Why It’s Time to Dethrone King James

king-james-1

No, I’m not talking about LeBron James. I really have no opinion on basketball players and team rosters.

When it comes to Bible issues, though, I tend to be very opinionated. πŸ˜‰

And, quite simply, it’s time to fire King James.

I know that this issue tends to be very heated among some Christians. Some live and die by their King James Version (KJV). Before you get out your pitchforks and torches, let me give a caveat:

Ultimately, I believe that you should use whatever Bible version you will actually read and apply to your life. God cares more about that than he cares about the translation you use. From my own childhood I have also memorized verses from the KJV and I have difficulty thinking about those verses in any other way than the version I memorized. πŸ™‚

Having said that, let’s talk about the KJV as opposed to other versions in two specific areas.

The Text:

In a nutshell, since there were no copy machines in the ancient world, all Bibles were copied by hand. It was quite laborious, the the human factor involved in copying meant that human goofs eventually worked their way in to the text. Sometimes a copy would accidentally add or omit a word, phrase or sentence. Sometimes a copy accidentally repeated an entire line of text. Sometimes one scribe’s marginal notes were accidentally written into the text by another scribe.

All said and done, there is a process by which men and women familiar with the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (the languages of the Bible) sift through all of the manuscripts and work their way back to the form closest to the original text of the Bible. Along the way of the thousands of copies that exist we start to see trends and we can group the different manuscripts into textual “families.” The KJV is based on one of these families.

There is a school of thought that says the family upon which the KJV is based is not the oldest and most authentic family – that other manuscripts reflect an older and closer-to-the-original tradition. Those of us who hold to this school of thought prefer to use Bibles based on examining multiple manuscripts rather than a single family. Such Bibles are “eclectic” and are represented by the ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, and many other fine translations.

The Translation & Language:

There are several areas to consider when looking at the KJV vs. other versions.

– word count: I have heard KVJ advocates blast “corrupt versions” for not having nearly the same word count as the KJV. The idea is that the KJV is closer in word count to the original languages. But this is a false dilemma. There is no translation of any work that has identical word count to the original language. Anyone who has studied a foreign language understands this simple fact. There is ALWAYS something a little different when you translate from one language to another.

Thus we hold that the original manuscripts, those originally penned by the original authors, are the inspired Bible and Word of God. All other translations are faithful attempts at taking those ancient languages and transporting them to other languages, but the KJV is a translation just like any other. The originals are superior to any translation.

– out of date language: The KJV uses vocabulary, grammar, and syntax that are simply out of date. Because language is fluid and ever-changing, the way we spoke 400 years ago is radically different from how we speak today. Some words have fallen out of use. Some words have actually CHANGED meanings in the last 400 years. For a silly example, the KJV regularly uses words like ass and piss. One of my favorite KJV jokes is:

Q: Who is the stretchiest man in the Bible?
A: Abraham, because he tied his ass to a tree and walked up a mountain.

It’s not foul – it’s biblical…if you’re reading the King James Version. While I want my kids reading the Bible, I don’t really want them running around using Bible words that now have different meanings and usage.

One of the founders of the Reformation movement that broke away from the Catholic Church and birthed the Protestant movement (Lutherans, Baptists, Charismatics, etc.) was Martin Luther. In his lifetime, the Bible was only for use by the trained clergy because it was only available in Latin. Only priests could read it! He was a big believer that all people should have the Bible accessible in their own native language. Thus he began work to translate the Bible from Latin into his native German.

17th century English is not the native language of 21st century English speakers. In the spirit of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, Christians should be leading the way in making sure contemporary people have a Bible accessible to them in their own language and vernacular. It is possible to retain the meaning of the original text while making the vocabulary and style contemporary. There are several versions that accomplish this well.

I want to end by reiterating this important point:

The best Bible for you to use is the one you will actually read and apply to your life.

If that’s the KJV for you – more power to you! If it’s not, there’s nothing wrong with other translations.

God’s Word has been impacting people’s lives for thousands of years – even before the King James Version was around. It will continue to impact lives long into the future, even when our contemporary versions become the outdated versions. πŸ™‚

As always, I welcome conversation and dialogue about the issues. Please remain civil and polite – even in disagreement!

16 Replies to “Why It’s Time to Dethrone King James”

  1. Great post! I use the NIV, although I’m currently using the NLT (which is what my mom uses) to do a one year Bible plan, and my dad uses NKJV. I’ve heard some things about the KJV being “superior”, but that doesn’t really make sense to me. And while I don’t want to judge an opinion I don’t know much about, I’m in agreement with you. If we struggle with understanding the KJV to the point of not getting anything out of it, what good is it doing us? As long as it’s not some wacky translation (I’ve seen a few of those), we should use what we can understand. I believe God can work in people’s lives just as well through the NIV as through the KJV. I also don’t understand the thing about the people who translated the Bible back in King James’ day supposedly doing it better than modern translations. There were Bible scholars doing it both then and now. And the KJV and modern translations were both translated into some form of English. None of them will be exactly the same as the original. Just my thoughts…
    (Btw, loved the joke!) πŸ˜‰

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  2. I do believe that the KJV is the most accurate translation in the English language. The problem with the modern translations is while they come from the oldest manuscripts that doesn’t mean that they are most accurate. They come from the Roman Catholic manuscripts. If you look at the Catholic bible and the Jehovahs Wittness bible they read just the NIV and other modern translations. The KJV “family” of manuscripts comes from the majority text, hence the KJV agrees with the majority of Greek and Hebrew texts available. I just preached last Sunday morning while going through the passage in Acts about the Ethiopian eunuch, why we use the KJV. Acts 9:37 is completely left out of the modern translations and with out that verse it reads salvation through baptism instead of faith in Jesus Christ.

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    1. Modern translations use a variety of texts to build reconstruct the Bible. Just because a huge percentage of manuscripts agree on something doesn’t mean the majority is right. If an altered text became repeatedly copied more than the original it would still be wrong.

      And you never addressed my point of antiquated language. Even if the manuscripts were kept, why not at least update the language and style?

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  3. Thank you for writing an article that finally presents the most important issue: actually reading what you have. I have heard a great deal from multiple perspectives on the version issue. People talk about dynamic equivalence versus word for word translations. They discuss families and time periods. Recently, I have even heard a great deal on the flaws of the individuals behind the KJV. However, in all this heady, educated talk; no one ever mentions the importance of actually opening the pages. Christians may differ on the translation they choose to cling to; but as you cling to it, please cling to the Living Word rather than a closed cannon.

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  4. I’m one of those that disagrees that it time to switch. I believe the KJV is more accurate. I think those that translated it back in King James’ time were super careful to get it right and probably had God helping them. I’m sure they prayed before they started. Also, they understood the languages better than we do. While I agree that word count is stupid, I don’t agree with your assessment of it being antiquated.
    The language seems difficult because it was translated as close to what they would have said in that day. Can you imagine how confused they’d get listening to us talk in this century? Newer versions leave off important parts or phrase it so it has a slightly different meaning. “Verily, verily” may seem repetitive, but Jesus did not stutter. That phrase means: listen up; this is important. Jesus wanted them to pay particular attention to what he said.
    There are a number of verses that are loosely translated to make them easy to read in today’s vernacular, but they are not always translated correctly. I used to follow another blog that used any version that struck their fancy. Some verses were fine, but there were some that were slightly twisted from the KJV, enough to change the meaning.
    Don’t be lazy when it comes to reading the Bible. Learn it. Pray before starting to read. There’s nothing wrong with the KJV. It’s our lack of understanding that’s the problem.
    If you do switch, I will discontinue following you. I’ll take this moment to inform you that I have appreciated most of your blogs.

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    1. “I believe the KJV is more accurate. I think those that translated it back in King James’ time were super careful to get it right and probably had God helping them. I’m sure they prayed before they started. Also, they understood the languages better than we do.”

      We disagree on the accuracy. While I’m sure the translators were godly men, they did not understand the ancient languages better than we do. Archaeological discoveries of manuscripts since the 19th century on have improved our understanding of the original languages beyond what they knew in 1611.

      As for language being antiquated, it is really not something to be argued. It is antiquated – many of the words they used in 1611 are not words in use any more. The words are antiques from a bygone era.

      I am not lazy when it comes to reading the Bible. I have taken classes in biblical Hebrew and Greek so that I can have a better understanding.

      I’m not sure what you mean about “if you do switch.” Switch from what to what?

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  5. I like the pastor who was being interviewed by a church pulpit committee. When asked what version of the Bible he used, replied, “I translate it myself, so I use my own!.”

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  6. God inspired post! in my opinion anyway πŸ™‚ I love exploring different translations but my heart is always drawn back to the one I love and no it is not KJV. Great post.

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  7. Pastor Linzey Ive just recently begun to think the KJV is a bit problematic and its not easy to admit that. The language is beautiful to me actually, but at times I need help understanding it. Thats not how it should be. So i have begun looking into other translations. I feel like a traitor in a way but im coming to terms with it because I know The Lord wants me to know what Hes talking about!

    Loved this post. πŸ˜„

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    1. I’m glad that you’re interested in knowing what He’s talking about – too many of us are not proactive in hearing Him!

      If you’re looking for something more literal and wooden, check out the NASB or RSV. If you’re looking for something that takes the words seriously but tries to get at a better sense of the meaning, check out the NIV.

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