Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2009

The King James Only Controversy: Still Going, 15 Years Later

Filed under: bible, Christian, issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:34 pm

king james only controverseyIt’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.

May 5, 2009

Tuesday Links: Life in Blogland


Lots to see in the blogosphere today:

  • Jeff at Losing My Religion is celebrating a birthday today (5/5) and this week has a great, lengthy interview with Michael Frost, missional church guru and co-author (with Alan Hirsch) of the book ReJesus.
  • Video book promos on YouTube are somewhat mandatory these days if you have a new release; and Tony Morgan‘s gives an excellent preview of his book Killing Cockroaches without any hype.  (HT: Church Relevance blog)
  • If you want to re-write the definitive standard for an over-the-top church website, the one for Evangel Cathedral should do it.  (HT: Pragmatic Electric blog.  Be sure to check out his Apr. 25 post, If Jesus Returns Tonight, Who Will Feed Your Pets?  It contains a vital link to Post Rapture Pets.)
  • Jim Upchurch has renamed his blog, Christ: His Work and His Word.   Last weekend he wrote an excellent devotional piece, What if You Knew How and When You Would Die?
  • Quoted on Bob Hyatt’s blog:  “In a faster world, maybe we need a slower church.” ~ Leighton Ford
  • Two entire chapters of Hebrews.   Totally memorized.    Shared with passion by Ryan Ferguson.    Takes eleven minutes.   Google Video link here.   (HT: Tony Miano’s blog, Lawman Chronicles)
  • Finally, on the lighter side; Michael Tait isn’t the newest member of Newsboys after all, as the blog Backseat Writer makes visibly clear in this post.   That’s it for today’s links.
  • Almost every time I do links like this, I always include a link to my unpublished book The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Girlfriends, because every day there’s someone new who needs to read it.   It’s online and it’s free to read.
  • Since you asked, I’m currently reading The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (Zondervan) and the revised — 14 years later — edition of The King James Only Controversy by James White (Bethany House).   Both deal with the Bible and how we both read and translate it, so I don’t mind reading the two books at once.   If you want to make it a hat-trick, you’d have to add How To Choose a Bible Translation For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss (Zondervan).
  • Today’s cartoon is from ASBO Jesus.  Now with over 700 thought-provoking, intriguing, controversial and sometimes frustrating cartoons served.   Never a dull moment at that cartoon blog.   (It’s Brit-speak for Anti-Social Behavior Order.)
  • Since this post is a potpourri already, the survey, which follows, is from Christianity Today and reflects that readers of its various websites have a rather secularized view of how we all got here.  If you’re going to comment on something here, this would be the one.
    Christianity Today Poll
    What best describes your view of the origins of creation?
    Young-earth creationism

    Old-earth creationism

    Theistic evolution

    Naturalistic evolution

    I don’t know

    None of the above


    Total Votes: 4153

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