Monday, February 25, 2013

3 positives of the King James Bible, and a 4th

Many online writings that I have found in favor of the King James Bible are diatribes against modern Bible versions and offer little in the way of positive promotion of the KJV or helpful suggestions to the reader of the KJV. There is also a plethora of “anti-KJV” material readily available. In previous posts I have looked at the accuracy of the "ye's & thou's", sought a little clarity on verb endings, and considered the use of archaic language. This post will be more generic praise of the positive attributes of the King James Bible.

The King James Bible is founded on historic texts. The Old Testament is from the Jacob ben Chayyim Masoretic Hebrew text. Jacob ben Chayyim, a Jewish Rabbi, published this text in 1524.[1]  This text is sound and comparable to other Hebrew texts. According to James D. Price, "The differences between the Bomberg Ben Chayyim edition and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (the text used with most modern translations) are microscopic."[2] Variations between translations more often are introduced from other sources, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Syriac Peshitta. The New Testament is from the Textus Receptus. According to Daniel B. Wallace, “when one examines the variations between the Greek text behind the KJV (the Textus Receptus) and the Greek text behind modern translations, it is discovered that the vast majority of variations are so trivial as to not even be translatable.”[3]   

The King James Bible is an accurate translation. Years ago I remember finding a book in Bible Book Store that trashed the KJV Bible as the worst translation ever. Those who write and repeat such nonsense must either have no clue what they are talking about or have an agenda of promoting some other Bible. Nevertheless, the translators who gave us the King James Bible were well qualified academically -- their language expertise and ability was exceptional. These translators believed in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. This is recognized even by modern scholars who prefer other translations. Today there are over 5,600 Greek manuscripts preserved and available (fragments, uncials, cursives).[4] These provide greater support of the Textus Receptus/KJV readings. The major variations in modern translations arrive from the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

The King James Bible follows a proven method. The method of the King James translators was verbal or formal equivalence (as opposed to dynamic equivalence).[5] Because of differences between original and receptor languages, all translations combine some degree of formal and dynamic equivalence.  But different versions may commit strongly to one over the other. A comparison of First Timothy 5:10 provides a good example of the difference of the two methods.

Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. [KJV, showing formal equivalence]
and have a reputation for good deeds: a woman who brought up her children well, received strangers in her home, performed humble duties for other Christians, helped people in trouble, and devoted herself to doing good. [Good News Translation, showing dynamic equivalence]

The Good News Translation is an apt example of preferring dynamic equivalence over a “word-for-word” translation. The Greek text contains the words for “wash” and “saints” and “feet” [ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν] but the translators chose to follow what they believed was the intention rather than the actual words.

Some peripheral issues
The King James Bible is important to the English language. It was instrumental in standardizing the language. It also provides a common bond between its readers around the world. It underlies meaning of many common things we say. It contributes a musical and poetic quality to our language. Much could be said along these lines which might be of interest. But these are mere "niceties"; the larger concern is the Bible as the reliable word from God.  

KJV Bible readers should not feel subordinate or inferior to the reader of modern Bible versions. They should not be embarrassed to ask for a KJV Bible when the book store clerk tries to shoo them on to something else. They have a reliable translation of the Word of God. It was reliable in its beginning and is still reliable today. They need to be diligent in study of the Word and have the Spirit of God to lead them into all truth.

[1] It is also known as the Daniel Bomberg edition or the Second Great Rabbinic Bible.
[2] Price, now retired, was Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Temple Baptist Seminary, and executive editor of the Old Testament for the New King James Version (Thomas Nelson, 1982).
[3] Wallace is professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX. He also writes that “over 98% of the time, the Textus Receptus and the standard critical editions agree.”
[4] Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2001) p. 256
[5] Though language scholars may attach more nuanced or technical meaning at times, these terms are commonly used to mean a "word-for-word" translation (formal, translating the meanings of individual words and more or less in their syntactic sequence) versus a "sense-for-sense" translation (dynamic, translating the meanings of phrases and sentences).

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