The King James Controversy Revisited – Program 7

By: Dr. Kenneth Barker, Dr. Don Wilkins, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dr. James White, Dr. Samuel Gipp, Dr. Thomas Strouse, Dr. Joseph Chambers; ©2002
Some critics claim recent translations of the Bible have removed or watered down biblical commands against homosexuality? Does the evidence support that accusation?

Should the King James Version Divide Christians?


Today, Dr. John Ankerberg hosts a debate on the King James Only controversy. Which translation of the Bible is best for Christians to use: the 1611 King James, the New King James, the NIV, the New American Standard Bible, or some other translation? Are all translations truly the word of God, or only the 1611 King James? This is an important debate in which the general editors and scholars of the new translations meet face-to-face with some of their critics and those who hold that only the King James Version should be used.

John’s guests include : Dr. Kenneth Barker, general editor of the NIV Bible; Dr. Arthur Farstad, Executive Editor of the New King James; Dr. Don Wilkins, translator for the New American Standard Bible; Dr. Dan Wallace, expert on the ancient Greek texts; Dr. James White, author of The King James Only Controversy; Dr. Samuel Gipp, who holds the 1611 King James is the only infallible Bible translation; Dr. Thomas Strouse, who argues that only the 1769 King James translation should be read. Finally, Dr. Joseph Chambers, who also argues for the King James Version, and represents the views of author Gail Riplinger and her book New Age Bible Versions?

The King James Only Controversy has become a divisive issue among many Christians. Should it be? Join us for this important debate.

Ankerberg: Welcome. In the debate over which Bible translation Christians should use today, there are a few King James Only representatives who accuse the new translations of being bad translations because: 1.) They supposedly have gone soft on homosexuality; and 2.) The translators of the new versions have already been judged by God. How do they know that? They say the evidence is seen in the fact that some of the translators of the new versions have lost their voice, gone insane, or died prematurely. These surprising accusations are part of our four-hour debate and the questions we will listen to today. First, have the new translations gone soft on the topic of homosexuality?

Ankerberg: New Age Bible Versions?, by Gail Riplinger criticizes the new translations in many ways and one of them has to do with the NIV, Dr. Barker. And she says that your translation can’t be trusted because of the translators that you had on the committee. She says there were homosexuals and lesbians; and she also asserts that because there were lesbians on the committee, the translation work they did, they were able to silence all of God’s warnings against sodomy in the Bible. Is this true?
Barker: No, it isn’t, John. And I think I can save a little time by just quickly reading what I wrote about that in the book, Accuracy Defined and Illustrated on pages 123 and 124. “Some have claimed that the NIV condoned sodomy [that is, homosexual sins]. The alleged reason for this is that some NIV translators and editors were homosexuals or lesbians. These charges have no basis in fact.
“Here are the facts. In the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV [in the early 1970s], Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly, and only in a minor way, on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views. Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings.”
I’ll just inject a parenthesis here, as she has said in the interview that you did with her, Joe, on tape and I’ve heard that with my own ears, she herself has acknowledged that that did not become known or public knowledge until about the year 1983. And, of course, the NIV was finished at the end of 1978.
“If we had known in the early seventies what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But it must be stressed that she was not a member of an NIV translation committee. She was not a translator, she was not an editor, she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions.” Not one.
“[It] is also asserted that the NIV allows for homosexual and lesbian practices because it translates ‘sodomites’ [in the King James] as ‘male shrine prostitutes’ in 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; and 2 Kings 23:7. This is simply a problem of arriving at the correct meaning of the Hebrew word qadesh[plural quedeshim], as it is in most of the passages here. Apparently the KJV/AV translators thought it meant ‘sodomites [homosexuals],’ so they rendered it that way. Today, as all modern commentaries and Hebrew lexicons indicate, we know that it means male ‘shrine prostitutes.’ There is also a feminine form of the same Hebrew word that means ‘female shrine prostitutes.’ Such religious prostitution was a prominent feature of the pagan immoral ‘worship’ of the Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses. Of course, that practice is thoroughly condemned in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.”
Then just this final short paragraph.
“Homosexual and lesbian practices are condemned just as clearly and strongly in the NIV as in any other English version. See the NIV renderings in Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10; and Jude 7.”
Ankerberg: What do you think, Joe?
Chambers: I interviewed Virginia Mollenkott for about 45 minutes. She told of the long period of time in which she worked with the NIV as a stylist and a consultant. She told of large passages of Scripture sent to her for her opinion, for her involvement. She said often they would actually change words because she felt they were better.
Here’s a letter written from her last year, June 12, 1994, “I worked as NIV stylistic consultant for several years.” She said very clear that there was a reduction of condemnation of sodomy in the NIV, and I can quote 1 Corinthians 6:9 as a proof. Let me give it to you, and I’ll read it both in the King James and the NIV. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” Now, the last phrases have been changed: “Nor male prostitute, nor homosexual offender.” And even Virginia agreed that “homosexual offender” could be a homophobic reacting against a homosexual just as surely as it could be a homosexual in their acts of sin. So that those Scriptures clearly reduce…. And, of course, sodomy is removed from the entire Old Testament, as he admitted, and sodomy was certainly more than being a male prostitute, although they were male prostitutes.
Barker: We did not translate it male prostitutes. We were talking about the word qadesh, quedeshim, when we were saying that. You’ll find plain homosexual references in all the verses that I listed at the end of what I read a moment ago. I don’t see how anyone could say that we watered down homosexual and lesbian practices when we plainly condemn in this passage male prostitutes and homosexual offenders. That is totally beyond me.
Chambers: “Nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” That phrase being reinterpreted “nor homosexual offenders.”
Barker: The study note on that says, “Paul here identifies three kinds of sexually immoral persons: adulterers, male prostitutes, and males who practice homosexuality. In Romans 1:26 he adds the category of females who practice homosexuality.” What could be clearer?
Ankerberg: What you’re saying is, “homosexual offenders” covers all three of those categories.
Barker: Yes. Yes, it does.
Chambers: But it doesn’t cover it and communicate to the people like “abusers of themselves with mankind.” That includes, men, women, or whatever.
Barker: Well, I think it does.
Ankerberg: Well, how about Leviticus 18:22 where they say, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman”?
Chambers: Now that’s in the NIV?
Ankerberg: Yes.
Chambers: Okay. I would accept that as being against it, but he still removes the word sodomy.
Ankerberg: Well, my point is, if Virginia was on the deal and she was supposed to be responsible for doing this, why didn’t she get that one too?
Chambers: Nobody said she did it in every case.
Barker: Sodomy is simply an antiquated word for homosexuality, homosexual and lesbian practices.
Chambers: The only people who would call it antiquated would be the sodomites themselves. They don’t like it, of course. They like the word “gay.”
Barker: No, it’s just that you don’t hear it much anymore, Joe, in modern American usage.
Chambers: But modern Americans…
Gipp: Sodomy is against the law in many places. I mean that word sodomy
Farstad: It is used in a legal sense.
Gipp: Yeah, you can’t say that it’s antiquated. I mean, we’re talking 1995 and it is used legally and you can say to somebody, “Sodomy is wrong. Here is a law that is against sodomy.” If you change our law to say “shrine prostitute,” every homosexual is going to say, “I got no problems.”
Barker: There you keep bringing up shrine prostitute. You see, that was point two in a statement. In all the other references that I mentioned, including the one John mentioned, we were not talking about the words translated “shrine prostitutes,” we were talking about translations in the NIV that mention specifically homosexuality. What does sodomy mean? It means homosexuality.
Gipp: Right. And what did you do with sodomy when you translated it?
Barker: There are some places where sodomy is translated homosexuality; there are other places when it’s the translation of qadesh and quedeshim, for which you also have qadeshah, the feminine of it, where it is clearly referring male and female shrine prostitutes…
Gipp: That’s what I just said, shrine prostitutes.
Barker: …where we translate it that way. But, don’t forget all the other Hebrew words that are not those words that are translated homosexuality.
Gipp: You have changed sodomite to shrine prostitute in several areas.
Barker: Because that’s what it means.
Ankerberg: Alright. James, final word.
White: I hope everyone notices that the King James Only advocates will always use terms like “changed,” “deleted,” so on and so forth. In this entire thing we have seen very plainly that it’s a circular position. It starts with its own assumption. It starts with its own finish. And, therefore, anything that differs from the King James is obviously a change, a deletion, a perversion, or whatever. We cannot, if we are going to be honest with ourselves before God, argue in circles. God does not call us to argue in circles. This argument that was just put forward, it would be just as easy for me to sit back and say, “Well, the King James doesn’t say anything about homosexuality.” I don’t see the word there, so therefore it must be alright. That’s a ridiculous argument, and yet it’s the standard that’s being used.

Ankerberg: Now realize, many folks who love the King James translation do not insist it is the only good translation Christians should read. It’s just a few who make unfounded accusations about the new translations. Here is one of the most ridiculous: God has punished some of the translators of the New King James, the New American Standard Bible, and the NIV by allowing them to die prematurely, go insane, or permanently lose their voice. Is this true?

Ankerberg: Don Wilkins, you’re representing the New American Standard Bible. And Gail, in her book, she groups all of you together and she says that “the new translations [NAS, NIV, New King James] have an occult bent to them. They introduce New Age philosophies into the Church. They spread mysticism and liberalism, and line by line they are changing the face of Jesus Christ in Christianity.”
Now, the people that read this book, it appears to them that she has a mountain of documentation to back up what she has said. What do you think about the evidence and the documentation in this book?
Wilkins: Well, first of all—now I’m losing my voice. [laughter] I just need a drink of water.
Ankerberg: Alright, hold on. We’ll pick it up there when we get his voice. [laughter among guests]
Wilkins: Okay.
Ankerberg: Are you okay? Try it out.
Wilkins: Alright, yes, I think I’m alright now.
Ankerberg: Alright, pick it up right there. Alright. Are you ready? Okay, what do you think about the evidence and the documentation that she has produced?
Wilkins: Well, let me tell you that we, when this book came out, the Lockman Foundation, we realized that we had to respond to it eventually, that it was getting around and people were starting to make phone calls and ask questions and things like that. And so we spent six weeks going through it or at least going through parts of it. I think she said she spent six years working on it, and frankly, we didn’t feel we had that kind of time to go through it.
Ankerberg: What did you find?
Wilkins: What I personally found is that virtually everything she says is wrong or a misquotation or it’s a deliberate deception of people and misleading them about what facts there are.

Ankerberg: Now, why did I show you this clip? It’s because this particular segment has been discussed on the websites of some who argue for the King James Only position. This has resulted in many concerned Christians writing me here at The John Ankerberg Show. They have asked if the claims of some of the outspoken critics are correct concerning the clip you just watched. What is being said? In October 1995, after this debate first aired, one Christian wrote: “Shocker! Bible Scholar Loses Voice on the John Ankerberg TV Show.” This writer quickly shares his own view of the Bible by saying, “The King James Bible is the only trustworthy, accurate, scholarly and whole Bible available in the whole world.” But this implies that people who have a Spanish, Russian or Chinese translation don’t have an accurate translation of the word of God. That’s just not true.
Next, this author distorts what happened in the clip you just watched. He writes, “Dr. Don Wilkins lost his voice during the taping of the Ankerberg program on the issue of new Bible translations. You can call it pure justice, a sign from God, or whatever you want, but eyebrows were sure raised recently during the tapings….”
This writer then distorts things that happened. First he says, “Ankerberg attempted to stack the deck by having five new version scholars but only three King James advocates.” This is not true. There was no attempt to stack the deck. In fact, while I invited only one representative for each of the new translations, I actually invited six King James Version Only advocates, but only three chose to appear. Gail Riplinger, Peter Ruckman, and D. A. Waite, all outspoken leaders in the King James Version Only camp were invited, but declined to participate.
Second, the critic claims that “Ankerberg is a bitter opponent of the King James Bible.” That is utterly false. I love the King James Version. If this were not true, I wouldn’t have offered the King James Version as a premium on some of our television programs.
Third, the critics inaccurately portray what the scholars on our program said and did. They have said, “It happened when Ankerberg asked Dr. Don Wilkins, head of the New King James Version translation committee, a key question.” But right here, they did not get their facts correct. Dr. Don Wilkins is not one of the scholars of the New King James Version committee; he is a translator of the New American Standard Bible. Then the critics go on to say Ankerberg asked, “Is it true, as Gail Riplinger reported in her best-selling book, New Age Bible Versions? that a number of the scholars who worked on the new translation committees lost their voice as punishment by God?” But as you just saw in the clip, that’s not the question I asked Dr. Wilkins. What I asked him was, “What do you think about the evidence and documentation in Gail Riplinger’s book?”
Here is how the critics described Dr. Wilkins’ cough: “The TV cameras captured the moment, Dr. Wilkins opened his mouth to answer and nothing came out. No sound. Wilkins kept trying to clear his throat but he couldn’t respond. … Finally, an embarrassed and frightened Wilkins was able to screech out in a crackling, almost inaudible manner, ‘I’ve…I’ve lost my voice.’ A shocked John Ankerberg ordered the cameras to stop and back up. After a brief delay, the TV cameras began to roll again, but only after the amazing segment of Dr. Wilkins losing his voice had conveniently been excised.”
Well, now you have seen all that happened. Dr. Don Wilkins did not lose his voice; he merely developed a dry throat which took about five seconds to clear. If losing his voice for five seconds was God’s judgment on Dr. Wilkins, as some have claimed, why is it that he immediately recovered? Why did God allow him to go on to state he “had spent six weeks in investigating Gail Riplinger’s book” and that “What he personally found is that virtually everything she says is wrong or a misquotation or a deliberate deception of people.”
Dr. James White, one of the guests during this debate, wrote a response to these false accusations when they first came out on the Internet. He said: “Dr. Wilkins had a dry throat and immediately recovered and went on to demonstrate errors in the King James Version Only viewpoints. Dr. Daniel Wallace had flown in just an hour before the program began, yet he had no problem with his voice.” Dr. White continued, “I had no problems. Dr. Barker, editor of the NIV, had no problems. And Dr. Farstad, editor of the New King James Version, had no problems either.”
James White goes on to write: “Can’t we use the term ‘desperation’ to describe the King James Version Only attempt to read into this incident some divine judgment? And why did God allow us to repeatedly refute the King James Only arguments all through eight television programs? If one of the King James Version Only men had developed a frog in his throat, would this amount to evidence of divine intervention as well? And what of the refusal of Gail Riplinger, Ruckman and Waite to even attend? The arguments used by [the critics] could just as easily be used against them. Gail Riplinger, who constantly criticizes the New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the NIV, has had frequent physical problems and as a result, canceled speaking engagements. Does this prove that she too is under the wrath of God? Of course not…. People who think this way are thinking illogically and irrationally and what’s more, they are thinking in an unchristian manner.”
God’s word instructs us “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Keep in mind that whether you prefer the 1611 KJV or the New King James or the New American Standard Bible or the NIV, if Christ is your savior, we are all members together of His body. As such, Scripture tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” [Eph. 4:29-30]
In trying to live by these verses, my guests and I presented this information to those making these false statements. Unfortunately, these distortions of what happened continue to be circulated.
Now, there is one final thing I want you to hear. A couple of hours after the coughing incident, during the same debate, I brought up the very question that is now being discussed on many web sites. At the time I never dreamed that anyone would use the coughing incident as an example of God’s judgment falling on a translator. I asked the question: Did anyone think it was really true that some translators had lost their voice, gone insane or died prematurely? I think this would have been an excellent time for someone to point out that when Dr. Wilkins coughed, this was another demonstration of God’s judgment. But when I asked this question, here was the response:

Ankerberg: Gail Riplinger in her book, New Age Bible Versions?, accuses the new translations of watering down the deity of Christ and other doctrines in the Bible. And another thing, we’re going to get to some of the verses here, another thing she says that we have meant to pick up is this: that the editors of the NASB, NIV and New King James, as a result of their working and thinking, five have lost their voices, one has gone insane and another died prematurely. Do you know anything about that, Ken?
Barker: Speaking for the NIV translators and editors, I know of no NIV translator or editor who has lost his voice, gone insane or died prematurely.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s go to you, Art, your own New King James Version. Has anybody gone insane, died prematurely or lost their voice?
Farstad: No. No one. We’re all still kicking.
Ankerberg: Don, NASB; got anybody that’s lost their voice, gone insane, died prematurely?
Wilkins: No. I’ve obviously not lost my voice! Everybody I know is just fine.
Ankerberg: Joe, what do you make about that, then?
Chambers: To begin with, I want to know how they figured out how anybody died prematurely or not? That would take a decision of God, not man, but I will give you some evidence of men who have been involved in translations who had difficulty in speech. The story of Kenneth Taylor is certainly known and vivid.
Barker: The Living Bible.
Chambers: Time magazine quoted, July 1972, “Mysteriously halfway through the paraphrase Taylor lost his voice and still speaks in a hoarse whisper and psychiatrists who examined him suggested the voice failure was Taylor’s psychological self punishment for tampering with what he believed to be the Word of God.” Time magazine, July 1972.
Ankerberg: Shouldn’t she have said Living Bible and not put all in New Age [Bible] Versions?
Chambers: She did say Living Bible.
Ankerberg: She did there, but in these others she says it’s the new versions, the translators of the new versions.
Chambers: Well, you understand, when you talk about translation of the new version, the Living Bible is a take off of the ASV, which NASB is a take off of ASV. Of course, you can go to Phillips, J. P. Phillips. His story is incredible of what happened to him.
Ankerberg: How would you guys respond to this?
White: Dr. Chambers, let me ask you something. John Rainolds, you know who John Rainolds was? He was really the person behind the King James Version. He was a great Puritan scholar. He died during the translation of the King James Version. If we use Gail Riplinger’s reasoning and your own, doesn’t that tell us something about the King James Version?
Chambers: The story of Ken Taylor specifically is tied to that.
White: No, no. Dying, dying. There are people who died during the translation of the King James.
Chambers: Of course not, and she doesn’t suggest that.
White: And it doesn’t mean anything in regard to the King James, but if it were to happen on the NASB or the NIV, then somehow it would be invested with meaning.
Barker: It’s that double standard that I was referring to before.
Gipp: I personally never make that charge, because there is, you know, if she makes it and documents it, that’s her thing. I don’t make that. I don’t really even need it. I just wanted to let you know that…
Chambers: I agree with that.
Ankerberg: I just wanted to get that. But these guys, in terms of their Bibles, don’t know anything about what she’s talking about, and it hasn’t happened.

Ankerberg: Let me close today with this. All of the biblical translations—the old King James, the New King James, the NIV, the New American Standard Bible—all give a clear, accurate translation of the Word of God to you. Whichever of these Bible translations you choose to use should not be an issue that divides your church or causes you to break fellowship with another Christian. This debate was not put together to promote one translation over another, but so that you could hear the issues and evidence for yourself.


  1. Angela on June 13, 2022 at 7:51 am

    Thank you for making this transcript available! Do you happen to have transcripts for the first 6 programs in this wonderful debate series?

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