Thursday, May 17, 2018

Campbell and KJVO

It is fashionable today among the anti-KJVO crowd to deny that anyone before 1950 believed that the King James Bible equaled the inspired Word of God. That historical revisionism may sound good to those who want to hear it, but it wouldn’t pass muster with one 19th century KJV opponent, Alexander Campbell. Campbell’s publication of his own New Testament locked him in battle with those who thought only the King James Bible was the word of God. Here is what he had to say about that in The Christian Baptist Volume 6, No. 9, April 6, 1829, page 540.[i] His arguments are eerily similar to the arguments of contemporary anti-KJV’ers. (Everything below with the exception of the endnote was written by the editor of The Christian Baptist.)

The Word of God
So badly taught are many christians that they cannot think that any translation of the scriptures deserves the title of the Word of God except that of king James. The translators of the king’s version did not themselves think so, as we have shown most conclusively by publishing their own preface—on which preface we have some remarks to make, at a more convenient time. But to the intelligent reader no remarks are necessary to show that they had very different ideas of their version, from those which this generation have formed. Have the French, the Spanish, the German, and all the nations of Europe, save the English, no Word of God? If king James’ version is the only Word of God on earth, then all nations who speak any other language than the English, have no Revelation.

Much of the reasoning of both priests and people, on this subject, is as silly as that of an old lady who, for many years, has been deprived of her reason, from whom we heard the other day. She once had a sound judgment, and still has a retentive memory, though she has not been compos mentis one day in twenty years. Her husband was reading in the new version, the account of the cure of the blind man, (Mark viii. 24.) He came to these words: “I see men whom I can distinguish from trees only by their walking.” In the king’s version, “I see men as trees, walking.” After reading these words he paused, and observed to the old lady, to elicit a reply, “How much better this, than the old version.” “That is a good explanation,” said she, “but it is not the scriptures, not the Word of God.” So our good logicians reason.

I would thank some of those ignorant declaimers to tell us where the Word of God was before the reign of king James! Had they no divine book before this good king, in consequence of the Hampton Conference, summoned his wise men? Yes; they had version after version, each of which, in its turn, ceased to be the “Word of God” when a new one was given. This I say after the manner of these declaimers. Our good forefathers, two hundred and fifty years ago, read and preached from a different version, which they venerated in their day, as our compeers venerate James’ Bible.—The English language has changed, and the original tongues are better understood now than then. The common version is, as many good and learned men have said, quite obsolete in its language, and in many places very defective in giving the ideas found in the original scriptures. Taken aa a whole, it has outlived its day at least one century, and like a superannuated man, has failed to be as lucid and as communicative as in its prime.

There is no version in any language that does not clearly communicate the same great facts, and make the path of bliss a plain and easy found one; but there is an immense difference in the force, beauty, clearness, and intelligibility of the different versions now in use. And that king James’ version needs a revision is just as plain to the learned and biblical student, as that the Scotch and English used in the sixteenth century, is not the language now spoken in these United States. And this may be made as plain to the common mind, as it is that the coat which suited the boy of twelve, will not suit the same person when forty years old. As the boy grows from his coat, so do we from the language of our ancestors. Editor.

[i] The Christian Baptist, by Alexander Campbell, Seven Volumes in One, D. S. Burnet, editor, Cincinnati, OH: D. S. Burnet, 1835; See also A. Campbell’s New Testament and the KJV.

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