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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Why would anybody still use the KJV?

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philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Why would anybody still use the KJV?

This thread is the consequence of many others where I have found myself in the unusual position of defending various 'modern translations' against what I felt to be unfair positions. However, although I have often defended other versions my abiding delight is in the KJV. In fact, I have found myself in exactly the position described by A W Tozer many years ago. I think this was posted on SI but I can't find it so my apologies for posting it again. Hopefully this will set the mood for this particular thread...[b]Confessions of a New Version Addict.[/b] by A.W.Tozer.

Since shortly after my conversion to Christ as a teen-ager I have been addicted to the habit of acquiring and being disappointed with new versions of the Scriptures, both revisions and new translations.

It is a habit I cannot shake off. In spite of a long record of frustrated hopes and cruel disappointments, to this day I have but to hear a new version of the Scriptures has come out and I am off to the book-seller to pick up a copy. As Ponce de Leon, otherwise a sensible enough fellow, knocked about the world looking for a nonexistent fountain of youth, so I continue to look for the new version that will make any other new versions unnecessary by bringing out the meanings of the Holy Scriptures as sharply as the developer brings out the details of the picture on a photographic plate.

But it never works out that way. After poring over the new book for a few days or weeks and finding that it is just one more version, I put it aside and return to my first love, the familiar King James Bible. I know its mistakes very well, its mistranslations and confused tenses; I should, for the Bible teachers are forever correcting it in public and the introductions to the new versions never tire of pointing out these flaws in the grand old English Bible.

It has been my experience that the new versions make at least one mistake for every one they correct, so by the time the trusting reader has reached the last chapter of the Book of Revelation he is back where he started and just goes out by that same door where in he went. And in the meanwhile he has lost the incalculable benefit of constant and intimate mental association with the clearest, richest and most beautiful English to be found anywhere among the libraries of the World, the Authorized Version.

I believe that my error has been that I have nursed the hope, perhaps subconsciously, that my dullness of spirit and coldness of heart are the result of not hearing the truth expressed clearly enough in the common language of the street; that if I could hear a promise or a commandment couched in different words it would be easier to believe and obey. But this is a gross fallacy. Words are only arbitrary symbols to convey meanings, and the meaning is all that matters.

God would impart an idea to mankind, so He employs a verbal symbol which the reader can understand. That is what language is for, and that is all it is for, unless, as I have suggested above, the language becomes a thing of beauty in inself and so exerts a cultural influence upon those who read it and hear it spoken. But that is secondary; the primary purpose of language is to express truth, and it is before the bar of truth that we must all stand at last.

Mark Twain, when asked what he did about the passages of Scripture he could not understand, is supposed to have replied that these did not bother him. "But the ones I can understand," he said, "often make me sweat." I believe that there is serious danger that we ignore the plain truth (which, incidentally, is about the same in all versions) while we search for novel meanings and more modern expressions of old truths which we know well enough but make no effort to obey.

The chief purpose of the Word of God is to reveal saving truth, to bring men to Christ, to make them holy, to draw them into loving communion with God and to teach them how to do good to all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith. Let a man study prayerfully any of the generally recognized versions, done by proficient and responsible scholars, and the Spirit will quicken the truth to his heart and lead him toward the ends God has in view for him. Almost everything depends upon his response to the Spirit's workings. While it is important that the translations be accurate and faithful, yet better versions do not make better men.

And this brings us to consider those translators who think to do God service by packing into the English text every possible shade of meaning the word will bear in the original. The synonyms are put in brackets and the reader, apparently, just takes his choice.

This would never do anywhere else. Imagine reading to a child. "Twinkle, twinkle (blink, wink, shine intermittently, sparkle), little (diminutive, small, wee, tiny) star (heavenly body, luminary, orb, sphere), How I wonder (question, puzzle over, dubitate) what you are (be, have identify with, belong under the description of), Up above (atop, opposite to down, contrary to direction of gravity) the world (the earth, the abode of human-kind) so high (elevated), Like a diamond (gem, precious stone, crystallized carbon) in the sky (the heavens, the firmament, the empyrean)"Yet this is the latest religious word game in evangelical circles and we are all urged to play at it. For myself, I cannot keep serious while reading such a version, so I just pass up these uncertain translators and turn to one who can make up his mind. I have a secret love for decisiveness.

It is quite natural for us humans to ignore the high moral intent of the Holy Scriptures and get lost in verbiage. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,"says the old version, and multitudes over the centuries have knelt in pentitence and tearfully sought to know true poverty of spirit; lately the fad seems to be to try to find shades of meaning for the words and to express them in more colloquial language. I wonder if anyone benefits by having the same thing said several different ways for him.

A few hundred years ago it was considered very much the thing for ministers preaching in English to interlard their sermons with frequent Greek and Latin words and phrases, always left untranslated by the speaker. His hearers were no doubt duly impressed with his learning but they had not the faintest notion what he was talking about. He has now been displaced by the preacher who knows enough Greek to make him uncomfortable and can never resist the temptation to turn every sermon into a classroom lecture. I have sometimes thought (and I trust not uncharitably) that the knowledge of a little Greek is a great convenience to such a man, for the Greek being a remarkably accommodating language enables him to preach anything he wants to without being challenged.

All this is not to cry down true scholarship nor to discourage honest attempts to put the Bible into modem speech. It is rather to confess that I have not become a holier man nor a better preacher by my incurable addiction to new versions of the Scriptures. I find that if I am failing to live in accordance with the will of God, I get no relief by reading about that will in a new translation.

As soon as God shows a man the way, it is his duty and happy privilege to walk in it. If he refuses or neglects to walk in it he may seek some temporary consolation by looking about for some version that will say the same thing to him in a different way. While he is jockeying about for new shades of meaning his conscience may get a bit of rest, but I am sure that a faithful God will not let him escape. Sometime he'll have to face up to the meaning of things, no matter in what version they are expressed.

As I write I can see fifteen versions before me without turning my head and there are many more stashed about here and there. And they all say the same thing to me; namely, that I must trust Christ Jesus the Lord as my Saviour, love God with all my heart, soul and mind, and my neighbour as myself. They all say that I must be holy, humble, obedient, prayerful, pure, kindly, courageous and faithful. They all say that God is my Father and the Holy Spirit the inhabitant of my nature through the mystery of the new birth. And they all end with the cry for Christ's returning.

I really don't need any more new versions, but I'll probably buy the next one that comes out. Maybe someday I'll find something sufficiently different to justify the expense. But I haven't up to now. To echo Tozer's last phrase... neither have I and I sometimes tease the users of other versions by saying "I am using the KJV. This is just a temporary measure... until I can find something better". I'll start some of my reasons in my next post.

*A W Tozer uses both titles for the same version; The Authorized Version and The King James Version.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2006/1/26 14:43Profile









 Re: Why would anybody still use the KJV?

It's always an uncomfortable situation to be at odds with a man of God like Tozer. I suppose I can agree with what he wrote in that there have been no modern versions that compare to the KJV.

The problem with this article is that he seems to either be ignorant of the facts, or ignoring the facts. Fact is the modern version movement (which began in 1881) uses a completely different school of manuscripts from almost all versions previous to 1881. The differences between the two schools is astronomical.

He also praises translators of new versions for at least trying. Which ones? Wescott & Hort, and the Unitarians that were involved in starting the whole thing?

Modern Versions are not simply the Bible put in modern language. That is deception. But that's what the publi$her$ want us to think.

I love Tozer... what a wealth of knowledge he left for us. But I don't share his opinion on this topic.

Krispy

 2006/1/26 15:59
CJaKfOrEsT
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Joined: 2004/3/31
Posts: 901
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 Re: Why would anybody still use the KJV?

Quote:

philologos wrote:
A W Tozer uses both titles for the same version; The Authorized Version and The King James Version.



Sounds a bit like Leonard Ravenhill reading from the NIV (Never Improved Version, AKA - KJV).

I like you find myself unable to decide which side to take in the KJV only debate, as I find myself wanting to argue against everyone (what was that verse about "contentions" again:-P). For me, it's not so much a matter of accuracy in translation, as accuracy in language. Like Tozer, I get a bit confused when reading the Amplified version, and find myself frustrated with preachers who insist on using it (I even heard a sermon delivered at an evangelistic outreach using the Amp) and confusing their hearers no end. I find that the KJV holds more "shades of meaning" due to the accuracy of language.

One passage that illustrates this well is John 3, particularly vv2-3:
Quote:

2 Rabbi, [b]we[/b] know that [b]thou[/b] art a teacher sent from God, for no [b]man[/b] can do the miracles that [b]thou[/b] doest except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto [b]thee[/b], except a [b]man[/b] except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.


I once heard Greg Laurie expound this discourse using a newer translation. He pointed out, that Nichodemus' use of "we" instead of "I" reminded him of the people who start asking for advise by begining with, "A friend of mine has this problem..." Nichodemus was speaking a a Pharisee, not an individual. The thing that is lost in modern translations, is that Jesus' response is to Nichodemus as an individual.
Consider also v7:
Quote:

7 Marvel not that I said unto [b]thee[/b], [b]Ye[/b] must be born again.


This is where we really see an separation between Nichodemus and the Pharisees, in Jesus' words. In response to Nichodemus' "How can a man be born when he is old?..", Jesus responds by clarifying. He isn't saying that Nichodemus needs to be born again, as much as that all the Pharisees (even perhaps all humanity) need to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God.

While this is only scratching the surface of this passage, my purpose for raising it, is to highlight something that is missed by removing "thee/thou" from the language, and replcing it with "you". These days it would be bad English to say "yous", when refering to a group of people, instead of "you". Well, once upon a time, it would have been bad English to use "you", when refering to an individual, instead of "thou". It's not that hard to grasp either. We use these rules all the time, when you consider comparing "I" with "we" and "me" with "us". Well al you need to do is compare "thou" with "I" as you compare "ye" with "we". And then "thee" with "me" and "you" with "us". Confused? That's okay, theirs always the modern translations until you get it.

Granted I am oversimplifying things here, but I would much rather read a translation that one can readinly assertain the meaning of the English word used, without the confusion that the varying degrees of slang and sarcasm create.

But hey, that's just me.:-)


_________________
Aaron Ireland

 2006/1/26 17:25Profile









 Re:

Good posts.

The clincher here for me was "The Comparative Charts" out there.
I always compare whatever I'm reading to the Greek or whatever, so I've stayed with KJ for that and other reasons also....

Learning more about the minds of Westcott & Hort, and then what the different "Versions" of God's Word has done to the Church in general....

But mostly... Look for and find the Comparative Charts ... they opened my eyes so wide, I thought they'd fall out of their place. Wow !!!


I'm not in the Ruckmanite camp, but "linguistically", the KJ can't be topped, and only true comparative analysis can prove that out and not just opinion or the "easier to read" reasoning.
I did read the NIV for 9 years, and before that other versions.
Went back to KJ in the 1980's for the reasons above.

Thanks for the thread RonB.
Annie

 2006/1/26 17:38
philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re: All quiet on the Western Front?

The are two main issues as work in the creation of a version of the scriptures; the manuscript evidence and the philosophy of translation. Let's introduce them one at a time and I will concentrate on the New Testament. I will try to keep this fairly simple so that more folk can benefit from it.

[b]1. The manuscript evidence.[/b]
We do not have any of the original documents. (these are usually called the autographs) In fact other than a few papyrus scraps our earliest manuscripts (mss) come from the era 300-400 AD. There are thousands of later mss but as far as I know there are not two which are identical. The question then is which is the most reliable and how do we make that decision? The scholars who work on this problem are known as Textual Critics and their studies are sometimes known as 'Lower Criticism'. (This must be distinguished from the rationalist 'Higher Criticism' of theologians who did not believe that they were handling the word of God and were out to prove their case) Originally all 'Textual Critics' believed they were handling the word of God and genuinely wanted to get back to the original, or as close to it as possible.

The earlier 'textual critics' were men like Jerome(c390 AD) and Erasmus (1516 AD). If they had two manuscripts which differed they tried to discover which was authentic. Let's introduce a little logic to illustrate my point. If two statements purporting to be genuine words of the Scripture differ they cannot both be right, although they [u]can[/u] both be wrong. (think about it. ;-)) The modern story of textual criticism begins with Erasmus not with Westcott and Hort. Erasmus was a famous renaissance scholar. He never became part of the Reformation and remained a loyal Catholic (he is sometimes described as 'once born') but his work was used by Martin Luther and William Tyndale. Erasmus used up to seven different manuscripts with variations in the text. He only had one copy of the Revelation and that had holes in it. Using these manuscripts Erasmus tried to construct what he believed the original 'autographs' had recorded. He created 'an eclectic' text ie a text which did not exist anyone in a single document. This provides us with an early caution when discussing Bible texts and translations. We often hear the phrase 'the Greek text'. There is really no such thing as "[u]the[/u] Greek text". For the record, about 80% of the all ancient New Testament manuscripts agree as to what the 'autographs' said. The variations are usually of very little significance, occasional variants in spelling and the order of words. It is usually said that every orthodox doctrine of Christianity can be constructed from any one varient families. BUT here and there are differences which some believe have a deeper significance.

That mention of 'families' deserves an explanation. When 'textual' scholars examine the variations in detail they sometimes find that different manuscripts agree with each other even though they may disagree with many other manuscripts. They conclude that this shows us links between those mss which agree. These groups are then called 'families' of mss. Erasmus' 7 mss were all from the same 'family'. This family likeness of Erasmus' mss is usually described as the 'Byzantine Textform'. Byzantium (Instanbul now) seems to have been the centre for these 'similar' manuscripts. Erasmus did not FIND the original Greek text, he attempted to reconstruct it from several sources. People who do what Erasmus did are called 'editors' in the study of textual criticism. There have been several 'editors' down through the years eg Erasmus 1516, Stephens 1550, and Beza 1598 and Elzevir 1624. It was Elzevir who used the phrase 'the received text' to describe the Byzantine Textform family although the term is now used more widely. Again we must stress that there is no single 'Byzantine Greek text' and the 'received text' is NOT a mss but the work of editors who used many mss. Other 'family textforms' were known but Erasmus and those who followed him did not have the same confidence in them as they had in the Byzantine Textform/Received Text.

That 'eclectic' (gathered from many) text originally produced by Erasmus and then modified by the other editors became the foundation for early translations into eg German and English bibles. Luther used it and so did Tyndale. So did the translators of the KJV. If those who believe the Received Text (Byzantine Textform) is the most reliable are right then the starting point of Luther's, Tyndale's and the KJV translators is a good foundation. They still have to work out their philosophy of translation but they would seem to be starting from the right place. If, as some believe, the Byzantine Textform is not the most reliable, then what?

Towards the end of the 1800s a group of men decided that it was time to 'revise' the KJV. There work resulted in the English 'Revised Version' of 1881. They were a mix of scholars and included some passionate advocates of the Received Text and the KJV. One great KJV supporter was a man named Scriviner. He was a highly regarded scholar, pro KJV, and on the Revision Committee. An American committee worked on the same task and produced their own 'Revision' which is very similar to the English RV and is known as the ASV. The ASV is widely available in just about any kind of bible software you are likely to be using. I will say more about their 'philosophy of translation' in a later post but the reason they caused so much friction was that both committees were convinced that another 'family' of mss was more reliable than the Byzantine/Received Text. The were conflicts within the committees and people like Scrivener fought their corner well but in the end the prevailing view was that a group of manuscripts (mss) identified as the 'Western' family (this is Western as starting from Alexandria not Texas!!) In particular they laid heavy dependence on two ancient mss called 'codices' (in a book shape rather than rolled up papyrii) these two documents now venerated or demonized by different scholars are the Codex Vaticanus (so called because it was held in the Vatican library) and the Codex Sinaiticus (not a nasal spray for head colds ;-).. well this is pretty heavy going stuff, you deserve a little light relief) so called because it was found in a waste-paper basket in St Catherine's Monastry in Sinai. The main spokesmen for the English RV revisions committee were two men; Westcott and Hort. Westcott and Hort developed a theory of the way in which the text had been transmitted down the centuries. Their theory 'won the day' and became the prevailing scholastic view.

I will pause and try to answer any question before moving on to the 'philosophy' of translation issue. This is a very simplistic history of what took place but the consequence is that differences between the KJV and the RV(ASV) are not the result of poor translators. The translators were very good at the job of translating. The problem arises because of the starting point of the underlying Greek text. If you were to draw a line from left to right and put the Received Text at the left end and the Western Text at the right end. The KJV would be over on the left and the RV(ASV) would be way over on the right. Since 1881 every new translation could be placed somewhere between those two extremities. The New American Standard Version would still be well over to the right but the NIV and the Good News bible would be further towards the left but not reaching the KJV. What this means is that subsequent 'editors' who have created new 'eclectic' texts have modified the extreme position held by Westcott and Hort. Even in the NIV and the Good News Bible the Received Text/Byzantine Textform has made a bit of a comeback. But it has to be said that the majority of academic scholars, even evangelical scholars, are still not convinced about the faithfulness of the Byzantine Textform. Many evangelicals are still convinced that the Western 'family' is a more reliable witness.

What are the likes of you and me to say at such a time? Well...?


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Ron Bailey

 2006/1/27 13:27Profile
PreachParsly
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Posts: 2164
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 Re:

Quote:
(this is Western as starting from Alexandria not Texas!!)



You mean there really is life outside of the United States? :-P


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Josh Parsley

 2006/1/27 13:52Profile
RobertW
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Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
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 Re:

Hi Ron,

Is their any consensus on [i]why[/i] there are variations between manuscripts? Is it error on the part of the copyists or additions and subtractions?

Thanks,

-Robert


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Robert Wurtz II

 2006/1/27 16:21Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Robert W's

Quote:
Is it error on the part of the copyists or additions and subtractions?

Consensus? I think probably most would say that there have been aspects of all three at different times and degrees.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2006/1/27 17:00Profile
Christinyou
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Joined: 2005/11/2
Posts: 3708
Ca.

 Re:

One small thought, if you were wanting to copy the best and the one that was outselling all others, which book would you try to put in a light that it was outdated and needed updating so you would have a better understanding of what the Author was saying. All along changing what the Author was saying, just for profits sake, for Mammon to increase his lies that were from the beginning, that is the difference between God and Mammon.

In Christ: Phillip


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Phillip

 2006/1/27 21:29Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Christinyou,
I not personally 'sold' on the idea of a 'conspiracy' on this matter although I know many are.


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Ron Bailey

 2006/1/28 10:08Profile





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