Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts on King James

...the Bible, not the man

And now, a few random comments on KJV subjects (the Bible, not the man):

In his book The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), James White provides five "KJV Only" categories: (1) those who like the KJV best, (2) those who support the KJV textually [e.g. those who "are joined by their common belief that the underlying Hebrew and Greek texts used by the King James translators are, for various reasons, superior to all other original languages."], (3) those who are Received Text only, (4) those who believe the KJV is inspired and inerrant, (5) those who believe the KJV is advanced or new revelation [e.g. Peter Ruckman]. I provide this for what it's worth in helping the reader understand there is a wide variety of supposed "KJV Only" people.

Among the fifth category of so-called "King James Only" people are some who believe most or all of the following: that the KJV was given by inspiration; that the KJV is superior to the Hebrew and Greek texts upon which it was based; that the KJV is advanced revelation over the Hebrew and Greek text (and therefore used to correct Greek or Hebrew manuscripts); that Bible translation into other languages should be based on the KJV rather than Greek and Hebrew manuscripts; and finally, that a person can only be saved through hearing the gospel from the King James Bible.*

As a point of reference, I use the King James Bible in private study and public ministry -- not because of convenience, but because I believe its accuracy of translation and underlying Greek texts are superior. I recommend only it to others for personal study, public use and private devotions. That being said, the Peter Ruckman/new revelation issue IS NOT a King James Bible vs. Modern Versions issue. There are people on both sides of the KJV/MV fence who believe that Mr. Ruckman's teachings are heretical and disruptive. No one should charge that a position against Ruckman's teaching is inspired by hatred of the King James Bible. That simply is not true!

The Old Testament and New Testament authors were inspired. The KJV translators were not inspired. I believe they DID accurately translate the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scriptures into the English language. I neither use nor recommend modern versions of the Bible; but, for example, any part of the NASB that is accurately translated is as much the word of God as the KJV. If a "thou" becomes a "you" it is still the truth. {though the "thee's", "thou's", "ye's" and "you's" of the KJV have advantage of denoting number and usage}.

Some American detractors say that the 1611 King James Bible is almost unreadable. This is probably more of a reflection on the typical modern American than it is on the King James Bible. I am of average intelligence (I hope). I own a 1611 KJV, and I read it all the way through one year for my Daily Bible readings. Admittedly, the type, spellings, etc. all give own cause to take care, but I see no reason why one who can read any other version of the Bible could not read a 1611 KJV. A few have said the 1611 KJV "isn't even close" to the KJV Bibles we have today. I am no authority on this. But I am quite familiar with the present KJV, and noticed no major difference of real consequence in my reading. A reasonable person who has both a 1611 and a modern print KJV will notice there are changes in spelling and punctuations, and probably corrections of typographical errors, etc. as well. But to say it "isn't even close" is an exaggeration or misrepresentation of the facts.

* I am indebted to David Cloud of Way of Life Literature for clear explanation of some of these teachings.


Will Fitzgerald said...

Hi Robert,

This is really interesting. I think this puts you in category (2), is that correct? Or perhaps a new category of 'best available translation'?

It strikes me that, unless you take something like a Ruckmanian position, that the KJV is only the best translation, then there are places where it fails to do an adequate job, as you more or less agree in your post about the use of the word "Easter" in the KJV. If that is the case, then it certainly seems a worthwhile effort to attempt an even better translation.

For what it's worth, my first Bible was a King James Version, but I have used the New Revised Standard Version for many years; it seems 'best' to me in (1) following in the KJV tradition, (2) generally accessible language suitable for public as well as private us, and (3) accuracy of translation. There are things that annoy me about it, but I think it's probably the least worst translation available in English.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Hi, Will. Glad you found that interesting, and hopefully helpful.

The Baptist Board also gives 5 Definitions of KJV Only, which appear to be much the same as those of James White. Undertaking categorization such as this is generally helpful but probably always leaves some oddballs in a limbo between the categories. Guess I'm one of the oddballs. I support the underlying texts of the King James, but also support the accuracy and trustworthiness of the King James translation. I might come in as a "3.5" because I would not apply the terminology "inspired" (for reasons given), and I also don't agree with some of the 4's and 5's on whether two different translations can both be the words of God. In a very simple illustration, I believe "Thou art the man" and "You are the man" and "You're the man" would all be God's words to David (in English, of course, though Nathan didn't speak English; and though there can be reasons to prefer one over the other). If it were translated "You are not the man" it would not be (I actually heard a verse in the NKJV that inserted a negative or deleted a negative that made it say the opposite of the KJV, but have long since forgotten which verse it was).

Re paska/Easter/Passover, I would have no problem if that word were translated Passover, but am not bothered by it saying Easter. Revisers, translators and publishers would be little interested in the changes I would allow, for who would buy it other than me?

Like you, my first Bible was a King James Version. Unlike you, I have "changed and changed back". Well, technically I don't remember if I ever actually changed the Bible I carried to church. When I was a teenager in Sunday School I would read from the King James and "translate" it into modern English while I was reading. Think I had a Living Bible back when it was popular. My "change back" came after about a year at the cemetery. Won't go into all that, but they were unofficially "anti-King James" -- which eventually caused me to study and decide I preferred the King James Bible. Well, I will go into one example. Some professors were anti-King James in the classroom and not anti-King James in their churches (not that they actually lied about it, but they did deceive). For example, one emphatically exclaimed to his class, "I had just as soon use a Catholic Bible as an Episcopal Bible." (But he didn't!)

Will Fitzgerald said...

I have been looking at Jesus's beatitudes in Matthew (and a bit in Luke) in preparation for a sermon series; even, God willing, a book. Here is an interesting thing: Mt 5:5 has "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." It seems that Jesus is quoting Psalm Psalm 37:11. In KJV, this is "But the meek shall inherit the earth ..." whereas the NRSV has "But the meek shall inherit the land".... I think that the KJV is pre-quoting Matthew, with support from the LXX (that Jesus/Matthew used), and the NRSV is using a (better) Hebrew source. Wikipedia says, "For their Old Testament, the translators used a text originating in the editions of the Hebrew Rabbinic Bible by Daniel Bomberg (1524/5),[122] but adjusted this to conform to the Greek LXX or Latin Vulgate in passages to which Christian tradition had attached a Christological interpretation."

What do you think of this strategy, assuming that's what the translators did?

R. L. Vaughn said...

I've never heard that before. I have compared some KJV OT verses with the Brenton English Septuagint and there are sometimes wide differences, so I guess I would be a little skeptical of that (i.e. that they were adjusting to conform to the Septuagint).

It is my understanding that the King James translation was conceived as a revision of the Bishop's Bible, which would take into consideration the other English Bibles -- Tyndale New Testament, Coverdale, Matthews, Geneva -- and sort of collate them into one Bible for the English people. Not to say they weren't doing translating work, but that they would have been taking those into consideration as well as Septuagint, Vulgate and anything else they might have been considering other than the Hebrew and Greek. I see that Tyndale, Wycliffe, Coverdale, Bishops, Geneva all have "earth" as the translation (some have erth). Not only that, most of the English Bibles on Bible Gateway have "earth" as well. Some have "land" and a few have "world".

When you get to Psalm 37:11, there are a lot more translations that have "land", but some have earth as well (e.g. Bishops, Coverdale).

Ultimately it is a matter of interpretation, that is, whether "earth" means the whole earth or a parcel of land, etc. KJV translators render γῆ as "earth" much more than the do "land"

R. L. Vaughn said...

As to conforming to the Vulgate...

I looked at it. It uses the word terram (terra). I have no scholarship in Latin, but looks like it could mean either land or earth. So that doesn't yield much help as to whether they were conforming to the Vulgate, either.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wikipedia says, "For their Old Testament, the translators used a text originating in the editions of the Hebrew Rabbinic Bible by Daniel Bomberg (1524/5),[122] but adjusted this to conform to the Greek LXX or Latin Vulgate in passages to which Christian tradition had attached a Christological interpretation."

I looked at those citations (just to see what they are, not that I could read them online). The first part is from The Authorized Edition of the English Bible by Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, who would be recognized as a scholar in this field. The second part is from Benson Bobrick in Wide As The Waters. He has a PhD from Columbia, which is impressive enough, but I found some negatives in a review of the book -- particularly that he didn't document his sources well.