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]