A friend recently asked me what I thought of the King James Version of the Bible. He remarked, “I’m enjoying the Independent Baptist church that I’m going to. They only preach and teach the King James. The pastor said in one of his sermons that the King James is a translation and other versions of scripture are translations of what the writers of the scripture thought. What is your opinion about this?”
My initial response was, “Do you really want to know my opinion? You will probably not like it.” He said, “I think that I probably will agree with your opinion since most evangelical churches use other translations of scripture. I use the NIV myself. But why would my pastor believe what he does about other translations?”
I’m glad you asked that question!
My response: Part One
(Before reading further, let me say that I believe the New Testament documents are the most reliable in all antiquity. In over 26,000 manuscripts and fragments, there is not one single point of disagreement in doctrinal or ethical matters. The few differences that do exist can be explained by obvious scribal mistakes, spelling, word order, etc. For more in-depth information on “textual criticism”, check out Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict)
Many sincere Christians believe that the KJV is the most reliable translation of the Bible. This is common among “Independent Baptist Churches” and other groups. The belief is based on the assumption that the collection of manuscripts used to translate the KJV (the “Majority Text”) are superior to other collections. It’s called the “Majority Text” because there are more of those manuscripts than of the other collections of manuscripts. But does the number of manuscripts prove they are better?
In a popular party game people line up and the first in line whispers a sentence or phrase to the next in line, who passes the message to the next. When the last person in line gets the message, he or she will speak out loud what they heard. More often than not, the message fails to be transmitted intact through the entire line and everyone gets a good laugh.
An original message of, “Adam and Eve got married” could end up, “Adam and Steve got married.” The words sound somewhat similar, but the message is very different.
The fifteen people who heard, “Adam and Steve got married” may sincerely believe they heard and passed the correct message. One might assume that since fifteen of the twenty participants heard this message, it must be completely reliable. But when you find that the only five people who heard “Adam and Eve got married” were at the beginning of the line, then you know that Adam married a woman, not another man. The earlier version is more reliable, though fewer people heard it.
Such is the case with the manuscripts used for translating the KJV. Although there are more of them, the older manuscripts are often more reliable than the later ones, simply because they were closer to the original source.
My response: Part Two
Now, for the second part of my friend’s question. His pastor is partially correct on the question of the KJV being a translation the text and other versions being what the translators thought.
When translating from any language to any other language, you can either translate word-for-word, or thought-for-thought — or somewhere between. Some Bible translations (KJV, NASB, ESV) attempt to translate in a word-for-word fashion, while others like the NIV and NLT tend to favor communicating in a thought-for-thought manner, also called “functional equivalence”. The more the translators lean toward functional equivalence, the more the translators’ opinions can creep into the end result.
Obviously, there are dangers by insisting on either method to be “correct” way to translate from one language to another. If someone insists that you should *always* translate word-for-word, you will be confused as to why a man in France would call his wife his, “little cabbage”; to English speakers, it doesn’t sound very much like a term of endearment.
I find it interesting that the KJV translators didn’t see their translation a finished work; they recognized that as language changes, new translations of the Bible would be necessary.
What is the best translation of the Bible?
So what about the King James? Do I recommend it? I’ll answer the question by asking another question. “When speaking with a good friend, do you talk like William Shakespeare?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It was the language spoken by the people. The New Testament was written in Greek — but not just any Greek. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek — common Greek — the language spoken by the people.
God revealed Himself and His ways to people in the language they spoke and understood.
I don’t speak “King James” English. I don’t know anyone who does. I speak late-20th to early-21st Century (American) English. So why would I want to limit myself to a 400-year old translation when trying to grow in my relationship with God? And why would I want insist the same of others?
I once heard that the best translation is one that is understood by the one reading it … and that is applied to the reader’s life. I agree. If you and your spouse sounded like Romeo and Juliet on your last date night, the King James Version might be the best translation for you … so long as you apply what you read and study. Otherwise, there are a number of good, reliable translations available for you to choose.
Just make sure that you read it and apply what you hear!
Prov 22:17-18; Josh 1:8
It’s interesting, the Left is actually admitting that the only reason Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize was because he replaced George W Bush — or at least Joan Walsh does.
I am a product of the public school system. My dad was a public school superintendent. I remember school teachers telling us that grammar is important. We must understand words people use — and the way they’re used — in order to understand what someone is saying. And what they’re not saying.
I received/endured the required English grammar training of our public school system. I also took two years of French in high school and one year in college. I was fortunate to have also studied one year of Classical Greek at UNC Chapel Hill (a secular state university). Studying classical Greek prepared me for one year of New Testament Greek. Finally, I took a year of Hebrew. One of the most fascinating classes I took in seminary combined Greek and Hebrew and looked at The New Testament Interpretation of the Old Testament — but that’s a side issue here.
Bottom line: I think I have a pretty good feel for how language works: nominals, verbals, conjunctions, and prepositions are grouped together and change their forms accordingly to express thought.
The process of breaking down a language in order to understand someone’s thoughts is called exegesis. The exegetical process is objective. Anyone with a handle of a language and its vocabulary can do it. Exegesis involves observation. Observation asks the question, “What is being said?” and as such, is objective. Interpretation on the other hand, is a different issue. When one takes the observation and asks, “What does this mean?” one has stepped outside the realm of observation and into interpretation.
One of the challenges of teaching the Bible is waiting to ask, “What does this mean?” until I have understood, “What does this say?” This is one of the reasons we have so many disagreements between denominations, cults, etc. “Everybody has their own interpretation” — but that’s a side issue here.
When Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the Peace Prize in his will, he said that it would be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
Grammar is apolitical. Properly interpreting words and their use is not affected by one’s worldview. Note, I said properly interpreting.
For a moment, let’s take Obama, Bush, political parties, and worldviews out of our minds; admittedly that may be very difficult for many of us. If we set aside our differences and simply look at Nobel’s own words, the Peace Prize was to be awarded to the person who “shall have done …” Grammatically, this is called a future perfect.
The American Heritage Dictionary at dictionary.com defines the future perfect as, “A verb tense that expresses action completed by a specified time in the future and that is formed in English by combining will have or shall have with a past participle.” About.com says about the French future perfect, “The French future perfect is most commonly used like the English future perfect: to describe an action that will have happened or will be finished by a specific point in the future.”
I am not a lawyer. I never studied in a law school. But I know that laws are based on the proper use of grammar. The court system issues verdicts based on words, phrases, etc. That is why our laws are so verbose; lawmakers want to make sure there are no (or few) loopholes in the law.
Again, setting aside worldviews, politics and everything else that makes us different, we must all agree that Nobel’s will has been violated. Nobel did not establish the Peace Prize in his will to be awarded to some who provided a promise (or “hope” — sorry, I couldn’t resist) of future action. It was to be awarded to someone who had completed something in the future.
When Obama’s nomination was submitted, he had been the US President for only twelve days. All of us must agree that in his first twelve days of his presidency, President Obama had not, “done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
If Barack Obama is nothing else, he is a smart man. You don’t graduate from Harvard or Yale without a great deal of mental competency. Interesting, George W Bush graduated from Yale — but that is a side issue here.
Grammatically, we must conclude that Barack Hussein Obama should not have been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He clearly did not deserve it. As a Harvard Law School graduate, Mr. Obama must agree with these conclusions and as such, should have declined the award. That is not to say that he might qualify for it in the future; but that it yet to be seen. If someone were to sue the Nobel Prize Committee for wrongly executing Nobel’s will, they would be successful, according to the clear use of grammar.
Objective conclusion: Barack Obama did not deserve the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
He should give it back.