Saturday, November 1, 2014

If The King James Version Was Good Enough For The Apostle Paul, It Is Good Enough For Me

I like the King James Version of the Bible.  I grew up with it; I memorized passages from it; I can use a concordance to locate passages using words and phrases I learned from it.  But it does pose a problem for me.  I mean, who talks like that, anyway?  Dost thou?  Nor doest I. 

So I have switched to another version; The New King James Version.  There are other versions that may be better or more accurate (and I sometimes use them} but I chose The NKJV because of its familiarity and similarity to the version I already know. 

And this is where I reject the adamant insistence on and unbending allegiance to the KJV by the King James Only crowd; all Scripture is inerrant in its original writings; the KJV is NOT that.  The Bible is the Word of God and should be available to and understood by people with words they know.

I find the KJO crowd conflicted and contradictory to their own errant KJO doctrine.  How?  There are at least two ways:

First, they have no problem sending missionaries into foreign lands to teach and preach the Word of God using translations in other languages.  Why? because the people they are trying to reach CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE KJV.  So why would they not want people in the United States to have the same advantage they provide to natives in foreign lands?  Why would they deny them the opportunity to hear God’s Word in their own, contemporary language?  The King’s English is NOT our language.

We are politically, sociologically, geographically, culturally, technologically, chronologically, and linguistically far removed from King James.  Most of us could not understand conversations spoken in seventeenth century English.  How many people struggle to understand the writings of Shakespeare?  Incidently, most KJO can't understand the original 1611 King James Authorized Version.  Language is living.  Words change; meanings change. 

I have learned to read through and understand some of the archaic language structures of the KJV and I have come to realize that many of the words, though familiar and common, do not mean, today, what they meant then.  So, for example, when I read the word, conversation, I already know that it has nothing to do with casual chitchat but rather refers to one’s way of life. 

Second, I find it a bit amusing that most of the "pew warmers" in KJO churches have the same language problems I have with the King’s English.  Consequently, their KJO pastor must take the time to “explain,” “define,” “interpret,” and “translate” the text so that his flock can understand the meanings of the words.  Why not just read it in a modern version in the first place?  Spare the pretense and save some time. 

I find, in the KJO crowd, a startling similarity to the Roman Catholic Church of the early 1500s.  This week, in observation of Reformation Day, I was watching the old 1953 Movie, Martin Luther.  In that movie there is one scene with a profound conversation between Luther and his Superior.  Here is the original transcript with added parenthetical substitutions applicable to today’s KJO adherents:

Priest -  “There’s only one proper interpretation (version) of Scripture; that which the Church (King James) has established (authorized).  What if Scripture were in the hands of common men for every pot boy and swineherd to read in his own language and interpret for himself?  What then?”

Martin Luther – “Why, then, we might have more Christians, Father.”

Priest – “Latin (KJV) has served the Church for centuries.  Latin (the KJV) was good enough for St. Rome and St. Augustine (the Apostle Paul) and Latin (the KJV) will have to be good enough for you and me and every other Christian.”

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?  1 Cor. 14:8-9

So there you have it.  Do you think there might be more Christians if common people could hear the Word of God in their own language?


Eddie Eddings said...

You speaketh the truth! I am glad this article didn't go wheresoever the governor listeth.

Ron Livesay said...

You have made a very clear and concise argument against the KJV-only position, which is, at best, a very weak position, and it cannot stand up to any serious scrutiny. I always found it interesting that my dad never used any version other than the KJV, but he had no use for “KJV-onlyism.”

I also like and use the King James Version, and I really have trouble memorizing in any different translation because of all the passages I memorized from the KJV. In recent years, I switched to the New American Standard for teaching, and more recently, I switched to the New King James. I absolutely agree with you that the NKJV has a cadence and feel very much like the KJV, and that gives it a familiarity that other translations do not have.

I have heard good things about the ESV, but I have not used it very much except for some of the study notes and also to compare the wording of passages as I study. I have found it valuable to use all four – the KJV, the NASB, the NKJV, and the ESV – as I study to teach. No single English translation is inspired, but God has preserved His Word, and the best way for those of us who do not know the Biblical languages is to compare English translations of the original and also to use tools that help us understand the meanings of the original words. God has not left us in a helpless situation relative to understanding His Word. We do not need some big cheese in the church to help us understand the Bible.

That having been said, we need to be very careful about the modern translations we use. There are several about which I know very little or nothing, and I don’t really plan to expand any further so as to avoid making my study so time-consuming that I get nowhere. Using four literal translations is enough. Paraphrases, such as The Living Bible and The Message are all but worthless unless we use them only as a resource to find out the authors’ opinions on what a passage is saying. They should be considered as no more than commentaries rather than Scripture. We also need to be careful about “dynamic equivalent” versions, such as the NIV. I taught from it for a while in a Christian high school, but I began to notice some things that just did not sound right. After doing some research, I stopped using it entirely, because it got to the point that I simply did not trust it. I described this situation in a post on my blog entitled “Why I Quit Using the NIV.” (

Excellent article, Ralph.