Many years ago when I began substitute teaching Sunday School, I had an interesting discussion with the regular teacher. For about 30 years, almost as long as he taught, he believed the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was deemed “authorized” because King James was from the line of King David. Therefore, not only was the KJV authorized but authoritative because of this Davidic king.
He shared this position with me because he had found out a few years earlier that his long-held belief about King James was wrong. This correction made him a more discerning teacher. In light of that story, I will share a brief explanation of the difference between authorized writings and authoritative writings.
An authorized collection of writings is a particular collection authorized by a particular authority. Such authorization does not substantiate authority of said writings. For example, King James authorized a certain translation of the Bible. His authorization does not make that translation superior to or authoritative over other translations. Rather, James’ position as King, the highest authority in the land, gave the translation prominence over any other translation as a representation of the King’s power.
In contrast, collections of authoritative writings are authoritative by their nature. For example, when the words of Jesus were recorded, they were authoritative since Jesus is God. Jesus is the supreme authority over all and the very foundation of truth. Therefore, Jesus’ words, whether recorded from his own mouth or recorded through his apostles, constitute an authoritative collection. While King James’ may authorize something be written, the written words of Jesus are an authority within themselves.
Grace and peace,