Also, much of the information I present is in debt primarily to a book called One Bible Only: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible by Roy Beacham & Kevin Bauder which is written not just for the educated but also for the unlearned, and further I also rely heavily on the rhetoric by one of my spiritual schoolmasters, C.S. Lewis in his essay titled "Modern Translations of the Bible" found in the book God in the Dock.
All that said, I will break this post into two or even three parts.
It started several years ago in a house where a group of a few young men and elders were doing a weekly Bible study about various topics of concern. I was an idiot back then...I went looking for issues to raise in our understanding of the Bible....The issue I had raised at this particular Bible study, which was completely immature, was "Does God know everything? If God forgets our sins upon repentance, then it follows that He does not know everything, since of course I know the event of an immoral action I had committed that God Himself does not know." (For those curious, I do find the evidence that God "forgets" our sins rather wanting, although there are a few places that allude to such a miracle).
As I raised the question, the Bishop of the church, who is a man of much repute in our organization, got out of his seat walked over to me and said in a frustrated tone, "Do you know what your problem is? It's that (pointed to my Oxford annotated NRSV verion of the Bible). You need to stop thinking so much and get your head buried in the King James Version of the Bible." Needless to say, what had always been an informal, relaxed environment in the room quickly escalated into an environment of much hostility and awkwardness. I refrained from comment.
But that man's approval of the KJV over and against any other translation (perhaps he would approve the NKJV), is a tantamount representation of the tone of many of our fundamentalist elders and prophets against any modern translation of the Bible.
If the KJV is the continued preferred/authorized/only endorsed translation of the Bible in our denomination twenty years from now, I should rather find myself in the hills of Pakistan with an American Flag sewn onto me and a megaphone attached to my helmet blaring a Pat Robertson sermon in Arabic.
And it's for three reasons:
1)The Philosophical underpinnings of a KJVite
2) the Historicity of the KJV is terribly flawed in comparison to it's counterparts (Part 2)
3) The Poor Logic that is used to defend the superiority of the KJV over the use of other translations (Part 3)
Before I go further, let me emphasize that I have no issue if people prefer the KJV to other translations for their own personal devotion. As with all translations of the Bible, I highly recommend you pick 1 or 2 versions that really resonate with you. That you feel you can grasp..."to each his own." I myself even prefer the KJV and it's poetic style for many of the prophets of the Old Testament.
My issue is with those Apostolics who try to make a dogmatic position about their preferred translation of choice. In short, when Apostolics claim that the KJV is superior, or more "holy," and should be preferred, they are making an objective/absolute position about that which is much more subjective/uncertain than fundamentalist Apostolics would prefer. But yet we live in an age where if an evangelist uses any other translation other than the KJV (or NKJV), then most of the congregation eagerly waits for the giant cane from the side of the stage to reel the speaker right on off the platform.
There may be some of you out there asking, "why do we need other translations?" You may think to yourself that what we already have is good enough, for God has certainly sanctioned it on high, and doesn't allowing a new translation mean there is something wrong with the old one? And thus what such a questioner believes is at stake, is someone trying to make the sacred words by which they have grown accustomed to in the KJV are being made profane, compromised, and watered down for the uneducated consumption of those vulgar youth. Others may argue that any inability to comprehend the KJV can be aided by asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes on how to understand the KJV. I have heard many people say they struggled at first with reading the KJV, but God made a miracle happen in their minds, wherein one day God lifted the veil of confusion, and the KJV was as clear as modern English.
I hope the above satisfies the gist of the standard pro-KJV argument to which I am countering. If there is a strawman argument, please rebuke me accordingly. Of course there are other nuanced arguments which I will get into, but I hope the paragraph above gives us an appropriate launching point.
So what do I mean about the philosophy about the KJV? Well I don't really think it's about an undying love for the King James English or else Shakespeare would be more in vogue amongst our fellowship, nor the fact that I John 5:7 is found only in the KJV translation of the Bible, because it can be quite a pain to try to explain this verse from a oneness position to a trinitarian (the verse is not actually supposed to be in the Bible. It was added centuries later).
Rather the KJV debate is about something else other than the text within the KJV. It's about certainty. We are after all the fellowship that possesses "the full truth" (future post). If we are certain about our knowledge being true, then we can rest easy and stop searching. It's on the up and up for us. And thus if the Bible is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and perhaps inerrant, you need not worry that the text within that Bible is imperfect. Every dot and every punctuation in the Bible is perfect.
But the question is which Bible is inspired?
Was the perfect Bible the Masoretic text of the Old Testament in it's original Hebrew? Or was it the Septuagint which was the initial Greek translation of the Old Testament (the New Testament writers quote from both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint although the differences between them are many and many verses appear in one and not the other).
Was the perfect Bible the original books of the New Testament written in Greek by their biblical authors otherwise known as the autographs (which we do not possess any of)? Or perhaps the Perfect version of the Bible was the Greek manuscripts (hand written copies of the original books, or copies of copies of copies, etc..)? Or was the perfect Bible the one written out by Jerome in the 5th century translated into Latin that became known as the infamous latin vulgate (most famous for being the declared truly inspired version of the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church) ? Or could all of them be perfectly equal in perfection?
But what about the fact that with all of the Greek manuscripts of the Bible we have found (the handwritten copies of the original Bible written in Greek), thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, to which are most of our knowledge of scripture is based on, no two copies of these ancient versions of the Bible are exactly alike. In fact the most similar versions of the various Greek manuscripts still differ at least 6-10 times per chapter!
Which of these manuscripts is the perfect one?
And which version of the KJV is the perfect one? The original 1611 version (with the Apocrypha!), the 1629 version (with many edits and without the Apocrypha), or 1769 version which is the KJV we have come to know and love but yet has 75,000 detailed changes between it and the 1611 original).
Pretty Messy stuff.
Note that the II Timothy 3:16 assures us that the scripture that was written was inspired. It says nothing of the inspiration of the copying, preserving, and translating processes.
So instead of working our way through the mucky muck, or educating ourselves on the issue in hopes that we can get more to an accurate interpretation of the Bible, we choose certainty instead and put the veil over our eyes and we choose this day that as for us and our household, we will abide by the Holy King James Version of the Bible.
As Donald Miller said in a recent blog, "We like simple explanations of reality because we like control. We want to stuff the complexity of the world into our little minds because if we can hold it all in our minds, there is no mystery."
Perhaps you may say the process to which the KJV was conceived was inspired, but where does God ever promise in His Word the infallible transmission, translation, and interpretation of His Word? Especially when such garbage as I John 5:7 finds itself in the KJV and is nowhere in the early ancient Greek manuscripts? ("early" added on correction from Jared since I John 5:7 does appear in late Greek manuscripts) I ask you further then, if God could inspire the transmission process to the KJV (which wasn't even the first English translation of the Bible), on what grounds can you logically say that God may not inspire a further translation in the future?
Sure, it's nice having our theology, and our favorite interpretation of the Bible in a perfect box, and thus any "new theology" or "new translation" of the Bible can easily be denied, but if that's the case let's lock ourselves in our coffin now.
Just do not confuse certainty for truth. The more certain we are about a truth, the more likely we will miss the actual truth when it passes by because we are distracted by that which we are certain. God is infinite, and thus not fully comprehensible to the limited finite human brain. So let's not put our weight in a certain translation of the Bible just because it appeases our desire for neatness and simplicity regarding God's Word.