Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Still the best after 400 years

As it happens to be the 400th anniversary of the KJV, I suppose it would be appropriate to explain some of my thoughts on what is perhaps going to be a controversial anniversary. I use the KJV, because it's the version I read and study, and that my church uses, and that English-speaking churches whose heritage is found in the Reformation have used for the last 400 years. There are certainly deeper underlying reasons, which are far more significant.

First of all, I'm not a "KJV-Only-ist" in the sense that I don't believe it is as good as it could be, or entirely perfect, or on par with the text in the original languages (I say this for theological reasons, and because I know a little, but enough generally about the grammatical differences between languages, not because I know anything specifically about Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic). Also because I'm not against other versions in principle if they are faithful translations of the true Scriptures, but the problem with almost all the recent versions which have been released in the number of years is:

1) The biblical and Reformed doctrine of the Preservation of Scripture. They are based upon a couple of manuscripts which differ vastly from the overwhelming majority of other manuscripts, (which the Reformers deliberately rejected as corrupt). One bunch was preserved in a library in the Vatican, and the other lost in a waste-basket in a city that was notorious for the propagation of heresy. If God's word is preserved for the sake of His people, then how could these manuscripts which dwelt in obscurity away from God's people for so long, really be God's word? Especially when they contradict the other manuscripts in so many places?

So, the text which has been preserved and received by God's people throughout the ages is what we should receive, just as Christ received the Scriptures of His day, trusting that God had preserved them. It is not insignificant that the modern-day Arian heretics, who inappropriately call themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses," are strong proponents of these deviant manuscripts.

2) The biblical and Reformed doctrine of the plenary (full) and verbal (each word) Inspiration of Scripture. The more recent translations are mostly based upon a "dynamic equivalence" philosophy of translation. This means that the translators interpret what they think the original meaning of the phrases and sentences were, and then they paraphrase this perceived meaning in a different language. So, then we are not reading God's words, but the words of the interpretation of the translators.

Now the translators of the KJV, were a very godly bunch of men, at the height of the strength of the Reformation, of the calibre (both intellectually, and in understanding of the original languages, and spiritually) that can hardly be found anywhere in these present dark days. But what of, for example, the translators of the NIV? At least one was a lesbian (Dr. Virginia Mollenkott). But also, the translation philosophy used by the KJV translators was "formal equivalence", which means that with as little interpretation as possible, and as little paraphrasing as possible (only enough to retain the original sense taking into account the differences in grammatical structure and word order in different languages), they translated the words of the Bible, and when they had to insert extra words to give the original sense, they put these extra words in italics to show that they were not present in the original (the more recent translations add words willy-nilly with no indications whatsoever). The result was "Biblical English".

It was a peculiar style even then, as much as it is now, being so similar in structure and style to the original Greek and Hebrew phraseology - yet it remains easily understood (if you doubt this, read it, and consider how many foreign mission fields have successfully used the KJV when English was not even the first language). Not only that but they compensated for certain deficiencies and ambiguities in the English language which were not problems in the original languages - such as the use of "thou" and "thee" for "you, singular" and "you" and "ye" for "you, plural". There has not yet been a translation anywhere near as good as the KJV for these reasons, in terms of its precision and accuracy. And it's all because the translators feared God, and took seriously His warnings not to add or take away from His word, and that every word of the Bible is God's word and may not be trifled with.

You may examine these two simple claims yourselves, and make your own judgments.

Sam W.

P.S. More reading materials on this subject can be found here:

The most significant issue (regarding which texts are valid), is not controversial for the Old Testament (the Masoretic text), but concerns the Greek New Testament. This article from the Trinitarian Bible Society deals with this subject comprehensively, and definitively:

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