Monday, September 18, 2017
The King James Version greeted the reading audience in the 17th century. Like all new translations, it was not widely nor immediately accepted. The first edition, would not be readable today! Revisions took place. After it was more readily accepted, it became THE Bible for English speaking people. It sank its roots very deep into our culture as the centuries passed. In 1901 the American Standard Version was published. Although Greek scholars touted it as being closer to the Koine Greek than the KJV, it’s popularity refused to develop. The biggest complaint was that it was like reading Greek rather than English.
The KJV had been around four hundred years when the ASV was published. People had been committing it to memory for centuries. For them, the KJV was THE word of God. Paul spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. He wrote in the latter language. Yet, people developed a dangerous devotion for the KJV, making it the standard which all future translations must be judged by for accuracy. The projected conviction was that if a passage did not read exactly as given in the KJV, it was not the word of God. All English versions must be judged by how well they translate the original languages, which makes the Koine Greek the standard for the New Testament and Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old. Paul nor Moses knew, nor wrote in English!
When the Revised Standard Version was introduced in 1946, it had two counts against it. Some hardback copies had red covers! The Cold War between the United States and Russia became full blown by 1947. Since the covering was “red,” some accused it of being produced by the “Communist”! Second, it pointed out that several verses were found in later manuscripts, but not the earlier ones. This indicated they those verses were included by later scribes and were not supplied by the Holy Spirit. Since those entrees were in the KJV, they had to be legitimate or the KJV would not have contained them. Therefore, the RSV had to be a “liberal” translation and should be boycotted. Most churches developed a manmade rule that only the KJV and ASV were allowed in the classroom and pulpit. Some Bible colleges adopted that rule. Anyone quoting from the RSV was “suspect”!
The view also developed that the KJV was a “word for word” translation from the Hebrew and Greek texts, whereas modern translations were not. The conclusion was, if one wanted to know the truth, he must go to the KJV. Since well known and trusted preachers said it from the pulpit, their conclusions must be so! Those who had no knowledge about translating, swallowed that reasoning more readily than those who had some experience in it. Truth is hard to swallow when one has dined on spoon feeding! Culture, tradition, opinion, and human judgment are difficult to overcome and usually cannot be peeled away over night. One may see this even in the Jerusalem church with members who continued to believe and practice Phariseeism in dealing with Gentile converts (Acts 11:2; 15:1, 5).
My study Bible and memory work from 1954 until the early eighties, was the KJV. I still quote from it in articles, classes, and from the pulpit in a comparative way. Yet, in private devotion or study, I will use several translations. A few years ago, the KJV was upgraded to the NKJV (New King James Version). Many KJV readers switched thinking this new version was the KJV without the “thee, thou, and thine” language. Yet, anyone who compares the two will find the NKJV changes a lot more than those archaic expressions. Since the eighties I have found it more and more difficult to read from and understand the KJV language. In fact, in teaching from that version, probably 35 to 40% of the time was spent in explaining the archaic language to our audiences. If someone my age has that problem in understanding that translation, what about those who are in their teens or just a few years older? If they can pick up a translation that is more in tune with their understanding of the English language, then God bless them in their studies. The New Testament was originally given in the Koine Greek. “Koine” means it was the common language of that day. In the Roman Empire, it was the second language learned. Sort of like today where English is learned as a second language in our world.
The purpose of a translation is to bring us to a knowledge of and relationship with our creator God. He loved us despite our sins and sent His word, to become flesh, and be our sin sacrifice. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins, making it possible for us to die to sin and its ultimate reward, and to be in fellowship with Almighty God and have the assurance of our salvation!
It is not, “What Bible do you read,” but “Do you read the Bible” that is important. Some translations do a better job than others, but most will help you to know that Jesus is the Christ and through him you can have everlasting life (John 14:6).