Sunday, October 02, 2016

Analyzing King James Version Revision or Update Arguments, pt. 1

In the last month, I have written two posts about contemporary usage and support of the King James Version of the Bible, the first differentiating my biblical position from an untenable King James Version position and the second explaining why an update wouldn't occur.  Both of these posts resulted, as is often the case, in discussions about the English translation of the Bible with sharp disagreements and heated debate.  I had written the second post because of comments on the first.

I have noticed a new trend in opposition to the King James Version.  If you won't support an update of the King James Version, then you are at the least insincere and at the most lying about your TR-only position, one which rests on a belief of the superiority of the underlying original language text of the King James Version.  I haven't met one of these critics who even supports the underlying text.  In actuality, it is only a line of attack on particular supporters of the King James Version, with the obvious goal of eliminating any remaining endorsement of it, essentially retiring it from public use to a historical artifact.

An obvious question is "what difference does it make to those who don't use the King James Version whether another church does?"  It really doesn't matter to them.  They say it does, but that's only for its usefulness to mothball the King James.  It couldn't matter to them, because their position is that believers are guaranteed by God only the truth necessary to be saved. That is either the boundary or the core of their teaching, depending on whether they are fundamentalist or evangelical.  They also say that the differences between the modern versions and the King James do not change any doctrines.  It can't matter to them.

The saints who believe that they have available to them every Word of God found in the originals are supporters of the King James Version.  They are concerned about every Word.  You can't out-concern every Word concern.  When people come along, who say they are fine with 7% difference as long as all the doctrines are preserved, they don't have an argument that relates to having every Word available.  You know they are either ignorant or disingenuous, if they say that argument works for them. They are being far more lenient among themselves with acceptation of massive differences even between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, two manuscripts they call "the best" and "far superior to the textus receptus."  As Dean Burgon wrote in Revision Revised (1883, p. 12): "It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two manuscripts differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree."

If you say you can't understand what I've been writing so far, then you are just playing games.  I don't think playing games is the worst of it.  The worst of it is denying the biblical and historical doctrine of preservation and, therefore, not trusting God and what He said He would do.  Some will not doubt that He keeps them saved, keeps their soul intact.  They do doubt that He kept His Word, so they have modified the doctrine of preservation in a similar fashion that we also see the alteration of inerrancy. It's no wonder an Andy Stanley is pushing the ejection button on "the Bible tells me so."  We had already seen a similar move from Daniel Wallace, redefining in the 21st century what had already been redefined toward the end of the 19th century, watering down further and further a scriptural and historical bibliology.

Even with the vital importance and truth of everything in this post so far, my point in writing has been to deal with what are said to be reasons to tip supporters of the King James Version to update into contemporary readability.  Here is the graphic with Mark Ward's arguments, really ones addressing the arguments against a KJV update.
I'm not going to restate them.  You should use the graphic as a guide for the order here (an * will start on another argument).  *Ward says that modern KJV readers are missing more small details than they know.  He is overstating his case, because from my perspective this is his only argument.  The rest of the above are intended to debunk KJV arguments.  If someone doesn't understand a word, he is missing something.  Does it mean that he can't know the meaning of certain antiquated terms?  He can know them if someone defines or explains them.

It's difficult to prove the negative, the burden of proof upon Ward.  He has to prove people don't know something that they can in fact know.  He knows they can know, but he is asserting here that it is possible that it is more difficult for them to know with the KJV.  Someone who wants to know can know, which is the burden in scripture, but Ward is saying that it's got to be easier to know than it already is.

Ward buttresses his argument with examples like "halt," the English word found six times in the KJV. No one ever told me what "halt" meant when I was a child, the equivalent of a bus kid in a small rural town, but I still knew without explanation even as a small child.  I don't remember ever not knowing the essence of what "halt" meant.  Ward's argument has been that he had never met anyone who had known what it meant.  Ward is using what is called "anecdotal evidence," which is very often logically fallacious.  An example is, "Smoking isn't harmful, because my grandfather smoked a pack a day and he lived to be 97."  I counter his anecdotal evidence with my anecdotal evidence, the weakness of anecdotal evidence.

Some very good arguments against Ward's anecdotes were given that he chose not to answer.  They show the fallacy of his argument, and his not answering them would bring further doubt to his anecdotes.  One of several not answered was offered by Thomas Ross in the comment section:
In Israel, if bus kids can understand a narrative in Genesis but cannot understand exalted Hebrew poetry in the prophets, should a revised version of the OT be created?
To understand any of the poetry of scripture, one is expected to comprehend how Hebrew poetry functions.  Ward thinks "bus kids" must understand a translation for it to be within the vernacular, a requirement to his argument.  The question here is whether Hebrew poetry is within the range of a "bus kid."  I could add many corollaries to Ross's argument, including the understanding of Hebrew weights and measures.

*Answers to his first argument could fill several blog posts, but *his second argument says that existing recent translations of the textus receptus, like the KJV, are also formal equivalents.  Ward was responding to the argument that language translation is formal equivalence.  Formal translations follow the language from which they are translated, which itself isn't vernacular.   Newer translations might also be formal equivalence, but that still means that they provide a reading not in the vernacular. That's the challenge of the "bus kid."  Even in the MEV (Modern English Version), an updated translation from the received text, you read sentences in Ephesians 1 far past the readability of the modern bus kid.  Will the bus kid understand Job 24 in the MEV?  If those are a problem, they still exist in a recent formal equivalence.  Ephesians 1 and Job 24 continue as language translation, so also continue to belie the dialect of the "bus kid."

*An argument against an update is the majesty of the King James and reverent language.  Ward countered with God using koine and not classical Greek.  The Greek of the New Testament is called koine, which means "common."  Koine differs from classical Greek, and Ward is saying that God was saying something to us by using koine, instead of classical.  He according to this argument, therefore, was also saying that He wants His translations common.

The idea of koine or common was that written in the Hellenistic period or when Greek was the common language of the world, spread through the conquests of Alexander the Great.  Koine was not just the literary language of the New Testament, but also of everything else in that period that was written.  At the time it was in use, classical Greek wasn't "classical."  It was just Greek.  Classical Greek was the Greek of a previous historical period that through time became koine through the influences of its circulation.  It was the best because it was universal so more people could read it. Greek was not the language of the world in the classical period.  Today koine would be English, because it is the common language of the world.

Antonio Jannaris in his An Historical Greek Grammar (pp. 4-5) writes that literary, conversational, and vulgar Greek were used during every period, including the classical; however, that all "literary composition" rose "above daily common talk."  Daniel Wallace at the beginning of his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says that New Testament Greek, based on on contemporary writings in the papyri, was not vulgar.  Many, many Greek grammarians consider over half of the New Testament to be a literary Greek, including Hebrews, Luke, Acts, James, the pastoral epistles, 1 Peter, and Jude.

Ephesians 1:3-14 forms one sentence and is about 240 words in the English.  Right after it, verses 15-21 contain 167 words in the English.  2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 is a long sentence.  This is what is meant by "translational English."  Each of these sections in the Greek text is an entire sentence.  Do people write or speak that way today?  They don't.

*When I write "historical agreement" as an argument, I mean that through history, churches agreed to use the King James Version.  The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:17) and the common faith of believers is the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3).  This is how the God guided believers to the New Testament canon.  There hasn't been a unifying translation of scripture, where the church found such agreement.  For hundreds of years, when pastors said, "open your Bible," it was the King James Version. The King James was not displaced by the church.  It's been the slow bleed of dozens of pinpricks.  Churches like ours will not toss that history away.

Ward says that most evangelical churches have agreed to value multiple translations.  That is such an ambiguous statement with almost every word in contention---"most," "evangelical," "agreed," and "value."  We live in a day of theological and cultural diversity that barely agrees.  It's worse than ever. Our churches trace this to the compromise and capitulation of evangelicalism.  We repudiate evangelicalism, not follow its lead.

More to Come.


KJB1611 said...

In relation to Dr. Ward's chart, I would like to suggest that people who use the Defined King James Version are not missing more than they know – in fact, they are probably missing nothing or at least very close to nothing.

Anonymous said...

All: I think the arguments for and against (1) a revision or update of the KJV and the arguments for and against (2) a new translation from the TR should be totally different. I think Dr. Ward really wants a new translation, not a revision or update. But, no, that's not what he wants, either. He wants us to use a new translation – he's already got many to choose from. I see his role as that of polemics and attempted persuasion.

The fact that he refuses to discuss Bibliology on this blog (at least as regards preservation of the text) is, indeed, very telling.

Dr. Ward: Please, Dr. Ward, go ahead and debate Brother Brandenburg or Brother Ross on Bibliology. But, first, please do read the book Thou Shalt Keep Them.

E. T. Chapman

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree that the bus kid and whoever else can purchase a Defined King James, which would seem to match Ward's request, but...

E.T. Chapman,

You are correct, that's not what he wants. I agree he wants the eradication of the use of the KJV by whatever means, even if it means a temporary transfer to the MEV.

Anonymous said...

E. T. Chapman,

You say he refuses to discuss Bibliology on his blog. That's true. But his resolve is stronger than just refusing to discuss the issue. Just in case any other reader here has not reviewed his blog, he has VOWED to not discuss "textual criticism" with "people who insist on the exclusive use of the KJV." He is very serious, noting that he has made only 2 previous vows: a vow to his wife at marriage, and a vow to never vote pro-abortion:

"To my knowledge, I have made two vows in my lifetime: 1) a vow to love my wife with the true love of delight (with all the attendant vows of a wedding), and 2) a vow never to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. After lengthy consideration, I’m adding a third in this post—to protect me from forgetting what’s really at stake in the KJV debate, such as it is."
"You’ve led me to a decision: henceforth and forevermore, God helping me, I will not discuss textual criticism with people who insist on the exclusive use of the KJV. I’m not saying I won’t listen to others; I’m saying I won’t engage them on that one issue. Textual criticism is a red herring. Vernacular translation is the only issue I’ll debate. Resolved: the KJV is not—or rather, is no longer—a vernacular translation. Let’s talk English."

Not sure if "people who insist on the exclusive use of the KJV" means KJVO or TRO, or if he considers those overlapping though not totally synonymous, so the vow is for both. Not sure if "textual criticism" means the preservation issue. Actually, not really totally clear what his oath means either practically or in intent. Maybe he can clarify. However, whatever it is that he is vowing to not do, it is so bad that he puts it in the same category as breaking marriage vows or voting for murderers.


Jon Gleason said...

Wow, Titus, quite a vow. So "vernacular translation" (as he defines it) is more important than knowing what the actual words of God are.

The English translation matters more than the God-given and preserved words in Greek and Hebrew? We can blow off the important question of what words He truly gave because the real issue is how you translate it into English? Where have I heard this before?

Oh, yes, I remember. It was Peter Ruckman who elevated translation over God-given text.

I wish now I hadn't bothered to engage with him. So much disrespect to Scripture as that blog post reveals. The English translation is so much more important than the underlying text that it calls for a thrice in a lifetime vow? Such disreputable rubbish.

Mark L. Ward, Jr. said...

Brothers, I had the flu for several days and am working out from under the mountain of work that accumulated. Just for the record... I do care a great deal about what the words are, not just how they're translated. I decidedly do not lift up the English words over the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. It's the original language texts which were inspired, not any English translation.

E.T. and Kent, you affirm that "people who use the Defined King James Version are not missing more than they know – in fact, they are probably missing nothing or at least very close to nothing."

And I sincerely hope you are right. From what little I've seen of it ( it looks like the Waites have put some hard work into it.

But in saying what you said you grant one of the only points I'm really trying to make in this forum: the KJV is not translated into the vernacular. If people need externally provided glosses to read it, then it's not (quite) in their language. Based on the pages I've seen, there appear to be thousands of glosses, from Genesis to Revelation. Why are these needed? Do we ask missionary translators in Indonesia to use antiquated Indonesian words in the main text and then provide modern equivalents as footnotes? Why have a translation if it doesn't translate the words into words we use whenever it can? And that's one of the only other points I'm trying to establish here: Bible translations should be made into the vernacular.

I've been doing some research on whether or not the KJV was purposefully translated into language that was already antiquated. At this point I do not believe that that was the case. "Thou" and "thy," etc., were on their way out but were still available. In fact, though "thou" sounds elevated to us, it was originally the more familiar form of "you." The fact is that none of us can know what "thou" meant in 1611 without recourse to a lot of study, because we don't speak that form of the language.