Friday, October 16, 2009

KJV Only?

In the video the pastor is leading his church to burn copies of books of Christian authors and various versions of the Bible. Obviously, he believes the KJV is the only version of the Scriptures for English speaking people. After all, it is also called the "Authorized Version"!

I am not against the KJV. I have memorized numerous verses out of the KJV. Without question, the Elizabethian English of the KJV has a beauty unparalleled by modern translations. To this day, I prefer reading Psalm 23 out of the KJV because it is a beautiful rendering of the Hebrew text.

In my area of the country it is not unusual to see "KJV Only" on church signs. While many churches in my denomination do not explicitely say "KJV Only" they use only the KJV. Out of sensitivity for thier positions, I would not use another translation if I were invited to preach in such churches.

However, I believe that my brothers in Christ err when they insist that the KJV is the only version for English-speaking people. Based on the translators writings in the Preface to the 1611 version, want to cite several reasons why I believe the KJV is not the only version for English-speaking people:

1. To argue that the KJV is the only English version is to deny the various English versions which preceeded it (e.g., from William Tyndale to Matthew Parker). Were not people saved under the preaching of these versions? In the Preface to the original 1611 KJV, the translators wrote" "Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, ... but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against."

2. The translators recognized that there were variant readings, thus they included references to such variants in the margin.
"Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point."

3. The translators agree that a variety of translations is beneficial. "Therefore as S[aint] Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must need do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded."

4. The translators sought not to create a poetic version of Scripture (the KJV is often praise as such), but to create a clear version of the Scriptures: "But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, ... that it may be understood even by the very vulgar." Is this not the aim of modern translations? It appears that the translators of the KJV would be in agreement and support of modern translations!

5. The translators did not view thier translation as superior to those preceeding it. In the Preface they wrote: "... we are so far off from condemning any of their labors that travelled before us in this kind, either in this land or beyond sea, ... that we acknowledge them to have been raised up by God, ... and that they deserve to be had of us and of posterity, in everlasting remembrance. "

6. The translators acknowledged that just as their translation had advantages over preceeding translations due to advance in scholarship and availability of manuscripts, so future translations will have such advantage over thier own:
"Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfected at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wiser; so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being helped by their labors, do endeavor to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to mislike us; they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us."

7. The translators noted that their new translation would be treated with suspicion (i.e., like tranlsations since the KJV have been treated): "Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising any thing ourselves, or revising that which hath been labored by others, deserves certainly much respect and esteem, but yet finding but cold entertainment in the world. ... For he that meddles with men's Religion in any part, meddles with their customs, nay, with their freehold, and though they find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of altering [it]. ... Many men's mouths have been open a good while (and yet are not stopped) with speeches about the Translation so long in hand, or rather perusals of Translations made before: and ask what may be the reason, what the necessity of the employment: Hath the Church been deceived, say they, all this while? ... Was their Translation good before? Why do they now mend it? Was it not good? Why then was it obtruded to the people? ..." Does this sound familiar? Yes!

There are several other reasons one could give, but by this point (if you have made it this far) you are probably tired of reading! The bottom line is that modern-day preachers have placed the KJV on a level never intended by its original translators. It is too bad that the Preface is seldom printed in KJV's today. Perhaps if it were, more KJV only advocates would reconsider. (Then again, they probably wouldn't.) I like the KJV version, but I prefer to use other versions as well-I think the translators would have too!

Jim Wright, pastor

1 comment:

  1. At our old church, I remember a gentleman who left when the new pastor came and used NIV. He could tolerate NKJV, but not NIV.