Jamesian stew (1)

I recently criticized a product—a parallel KJV-NKJV Bible.  Because I had surface-level thoughts of maybe reaching a different audience from the one I reach with lengthier WordPress articles, I decided to post a few quick comments directly on Facebook, without using WordPress.

Not that I myself always read carefully, but a few folks appeared not to have gotten my main point — perhaps not reading with care, or perhaps choosing to be defensive of something or someone(s) who read, or have grown up reading, the King James Version of the Bible.

Here’s what I originally said on Facebook one Sunday afternoon:

This sweet 70ish lady in front of us today had something with her that ought to be against the law. It’s against logic, anyway: a parallel KJV-NKJV Bible.

Comparing the KJV to something better and newer is helpful once in a while, and some of the poetic language is nice.  Using the KJV and NKJV for study, however, is like choosing to walk along a river on huge boulders that block your way, then hopping over to a parallel set of boulders with a little groove etched in them, and essentially not knowing where you’re going or where the river is anymore.

Instead, we ought to choose a level path (one or more versions that employed better scholarship, used more recent archaeological finds, and use language that’s not 400 years old) with only pebbles and the occasional tree down along the way.

Calling for the heads of the ostrich-like originators and the greedy marketers who conceived and then published this useless KJV-NKJV product.

Now, I had written that up fairly quickly and maybe wasn’t paying enough attention.  There was too much intervening material between my outer-paragraph criticisms of the particular parallel Bible product.  (I might also mention that it’s awkward to try to write – really  write – on FB because it doesn’t have rich-text capabilities.  It’s easier to make oneself understood when one can use bold and italics, etc.  I fully accept that I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.  Still, I was disappointed.)

FB comments from friends and one relative included these:

  • I have 4 versions plus a Spanish bible on my phone . . . but I enjoy the language of the KJV.
  • I don’t think you should judge what version of the Bible others choose to read/study.
  • It might be well for all of us to remember that many of those who showed us Christ and helped to shape our lives were born raised and taught using these versions.

. . . and my “writer” side got a little torqued over this little pot of stew under which I’d inadvertently turned up the heat, and off I went, saying this, to start off:

Please understand that I did *not* say the KJV is useless.  I even affirmed it a little, along with affirming the spirit of the lady who had the KJV-NKJV.  I also said there are better choices available for paths to understanding, and I stand firmly on that statement.

There is no issue — nor have I ever heard of anyone’s claiming there could be an issue — with those people who know nothing other than the KJV.   Their study and understanding will be limited, yes . . . but that is not a statement about their standing with God, and it is not a statement about their basic spirituality.

A dear friend recently wrote about having visited, with some advance sense, a KJV-only church where some dearly loved, well-respected friends attend.  “I just can’t understand why or how they believe KJV is the only acceptable Bible.  To me, it’s just ‘old English,’ which has its appeal, but we speak a different ‘language,’ so to speak, today,” observed my friend.  Yet she found the pastor at that church to be “pseudo-translating into modern English as he went (or sometimes just plain stumbling over the KJV).” 

My friend went on to query,Why say that no one else can paraphrase or translate differently, but [the pastor] can [do just that] as he reads?”

Yeah!  Great question!

I recently came across this Jewish reference to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Old Testament”:

While Philo [a notable, Jewish writer who lived in the time of Jesus -bc] and his Alexandrian coreligionists looked upon the translation of the Seventy as a work of inspired men, the Palestinian Rabbis subsequently considered the day on which the Septuagint was completed as one of the most unfortunate in Israel’s history, seeing that the Torah could never be adequately translated. – from the introduction to Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Text (1917)

Isn’t that interesting?  And sad, no?  It seems the idea that a version in one language is the “only acceptable one” isn’t limited to the KJV-only crowd in our era.

I’m glad when anyone *really* reads or studies the Bible.  Personally, I’m devoting an increasing number of hours and days in my life to serious, responsible, contextual study, and part of that study involves being on a translation team myself.  I have translated Philemon (and will share that work soon on this blog, hoping for feedback) and am engaged in translating short passages in 1Corinthians as I write this post.  Within the last three years, I have proofed and helped to edit three books by New Testament scholars on scripture and its nature; I mention this (with some fear of coming off as boastful) to say that I do have some idea whereof I speak.  Serious study of Bible texts is part and parcel of every week of my life.

Now, it’s not that I know it all — far from it — it’s that I’m trying to be as intent as I can be, with the tools I have available, about getting the message . . . about hearing God.

[To be continued]

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3 thoughts on “Jamesian stew (1)

  1. Deryk Schudy 02/08/2015 / 9:23 am

    Hello Brian,

    It’s my first time checking out your blog. It’s funny how much you write like you speak. I can hear your voice as I read.

    This was a very interesting day for me to read your points of view. I grew up in one of those churches that believe the King James Version is the only Bible to be used. I also recently attended a lecture by a huge British King James Version scholar. I wish I could remember his name right at this point to lend credibility. He was definitely not among those that believe the King James Version is the only version to use; he just happens to be a scholar on the topic. One really interesting thing that he noted about it, & I know this is a bit off topic, but he said that it’s the only English version of the Bible that was written with the intention that it would be read out loud. He said that people did not really start reading silently to themselves until the 16 or 1700s when the novel became prominent. Before that it was nearly impossible for anyone to read something at least without moving their lips. His point was that we ought to read out loud because that was the original intent and there are benefits to hearing the poetry and artistry when reading the King James Version

    I do agree with you that it is not the most advantageous version for study. That’s mostly because the average person’s level of study is not high enough. As the years go on people have become dumber despite our belief that we are progressing. Our level of study and understanding of the King James Version was much better a couple hundred years ago. Now the amount of study it would take for someone to really grasp a passage would take much longer than the common person would be willing to give.

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    • Brian Casey 02/08/2015 / 6:24 pm

      Deryk, thanks for this thoughtful comment (and for hanging on to my blog address from whenever we talked months ago). The way you present the KJV scholar makes it difficult to find fault w/him. 🙂 As for your second (“edit”) comment, you’re right that there were other translations then (Wycliffe, Tischendorf, Tyndale are names that come to mind, but I’m not sure if they’re all in the same category), but I think the so-called Authorized Version of 1611, by virtue of its having been authorized by a British King, had far wider circulation.

      Point well taken about reading aloud. I wish we would do more of that these days — and not just for the sake of hearing KJ poetry, but to hear other messages, too, sans sermonizing.

      I’d assert that a reasonably educated person in, say, 1776 or 1827 (maybe into the 20th C) wouldn’t have had nearly as much trouble understanding the language of 1611 as we do today. Even though you and I and many others can “get” most of it, some of the words simply aren’t used, or mean different things now. On top of that, add that many important manuscript and papyrus discoveries have occurred in the last 150 years or so. Next textual evidence comes to light all the time. Given what we have available today, no one has any rational right to stake any claims on wordings of the KJV (or NIV or RSV or any other single version, for that matter!). It was terrific for its time.

      Hey, assuming it’ll be a while before you check back in, you’ll miss part 4 of this KJV series, so I’m giving you an advance peek at something that comes in that final installment: 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhA5Sp9K610

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  2. Deryk Schudy 02/08/2015 / 9:27 am

    Edit: I did wonder about his statement a little since the KJV was not the only English translation before the 1600s but nevermind that. He is a scholar after all.

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