Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Difficult reading?

Here are a few thoughts on reading the Bible, evoked by readers who feel that the King James Bible is difficult to read and therefore use something else.
  • On the one hand are the mischief-makers. These generally disrespect the King James Bible and may often claim it is written in another language we cannot understand. The radical KJV-onlyists no doubt incite some of this behaviour, but intelligent folks should not make such false claims, regardless of the reason. (Interestingly, some of these who claim to be unable to read 1611 KJV would have us know they are reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew!) Of course, the type and fonts are different from modern type -- see this facsimile (in a reduced size) of the Bible published in 1611 -- but it is not unreadable to anyone of average intelligence.
  • On the other hand are the considerate. These generally respect the King James Bible and make amicable concessions about it while still deferring to some other version on the ground that the KJV is harder to read and harder to understand than modern translations. They sometimes are like those who treat the elderly with respect, while assuming they have nothing to learn from them.
To the mischief-makers I say: If you are so dull that you cannot read a 1611 English Bible (difficult though it might be), I cannot respect your intelligence to make any other claims at all about this or any other Bibles.

To the considerate I say:
  1. Overcome the difficulty and read it anyway. Any serious Bible translation has some things that are difficult from the standpoint of English language (though some obviously more so), as well difficult from the point of human understanding. It is worth the effort.
  2. Embrace the difference you see and hear. Even though I am a committed KJV user, I listen every morning on KHCB radio to Max McLean’s “Listen to the Bible” (NIV). The differences I hear catch my attention and make me think more deeply. A. T. Roberson said that “The very words of the English become so familiar that they slip through the mind too easily.” It’s true, and at times we need a shake-up from that familiarity. The differences you find in the KJV will get your attention.
  3. Savor the distinction of the singular and plural pronouns. Our modern English has lost the distinction of “you” and “you” and the KJV affords the Bible reader the best opportunity to discover it as we read the Bible. Many may discover this distinction when studying, but often miss it while reading.

Side note: What are the reading levels of the Bibles on Bible Gateway? and Mardel Book Store Bible Translation Guide are two attempts at defining the reading level difficulty of various Bible translations.

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