The defense of the King James Bible is not new. The following is excerpted from For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Greek Received Text from 1800 to Present. The fifth edition (October 2008) is revised and updated and fully illustrated. This book is available from Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143 (toll free), www.wayoflife.org (online catalog), firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Solomon Caesar Malan, D.D. (1812-1894), Vicar of Broadwindsor, published A Vindication of the Authorized Version, from Charges Brought against It by Recent Writers (1856), A Plea for the Received Text XE "Received Text" and for the Authorized Version of the New Testament (1869), and Seven Chapters of the Revision XE "English Revised Version" of 1881 Revised (1881). The first of these was Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" ’s reply to a call for revision that had come in 1856 through William Selwyn XE "Selwyn, William" and James Heywood XE "Heywood, James" . About that same time, five other Anglican XE "Anglican" ministers were lobbying for revision. These were Charles Ellicott XE "Ellicott, Charles" (later the New Testament Revision Committee chairman), Henry Alford XE "Alford, Henry" , W.H.G. Humphry XE "Humphry, W.H.G." , John Barrow XE "Barrow, John" , and G. Moberly XE "Moberly, G." . This group was brought together in 1856 by Ernest Hawkins XE "Hawkins, Ernest" , secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and between 1857 and 1863 they published several revised portions of the English Bible. These were issued under the title of Revision of the Authorized Version, by Five Clergymen. Malan wrote in opposition to this work, which has been called “the germ of the 1881 revision.”
Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" exhibited a learned grasp of the unique and glorious heritage of the Authorized English Version. He well understood the seriousness of any attempt to revise it. Let’s go back in time 150 years and listen in as this brilliant man gives a defense of the King James Bible:
“It [the KJV] stands as yet unrivalled among other modern versions for the devout spirit in which its authors rendered the original texts; for the simple beauty of its style; and for the dignified and easy flow of a language that was in a great degree formed from it, and that singles it out from among other translations of the Bible, even as a mere literary composition. It is free from the ruggedness and from the archaisms of the older English versions; and at the same time it possesses at least an equal merit with them, for its faithful rendering of the original. But it has this great advantage over some of them, that whereas they were the work of single individuals, this was made by a goodly company of nearly fifty of the most pious and learned men of that time; who, together, availed themselves of the labours of their predecessors in order to raise their own production to a higher degree of excellence. ...
“It may, indeed, be taken down; but, if so, never to be rebuilt as it was. It might, it is true, have a more modern appearance; but then, it would lose the solemn look of age. It might also possibly be better adapted to the fastidious taste of the present day; but then, unbroken associations of two centuries and a half, together with much of national individuality, would perish for ever; and those persons who think the Authorized Version antiquated XE "Archaic (words in the KJV)" , would be the first to regret the change. ... And they would lament the day when, for the sake of novelty, they had abandoned those sweet and solemn words of warning blended with their earliest recollections of childhood, by renouncing their trust of a national treasure, committed to them in the safe keeping of the Authorized English Version of the Bible. ...
“So much care, so much earnestness, in the due performance of this important task [the creation of the King James Bible], were not bestowed in vain. They have stamped the work with a character for excellence to which no modern version, and but one or two of the older ones, can lay claim. As regards the Old Testament, the Authorized Version is, generally speaking, less paraphrastic, and is therefore a more correct rendering of the Hebrew XE "Hebrew" , than the Septuagint and the versions that follow them wholly or in part; such as the Armenian, the Ethiopic, the Coptic, the Vulgate, the Arabic, and even the Syriac. ... And, as regards the New Testament, the English Bible agrees best with the old versions, which are of the highest value, on account of their faithfulness and accuracy. ...
“[I]t stands pre-eminent when side by side with more modern versions,—not only for its devout adherence to the original texts, but also for the beauty of its style. ... So true is this, that whereas neighbouring nations have had, within a short period, a succession of versions of the Bible in their respective languages, to the detriment of union and of uniformity among the readers of the Bible in those countries, the English Version has stood on its own merits, and has shone of its own lustre for nearly two centuries and a half. ...
“Thus it is that it has entered into the very substance of the nation. It is interwoven with its sinews, and forms more than any other book ever did—an unseen, by many perhaps, unacknowledged, or even neglected, but still a living, element in the prosperity of the people. ... THESE LASTING AND WHOLESOME EFFECTS ARE THE RESULT OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE BEING ONE AND THE SAME FOR ALL. IF, INSTEAD OF ONLY ONE BIBLE, ENGLAND HAD, LIKE SOME OTHER COUNTRIES, MANY BIBLES, THAT VARIETY ALONE WOULD BREED AND FOSTER ENDLESS DIVISION. ...
“Their reverence for the Sacred Scriptures induced them [KJV translators] to be as literal as they could, to avoid obscurity; and it must be acknowledged that they were extremely happy in the simplicity and dignity of their expressions. Their adherence to the Hebrew XE "Hebrew" idiom is supposed at once to have enriched and adorned our language; and, as they laboured for the general benefit of the learned and the unlearned, they avoided all words of Latin original when they could find words in their own language ...
“Thus, then, the English Bible has not only stood for centuries, and NOW STANDS, ON ITS OWN MERITS AS A TRUE WITNESS OF THE INSPIRED TEXT OF SCRIPTURE; but it is also strong of its own strength, in being, as the highest authorities tell us, ‘the best standard of the English language.’ ... For ‘our translators,’ says Dr. Adam Clarke, ‘not only made a standard translation, but they have made their translation the standard of our language. THE ENGLISH TONGUE, IN THEIR DAY, WAS NOT EQUAL TO SUCH A WORK; BUT GOD ENABLED THEM TO STAND AS UPON MOUNT SINAI, AND CRANE UP THEIR COUNTRY’S LANGUAGE TO THE DIGNITY OF THE ORIGINALS, so that after the lapse of two hundred [and fifty] years, the English Bible is, with very few exceptions, the standard of the purity and excellence of the English tongue. The original, from which it was taken, is alone superior to the Bible translated by the authority of King James.’...
“Such considerations, however, have no weight whatever with many who are willing to sacrifice much to the love of change; or at all events, who seem to take pleasure in aiming blows at everything that is not of yesterday. Everything now must keep pace with the age; even the word of God. ... And yet wisdom neither came with us, nor will die with us. As regards the Authorized Version then, and those who find fault with it, ‘let us not too hastily conclude,’ says Mr. Whittaker XE "Whittaker, J.W." , ‘that the translators have fallen on evil days and evil tongues, because it has occasionally happened that an individual, as inferior to them in erudition as in talents and integrity, is found questioning their motives, or denying their qualifications for the task which they so well performed. ... It [the KJV] may be compared with any translation in the world, without fear of inferiority; it has not shrunk from the most rigorous examination; it challenges investigation; and, in spite of numerous attempts to supersede it, it has hitherto remained unrivalled in the affections of the country.’
“And God grant it may long continue so, for the good of the people to which it belongs! ...
“I purpose therefore ... to look into the charges thus brought forward against the English Bible, with those who cling to it as they ought, affectionately and devoutly; in order to assist them in expelling from their mind all doubt on the subject. Meanwhile, they may rest assured that, hitherto, all attempts at improvement upon their Bible, have come far short of it in language, in style, in truthfulness, and above all, in a generally correct and devout rendering of the original texts” (Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" , A Vindication, pp. i-xvi, xxii-xxvi).
Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" answered the various arguments that were being put forth in advance of a revision of the Authorized Version. For example:
“... we now hear from many, that the English Bible is no longer suited to the exigencies of the present day, but that our advanced state of knowledge loudly calls for a new revision. An evil day that will be when it comes. However, Bishop Middleton holds out no encouragement to them, when he says: ‘The style of our present version is incomparably superior to anything which might be expected from the finical and perverted taste of our own age. It is simple, it is harmonious, it is energetic; and, which is of no small importance, use has made it familiar, and time has rendered it sacred.’ ... its words are ‘household words,’ ... its simple and hallowed language is understood and loved alike, by the poor peasant and by the august Sovereign, whom it binds to Her people. England XE "England" has not ‘a Bible,’ one of many to choose from, like her neighbours; but ‘the Bible’ is in every English home; and ‘my Bible,’ in English, means that one Book, the very words of which are the same for all” (Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" , A Vindication, pp. xviii, xix).
Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" plainly saw the danger of loosing from the ancient moorings of the Received Text XE "Received Text" and the Authorized Version.
“Who will be bold, or I might almost say hardened enough, if not perhaps to pull down, yet even to whitewash the stately edifice of the English Bible? ... It might possibly be better adapted to the fastidious taste of the age; but then, unbroken associations of two centuries and a half, together with much of national individuality, would perish for ever; and those persons who think the authorized version antiquated XE "Archaic (words in the KJV)" would be the first to regret the change. ... For independently of the words of the Bible being sacred in all languages, the language of the English Bible in particular is consecrated ... the vernacular translation of the Bible has formed and fixed the language of the country” (Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" , A Vindication of the Authorized Version, 1856, pp. iii, iv, xiv).
Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" pointed out the unsettled, ever-changing character of modern textual criticism, observing: “In other words, the translator chooses his own text, which he renders as he thinks fit; so that, in fact, he has it all his own way. ... Mill is thought by some to be antiquated XE "Archaic (words in the KJV)" , Griesbach XE "Griesbach, J.J." out of date, and Tischendorf XE "Tischendorf" even not exactly to their taste” (Malan, A Vindication of the Authorized Version, p. xxi).
Malan “takes exceptions even to the quite prevalent custom of ministers’ criticising the present translation before their congregations, on the ground that it ‘needlessly unsettles the mind of their hearers on a subject in which comparatively few of them can ever be fair judges’” (Bissell, The Historic Origin of the Bible, p. 350).
In the second book, Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" directed his remarks to a critique of Henry Alford XE "Alford, Henry" ’s sixth edition Greek XE "Greek" New Testament (published in 1868) which followed Tischendorf XE "Tischendorf" and gave heavy preference to the Vaticanus XE "Vaticanus" and Sinaiticus XE "Sinaiticus" manuscripts. Malan comments on some of Alford’s readings in the Gospels and the book of Titus. The following two examples illustrate the tone of the whole:
“[Matthew 1:25] ‘Till she had brought forth her first-born son,’ A.V. is changed by Dr. Alford XE "Alford, Henry" to ‘till she had brought forth a son’! His reasons for this change are, that the Vatican MS. and a very few others make it; whereas the reading of the Auth. Version, which is that of the Received Text XE "Received Text" , is far better supported, and by many more MSS. The English reader may refer to p. 37 for a discussion on this passage; but if he knows no Greek XE "Greek" , he may rest assured the Authorized Version is right and far better than the Dean’s alteration ‘till she brought forth a son’...” (Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" , A Plea for the Received Text and for the Authorized Version of the New Testament, p. 103).
“[Mark 13:14] ‘Spoken of by Daniel XE "Daniel" the prophet,’ A.V., ‘omit,’ Dr. Alford XE "Alford, Henry" . This clause is not, indeed, in the Vatican MS., but is found in others, as well as in the Syriac, Georgian, Slavonic, and Ethiopic versions. So that we need not obey Dr. Alford’s peremptory order to omit it” (Ibid., p. 142).
Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" ’s conclusion offers a window into the sympathies of a great many nineteenth-century preachers toward the attempts to undermine the Greek Received Text XE "Received Text" :
“A man who, like him [Henry Alford XE "Alford, Henry" ], sets to a work of this kind, apparently without the slightest hesitation or misgiving in his own powers, thinking it the easiest thing in the world to make wholesale changes in the Greek XE "Greek" text and in the joint labours of more than fifty learned men of old, instead of dealing with the utmost reverence and caution, not only forms an unworthy estimate of the work he undertakes—but he also recklessly wounds the feeling of deep respect and affection with which men, nowise his inferiors in judgment or scholarship, still continue to look upon the Received Text XE "Received Text" and the English Bible.
“Both these have, indeed, lasted more than two centuries; a long time, in truth, for those who think that wisdom, learning, and scholarship have only just dawned on the land, and that, until now, all was darkness and ignorance. Wise men, however, do not think so but rather take the long life of those two monuments of ancient piety and learning as a proof of their real merit and excellence. ...
“[A] better acquaintance with his [Alford XE "Alford, Henry" ’s] work only tends to deepen their reverence and to strengthen their affection for their old friends and companions, the Received Greek XE "Greek" Text of the New Testament and the Authorised Version of it—neither of which they ever intend to give up; not even at the Dean’s bidding” (Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" , A Plea for the Received Text XE "Received Text" and for the Authorized Version of the New Testament, pp. 210, 11).
When the 1881 English Revision XE "English Revised Version" appeared, Malan XE "Malan, Solomon" was not swayed from his earlier position. “The learned writer charged the Revisers with having ‘looked upon’ their work ‘in the light of a Greek XE "Greek" exercise,’ and with having ‘taken pleasure in making as many changes as they could, with little or no regard for cadence, rhythm, style, or even grammar.’ He pronounced the result to be ‘little short of a great failure’” (Samuel Hemphill XE "Hemphill, Samuel" , A History of the Revised Version of the New Testament, p. 96).
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