscript and make it singular "whose name was not written."

The last major complaint James has about the KJB that I wish to mention in this article is the oft repeated claim that in the final chapter of the book of Revelation the King James Bible tells us that for those who take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part out of THE BOOK of life." James asserts that Erasmus got this reading, not from any Greek manuscript, but from the Vulgate, and that it should properly read "tree of life" as do the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV and Holman Standard.

I have already put together an article dealing with this verse where I and others show that "book of life" is indeed found in some Greek manuscripts, in many Bible versions both old and new, (in English and many foreign languages), and is so quoted by various church fathers in their writings. It can be seen here:


All of the examples of alleged errors in the King James Bible that James White lists in his book can be answered with a little study and comparison of the various Bible versions both old and new. The simple fact is that James White does not believe in the inerrancy of any Scripture we can hold in our hands and read with full confidence that we are reading the very words of God. All he has to offer us is an endless series of conflicting and contradictory ball-park approximations of what God might or might not have said.

It is somewhat humorous to see his "political correctness" in recommending to his readers the NKJV along with the NASB and the NIV as being "reliable and trustworthy versions", and then turn around and criticize many readings as being erroneous which are also found in one of his recommended bibles. It seems Mr. White's real agenda is the promotion of uncertainty regarding the inerrancy of Scripture; himself as the "final authority", and "anything but the King James Bible" as the source of relative Truth. It's all a big, tragic Shell Game. "Now you see it, and now you don't."

"Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail" Isaiah 34:16

Will Kinney