Question:

I have a question about which version of the Bible is most accurate. Some believe that the King James Version 1611 is the only one that is the true Word of God. Then I hear otherwise. Also, the church I attend uses the New King James Version and the New Century Version. I was reading the New Century Version and it referred to the type of wood Noah used to build the ark as cypress rather than gopher wood. I have also heard that the NIV leaves out some of the Scriptures. I would welcome your thoughts on this.

Answer:

While the King James Version was completed in 1611, I don't know of any who are using the original edition. The King James Version went through four revisions (1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769). It is this last revision that most people use. The reason for the revisions is that the English language did not have a standard for spelling and punctuation when the King James Version was originally written. Each subsequent edition updated the spelling and punctuation to meet the current standard of that day. For example, the following passage, Genesis 38:27-30, is from the 1611 edition:

And it came to paβe in the time of her trauaile, that beholde, twinnes were in her wombe. And it came to passe when she trauailed, that the one put out his hand, and the midwife tooke and bound vpon his hand a skarlet threed, saying, This came out first. And it came to passe as he drewe back his hand, that behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken foorth? this breach bee vpon thee: Therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother that had the skarlet threed vpon his hand, and his name was called Zarah.

In this copy the original 1611 King James Version still used the German β for double "s" sounds. The same passage in the 1769 edition reads:

And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

While much easier to read to the modern English speaker, it still shows its age in the use of pronouns like "thou" and differences in punctuation, such as the lack of quotation marks. The New King James Version renders this same passage as:

Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, "This one came out first." Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, "How did you break through? This breach be upon you!" Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.

The New King James Version is actually a re-translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts. You will notice that the word choices and even the order of phrases is slightly different to make it easier to for a modern English speaker to use. Another modernization of the King James Version, the 21st Century King James Version reads:

And it came to pass in the time of her travail that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, "This came out first."And it came to pass as he drew back his hand that, behold, his brother came out; and she said, "How hast thou broken forth? This breach be upon thee." Therefore his name was called Perez [that is, A breach]. And afterward came out his brother who had the scarlet thread upon his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

While the quotation marks and spellings are updated, the use of archaic pronouns and word order remains. Though the 21st Century Version is a more recent work, the New King James Version is closer to the modern usage of the English language.

A good article on the differences between the 1611 edition of the King James Version and the 1769 edition can be found at "Changes in the King James Version."

The King James Only crowd believes that the King James Version is an inspired translation. Yet, it is humorous because they use the 1769 edition. What they also choose to ignore is that the original 1611 version included the Apocrypha books because of the influence the Roman Catholic church held over England in 1611. The 1769 edition followed Protestant influence in America and does not include these extra books. Generally their arguments are that newer translations are bad because they do not follow the King James Version. Of course, if they did follow the King James Version, then they wouldn't be a new translation -- but that doesn't seem to matter. They are not interested in the accuracy of the translation from the original language.

For an excellent write up on gopher wood, see "What is Gopher Wood?" It explains why this particular phrase has been difficult to translate. Please note that the site promotes a Calvinistic view of salvation that is contrary to the Scriptures.

For a discussion of which translations are most accurate, see "Which Bible translations are the best?" The article "The New International Version" points out many of the flaws in this particular translation.