Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
It is widely believed that the King James Bible is too antiquated and difficult to understand for the 21st century, but the following points need to be taken into consideration:
1. THE KJV DOES HAVE SOME ANTIQUATED WORDS AND FORMS OF SPEECH, BUT THERE ARE NOT TOO MANY OF THESE.
The Trinitarian Bible Society publishes a list of 618 antiquated words. It is called Bible Word List. Most of these can be understood by considering the context. There are only about two hundred words in the KJV that have become so antiquated that they have changed meanings or have dropped entirely out of common usage, so that you really need a dictionary to understand them.
David Norris, author of The Big Picture: The Authority and Integrity of the Authentic Word of God, observes, “With respect to genuinely archaic words, their actual number in the Authorised Version is surprisingly small, possibly something less than 200. Apart from passages where the teachings themselves are quite complex and therefore couched in language of similar complexity, the history, doctrine, and precepts of Scripture can be read easily by anyone. Independent educational reading level indicators have shown time and again that the Authorised Version is far easier to read than most modern versions and is well within the reach even of children. The view that the AV is more difficult to read than other versions is just not supported by the evidence” (“Out with the Old, in with the New,” blessedquietness.com).
Following are some examples of archaic words in the KJV:
bewray (Pr. 27:16) = reveal, declare
carriages (Ac. 21:15) = baggage
charger (Mr. 6:25) = platter
devotions (Ac. 17:23) = objects of worship“
convenient (Ro. 1:28) = fitting, proper
conversation (Gal. 1:13) = conduct
do you to wit (2 Cr. 8:1) = make known to you
emulation (Ro. 11:14) = jealousy
fetched a compass (Ac. 28:13) = circled
forward (Ga. 2:10) = earnest, diligent
gainsaying (Ro. 10:21) = to speak against
instant (2 Ti. 4:2) = steadfast, persistent, active, aggressive
leasing (Ps. 4:2) = lying
let (2 Th. 2:7) = restrain
liberality (1 Co.. 16:3) = with grace and thanksgiving and pleasure
lively (Ac. 7:28) = living
mean (Pr. 22:29; Ac. 21:39; Pr. 22:29) = insignificant
mete (Ex. 16:18) = measure
noised (Ac. 2:6) = reported
prevent (1 Th. 4:15) = precede
quick (Heb. 4:12) = living
rank (Ge. 41:6) = fat, healthy
room (Lk. 14:7) = seat
scrip (Mt. 10:10) = bag
simplicity (2 Co. 11:3) = singleness of heart toward the truth, not corrupted
take no thought (Mt. 6:25) = be not anxious
wax (2 Ti. 3:13) = increase, progress
wont (Mt. 27:15; Ac. 16:13) = custom, habit
wot (Ac. 3:17) = to know
2. THE KING JAMES BIBLE’S ENGLISH IS SUPERIOR TO MODERN ENGLISH
I have about 100 books in my library that extol the excellence of the King James Bible and its English. The following statements could be greatly multiplied.
In The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation (Wheaton: Crossway Book, 2002), Dr. Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College, continually applauds the KJV, praising its beauty, dignity, and power. He uses it as an example of what good Bible translation is all about. He calls for modern translation work to be done after “the King James tradition” (p. 282, 284). The book contains many quotations exalting the KJV, such as the following:
“peerless literary masterpiece” (p. 270)
“unquestionably the most beautiful book in the world” (p. 267)
“the noblest monument of English prose” (p. 258)
“incomparably the best English translation in its rhythm” (p. 259)
“when it comes to stylistic range and flexibility, the King James Bible is peerless” (p. 227)
“the touchstone of affective power” (p. 206)
“matchless in its literary qualities among all English translations” (p. 188)
“the supremely literary English translation” (p. 163)
“immeasurably superior” (p. 163)
“the touchstone of literary excellence” (p. 62)
“stylistically the greatest English Bible translation ever produced” (p. 51)
Joseph Philpot, 1861: “[I]t is because the language of our Bible is such pure, simple, unaffected, idiomatic, intelligible English that it has become so thoroughly English a book, and has interwoven itself with our very laws and language” (Joseph Philpot, Gospel Standard, February 1861).
William Muir, Our Grand Old Bible, 1911: “The influence of the Authorised Version, alike on our religion and our literature, can never be exaggerated. ... The Authorized Version has often been called A WELL OF ENGLISH UNDEFILED, and much of its purity is due to the fact that its water was drawn from the ancient springs. It has the universal note which gives it a place among the immortals. IT HAS THE DIVINE TOUCH, EVEN IN ITS DICTION, WHICH LIFTS IT ABOVE THE LIMITATIONS OF LOCALITY AND TIME, AND MAKES IT VALID AND LIVING FOR ALL THE AGES. Like A RARE JEWEL FITLY SET, the sacred truths of Scripture have found such suitable expression in it, that we can hardly doubt that they filled those who made it with reverence and awe, so that they walked softly in the Holy Presence. ... THE ENGLISH BIBLE IS STILL FRESH AND MIGHTY, EVEN IF IT HAS ARCHAIC OR OBSOLETE WORDS. IT HAS WAXED OLD, BUT IT HAS NOT DECAYED. ITS YOUTH ABIDES, AND THE SUN NEVER SETS ON ITS SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. Many volumes have perished since it first saw the light; but its message is as modern as ever. It has not only kept up-to-date, it has anticipated every need of men, and still responds to every new demand” (Muir, Our Grand Old Bible, 1911, pp. 131, 192, 238).
John Livingston Lowes (1867-1945), American scholar of English literature, 1936, called the King James Bible “THE NOBLEST MONUMENT OF ENGLISH PROSE.” This was the title of the chapter that he contributed to Essays in Appreciation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936).
Arthur Clutton-Brock, essayist, critic, and journalist, 1938, said: “The Authorized Version of the Bible is a piece of literature without any parallel in modern times. Other countries of course, have their translations of the Bible, but they are not great works of art” (Vernon Storr, editor, The English Bible: Essays by Various Writers, Clutton-Brock, “The English Bible,” 1938).
Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), “the most prominent newspaperman, book reviewer, and political commentator of his day,” said this about the King James Bible: “It is the most beautiful of all the translations of the Bible; indeed, IT IS PROBABLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF WRITING IN ALL THE LITERATURE OF THE WORLD. ... Its English is extraordinarily simple, pure, eloquent, lovely. It is a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry, at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of” (Gustavas Paine, Preface, The Learned Men).
Gustavus Paine, author of The Men Behind the KJV, 1977, wrote: “... not only was theirs the best of the English Bibles; THERE IS, IN NO MODERN LANGUAGE, A BIBLE WORTHY TO BE COMPARED WITH IT AS LITERATURE. ... indeed the 1611 rhythms have been potent to affect writing, speaking, and thinking ever since the learned men produced them. ... They knew how to make the Bible scare the wits out of you and then calm you, all in English as superb as the Hebrew and the Greek” (pp. 169, 171, 172).
Jonathan Yardley, book critic for the Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize winner: “King James Bible is THE GREATEST WORK EVER WRITTEN IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, PERIOD” (quoted in Adam Nicholson, God’s Secretaries, in the section “Praise for God’s Secretaries” which follows the table of contents).
Adam Nicholson, historian, 2003: “One quality, or at least … one combination of qualities: an absolute simplicity of vocabulary set in a rhythm of the utmost stateliness and majesty … The characteristic sound of the King James Bible is … like the ideal of majesty itself … indescribably vast and yet perfectly accessible, reaching up to the sublime and down to the immediate and the concrete, without any apparent effort” (God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, pp. 230, 231).
3. THE SLIGHT ANTIQUATION OF THE KJV CAN BE UNDERSTOOD AS AN ADVANTAGE.
Edward F. Hills, Ph.D., textual criticism, Harvard: “The Bible is not a modern, human book. It is not as new as the morning newspaper, and no translation should suggest this. If the Bible were this new, it would not be the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is an ancient, divine Book, which nevertheless is always new because in it God reveals Himself. Hence THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE SHOULD BE VENERABLE AS WELL AS INTELLIGIBLE, and the King James Version fulfills these two requirements better than any other Bible in English” (The King James Version Defended, p. 219).
Leland Ryken, Wheaton College: “I believe that it is correct for an English translation to preserve AN APPROPRIATE ARCHAIC FLAVOR as a way of preserving the distance between us and the biblical world. Joseph Wood Krutch used an evocative formula in connection with the King James Bible when he spoke of ‘an appropriate flavor of a past time.’ ... A SACRED BOOK SHOULD SOUND LIKE A SACRED BOOK, NOT LIKE THE DAILY NEWSPAPER. It should command attention and respect, and to do so it cannot be expressed in the idiom of the truck stop. The failure of modern colloquial translations is frequently a failure of tone” (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 182, 278, 279, 280).
“Before I started reading the KJV my English was OK. Not terrible, just better than average. Since reading it as my main Bible, however, my use of English has become both more precise and more concise” (A.S. Neworth, Royal Navy).
4. THE OVERALL READING LEVEL OF THE KJV IS NOT VERY HIGH.
The KJV is written on an 8th to 10th grade level. This was proven in the 1980s by a computer analysis made by Dr. Donald Waite. He ran several books of the KJV through the Right Writer program and found that Genesis 1, Exodus 1, and Romans 8 are on the 8th grade level; Romans 1 and Jude are on the 10th grade level; and Romans 3:1-23 is on the 6th grade level. I would guess that many parts of the four Gospels are on that same level if not lower.
The KJV was rated as “very easy prose” by Dr. Rudolf Flesch. In the book The Art of Plain Talk (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946), Dr. Flesch analyzed the reading level of various documents and rated them on a scale from Very Easy to Very Difficult. He testified, “The best example of very easy prose (about 20 affixes per 200 words) is the King James Version of the Bible...” Dr. Flesch is most famous for the book Why Johnny Can’t Read.
5. THE KJV HAS A SMALL VOCABULARY.
While Shakespeare used a vocabulary of roughly 21,000 English words, the vocabulary of the King James Bible is composed of only 6,000 (Albert Cook, The Authorized Version of the Bible and Its Influence, 1910). This compares favorably to the vocabulary of the Hebrew Old Testament, which is 5,642 words, and the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, which is about 4,800 words.
6. THE KJV USES SIMPLE WORDS; MOST ARE ONLY ONE OR TWO SYLLABLES.
“The entire KJV averages 1.31 syllables and 3.968 letters per word. This word length puts the KJV in the same readability category as the children’s books” (D.A. Waite, Jr., The Comparative Readability of the Authorized Version, Bible for Today, Collingswood, NJ, 1996).
Consider Psalm 23, for example: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
Of the 119 words in this Psalm, only 24 are more than two syllables.
7. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN A BIBLE TRANSLATION IS NOT SIMPLE LANGUAGE BUT FAITHFULNESS TO THE ORIGINAL.
Dr. Donald Waite has made the following comments on this subject: “The Bible is not a first grade primer. It is God’s book. It is a book that must be diligently read. It is only by ‘searching the Scriptures’ that we find what pertains to life and death. It tells of creation, of the mighty universe, of the future or the past, of the Mighty God and His wonders, of the Holy Spirit’s ministry among Christians, of the Son of God’s great sacrifice for sin, of home in Heaven for the believer, and of a fiery hell for the unsaved. How dare we assume that His Word can be capsulated in a comic book [or a version that reads ‘like the morning newspaper’]. Some people say they like a particular version because ‘it’s more readable.’ Now, readability is one thing, but does the readability conform to what’s in the original Greek and Hebrew language? You can have a lot of readability, but if it doesn’t match up with what God has said, it’s of no profit. In the King James Bible, the words match what God has said. You may say it’s difficult to read, but study it out. [At times it’s] hard in the Hebrew and Greek and, perhaps, even in the English in the King James Bible. But to change it around just to make it simple, or interpreting it instead of translating it, is wrong. You’ve got lots of interpretation, but we don’t want that in a translation. We want exactly what God said in the Hebrew or Greek brought over into English” (Waite, Defending the King James Bible, p. 242).
Also consider this statement by Leland Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College: “An English Bible translation should strive for maximum readability only within the parameters of accurately expressing what the original actually says, including the difficulty inherent in the original text. The crucial question that should govern translation is what the original authors actually wrote, not our speculations over how they would express themselves today or how we would express the content of the Bible. The fact that the New Testament was written in koine Greek should not lead translators to translate the Bible in a uniformly colloquial style. Finally, a good translation does not attempt to make the Bible simpler than it was for the original audience” (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 100, 101).
8. PART OF THE ANTIQUATED FEEL OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE IS ITS USAGE OF THE SECOND PERSON SINGULAR PRONOMINAL FORMS, “THEE,” “THOU,” “THY,” AND “THINE.”
A large part of the antiquated feel of the King James Bible is due to the retention of the old English distinction between the singular and plural second person pronoun (thee, thou, thy, thine - ye, you, yours). This was done to enable accurate translation of the Hebrew and Greek. Modern English has lost this distinction.
Pronouns beginning with “t” are singular (thee, thou, thy, thine), and those beginning with “y” are plural (ye, you, yours). One way to remember this is that a “t” resembles one stick, while a “y” resembles two sticks. (“Thy” and “thine” correspond to “your” and “yours.” If the noun placed after “thy” begins with a vowel sound, use “thine” instead: thy book; thine eyes.)
The King James translators did not adopt thee, thou, thy, thine because these were common to their day, but because they wanted to faithfully translate the original Scripture into English. These expressions had already dropped out of common English by 1611 when the King James Bible was published. This is obvious from the translator’s Preface and other writings by the KJV translators. The distinction between the singular and plural in English began in the late 13th century and continued commonly until the 1500s.
The British biblical scholar J.B. Lightfoot wrote, “Indeed, we may take courage from the fact that the language of our English Bible is not the language of the age in which the translators lived, but in its grand simplicity stands out in contrast to the ornate and often affected diction of the literature of the time” (The Divine Original, Trinitarian Bible Society, London, England).
“It is often asserted or assumed that the usage of the AV represents the speech of 300 years ago, and that now, three centuries later, it should be changed to accord with contemporary usage. But this is not at all a correct statement of the problem. The important fact is this. THE USAGE OF THE AV IS NOT THE ORDINARY USAGE OF THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY: IT IS THE BIBLICAL USAGE BASED ON THE STYLE OF THE HEBREW AND THE GREEK SCRIPTURES. The second part of this statement needs no proof and will be challenged by no one. It is undeniable that where the Hebrew and Greek use the singular of the pronoun the AV regularly uses the singular, and where they use the plural it uses the plural. Even in Deuteronomy where in his addresses, and apparently for rhetorical and pedagogical effect, Moses often changes suddenly, and seemingly arbitrarily, from singular to plural or from plural to singular, the AV reproduces the style of the text with fidelity. THAT IS TO SAY, THE USAGE OF THE AV IS STRICTLY BIBLICAL” (Oswald T. Allis, “Is a Pronominal Revision of the Authorized Version Desirable?”).
Linguistic scholar A.T. Robertson made the following observation about the King James Bible: “No one today speaks the English of the Authorised Version, or ever did for that matter, for though, like Shakespeare, it is the pure Anglo-Saxon, yet unlike Shakespeare IT REPRODUCES TO A REMARKABLE EXTENT THE SPIRIT AND LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE” (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 56).
The style of the King James Bible goes back to the masterly work of William Tyndale in the early 16th century. British historian James Froude observes: “The peculiar genius—if such a word may be permitted—which breathes through it—the mingled tenderness and majesty—the Saxon simplicity—the preternatural grandeur—unequalled, unapproached in the attempted improvements of modern scholars—all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man—William Tyndale. Lying, while engaged in that great office, under the shadow of death, the sword above his head and ready at any moment to fall, he worked, under circumstances alone perhaps truly worthy of the task which was laid upon him—his spirit, as it were divorced from the world, moved in a purer element than common air” (Froude, History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, III, p. 84).
Following are some examples of how important it is to retain the distinction between second person singular and plural:
Genesis 18:3-4. “And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in THY sight, pass not away, I pray THEE, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray YOU, be fetched, and wash YOUR feet, and rest YOURSELVES under the tree.” In verse 3 Abraham is speaking to and of the Lord (thy, thee), but in verse 4 he is speaking of all three of the persons who appeared to him, including the two angels (you, your, yourselves).
Exodus 4:15. “THOU shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with THY mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach YOU what YE shall do.” THOU and THY refer to Moses, but YOU refers to the nation.
Exodus 29:42. “This shalt be a continual burnt offering throughout YOUR generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD where I will meet YOU, to speak there unto THEE.” YOU, referring to the children of Israel, is explained in the following verse, but THEE refers to Moses, who had the holy privilege of hearing the words of God directly (Leviticus 1:1).
1 Samuel 17:46-47. “This day will the LORD deliver THEE into mine hand; and I will smite THEE, and take THINE head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give YOU into our hands.” In verse 46 David is speaking of Goliath (thee, thine), but in verse 47 he speaking of the Philistine people (you).
2 Samuel 7:23. “And what one nation in the earth is like THY people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for YOU great things and terrible, for THY land, before THY people, which THOU redeemedst to THEE from Egypt.” Here David is in prayer to God, thus accounting for the singular words THY and THOU, referring to God. David turns his attention to the people Israel when he uses the plural YOU. If “you” were used throughout, the reader would not understand who David was addressing.
2 Chronicles 7:17-19. “And as for THEE, if THOU wilt walk before me...and do all that I have commanded THEE...Then I will establish the throne of THY kingdom...But if YE turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments...and shalt go and serve other gods...” God is first speaking to Solomon (thee, thou, thy), then He is speaking to all of the people (ye).
Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give YOU a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” There is a long-running debate by liberal and even New Evangelical scholars that Isaiah 7:14 is only secondarily a Messianic prophecy and that its primary fulfillment was in Isaiah’s day. For example, the note in the NIV Study Bible says of the word virgin: “May refer to a young woman betrothed to Isaiah (8:3), who was to become his second wife (his first wife presumably having died after Shear-jashub was born).” In fact, the prophecy is not directed to Isaiah personally but to the nation Israel as a whole, and this is clear in the KJV, because it indicates properly that “YOU” is plural, not singular. This important information is lost in the modern English versions, including the New King James.
Jeremiah 5:14. “Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because YE speak this word, behold, I will make my words in THY mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.” The people (ye) were speaking this word, and God would make Jeremiah’s (thy) mouth fire. By comparing the NKJV we can see that this distinction is lost in the modern versions: “Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: "Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them.”
Matthew 26:64. “Jesus saith unto him, THOU hast said: nevertheless I say unto YOU, Hereafter shall YE see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The singular THOU refers to the high priest, but the plural YOU refers to all who will see Christ in the day of His glory (Rev. 1:7).
Luke 5:24. “But that YE may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto THEE, Arise, and take up THY couch, and go into THINE house.” Jesus was saying that it was for the purpose of showing all of Israel (ye) that He would command the sick man to be healed (thee, thy, thine).
Luke 22:31-32. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have YOU, that he may sift YOU as wheat: But I have prayed for THEE, that THY faith fail not: and when THOU art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” In verse 31, Jesus says that Satan wanted to sift all of the disciples (you), and in verse 32 he focuses on Peter alone (thee, thy, thou).
John 3:7. “Marvel not that I said unto THEE, YE must be born again.” The message was spoken to the individual (THEE), Nicodemus, but it encompasses all men (YE).
John 3:11, 12. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and YE receive not our witness. If I have told YOU earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall YE believe, if I tell YOU of heavenly things?” By using the plural pronoun, Christ is addressing Israel as a whole and Israel’s religious leaders as a whole.
John 14:9. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with YOU, and yet hast THOU not known me, Philip?“ Jesus first refers to all of the disciples (you), then to Philip personally (thou).
Acts 13:34. “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give YOU the sure mercies of David.” God is not speaking to Christ but to all of His people.
1 Corinthians 8:9-12. “Take heed lest ... this liberty of YOURS ... if any man see THEE which hast knowledge ... through THY knowledge ... But when YE sin.” Paul first addresses the whole church at Corinth and believers in general (yours), then focuses on the individual believer and his individual responsibility (THEE).
2 Timothy 4:22. “The Lord Jesus Christ be with THY spirit. Grace be with YOU.” The singular THY refers to Timothy, to whom the epistle was written (2 Tim. 1:1), but the plural YOU refers to others who were also included in Paul’s final greetings, “Priscilla and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 4:19).
Titus 3:15. “All that are with me salute THEE. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with YOU all.” Here, the singular THEE refers to Titus, but the plural YOU refers to the church in Crete (Tit. 1:5), and to all who loved Paul in the faith.
Philemon 21-25. “Having confidence in THY obedience I wrote unto THEE, knowing that THOU wilt also do more than I say ... I trust that through YOUR prayers I shall be given unto YOU ... There salute THEE ... the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with YOUR spirit.” The singular THEE refers to Philemon, but as this short letter was also addressed to “Apphia ... Archippus ... and to the church in thy house” (v. 2), the plural form YOU, YOUR is used in verses 3, 22, and 25.
9. PREVIOUS GENERATIONS EDUCATED THE PEOPLE UP TO THE BIBLE, AND THAT IS WHAT WE SHOULD DO TODAY.
It is my conviction that we don’t need a new translation today; we need to renew our study of the excellent one that we already have.
“Instead of lowering the Bible to a lowest common denominator, why should we not educate people to rise to the level required to experience the Bible in its full richness and exaltation? Instead of expecting the least from Bible readers, we should expect the most from them. The greatness of the Bible requires the best, not the least. ... The most difficult of modern English translations--the King James--is used most by segments of our society that are relatively uneducated as defined by formal education. ... research has shown repeatedly that people are capable of rising to surprising and even amazing abilities to read and master a subject that is important to them. ... Previous generations did not find the King James Bible, with its theological heaviness, beyond their comprehension. Nor do readers and congregations who continue to use the King James translation find it incomprehensible. Neither of my parents finished grade school, and they learned to understand the King James Bible from their reading of it and the preaching they heard based on it. We do not need to assume a theologically inept readership for the Bible. Furthermore, if modern readers are less adept at theology than they can and should be, it is the task of the church to educate them, not to give them Bible translations that will permanently deprive them of the theological content that is really present in the Bible” (Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 107, 109).
10. THOUGH THE TERMS “THOU” AND “THINE” HAVE BEEN OUT OF COMMON USAGE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FOR MORE THAN 400 YEARS, IT WAS ONLY A FEW DECADES AGO THAT PEOPLE STARTED COMPLAINING ABOUT IT.
Even then it was done largely at the prompting of Bible publishers greedy to make ever larger profits by introducing an ever more bewildering smorgasbord of “up-to-date” Bibles. Believers of the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and even most of the 1900s, loved the “quaint” old English of the King James Bible. They did not think it strange that their Bible did not sound like the morning newspaper. It is the Bible! It was written thousands of years ago! It is the Word of the eternal God! It is nothing like the morning newspaper; why, pray tell, should it sound like one? “I believe that it is correct for an English translation to preserve an appropriate archaic flavor as a way of preserving the distance between us and the biblical world. Joseph Wood Krutch used an evocative formula in connection with the King James Bible when he spoke of ‘an appropriate flavor of a past time’” (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 182).
11. THERE IS NO TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH THAT CAN REPLACE THE KING JAMES BIBLE.
The King James Bible is superior to every modern version. We concur with the Baptist leader John Dowling who opposed a new translation in 1850 and said, “I say, brethren, sisters and fathers, cling to your old-fashioned Bible,” and, “to attempt to supplant it by a new version would be like gilding refined gold” (The Old-Fashioned Bible, or Ten Reasons against the Proposed Baptist Version of the New Testament, pp. 27, 36).
The modern versions are based upon a corrupt Hebrew and Greek text that was produced by the modernistic, naturalistic principles of textual criticism. This includes the American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New International Version, Today’s New International Version, English Standard Version, Evangelical Heritage Version, and the (Holman) Christian Standard Bible
Most modern versions are products of corrupt translation methodologies (e.g., dynamic equivalency). These include the Living Bible, New Living Bible, Today’s English Version, the New International Version, the New International Reader’s Version, the Contemporary English Version, and the Message.
The New King James Bible loses accuracy by dropping the use of thee, thou, and thine and contains many translation and textual corruptions. And it opens the door to the loss of one standard Bible and the acceptance of the textually corrupt modern versions.
As of 2020, the King James Bible remains the second best-selling Bible in America (“Top Ten Best-selling Bible Translations,” Christian Post, June 22, 2020). Oxford and Cambridge Press still sell 250,000 copies of the King James Bible per year.
For our part, we don’t want a modern Bible and we don’t want modern worship, not because we love old things for old things’ sake, but because we are convinced, from much study, that the old Bible and the old style of worship are superior.
12. THERE ARE MANY TOOLS AVAILABLE TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE KJV. FOLLOWING ARE A FEW OF THESE:
The BELIEVER’S BIBLE DICTIONARY, available from Way of Life Literature. This volume is based upon the King James Bible and is written from a dispensational, Baptist perspective. The studies are thorough, practical, devotional, and designed to be used by preachers, teachers, and homeschoolers. The Believer’s Bible Dictionary is designed to be more affordable and transportable than the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity. We are convinced that this is one of the best Bible dictionaries available today. There are eight ways it can help you: (1) It can help you understand the Bible. The first requirement for understanding the Bible is to understand its words. (2) It can help you understand out-of-use words and phrases from the King James Bible, such as blood guiltiness, die the death, and superfluity of naughtiness. (3) It can help you to do topical studies. The student can study the full range of Bible doctrines by following the thousands of cross references from entry to entry. (4) It can help you to study issues relating to morality and practical Christian living, such as capital punishment, child training, cremation, and divorce. (5) It can help you to study Old Testament types of Christ, such as day of atonement, high priest, Melchizedek, passover, and tabernacle. (6) It can help you to find the meaning of Bible customs and ancient culture, such as agriculture, idolatry, military, money, music, and weights and measures. (7) It can help you to study Bible places and geography, such as Assyria, Babylon, Caesarea, Ephesus, and Jordan River. (8) It can help you in preaching and teaching. The doctrinal material in this dictionary is presented in a practical manner with outlines that can be used for teaching and preaching, in the pulpit, Sunday Schools, Bible Colleges and Institutes, home schools, family devotions, prisons and jails, nursing homes, etc. Missionary author Jack Moorman calls the dictionary “excellent” and says, “The entries show a ‘distilled spirituality.’”
STRONG’S EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE. We believe the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the most important single Bible study tool ever published. Not only is it exhaustive in its treatment of the words of the English Bible, but it also links the English words to an exceptional dictionary of the Hebrew and Greek terms underlying the English. One does not have to know the Greek and Hebrew alphabets to use Strong’s dictionary; he developed a masterly apparatus whereby each Greek and Hebrew word is assigned a number, and the student can thus search for Greek and Hebrew terms by numbers. The dictionary gives a concise definition of the Greek or Hebrew word as well as a list of how the word is translated at various places in the English Bible.
The Strong’s Concordance was produced in the time of a great revival. It was the Bible conference movement, the Bible prophecy movement, the fundamentalist movement, the Bible institute movement, the evangelistic-revivalist movement, the world missionary movement, the hymn writing movement.
James Strong worked on the English Revised Version translation committee with Westcott and Hort and others, both conservative and liberal. Some King James Bible defenders refuse to use Strong’s because of his association with modern textual criticism. We don’t reject Strong because of this, but we do warn that Strong’s definitions should not be blindly followed. This is true for any dictionary. Bible words must ultimately be interpreted by their own context, not by a pre-designated dictionary meaning. And Strong’s word definitions enables the student to examine the context of the words in the King James Bible. This ability alone is an invaluable resource even without the definitions in Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. For example, in John 21:15-17 Jesus commissioned Peter to feed the sheep. By using Strong’s we learn that the word “love” is two different Greek words in this passage. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus used agapao, which is godly love, the highest love, unselfish love, giving love, John 3:16 love. It is the word used for the first and second commandment - love of God and love of neighbor (Mr. 12:30-31). But Peter used phileo, which is love of a friend, fondness, affection, to delight in something, something that is dear. In verse 17, Jesus uses phileo. Both words are used of the Father’s love for the Son (agapao Joh. 3:35; phileo Joh. 5:20).
If nothing else, Strong provided an immeasurable benefit for Bible students by producing a numbering system for every Hebrew and Greek word so that those who cannot use Hebrew and Greek lexicons directly can still study the words. This numbering system became the basis for a wealth of other Bible study tools (Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words, Englishman’s Hebrew and Greek Lexicons, Theological Dictionary of the Old and New Testament, New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, Complete Word Study Dictionary). Strong’s numbering system became a fundamental part of the electronic Bibles that began to proliferate in the late 1980s.
Strong’s Concordance was an invaluable tool for the Bible institute movement that began in the late 1800s and spread quickly in the 20th. The Bible Institutes were based on the English Bible and produced countless preachers and Christian workers who were zealous Bible students but were not necessarily well trained in the Biblical languages. (See The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and the Fundamental Baptists, www.wayoflife.org.)
The WAY OF LIFE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE & CHRISTIANITY. (The above-mentioned Believer’s Bible Dictionary is based on the Way of Life Encyclopedia.) This lovely hardcover Bible encyclopedia contains 650 pages (8.5X11) of information, over 5,500 entries, and over 6,000 cross-references. Twenty-five years of research has gone into this one-of-a-kind reference tool. It is the only Bible dictionary/encyclopedia written by a fundamental Baptist and based strictly upon the King James Bible. It is a complete dictionary of biblical terminology, plus it features many other areas of research not often covered in a single volume Bible reference tool. Subjects include Bible versions, Denominations, Cults, Christian Movements, Typology, the Church, Social Issues and Practical Christian Living, Bible Prophecy, and Old English Terminology. The Christian will be helped and fortified in his faith through this Encyclopedia. It does not correct the Authorized nor does it undermine the fundamental Baptist’s doctrines and practices as many study tools do. 7th edition October 2020. Many preachers have told us that apart from Strong’s Concordance, the Way of Life Bible Encyclopedia is their favorite study tool. A missionary told us that if he could save only one study book out of his library, it would be our encyclopedia. An evangelist in South Dakota wrote: “If I were going to the mission field and could carry only three books, they would be the Strong’s concordance, a hymnal, and the Way of Life Bible Encyclopedia.” Missionary author Jack Moorman says: “The encyclopedia is excellent and will meet a real need. The entries show a ‘distilled spirituality.’” Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.wayoflife.org.
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Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.
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