It’s a rather pathetic indictment against Christians that the arguing of the ‘secondary anointing’ on or ‘divine inspiration’ of one particular translation — and one only — continues to drag on. When James White first released The King James Only Controversy (Bethany House) in 1995, he probably expected the debate to die down; the KJV-Only camp to mellow out, move on to weightier spiritual matters, or disappear altogether. He probably never figured there would be a need for him to be releasing an updated edition in 2009.
My take on this book probably differs from others in that I see the book as having value beyond the stated subject. It’s a great window in the Bible translation process and it’s also an excellent study on key scriptures, many of which are widely known and taught from as they appear in the KJV. So you don’t have to have a friend or co-worker who is KJV-Only to appreciate exhaustive study that went into producing the original work and its updated edition.
(I should add here that I’m a huge follower of Bible translation issues. Counting two complete reads of the original, this marked my third trek through this book.)
But the book also exceeds its mandate by leaving us with the questions,
- “Why do some people in the church spend such great amounts of energy on topics which always produce dissension and are often preoccupied with peripheral concerns?”
- “Why do some people bring their presuppositions to the table instead of being open to the exchange of logic and facts?”
- “Why do people with extreme views have to compound their offensiveness by engaging in extreme rhetoric?”
- “What damage has been done to Bible-reading by incorporating verse numbers that isolate sentences and phrases, losing the flow of extended passages?”
Although the average layperson may be intimidated by Greek and Hebrew words, most of the book can be appreciated without formal theological study; though there may be times when one needs to simply pause to take in the finer nuances of the various translation comparisons. White himself is very balanced and fair in this treatment, admitting that sometimes the KJV serves us well, but pointing out where more recent translations have provided us with greater clarity. He resists the urge to retaliate against the KJV, though later on devotes a shorter chapter to some familiar KJV passages which are cause for concern.
Though I don’t think he says it blatantly, much of the KJV-Only argument resides in the treatment of individual versus as opposed to gaining the meaning from the context of a larger passage. The verse numbers, in this case, do us a disservice.
The new edition mentions newer translations — particularly the ESV — and the update also cites many online sources in the expanded footnotes. It also discusses the challenges to the Bible’s authority that have come from the intellectualism of groups like The Jesus Seminar or the fiction of books and movies like The DaVinci Code.
While the book is clearly not for everyone, those drawn to this topic will be well-rewarded, though many may have already acquired the earlier edition.
~ Part of Baker/Bethany House bloggers book review program.
Footnote: Another publisher had a small booklet on the King James Only movement which came out in the mid-’90s as well. It was published as part of a series, all the rest of which deal with various cults. Seriously.
…If you check out this book, you may also enjoy How To Choose A Bible Translation For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss.