Thinking Out Loud

July 15, 2017

Problems with the King James Only Position

Out of the abundance of the heart, the vanity plate speaks. At least we know what matters most to this car owner.

  1. The problem with the original edition contradiction — In both the translator’s preface to the 1611 King James, and in the alternative renderings the translators inserted liberally throughout, there is allusion to the quotation from Augustine which says, in essence, “There is much to be gained from a variety of translations.” The translators themselves did not have consensus on some passages, and recognized that other translators would follow their work.
  2. The problem of “paraphrase” — We often hear the term “paraphrase” used today in reference to The Message bible, but from a linguistic viewpoint there is no such word, all renderings of text for different audiences constitutes translation. (Furthermore, Peterson worked from original languages.) The Message was designed for a specific audience (American) and a specific time (late 20th Century) just as the KJV was designed for a specific audience (British) and a specific time (early 17th century) and nothing makes this more clear than the insertion of “God forbid!” in Romans 6:1.  As a Jew, Paul would never insert God’s name here. (Nor would he be likely to do this as a Christian.) The British colloquialism is unique to the KJV, no other translation follows it at this point. God’s name should not be found in that verse if the translation is accurate. They took great liberties — let’s say they paraphrased — that verse, and this is just one of hundreds of similar issues.
  3. The problem of soteriology — Strong proponents of the KJV-only position totally contravene Revelation 22, and actually add the KJV as a requirement for salvation, inasmuch as a person must be saved through the KJV.  In their view, you cannot come to Christ through any other translation; you must be saved through the King James Bible. So much for the two travelers on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus post-resurrection. Having your “eyes opened” is insufficient.
  4. The problem of foreign missions — Anyone who has spent anytime on the mission field; any American who has shared the gospel with their Latino friends; any Canadian who has witness to their French-speaking Quebec neighbors knows the total absurdity of the KJV-only position in a world context. Still, some extreme groups actually attempt to teach non-Anglophones enough Elizabethan English so that they can read the English Bible and thereby meet Christ.
  5. The problem of history — If the King James is the only acceptable version of the Bible, then what did people do before 1611 to obtain salvation? You’d be surprised at the way some KJV-only advocates work around this. Just as Old Testament people were saved in anticipation of Christ’s perfect sacrifice; so also were people saved through the coming of this one translation. Or something like that. You would think that the Bible was part of the Holy Trinity. Or quadrinity. The Catholics add Mary, why shouldn’t the King James crowd add the Bible? (See item 3.)
  6. The problem of scholarship — Here I refer not to the leading Protestant and Evangelical academics — none of whom give this subject more than a passing thought — but the so-called ‘scholarship’ of the KJV-only advocates themselves. Basically, the problem is that their ‘arguments’ are a house of cards stacked with flawed logic and false premises. Owing more to the spirit of ‘conspiracy theories’ than to anything more solid, their rhetoric is mostly attacks on other translations, particularly the NIV, a translation despised for its popularity and hence a very visible target.  One conspiracy involves the removing of the phrase “Lord Jesus Christ” — taken out in cases where it was a scribal ‘run on’ — but if that was the NIV’s intent, it actually missed the opportunity nearly two-thirds of the time. Despite this lack of scholarship, naive followers eat up their every words because people would rather believe the conspiracy than trust the sovereignty of God to sort out any translation issues.
  7. The problem of a ‘house divided‘ — Like the Creation Science community, the KJV-only crowd is divided; but it’s not a simple “old earth versus young earth” type of disagreement. Simply put, some 1789 KJVs are better than other 1789 KJVs. There are nuances of spelling that reflect the textual decisions of different publishers and just because you own a King James Version you may not have the right one. Dig deep enough and you find unsettling division.
  8. The problem of the ostrich mentality — If you read any KJV-only blogs or websites at source, you actually don’t see the phrase, King James Version. With blinders firmly in place, they argue that there is only one Bible and it is the King James Bible. (So what are all those editions in Barnes and Noble and Family Christian? Answer: They are blasphemous.) This is much like saying that New Zealand doesn’t really exist, or that September 11th never happened. If someone’s worldview is that narrow, it doesn’t bode well to trust their opinions on anything else; you’re only going to get denial and revisionism.

June 25, 2013

In The Days of King James

I have never been a reader of history books, be they Canadian or American history, or even world history. The middle and high schools I attended were the product of experimental education theories, and I actually have no history credits in high school itself, and my middle school history notes would fill about 16 notebook pages. As a result I have a reading deficiency which fortunately does not extend to fiction or biography, but does impair my knowledge of church history.

God's SecretariesSo when I picked up the book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible a 2005 HarperCollins title by Adam Nicholson a few days ago, I didn’t realize I was going to finish it, or I might have made more notes.  Still there are few things I remember the next morning worth noting, especially given the strange Bibliolatry which surrounds this version in the 21st century.

The Translators were highly motivated by the prestige the project would bring. Climbing the ecclesiastical ladder was as important then as now, and also brought with it political ramifications to more than a few of them. Being a Translator (always spelled with a capital T) meant being part of an exclusive echelon of pastors and theological professors. Like today’s megachurch pastors, they were religious superstars.

Politics guided certain aspects of the translation and what did — or in this case what mostly didn’t — get included in marginal notes.

The Christian community included several different streams. Although the Translators were ostensibly working for the state church, the Church of England, it was against a backdrop which included Roman Catholics and Puritans.

The King, for all his failings, was astute theologically. There was more Biblical literacy back then, and the King was capable of engaging a variety of Bible themes. When was the last time you heard Queen Elizabeth discuss doctrine? Perhaps today advisors to the monarch encourage keeping a safe distance from topics that could be divisive.

However, once it was initiated, the King distanced himself from the day to day workings of the project.  There is no evidence that the King interfered once the work was underway.

There is no hint of inspiration included in the mandate given to the Translators. This is important because today there are some marginal groups that use the KJV exclusively and insist that the translation team rested on an inspiration that was secondary or even equal to the original Biblical writers. “There is no hint of inspiration, or even of prayerfulness, no idea that the Translators are to be in the right frame of mind. [Instead] There are exact directions, state orders, not literary or theological suggestions…This is a job to be done…” (p.72)

While literacy increased greatly in the 17th century, priority was given to how the Bible sounded when spoken aloud, not how it communicated when read quietly to oneself. They prized ornamental language, however this had one drawback…

The King James Bible was considered outdated on the day it was published. We often complain about the older language of the KJV being difficult to follow, but from day one the same complaint was heard; the Bible was considered to be using language that was 60-70 years out of date.

The preface to the original KJV doesn’t quote itself. It’s interesting that there are references in the preface to verses from other translations. In one spot, this affected the verse numbering system used, which means the citation referred to in the introduction is very difficult to find in the Bible it is introducing. It is as though the translation team did not have confidence in the product on offer, a fact confirmed by the following…

Many of the Translators continued to preach from existing versions after completion of the project.  Initial acceptance of the project was minimal to say the least.

Nonetheless, the King James Bible was considered a great achievement for both the 17th century church and the nation itself. “…It is easy to see it as England’s equivalent to the great baroque cathedral it never built…”

The King James edition of the Bible was published containing the Apocrypha. I know this is old news to some of you, but it’s interesting to mention it again in light of who currently most uses and reveres the KJV today.

The Translators did not view the KJV as guided by the principles of formal correspondence. They would be very surprised to see the current classification of their work among formal equivalence translations since their goal was dynamic equivalence. What we call formal equivalence was a Puritan value they were seeking to avoid.

The King James Bible of 1611 was, depending on who you ask, about 80% identical to the Tyndale Bible. Although the Lutheran pastor was unable to finish his Old Testament, and worked in exile and was eventually martyred, it’s clear the Translators held William Tyndale’s work in high esteem as they drafted the KJV.

Because of the original KJV was consider an update of an existing work, there is nothing of what we would call today “Library of Congress Publication Data.”  This means there isn’t an official record of its publication since it was considered an update of an existing work. Today, that’s almost — but not quite — like saying the book wouldn’t have been assigned an ISBN.

The authority of scripture did not negate the need to work out the details of ordinary living. “The difference came in deciding on the lawfulness of religious behavior and belief that were not mentioned in the Bible. If something wasn’t mentioned, did that mean God had no view on it? Or if it wasn’t mentioned, did that mean that God did not approve of it?” (p. 123)

Would the Translators be surprised to see their edition still on bookstore shelves today? Yes and no. I think they would be surprised to see the extreme cult following that has surrounded it, especially among those who claim that salvation cannot be found in any other translation.

It’s also doubtful that those same KJV-Only leaders would be aware of the history I just finished reading. The story frequently refers to Lancelot Andrewes, director of The First Westminister Company (one of six translation teams) who ought then to be revered as a saint by those who hold the KJV in such high esteem. But how many of those who claim the King James edition’s exclusivity have ever heard his name? Perhaps the truth would get in the way of the agenda.

The beauty and majesty of the KJV are unique. It has served us well enough for 402 years. For this writer however, perhaps it’s time now to move on…

July 31, 2012

Refuting the King James Only Position

  1. The argument from the text itself — In both the translator’s preface to the 1611 King James, and in the alternative renderings the translators inserted liberally throughout, there is allusion to the quotation from Augustine which says, in essence, “There is much to be gained from a variety of translations.” The translators themselves did not have consensus on some passages, and recognized that other translators would follow their work.
  2. The argument from “paraphrase” — We often hear the term “paraphrase” used today in reference to The Message bible, but from a linguistic viewpoint there is no such word, all renderings of text for different audiences constitutes translation. (Furthermore, Peterson worked from original languages.) The Message was designed for a specific audience (American) and a specific time (late 20th Century) just as the KJV was designed for a specific audience (British) and a specific time (early 17th century) and nothing makes this more clear than the insertion of “God forbid!” in Romans 6:1.  As a Jew, Paul would never insert God’s name here. (Nor would he be likely to do this as a Christian.) The British colloquialism is unique to the KJV, no other translation follows it at this point. God’s name should not be found in that verse if the translation is accurate. They took great liberties — let’s say they paraphrased — that verse, and this is just one of hundreds of similar issues.
  3. The argument from soteriology — Strong proponents of the KJV-only position totally contravene Revelation 22, and actually add the KJV as a requirement for salvation, inasmuch as a person must be saved through the KJV.  In their view, you cannot come to Christ through any other translation; you must be saved through the King James Bible. So much for the two travelers on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus post-resurrection. Having your “eyes opened” is insufficient.
  4. The argument from foreign missions — Anyone who has spent anytime on the mission field; any American who has shared the gospel with their Latino friends; any Canadian who has witness to their French-speaking Quebec neighbors knows the total absurdity of the KJV-only position in a world context. Still, some extreme groups actually attempt to teach non-Anglophones enough Elizabethan English so that they can read the English Bible and thereby meet Christ.
  5. The argument from history — If the King James is the only acceptable version of the Bible, then what did people do before 1611 to obtain salvation? You’d be surprised at the way some KJV-only advocates work around this. Just as Old Testament people were saved in anticipation of Christ’s perfect sacrifice; so also were people saved through the coming of this one translation. Or something like that. You would think that the Bible was part of the Holy Trinity. Or quadrinity. The Catholics add Mary, why shouldn’t the King James crowd add the Bible? (See item 3.)
  6. The argument from scholarship — Here I refer not to the leading Protestant and Evangelical academics — none of whom give this subject more than a passing thought — but the so-called ‘scholarship’ of the KJV-only advocates themselves. Basically, the problem is that their ‘arguments’ are a house of cards stacked with flawed logic and false premises. Owing more to the spirit of ‘conspiracy theories’ than to anything more solid, their rhetoric is mostly attacks on other translations, particularly the NIV, a translation despised for its popularity and hence a very visible target.  One conspiracy involves the removing of the phrase “Lord Jesus Christ” — taken out in cases where it was a scribal ‘run on’ — but if that was the NIV’s intent, it actually missed the opportunity nearly two-thirds of the time. Despite this lack of scholarship, naive followers eat up their every words because people would rather believe the conspiracy than trust the sovereignty of God to sort out any translation issues.
  7. The argument from a ‘house divided‘ — Like the Creation Science community, the KJV-only crowd is divided; but it’s not a simple “old earth versus young earth” type of disagreement. Simply put, some 1789 KJVs are better than other 1789 KJVs. There are nuances of spelling that reflect the textual decisions of different publishers and just because you own a King James Version you may not have the right one. Dig deep enough and you find unsettling division.
  8. The argument from the ostrich mentality — If you read any KJV-only blogs or websites at source, you actually don’t see the phrase, King James Version. With blinders firmly in place, they argue that there is only one Bible and it is the King James Bible. (So what are all those editions in Barnes and Noble and Family Christian? Answer: They are blasphemous.) This is much like saying that New Zealand doesn’t really exist, or that September 11th never happened. If someone’s worldview is that narrow, it doesn’t bode well to trust their opinions on anything else; you’re only going to get denial and revisionism.

Paul Wilkinson

September 7, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Another collection of things my web history says I visited this week:

  • The Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit simulcast happens for Canada September 29th to 30th with the rebroadcast of  speakers from the U.S. event plus Canadians Tim Schroeder and Reginald Bibby. 
  • Clergy, or people doing the work of clergy, are entitled to IRS tax breaks in the United States including a generous housing allowance. But this doesn’t get applied in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention that don’t offer ordination or equivalent credentialing.  So as applied by Baptists the housing allowance becomes a sexist issue.
  • And speaking of tax issues, is this another case of the head of a charity being overpaid? I refer to the case of lawyer Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
  • New blog of the week — except it’s over a year old — is More Christ by K.W. Leslie where you’ll find some serious devotional articles, but, inexplicably, also a Jesus Junk page where you can purchase the t-shirt at right.
  • With the school year in full swing, Jon Acuff asks, When should you let your kids use Facebook?  130+ comments and counting.
  • Like most of you, I always keep a Salvation Army Captain or two on speed dial, and mine also happens to blog at Il Capitano Inquisitore. This week, he’s dealing with the contrast between the S.A.’s statement on gay and lesbian issues, and what it doesn’t say about when those same ‘welcomed’ people want to step into a leadership role. He tells me the comments pale in comparison to the off-the-blog mail…
  • Juanita Bynum updates Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctive theology by introducing typing in tongues on her Facebook page.  To which I say: fsdgklhs ddtowyet scprnap.
  • “…The man told me in the letter that he had seethed in a quiet fury and then picked up his Bible and walked out…”  Russell D. Moore tackles the thorny issue of “closed communion” or “fencing the communion table” in a piece at Touchstone appropriately titled, Table Manners.
  • Meanwhile, back at his own blog, Moore looks at the internet debates between people of different denominational and doctrinal (D&D) stripes as not much different than the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) club debates of his high school.  “The Dungeons and Dragons clubs came to mind because those guys, at least in my junior high school, seemed to be obsessed with something that seemed to have no relevance at all to their lives, or to anyone else’s. But D&D became their identity.” Read more, or rather, read Moore.
  • Glen Scrivener has written a poem that takes three minutes to read and contains 106 phrases that the King James Bible introduced into the language. He calls it a King James-themed something or other. (It may turn up here in full on a slow day, but you can read it now!) It’s also a video which you can watch here, or literally watch it here in the comments section.
  • Shawn Stutz offers his rant about Bible Gateway’s ‘sanctified’ version of Farmville.
  • Are you ready for “The Great Atomic Power?”  That’s the theme of a bluegrass/country song by the Louvin Brothers.  But as Darrell at SFL informed me, Ira Louvin’s story is a little checkered.
  • This one stretches all the way back to late July, but I guess this really hot breaking Christian news story took a little longer to reach us here.
  • This week’s cartoon — in keeping with our green t-shirt theme — is from No Apologies Allowed, which describes itself as “Weekly apologetics cartoons and quotes for the faithful, the faithless, and the full-of-its.” The blog consists recently of responses to atheists and Mormons.

January 26, 2011

Wednesday Link List

IMHO, everything here is a must-read / must-watch this week.

  • Should I stay or should I go? If you’re in leadership, remember that not everybody is told to journey into a far country like Abraham, or for that matter Francis Chan. Steven Furtick shares a special 9-minute video message.
  • With people hungry or in great physical need, why invest money in Bible translation? This link will take you to a series of four articles by Eddie and Sue Arthur that will deal with the question(s), ‘Why not provide water or food or medicine first?‘ If you can’t get to all of them, read The Bible and Hunger.
  • Imagine my surprise on learning that the beloved King James translation of the Bible — celebrating a four-century anniversary this year — relied heavily on borrowing from a previous translation.
  • What burdens are you carrying?  Ron Edmondson asked his congregation that question and provides a statistical breakdown of the over 1,000 responses on the common struggles we all face. You can also watch the sermon he preached at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. I may come back to this in a few days here, too.
  • It’s Cross and the Switchblade all over again; only this time it’s the lions and the kings who are gettin’ ready for a rumble at the schoolyard. This video has actually been out six months now, but check out “God Save The Foolish Kings” by House of Heroes, a song that truly reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
  • Many have expressed concern over the ‘Christianization’ of yoga; concern with some churches offering yoga classes weekly. But now a Hindu group is sharing that concern, and want to see the religious roots of yoga brought to the forefront, albeit for different reasons.
  • What’s in a church name? Plenty. Do it right or you’ll end up — justifiably — on Fail Blog like this church did.
  • And speaking of names, next time you’re in a wider-market bookstore and you see the word “devotional” on a title, you can no longer assume it’s a Christian or even a religious title.
  • There will always be things that take place in the Body of Christ that cause the corners of our mouths to turn up a bit. But what about this whole subject of humor? In a rare editorial, the curator of  Sacred Sandwich explains why the Christian humor and satire site has been heard from less frequently over the past few months.
  • What can’t computers tell us? First it was CCLI tracking the top 25 worship songs; now it’s Bible Gateway telling us the top ten Bible verses. “This week on the countdown show, Matthew 6:33 moves up five notches from number 14 to number 9 [applause].”
  • What if you invited a seven-member band to perform at a service that only four people showed up for? Apparently, that happened to Mark Batterson, as outlined in this review of his new book Soulprint at Christian Post.
  • In an excellent lead to what follows, here’s a look at the spiritually-themed panels in the funnies section from the Comics Curmudgeon.
  • Our cartoon this week is artist Vic Lee’s 2007 tribute to the Left Behind series.

April 11, 2010

Just When I Thought I Had “King James Only” All Figured Out

Filed under: bible, cults, internet — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am

Apparently it’s not enough to be King James Only, you have to be “The-Real-King-James Only.”   I’ll have to check all the King James Bibles in the house to see if they comply.    If I can find any.   We generally don’t allow that sort of thing in our house.   Might give the kids the wrong idea.

This is from the Jackson Summit Baptist Church website, which is this week’s pick for Fundamentalist Website of the Week at the blog Stuff Fundies Like.  (But they should really call it a websight because everybody knows that s-i-t-e isn’t the Biblical spelling.)  As one comment noted, after making a big deal out of the word Saviour (the British / Canadian spelling) they spell it “wrong” on their home page.  Ooops!

One thing a lot of them do is change the spelling of words that end with the letters o-u-r to the more modern American spelling of “o-r”.  For example a  Behaviour becomes behavior.  Endeavour becomes endeavor. Favour becomes favor. Honour becomes honor. Labour becomes labor, and Valour becomes valor.  So, what’s wrong with that? Remember what the scripture said about a little leaven leaventh the whole lump?

The worst of this battle of “o-u-r” vs. “o-r” comes when dealing with the only begotten Son of God. The modern day counterfeiters have changed Saviour to Savior. They have given us a six-letter Savior in place of a seven-letter Saviour. In the Bible seven is the number of completeness, purity, and spiritual perfection. On the other hand six is the number of man and is earthly not heavenly. Every one has heard of 666.

The seven-letter Saviour is the only begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The six-letter Savior is the son of perdition, the anti Christ. He wants to be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14,) but not in a good way, but in an evil way.  The new versions, along with the new age movement, and some of the King James Bible counterfeits are preparing the way for this six-letter so called Savior. That’s the way he will spell his name, S-a-v-i-o-r not S-a-v-i-o-u-r.  No thank you Satan. I’m sticking with the seven-letter Saviour as portrayed in the old black Book that I inherited from my forefathers.

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.

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