Is the King James Translation of the Bible the Cause of Christian Error?

Meanwhile, back at the Patriarchy article an editor has been arguing that Sarah Grimke did not question the divine origin of the scriptures; she only doubted the King James translation. In my opinion this distinction doesn’t change things much, although it makes an interesting discussion. (The claim that Grimke questioned the divine origin of the scriptures was taken from Ginette Castro’s book, “American Feminism.”)

It seems to me that Grimke’s challenge to the Christian scriptures makes sense; the feminist objections to the Judeo-Christian tradition arose only after centuries of defamation of the female sex. But I suppose the point in question is the same whether we are talking about religion or politics. Is loyalty to a creed an all-or-nothing proposition? Should criticism of a tradition be forbidden, regardless of its history?

A similar question came up in an essay by American Protestant Scholar Franklin H. Littell, “The Other Crimes of Adolf Hitler.” In the Holocaust, “six million Jews were targeted and systematically murdered in the heart of Christendom by baptized Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox who were never rebuked, let alone excommunicated.” Of course, there were many other individuals and groups of people who were targeted and murdered, but Littell argues the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust is found in the identity of the Hebrews, the people of the Book. The Holocaust is unique to the history of the west in its betrayal of Biblical morality. The failure to face this fact has resulted in a credibility crisis for Christianity, as well as for the institutions of democracy and academia. But that little problem is studiously avoided in current discourse.

Littell also stresses the role of Enlightenment thinking, which serves to block effective analyses of this “terrifying, mysterious, and demonic chaos for which we have no adequate words.” We, in our “reasonable universe” think of it “in terms of the exigencies of modern war, or the inexorable logic of dictatorships, or the disposal of surplus populations…” But these are merely attempts to explain it in a way that people “long-out-of-touch-with-the Bible worldview, can understand.”

He concludes that the world’s most powerful nations are ”idolatrous nations, peoples who have turned aside, a civilization that sorely needs to have its feet set on the high road of righteousness and justice and peace.”

In this light, the attempt to distinguish between the King James translation as the cause of Christian error, as opposed to some hypothetical, accurate translation, misses the point. What difference does it make after all? One version is as easy to ignore as the next.


Littell, Franklin H. “The Other Crimes of Adolf Hitler”. The Holocaust and History: the known, the unknown, the disputed, and the reexamined. ed. Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck. Indiana University Press. Bloomington and Indianapolis. 1998.