2KJV or not to?

I have never used the King James Version (KJV), or Authorised Version as it is sometimes called. My mother had an old dusty one in our house and I pulled it out and read it as a child, and so much of it I just did not understand. In school we prayed “Our Father, we chart in heaven, hollow be thy name…” (well, at least I did!) and I wondered why I was made to sing that The Lord was my shepherd, but I’ll not want him. The language is just so old-fashioned. I was once handed a tract on a city street that read “We must needs die” – now that syntactical form doesn’t exist today in any form of English that I know of! At the SU camp where I was saved, I had bought a New International Version (NIV) paperback before I even made the decision; it read just like a story book, the text flowed, and the meaning was clear. God’s word should impart to us easily and move our thinking and emotions. This is what the translators fought for against Rome centuries ago. Some even died for it: the right to have the word of God in your own language. That meant intelligible reading, not like ancient Latin that only priests understood.

This was the very aim of the KJV, and it succeeded. It became one of the most popular books ever published, and left its brilliant legacy for generations. It was a triumph for the gospel, and forms a part of our shared literature as much as Shakespeare, if not more. I shall give it due praise and  revere it as a historical landmark for the gospel and the English language. But that is what it is to me: historical. We have classes devoted to the reading of Shakespeare and Chaucer that look at the ancient forms of our language in academic terms, trying to interpret the old language forms and tracing the changes over time. The KJV fits into this, so leave it there. Speakers of 21st century English are hard-pressed to grasp it, so read to them from all the newer versions. There are MANY to choose from, and yes, some are better than others. You need to understand just how they work, their pros and cons, etc.

There is NO perfect translation; meaning can be hard to convey over different languages. But the KJV is NOT a particularly good one, to be honest. It is too literal rather than meaning-based. For example, if I said to a French speaker “you’re pulling my leg” it would make no sense to them. Their equivalent expression is “take my eye” with an attending gesture of the hand removing your own eyeball.

And there is a portion of the KJV that should not be there! Erasmus (a priest and scholar who advocated reform within the Catholic church) was compiling his Textus Receptus, consisting of all the original Greek texts of the New Testament; this was used to form the base of the Lutheran Bible, Tyndale’s work, and the KJV. Erasmus could not find 1 John 5:7 in any of the ancient texts and put out a call to all scholars to find one. A well-meaning monk decided such a verse of scripture should not be lost so back-translated it from the Latin Vulgate to Greek and sent it to Erasmus. That verse has NEVER been found in any Greek manuscript dating before the 16th century! It should not be there.

Sorry if I bursted someone’s bubble, but the KJV is NOT the be-all and end-all version of scripture to warrant deliberate ignorance of all others, or even their detriment.

Grace be with you.

2 thoughts on “2KJV or not to?

  1. KjV-onlyism is alive and well on this side of the Atlantic.
    And among my fellow Catholics there is a small (but vociferous) Douay-Rheims-only faction.

    As you say, all translations are inadequate. The KJV should certainly be cherished for its cultural/historic significance. Personally I prefer the RSV and the Jerusalem Bible.
    One thing that sets my teeth on edge translations introducing “gender-neutral” language. AARRGH!

    Btw, love “we chart in Heaven”. Is that like the hymn “Gladly the Cross-eyed bear”?
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen


  2. Yeah, there are loads of these in music. Peter Kay does some brilliant ones of his own in his stand-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cylsLhQaPFw

    Dave Allen also told how he truly thought, growing up in Catholic Ireland, that the priest over a grave gave the blessing “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and into the hole he goes” LOL


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