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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda

In the past few weeks I have been made keenly aware that there is an "anti-KJV crowd" among Baptists. That is, they are opposed to the use of the King James Bible. Much of the "anti-KJV" faction flies under the radar with the cloak of opposing "King James-Onlyism." I ask the fair reader to review the content quotes to which I call attention and judge whether it is directed against KJV-Only (a belief about the King James Bible) or against the King James Bible itself. These examples are found in a post and its replies at SBC Voices titled The “Old Path” Is Not Always the Best Path – The KJV Is a Great Example!

In this article, author Dave Miller takes aim at the idea "old is better" and then sets his sights on the King James Bible as evidence to prove that old is not necessarily better. In his complaint against the KJV, Dave offers four proofs of its inferiority: the KJV is against the revelatory pattern of the original autographs, it confuses rather than enlightens, it was translated before modern advances in textual studies, and it adds to the word of God. These objections are skewed. The 3rd objection is correct as far as it goes, but must be put in context. I will address these four objections presented by Miller, then review and address the anti-KJV crowd directly with their own statements.

1. The KJV is contrary to God’s revelatory pattern. "There was a flowery, formal language available in those days. Classical Greek was used by the educated, but the average man or women spoke Koine Greek."

For whatever reason, in regard to the revelatory pattern Dave only mentions Greek. It is well on some levels to narrow the discussion to the Greek New Testament, since that is where most of the disagreement about Bible versions lies. But when we speak of the revelatory pattern of the Bible language, Hebrew and Aramaic must also be included. This objection misses the mark on three counts. First, all scholars are not agreed on the extent of the differences between Classical Greek and Koine Greek. Critiquing an argument by R.C.H. Lenski in Matthew 28:1, Robert Dean Luginbill, Department of Classical and Modern Languages at the University of Louisville, writes, "...basing any sort of biblical argument on the premise 'but this is koine Greek, not classical Greek' is very wrong-headed." Second, the language and writing style of the New Testament may all be Koine, but is nevertheless quite varied. Perhaps some might be called flowery or formal, and some might be called common (or even grammatically incorrect). Variation in style and “quality” is also true of the Old Testament. Third, it is more important to recognize Koine not so much as the language of the common man, but more that is was the language the Roman empire had in common.

* More on Koine Greek, Classical Greek and the language of the New Testament HERE.

2. The KJV confuses rather than enlightens. "In addition to the thees and thous, the KJV uses words that are simply confusing because of the way the language has changed over the centuries."

In themselves the “thees” and “thous” are quite enlightening, once one is taught how to read them. Without any extra teaching, English readers instinctively know it means “you” – but they may not know that these pronouns reflect better the singular and plural Greek 2nd person pronouns. A simple mnemonic shows how easy it is to understand them – “T” is singular and “Y” is plural. Nothing particularly confusing about that.

     What "t" begins, is one, 'tis true;
     When more, then "y", like ye and you.

"If you are constantly having to correct or explain the words and their meanings, why not use a more accurate Bible?" This is an outrageous suggestion not rooted in fact. Who practices such as the rhetoric accuses, "constantly" correcting and explaining words when preaching or teaching from the King James Bible? Yes, sometimes it is necessary. There are words people don’t know due to them being used in a way we often do not today. These are not that many. On the other hand, all Bibles have words whose meaning is not understood by some readers, regardless of how old or how new they are. It is the duty of the Bible teacher to explain words. If not, what purpose does he serve? We would ask whether the preacher/teacher using more modern Bible versions has absolved himself from the duty to explain words. Are there no words in modern versions that people do not understand?  No words that need explaining? How many know these examples from the NIV without looking them up -- cors, filigree, fomenting, Goiim, pinions, porphyry, profligate, resplendent? Please, do not insult our intelligence.

3. Dramatic advances in textual and morphological studies have rendered the KJV archaic. "Since 1611, there have been lots of ancient biblical texts found which give us a textual basis that is much better than the KJV. Morphological studies have advanced our understanding of words, grammar and usage, not only in Greek, but also in Hebrew and its cognates. Simply put, we understand better today what the autographa meant." "A modern translation is a superior rendering of the meaning of the Word of God than the KJV."

There have been new textual discoveries since the KJV was translated in 1611, and even technological advancements that are helpful in compiling and collating information. But for all our evolution in this regard, there has also been devolution. For all our progress of modernity, we have lost some of the awe and reverence for the word of God from past centuries. We have more Bible critics and questioners and doubters among scholars and in the pews. The proliferation of books written on words and phrases may offer more interpretations of the Koine Greek. More texts, incorrectly labeled “better” because they are “older,” offer more options, more questions, and more chances to be wrong. Are we better off for the more, or possibly like the man who owns two watches, never knowing what time it is?? What is the fruit of the proliferation of Bible versions? More knowledge? More questions? More faith? More stability? Or less?

One would think that all new discoveries support the findings and followers of Westcott and Hort. Such is not the case. The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism by Harry A. Sturz shares important information in this regard. Sturz is a textual scholar and not a partisan for the Byzantine tradition.

In his book Sturz, among other things, calls attention to some early "Western" texts agreeing with the Byzantine tradition against the Alexandrian, demonstrates Byzantine readings in the writings of the Church Fathers,* and discusses the discoveries of several Egyptian papyri with "distinctively Byzantine readings". He writes, "Although the reasoning of Westcott and Hort seemed sound at the time they wrote, discoveries since then have undermined the confident appraisal that characteristically Syrian readings are necessarily late (p.55)." Further, concerning the Egyptian papyri he states, "They attest the early existence of readings in the Eastern part of the Roman empire in which the Byzantine and the properly (i.e. geographically) Western witnesses agree and at the same time are opposed by the Alexandrian (p.70)." Sturz concludes, "In view of the above, it is concluded that the papyri supply valid evidence that distinctively Byzantine readings were not created in the fourth century but were already in existence before the end of the second century and that, because of this, Byzantine readings merit serious consideration (p.69)."

* John William Burgon did extensive research in this area, concluding that early church fathers' quotations support the Byzantine readings over the Alexandrian and that the earliest fathers were acquainted with the Byzantine text.

4. The KJV adds to the Word. Miller points to I John 5:7, as well as the Mark 16 and John 8 pericopes. That the KJV "adds to the Word" is a question of "what" and not "whether". All translations "add" or "subtract" or both. This is an ongoing manuscript “type” question. One should not imagine that there is one The Greek New Testament – some translucent master copy descended down from heaven with a golden halo hovering above it. All complete Greek New Testaments are redacted –put together from many sources based on certain critical theories about which manuscripts, fragments and uncials are the best preservations of the original texts. It is a deceptive argument to find a text in the King James and claim it “adds to” the Word because it is not in Nestle-Aland. It is similarly false to find a text not in a modern version and claim it “takes away” from the Word because it is not in TBS.

To question the textual basis of modern versions is held firmly out of reach of in the mind of the anti-KJV elitist. Any who would so question are cast out as fanatics, dubbed as KJV-Onlyists, and rejected as throwbacks to a by-gone era. But from John William Burgon to Arthur Farstad—credible Greek scholars and no KJV-Onlyists—have favored the Byzantine text-type over the Alexandrian.

If one gives greater attention to the Alexandrian text-type, he or she will come down on a different side of the question than if one gives greater attention to the Byzantine text-type. In modern times, were we to put scholars on a scale and weigh them, the obesity would favor leaving out the ending of Mark 16, John 7:53—8-11, and I John 5:7. It has not always been so. But might does not make right. Curiously and importantly, though, for all the complaining against the KJV adding to the Word, the complainers are themselves using Bibles that also include these same "additions" to the word of God! I checked the 8 print copies of Bibles that I have other than the KJV (plus the HCSB online). Of these 9 modern versions, 7 leave out I John 5:7. But only two set off the Mark 16 and John 8 pericopes outside the biblical text. And these are the two worst versions that I have – the Revised Standard Version and the New World Translation. All the rest include them. Whether in brackets explained by marginal notes, they include them in the biblical text. So much for this objection, when your own Bible also “adds” to God’s Word.

Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 2
Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 3
Answering the Anti-KJV Agenda, Part 4

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