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The KJV adds unto the Word of God? God forbid!

King James Onlyists decry the removal of the Johannine comma from modern Bible versions, believing it to be a removal from the Word of God, as warned against in the closing verses of Revelation 22. However, those versions which do exclude the Johannine comma do so based upon manuscript evidence which has been preserved for us. In other words, it is not done to actively violate or corrupt the Scriptures.

However, I wonder why the same standard isn’t applied to the King James Version. After all, if a translation ought to be rejected because it removes something from Scripture, ought not verses be rejected for adding to the Scriptures based upon the same passage in Revelation 22?

Thus would seem to be the case with the phrase “God forbid,” which the King James Version uses twenty-four times! Comparing the translation to the source material, however, I’m only finding one instance where the word “God” is actually used, and that is in 1 Chronicles 11:19!

Every other “God forbid” in the King James Version comes from a Hebrew or Greek phrase that does not contain the word “God.” Isn’t that interesting? Should not those who care about purity in their Bible translation make note of that mistake in the King James Version, seeking out & using a better translation if at all possible?

Looking at Romans 7:7, for example, here are how a variety of translations render the verse. If you’re familiar with the time period during which these were translated, you’ll note that recent versions have moved away from “God forbid” (a translation which agrees with the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible and the Anglican King James Version) and toward a more literal translation of the phrase.

In alphabetical order, according to the name of the version:

  • “Absolutely not!” – Analytical-Literal Translation
  • “God forbid.” – American Standard Version
  • “in no way.” – Bible in Basic English
  • “God forbyd.” – Bishop’s Bible
  • “Certainly not!” – Contemporary English Version
  • “Far be the thought.” – Darby Bible
  • “God forbid!” – Douay-Rheims Bible
  • “Certainly not!” – English Majority Text Version
  • “By no means!” – English Standard Version
  • “God forbid.” – Geneva Bible
  • “Of course not!” – Good News Bible
  • “That’s unthinkable!” – God’s Word
  • “Of course not!” – International Standard Version
  • “God forbid.” – King James Version
  • “Let it not be!” – Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
  • “Let it not be said!” – Modern King James Version
  • “Far be it.” – James Murdock New Testament
  • “Absolutely not!” – New English Translation
  • “Certainly not!” – New International Version
  • “By no means!” – New Revised Standard Version
  • “God forbid.” – Revised Version
  • “By no means.” – Webster Bible
  • “No, indeed;” – Weymouth New Testament
  • “let it not be!” – Young’s Literal Translation

(Note, the inclusion of a version in this list is by no means an endorsement; I prefer literal or near-literal translations, which many of these are quite a ways away from being.)

One reply on “The KJV adds unto the Word of God? God forbid!”

Rick: Regarding your comment on the Johannine Comma, you merely justify its elimination in modern versions on the basis of manuscript evidence utilized by modern translators. It’s true that the amount of such evidence supporting the Comma is small, but manuscripts suffered much loss & error over the centuries, and the value of the amount of such evidence is limited to defining the general form of texts & passages. It’s the internal evidence of context, word-sense and grammar that decide the accuracy of words, phrases, clauses, and even whole verses, and this internal evidence proves the authenticity of the Comma beyond question (see http://www.KJVTextualTechnology.com).

I should note that the view of modern translators on manuscript support is of questionable value especially in regard to the New Testament. They promote a small group in which there is much disharmony among the members, a group out of circulation in churches for ~1400 years, and “restored” by scholars in the 19th century A.D. Thus this group can’t be part of God’s plan for His New Testament in His churches.

Now concerning your objection to the non-literal “God forbid” rendered in various KJV passages, this is an English idiom used commonly to denote an idiom in the Hebrew & Greek. First you should realize that the English idiom teaches the same thing that the biblical-language idiom does, and thus meets the criterion for exact equivalence, the form of inerrancy that results from the combination of divine and human factors in text generation ( I described this earlier on the present website).

Further, you need to understand the unique nature of Hebrew & Greek idiom translation. If rendered literally in English, they will often make little sense, or will miss the emphatic sense that often marks idioms. The English idiom “God forbid” resolves problems like these. We consider a few cases in the Hebrew & Greek texts, where context reveals their emphatic nature. These verses, as they appear in the KJV, are noted below.

Josh.22:29 “God forbid that we should rebel against the Lord…
The English “God forbid” nicely conveys the very emphatic sense, but the literal Hebrew in English would be “to the profane” that makes little sense in English, and isn’t clearly emphatic. The ESV “Far be it from us…!” misses the great emphatic sense, despite the exclamation mark.

1 Samuel 14:45 “And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid” (Jonathan initiated a great defeat of the Philistines on behalf of Israel). The above Hebrew word for “God forbid” appears here, and the ESV offers, “Far from it!,” missing the great emphatic sense, the exclamation mark notwithstanding.

1 Corinthians 6:15 “…shall I then take the members of Christ, (bodies of God’s people) and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.” The literal Greek in English would be “not/ never let it be” that misses the great emphatic sense. The NASV follows this, offering “May it never be!” This misses the great emphatic sense, the exclamation mark not withstanding.

Romans 3:3,4 ” For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect. God forbid: yea let God be true, but every man a liar…” The literal Greek in English is the same as above, again missing the great emphatic sense. The NASV offers “Not at all,” missing the great emphatic sense.

These uses of “God forbid” illustrate that older English presents a superior way to express a matter at times.

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