Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrating 400 Years of the KJV: Response to Defenders

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

As you can see, there has been a flood of new translations since 1950, and the listing above does not contain paraphrases that range from the conservative (The Living Bible) to the liberal (The Message). Nor have I listed a number of very liberal translations. When you consider the sudden appearance of all these translations, there can be no doubt that people are seeking Bibles they can easily understand.

All these new Bibles have promoted King James users to dig in their heels. They greet every new version with derision and harsh criticism. Often their attacks get out of hand as they dub the new versions "Satan inspired." Some even argue that the King James Version is a sacred, inerrant translation and that it is therefore the only "perfect" translation that exists today.31 Any survey of the history of English Bibles like the one I have presented above makes the King James perfection claim a laugh.

The more responsible critics usually point to what they call the "erosion" of the New Testament by the modern translations. They argue that the Greek text for the New Testament that was compiled by Erasmus (1466-1536) and published in 1516 is the only proper basis for a New Testament translation, and they point out that it was what was used for the King James Version. This text became known as the Textus Receptus.

They then attack the modern translations for abandoning the Textus Receptus and relying instead on the Greek text compiled by B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort and published in 1881. They argue that although the Westcott and Hort version is based upon much earlier manuscripts than those used by Erasmus, the manuscripts are unreliable because they are "Catholic manuscripts." This accusation is based on the fact that one of the manuscripts was found at a Catholic monastery in the Sinai desert and the other at the Vatican in Rome.

These attacks on the Westcott-Hort text are really irrelevant, for although the Westcott-Hort text was the "standard" critical Greek text for a couple of generations, it is no longer considered as such, and it has not served as the New Testament text for any of the modern translations. The standard text today is the Nestle-Aland text (1st edition in 1898; 27th edition, 1993).

The truth of the matter is that none of the Greek texts are perfect. They represent a pasting together of segments of the most ancient manuscripts. Erasmus did his best, but there have been thousands of manuscripts discovered since he put together his compilation, and many of those are much older than anything he had to work with. Furthermore, none of the differences in the compilations have any effect on the basic doctrines and truths of the New Testament.

The King James defenders need to keep in mind that the major purpose of the new conservative translations is twofold: greater accuracy and easier to understand language. How can you fault those aims? Here's how one person has summed it up:32

We must remember that the main purpose of the Protestant Reformation was to get the Bible out of the chains of being trapped in an ancient language that few could understand, and into the modern, spoken, conversational language of the present day. William Tyndale fought and died for the right to print the Bible in the common, spoken, modern English tongue of his day...

Will we now go backwards and seek to imprison God's Word once again exclusively in ancient translations?


Thanks to the King James Version

The King James Version was a great Bible for its day and time. It has served the English speaking peoples well for several centuries. The time has come to lay it to rest with honor and dignity and with heart-felt thanks. It has stamped our language indelibly. It has inspired many generations. Most important, it has opened the door to God for millions of people by delivering them from spiritual darkness into the light of the glory of Jesus Christ.


Notes

30) Jeffcoat, "English Bible History," page 9.

31) For an example of a "KJV Only" article, see: James L. Melton, "How I Know the King James Bible is the Word of God," www.avi611.org/kjv/knowkjv.html.

32) Jeffcoat, "English Bible History," page 9.

21 comments:

hartdawg said...

I am not convinced that the attack on the newer translations based on wescott and hort are irrelevant. they have very strong points. when I lead a bible study or talk to anyone for that matt er I read from the N.I.V. So they can understand Then I go into the N.K.J.V. And explain what it really means Based on that translation. I am not a king james only But I very firmly believe the textus receptus is by far... and I mean by far the most accurate and reliable manuscript. the new king james version I believe is most accurate and reliable and precise.

Nathan Jones said...

Our classes in Bible school taught that the NAS is the most reliable of all the copies out there. I'm not too fond of it for its awkward wording and prefer to teach out of the NIV, though now I have to say "1984 NIV." Dr. Reagan uses the NAS in his writings.

calvary said...

Nathan, don't let the KJV only hear you say that about the NIV. They are visceral in their attack on the NIV and NAS. It is really as though they can be classified as a cult with their absurd claim that the KJ was inspired and is perfect because God said there would always be His perfect word on the earth. How, by the way, do you interpret the verse they use for that?

Nathan Jones said...

I'd reply with my usual asking of what came before the KJV and what about non-English speaking peoples. You know, most look at me like they never considered that before. Would you believe some have even countered that they belive the KJV was the language Jesus spoke in and all other languages need to translate their Bibles from the KJV?!? Sadly, they get those ideas from their pulpits.

calvary said...

Yes Nathan I have heard that. I frequent a fb site, NTEB and the host of that site is a KJV only defender. Actually he is the one on the attack of all other versions, not defending the KJV since I haven't once seen anyone attacking the KJ. I told him once that the only people I see attacking are the KJV people...not the other way around! I have asked the question about language translations other than the KJV and you are correct, they don't like to answer that question. now? In fact one time I was told that since English is the universal language, the KJV was considered the only perfect bible on the earth today as though everyone on earth should learn English! I suggested they learn Greek and Hebrew because that would be the most honest answer using their reasoning!

Also, I have asked about Isaiah 9:3and they don't have an answer. When I bring out inconsistences they can't defend, they ask why I don't believe we have a "perfect" bible on the earth today and that my God is not a very big one. Uuggg! It is like arguing with the Mormons or JW's! So sad.

john mushenhouse said...

Some say the KJV was published because the Geneva was made out of England and thus taxes were lost. Today's bibles are copyrighted so certain changes have to be made in order to get published and sell.


I suggest people learn the Biblical languages and read the greek texts themselves.

The languages are not hard and the Holy Spirit will help if one disciplines themselves to study.

Rodney said...

Suprisingly it does not matter how simplified or easy to read a particular translation appears, the fact is a wide majority of those claiming to be Christians remain Bible illiterate. Most would want to simplify it even further with a picture Bible.

Rodney said...

One might say, I will wait for the video, when it comes out!

Billy said...

Rodney,

So what if most Christians are Bible illiterate? The NT didn't even exist for those who lived when Jesus was on Earth. I'm sure many iliterate people believed in Jesus. And a lot of people who only HEARD of Him believed in Him. There won't be any exams to save your soul. So what is your point?

And by the way, The Jesus Film has been a fantastic way to spread the Gospel and has led to the salvation of many. Again, what is your point?

Billy said...

I said "So what if most Christians are Bible illiterate?"

...meaning if the only thing you know about the Bible is John 3:16 and believe it you are saved.

As another example, a Jewish national radio host named Dennis Prager knows much more about the Bible than most Christians but he doesn't believe in Jesus as Savior. So knowledge alone isn't worth squat in the end if you don't believe.

Rodney said...

Billy, my point is this, Christ is the Word of God made flesh, if we do not know the Word, we do not know whom we worship! We are instructed to study the Word, with this our faith increases as well as our ability to witness to others who may have many questions.

Ignorance concerning the Word also opens us up to deception and fables, leading us astray. I understand your point, yet when you examine the Parable of the Sower, you will notice that only those that accepted the Word and grew in knowledge and in faith would bear fruit. The Word of God became part of them, rooted in rich soil, watered by the Holy Spirit.

If a Christian does not seek to study the Word of God, to search the rich treasures hidden within, then perhaps he is a Christian by name only. By the Word of God were the Heavens and the Earth made and every living creature in them. Those that retract from the Word of God are carnal minded, they love fables rather than the truth.

hartdawg said...

rodney... I see your point and totally agree with.

Rodney said...

Thanks hartdawg.

Expected Imminently said...

Rodney

2John1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

My youngest son, now caught up in Purpose Driven, told me that I wasted my time reading doctrine.

What you have written complies to Scripture, but oh my, how it has stung to read it.

Sue
x

Billy said...

Rodney,

Just got back from vacation. Good reply, good points.

Thanks!

Rodney said...

Those that have sought to degrade the King James as being out of date seem content with versions that deny the identity of Christ as God manifested in the flesh. I say if it is not broke, do not try and fix it.

I personally enjoy the King James, the language format exudes power and royalty, reminds me of being a royal citizen of heaven. Worship and music styles have changed, preachers have changed their message to not include sin, judgement, and hell, is that not enough. The modern Church in all its effort to appear new and attractive to the world has only served to water down the message of the Gospel and conform to the standards of the world. Enough is enough!!!

Nathan Jones said...

I can understand your point, Rodney. Reminds me of an old "Night Court" episode where they thought God was talking to Bull because the language was King James!

That also reminds me of a Catholic friend who once told me he missed mass in Latin because it sounded more holy, even if he didn't understand a word of it... rather like the KJV. I'll take understanding over holy sounds anytime.

Billy said...

In the end, it doesn't matter how clear the text is or how literate the reader is. Clarity, literacy and understanding do not necessarily translate into belief.

Rodney said...

Nathan, actually that was not my point, the King James remained the premier translation for centuries. The N.A.S., N.I.V., and all the rest are not new translations, they simply wanted to compete with its popularity and formatted it into modern jargon. They offer nothing new, nor can they provide any evidence of error in the translation of the KJV.

Rodney said...

Nathan, if you can not understand the King James Version, how can you understand anything in plain English?

Talia said...

I don't get why people treat the KJV translation as being as holy as the original Greek and Hebrew. I don't like the KJV and prefer something more readable. I'm sorry, the KJV's English has become very nearly an entirely different language from modern English. Not to mention some of the words it uses has picked up very unfortunate connotations.