Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Analyzing King James Version Revision or Update Arguments, pt. 2

Part One

I'm happy our church uses the King James Version.  Because of our belief in the preservation of its underlying text, our church can't use the New King James Version, even if it were a superior translation.  The NKJV doesn't come from the identical Hebrew and Greek text of the KJV, so we won't use it.  Should we use one of the other revisions or updates of the King James Version?  I've written that we have several reasons for continuing to use the King James Version that far outweigh the difficulty of some outdated words.  Those can be explained.  If you want, you can buy a Defined King James Version, which defines those words in the margins (which is why it is called "Defined").

Here's what we see happen.  Someone says words in the King James Version can't be understood.  We say, there is a Defined King James Version, if you want it.  The person says words in the King James Version can't be understood.  We say, there is a Defined King James Version, and it defines those words.  Crickets.  What are we to think about that?  I think a sensible inclination is to think that he doesn't really care whether they can understand the King James Version or not.  He doesn't like or want the King James Version.

This post will continue dealing with arguments against the support of the use of the King James Version.  I've written that Mark Ward really gave one argument, that is, updating outdated words. We've answered that charge in a number of different ways.  We had several arguments against a revision that Ward gave to dispute our reasons.  They weren't arguments.  They were attempts at answering our arguments, and I'm going to continue to answer what he wrote in his chart I posted in part one.  I'm going to keep using the *asterisks to mark a new argument, and I'm to the fifth of nine.

*How low can you go with language?  The King James Version translates in a formal equivalent of the Hebrew and Greek text received by the churches, the words preserved and available to every generation of church.  It stays there with formal equivalence in translation language.  It gives us God's Word, and it is God's Word, so it is respectful to God.  People have loved the King James because it reads like God's Word, not like a comic book or a popular novel.  That might be what some people want, but church leaders shouldn't take that bait.  This is what we see in our culture and it spreads to churches.  There is a tremendous lack of respect and reverence to our culture and instead of turning the world upside down, churches are being turned upside down.  We shouldn't cooperate with that as a church.

*Ward has expressed numerous times that he is concerned about how that the translation of the King James will hinder evangelizing the "bus kid."  I evangelize every week numerous times. A week doesn't go by where I will not preach the gospel to someone.  I'm not talking about in our assembly during a service, when I preach there.  I'm talking about out in the world.  When it comes to the translation issue, the greatest hindrance for evangelism is the translation confusion and chaos out there.  People have less trust in the Word of God.  Offering more and more "translations" takes away confidence in scripture.  More and more translations published gives the impression that the Bible is malleable in the hands of men.  It takes away respect.  I think everyone knows that.

Ward says more translations will bring clarity.  I get the argument.  He's saying that you can lay out twenty translations in front of you and compare what the translators did to attempt to get what a passage is saying, using them like a commentary.  Translations shouldn't be commentaries.  They aren't crafts for men to read in their theology or maybe even a pet peeve.  What you very often get today are men that do translation shopping, where they find a translation that agrees with their position, and they keep looking until they find it.  It puts men in a position of sovereignty over God's Word.

*For the next argument, Ward says the KJV is not precise because it has confusing punctuation that people today are not accustomed too.  My original point is that you can read the number in second person personal pronouns in the King James Version, and you can't in modern versions.  You see those communicated in the original language and you do in the King James Version.  You don't read in the modern versions the specificity of the original languages.  You get the same kind of precision in the verbs of King James:  singular, I think, thou thinkest, and he thinketh, then plural, we think, you think, and they think.

The King James does more than what I just described in precision.  Look at the following examples of Matthew 3:13:
King James:  "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him."
English Standard:  "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him."
New American Standard:  "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him."
New King James:  "Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him."
"Cometh" is present tense in the original language, and yet the modern versions translate it as past or aorist.  It's also present tense in the critical text, and yet the modern translators, all of these three very commonly used, give it a past tense, which is not accurate.

*God is immutable.  God's Word should not be so apt to change.  Just because new translations are made and can be made, we should not be quick to change God's Word.  Keeping a standard and us changing to fit that standard is more in fitting with a biblical way of life, than to keep adapting the Bible to us.  That was my point.

There are reasons why you could mark a church by what version of the Bible it used.  The translation issue reflected a new-evangelical church.  The new-evangelical church changed Bibles.  This has been the nature of pragmatism and regular change in churches. Churches have a tradition and keep a culture stable with a tradition.  When churches change and change and change, it's no wonder we can't keep the slide from happening.  Translation change got this going with churches.  This is a historical reality.

The language of the Bible is still the language of the Bible.  No one should be advocating change of that.  However, the actual language of the Bible has become out of reach of a degrading culture.  We should not pull the Bible down with it.  It is an anchor for a culture.  When I say that, I'm not talking about a discussion of the use of the English word "halt," but of Hebrew poetry and long Greek sentences and metaphors used by the authors that are no longer in use.

Language itself, it is true, isn't immutable.  However, God's Word is immutable, even when language is changing.  We want people to conform to what God has done, rather than encourage an expectation of the Bible adapting to people.

*The last argument is the one that I see Mark Ward understand the least.  The King James Version was accepted by the churches.  It was used and continued to be used by the churches.  The church is the pillar and ground of the truth.  Jesus gave the church the truth. The church is the depository of the truth.  The new translations aren't being authorized by churches, but by independent agencies and with varied motivations.  Churches keep the translation issue on a spiritual plane, instead of other incentives, like profit, business or trade, and intellectual or academic pride.

The modern versions did not originate from churches.  They started among textual critics, who were almost unanimously unbelieving.  This wasn't a movement of churches, but of extra-scriptural, parachurch organizations.  College and universities, which were laboratories of liberalism and upheaval, is where the modern version movement began.  This is not how God has done and does His work.  He uses the church.

The biblical and historical doctrine of preservation leads our church to use the King James Version, because of its underlying original language text.  Other thoughtful reasons motivate our church with the translation of the King James.  We have considered an update and we are not supportive for reasons we gave.  We have careful and reasonable arguments that outweigh arguments against.  There is no groundswell of support for an update or revision of the King James Version from churches that use the King James Version.

9 comments:

Jonathan Speer said...

Kent,

You said:

I've written that we have several reasons for continuing to use the King James Version that far outweigh the difficulty of some outdated words. Those can be explained.

I completely agree. We are regularly expected to know and understand all kinds of technical terms and jargon. We also learn new words daily from the earliest years of our lives. Why should one of the most important "documents" of all be relegated to perceived simplicity at the expense of accuracy and precision?

I was in a church in another state earlier this year visiting with family in proximity to a funeral. Ironically, the pastor happened to be preaching from at least two different translations taken from the CT when he said something very similar to the following:

"Don't be afraid of 'theological terms' like propitiation and atonement. If you can learn to order at Starbucks, you can learn a few theological terms."

Obviously, he wasn't making the particular argument you are in regard to outdated words, but the same thing could be said about the few words in the KJV that are deemed to be archaic or outdated.

I also once heard a pastor majorly overstate the "outdatedness" of the word "mortify" as it is used in the Bible. Again, ironically, in the very same message, he used the common phrase, "I was mortified ..." to describe his reaction to an event. Even though the usage wasn't identical, it made his initial treatment of both the word, as outdated, and the audience, as ignorant, seem all the more laughable.

Mere anecdotes, yes, but still demonstrative of the ironies that exist when men speak from less than Biblically sound positions on the Bible.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jonathan,

Thanks. I agree.

Jim Camp said...

This comment probably belongs on the previous post.

Mark was demanding that we forsake the KJV for any other translation, as long as it was more vernacular. He seemed to want another revision, did not care which text was used, as long as it was vernacular. (I hope I am correctly representing him in this)

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this sounds like the reasons behind the Revised Version of 1881. If memory serves, they were not supposed to change the Greek text, only update English words & clear up translation issues. Instead, they changed the text.

At least for me, this is a very good reason to not want a vernacular update to the KJV.
I don't trust these people. I think that men like this have already caused catastrophic damage, all in the name of making it better & easier to read.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jim.

I think that I really try to understand someone like Mark, to try to see it in the most generous way to him, but I still arrive at something unhelpful at the least. I also try to see me in the worst way in this, asking if I'm really an unwitting Ruckmanite or hayseed that doesn't get it. And with those, I know that isn't true, but just a smear job. We've had every word in every generation, the KJV a translation from those words. The translation issue is somewhat a separate issue, and I say "somewhat" because it is related. There is a reason why even the ESV translators recently said, "We're done," this is the last edition, and in their case, even if they find new manuscripts. If English morphs past the level of the Bible itself, we can't work that Bible to fit the culture. At some point, you say, "No!"

Mark L. Ward, Jr. said...

Kent, you're not a hayseed that doesn't get it. And you carefully distinguish yourself from Ruckman in some important ways. And I don't see how translation and text are anything but separate issues. Sure, they're "related" like crows and uranium ions are related: they're both things in God's created world. But is the relationship between text and translation such that a belief in the TR requires exclusive use of the KJV? No.

Jonathan, you write, "Why should one of the most important 'documents' of all be relegated to perceived simplicity at the expense of accuracy and precision?" It shouldn't. I have carefully distinguished my own view from that one (a view no one I know holds). I think we should retain difficult words such as "mandrakes" and "eunuch" and "propitiation," the last one for its doctrinal precision and the other two for their cultural accuracy. I'm talking about words like "besom" and "chamberlain" (which I just ran across in my personal Bible reading and realized that after 35 years [36 on Monday!] I didn't understand) and "abase" and "allow" (in the sense of "permit"). KJVOs want this to be a batter over doctrines; I just want a Bible translation that doesn't require me or the bus kids to look up words unnecessarily. I want a translation—of whatever texts you think are the right ones—into my own language.

Regarding your "mortify" anecdote... That sounds like a perfect "gotcha," but it simply isn't. As Merriam-Webster will tell you (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mortify) "mortify" in the sense it's used twice in the KJV translation of Paul's letters is an "obsolete" sense. That pastor used the word "mortified" in the only sense in which it is now used in contemporary English. Only in religious contexts, especially those alluding to the KJV, does "mortify" mean what Paul meant (see also the NOW corpus here: http://corpus.byu.edu/now/). It's a useful word, and I hate to see it go. But I am willing to set aside my right to use the word I grew up with in order to communicate the truth to people who through no fault of their own have never heard the word "mortify" mean anything but "shame" or "embarrass." What problem do you really have with "put to death the deeds of the body"? If few people use the word "mortify," all people understand "put to death," and the two mean the same thing—why can't a translation say "put to death"? I'll bet D.A. Waite's Defined KJB—and countless explanatory comments from KJV-Only pastors—have used the phrase "put to death."

Mark L. Ward, Jr. said...

Kent, you write, "If English morphs past the level of the Bible itself, we can't work that Bible to fit the culture. At some point, you say, 'No!'"

What does that mean, brother? I honestly don't understand. Again, pretty much everybody in all the comments on your blog is talking in just the style of language I'd like to see in a translation of the TR. You personally, Kent, write with an English style and set of vocabulary words I'd be happy to see in my English Bible translation.

Sure, the culture doesn't talk very much about a lot of things in the Bible: centurions, eunuchs, mandrakes, spindles, Pharisees. I'm not proposing modern equivalents for these words, because there are none. A contemporary vernacular Bible will still be unintelligible in many ways to a lost person with no Christian background. All I'm asking for is "broom" instead of "besom," and "you" instead of "thou." The Bible's English should sound basically like your English.

Jonathan Speer said...

Mark,

When men elevate vernacular simplicity over other considerations it can seem like they are accepting the trade-off I described, especially if that person has not fully engaged with the arguments of those who have elevated accuracy and precision for particular biblical reasons. I realize that you are doing just that and am thankful for your thorough and meaningful responses in this conversation. Most seem to have no desire to address the biblical arguments Kent has raised and that's why sometimes it seems, from my perspective, that translational priorities are so out or order.

As for the use of "mortify," it is used in our day to demonstrate a degree of embarrassment or shame. Even outside of a religious context, I've never met anyone that didn't seem to get that saying they were "mortified" was equal to saying something like "if that happened to me, I would have died." Maybe there is a colloquialism involved (I do live in Greenville, SC), the word is still being used in such a way as to only have its meaning because of what it "meant". Plus it only took you two sentences to indicate the differences, so my original point stands that these types of difficulties are often overstated. By the way, I have no problem with using "put to death" as long as it accurately represents the underlying language.

I just don't seem to run into folks who have so much difficulty with words of any sort. Maybe it's like you say that people just don't know what they're missing, but it doesn't seem like it based on the examples you've given of your own recent epiphanies. I've preached and taught in prisons and inner city complexes as well as backwoods trailer parks and never run into anyone who has raised a question about a word in the Bible that wasn't easily defined and understood quickly.

You said:

But is the relationship between text and translation such that a belief in the TR requires exclusive use of the KJV?

It depends on what you believe about the texts. If you believe the TR is unique in the way that it conforms to what the Bible says about itself, and the KJV is the best translation from that text, then the answer could be yes.

I actually don't believe that the text issue can be separated from the translation issue. It is the subject of translation, so how could it be. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.

Happy Birthday. :-)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mark,

This could be an entire different post, but there are reasons why TR people are also KJV people besides that the KJV comes from the TR. Most of them are strong local church people, even local only in their ecclesiology. Not all. You'll find a similarity with strong confessional Presbyterians. It is an ecclesiastical text position. I recognize that they have different ecclesiology, the two, but that the church is the depository of the truth, also the means by which we know the truth. The church agreed on the text and that was the Holy Spirit working, same argument for canonicity, and consistent to see the two the same, since scriptural canonicity, you'll see is a canonicity of words. The King James has been the Bible for English speaking people. We shouldn't walk over that agreement of the churches. You don't talk in way like you understand that. I don't know if that is because you don't want to concede in any way or whether you don't really get it. When someone doesn't start with a scriptural bibliology, he will be prey to whatever opinion or movement is out there.

Joe A. said...

"Mark L. Ward, Jr. said...
Kent, you're not a hayseed that doesn't get it."

This is what drives people who simply believe what the English tells them to reject these "scholars" who have made themselves into the Authority vs the Words we can read and understand. What haughtiness! This is typical of the BJU mindset. A pat on the head for people too ignorant to know all these people think they know about Hebrew and Greek. "When the pride of intellect reigns, sound scholarship becomes what the late David Otis Fuller called 'scholarolatry.'”