My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 04-30-2020

Four hundred and nine years ago King James of England did the English-speaking world a favor.  He commissioned a translation committee, from members of the Church of England (Anglicans), to produce a new, modern English translation of the Bible for his day.  Since the King James Version (KJV) was a “new” translation, it suffered through the same criticisms which new English translations endure today.  The Geneva Bible had been in print for 51 years.  Wycliffe Bible was also read.  Something “new” in religion often comes with a “suspicious” tag tied to it.  The Geneva Bible was Calvinistic.  Wycliffe translation mirrored the Catholic Vulgate.  The King James Version survived to become the accepted English translation for more than three hundred years.

The American Standard Version appeared in 1901.  It’s claimed to fame was its close tie to the Greek New Testament.  That bondage killed it as far as the reading public was concerned.   The English language does not follow the Greek usage.  It was popular with a few preachers but today is no longer printed.  The New American Standard Version replaced it.  The Revised Standard Version attempted to replace both.  When I was a “boy” preacher in 1954, the RSV came out with a “hardback cover” in red.  Immediately it was condemned by some as a “Communist” Bible due to that specific color.  The NIV followed that version.

Each of those new translations from the ASV to the NIV were compared, not to the original Greek or Hebrew languages, but to the King James as if it was the inspired standard.  The “thee,” “thou,” and “thine” language of the KJV became the authorized way to pray or sing church songs.  Some even woefully proclaimed, “What will we sing if we start using ‘you,’ or ‘your’ while singing?”  Some continue to pray using the KJV grammar which is not objectionable.  The problem that developed in the sixties was that some made the KJV grammar the ONLY way to acceptably pray by God.  Some claimed that it was “God’s prayer language”!

People forget the origin of the King James Version.  It is an ANGLICAN Bible.  It replaced Catholic and Calvinistic translations. But it reflects the beliefs of the 1611 Church of England.  Since the version became so popular with the reading public, those differences came to be accepted as inspired rather than man created.  Examples of Anglican influence would be the refusal of the committee to translate words in Hebrew and Greek into English that conflicted with Anglican beliefs.  Baptism was spelled from the Greek letters into comparable English ones so sprinkling and pouring would not be in conflict with their mode of baptism.  The word means “immersion.”  The word “deacon” was transliterated rather than translated to make the men of 1 Timothy 3:8-12 into a high church “office” rather than to be understood as “male church servants.”   The RSV muddied the water by doing the same thing in Romans 16:1 with Phoebe.  She was a female church servant, but not a male church servant as described by Paul in 1 Timothy 3.

The KJV substituted human tradition into scripture causing future generations to believe something was divine rather than human.  The divine name of God is YHWH.  The consonants were lost due to this non-usage.  That failure to use the consonants was laid at the feet of Jewish culture rather than scripture.  The Jews refused to say YHWH’s name because they thought it was too holy to say.  So, they substituted.  They replaced it with the Hebrew word “Lord.”  The KJV adopted that Jewish tradition.  The Hebrew name YHWH is found 6,519 times in the Hebrew Bible.  The KJV renders it as “Jehovah” (the Latin of YHWH), but only in Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; and Isaiah 26:1. They substituted the word “LORD” in caps 6,510 times rather than Yahweh or Jehovah.  4 times it is rendered as “God” and then there is 1 variant.  Most English translations after the KJV continued that human tradition.  This caused readers to believe it was sinful to say YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) when reading.  Exceptions to that engrained belief are the ASV, IEB, and New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witnesses translation) of the Old Testament.

Almost every translation of the Bible, to some degree, mirrors the beliefs of those who worked on it.  Some are better than others, and there will always be one that is considered the worst.  Despite that weakness, each major translation has its merits.  Each has its peculiar substitutions that are noted and explained.  Everyone has his favorite translation.  Philip’s question to the eunuch continues to be needed today, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30).