Thursday, February 04, 2021

A Bible AND a Version

“It’s a Version and not a Bible.”

“It’s a Bible and not a Version.”

And so the debate goes between two extremes of the King James Only debate. I am not sure how this got started. Maybe it was on the “King James” side. I can easily imagine a preacher at a Bible conference coming down forcefully with “The King James is a Bible, not a Version!” Other preachers like it. They decide they will use that phrase, too. Soon many people are saying it. I can just as easily imagine some anti-King James radical trying to start a fight by saying “The King James is a Version, not a Bible!” In whatever manner this got started, apparently, like the poor, we will henceforth have it always. As a King James Bible supporter, I will leave the antis to their own ignorance. However, I will address this from “our” side.”

In “Why Are There So Many Bibles?,” David Stewart writes, “I don’t call it a ‘version,’ because the King James Bible is not a version... it is THE BIBLE!” It is, however, not mutually exclusive – that the King James could not be both a Bible and a Version. So far as I know, every King James Bible I have ever owned has a cover page with something like this: “King James Version of the Holy Bible” or “The Holy Bible in the King James Version, Translated Out of the Original Tongues.” Even the King James Bible itself says it is a “version.”

The problem is that people do not understand the semantic range of the word “version” and apply the wrong meaning. For example, when Evangelist Jimmie M. Clark gives a recommendation of Troy Clark’s The Perfect Bible (p. 14), he writes of the many great statements that Clark makes. One is “The King James Bible is not a version (paraphrase). It is the Holy Bible.” Clark writes at length about this topic on page 30, saying “A version is a paraphrase” and that “version” was first added as a Bible label after the English and American revisions of 1885 and 1901: “The paradox of renaming it did not occur until after 1901…” Perhaps it was not commonly called the “King James Version” on the cover page before that time. Nevertheless, it was so called, even by its boldest supporters. The deprecation of the word “version” is a new and late innovation. While searching for information on the “King James Version” before 1885 and 1901, I happened upon this gem by a supporter:

We believe therefore and are sure,—with a conviction in which no element of moral certainty is wanting—that our authorized English version is a full and correct copy of the Revelation of God’s most holy will, even of those Scriptures which, “given by inspiration of God,” “are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”[i]

Even if it were true that calling the Bible the “King James Version” is relatively new, calling it a “version” is not. For example, the Holy Bible is called “The Authorized Version” in an edition printed in London by Rivingtons in 1877, and in an edition printed in New York by Scribner, Armstrong, and Company in 1873. “The Holy Bible According to the Authorized Version” goes back in print at least to the early 1800s, if not before.

From a Cambridge Bible, 1823

I do not share this newfound consternation over the word “version” in reference to the Bible. Yes, some “antis” may misuse and abuse it. Its primary meaning in reference to the Bible is not paraphrase. It means “that which is rendered from another language, a translation from another language,” or just simply – “a translation.” To say or write “King James Version,” with understanding, is no different than to say or write “King James Translation.” If we believe the King James Bible is a translation, there is no reason to complain about the word “version.” Even Troy Clark acknowledges this, writing, “Of course, you understand the King James Holy Bible was not originally written in English, right?” He goes on to say the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and some Aramaic, and the New Testament in Greek and acknowledges that the King James Bible is these Scriptures translated into English.[ii] Once the complainants acknowledge that fact, they surrender their entire reason to argue about the word “version.” You see, “version” does not mean “paraphrase,” it means “translation.” The King James Bible is a translation or version of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

“It’s a Bible AND a Version.”

[i] The author, Matthew Henry Henderson, writing in 1853, calls the Bible the “Authorized Version,” the “English Version,” and “King James’s Version.” The Canon of Holy Scripture: With Remarks Upon King James’s Version, the Latin Vulgate and Douay Bible, New York, NY: Pott and Amery, 1868 (originally published in 1853), p. 56.
[ii] The Perfect Bible,, 2008, pp. 30-31. (I am currently under the assumption that Troy Clark did not start the phrase “It’s a Bible and not a Version,” but that it occurred long before 2008.) Perhaps those who object to the Bible being called the King James “Version” should reconsider whether they should even attach such words as “King James” or “Authorized” to The Holy Bible.

No comments: