Monday, December 18, 2017

McWhorter, Ward, Tyndale, and a KJV Update

James McWhorter came on my radar when in 2003 I purchased and read his book, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care.  Since then, I have read many of his articles published online, referring to one, even in my post exactly a week ago.  As a black American linguist, McWhorter has considered and continued to explore the meaning and effects of the changes or even degeneracy of language and speech.  His honesty about the consequences for black people have led many on the left to regard him as a conservative, to require him to defend his blackness.  McWhorter labels himself a "cranky liberal" and he teaches at the left wing Columbia University in New York City.

On Monday, I referenced McWhorter on the use of "like" in contemporary speech.  He seemed to advocate the acceptance of its modern iteration as a typical evolution of language.  Anymore little to nothing seems to hold back the debasement of culture.  Employers won't have anyone left to hire if they won't accept the change.  Everywhere standards are dropping.  I saw McWhorter as a bit of a gatekeeper, perhaps this his "crankiness" a decelerator of the momentum toward extinction.

How much does slippage matter?  I have argued here and contend the scripture expects culture must remain equal with scripture.  We cannot revise the Bible down to where we've gone.  We instead have to conform ourselves to where the Bible is.  It matters.  This consideration intersects with Bible translation.

Not long ago, I contended with Mard Ward about the subject of updating the King James Version.  Ward is a Bob Jones University graduate, who works for Logos as a "pro," someone who explains how to get the best and most use out of the Logos computer programs.  What seems to be very front burner for Ward is correlating the English of bible translation to the most illiterate in America.  He suggests this the same intention of Tyndale with his translation into English in the 16th century -- as Tyndale desired every ploughboy to read the Bible in his own language, also too should every modern dropout and street gang member.

On January 24 of next year, Ward's new book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, will become available to the public.  Ward won't even talk with you about Bible versions and translation itself except for modernizing language, excluding any conversation about the underlying text.  Last Tuesday, Slate, a very, very liberal online magazine, broadcast McWhorter's podcast, Lexicon Valley, where he interviewed Mark Ward about his new book.  McWhorter, himself rejecting the Bible as God's Word, gave his support to Ward's idea of changing the King James.

At this very moment, English speaking people are not at all prevented several various options of updates of the King James Version.  As many know, there are also numerous contemporary translations of the Bible from a different underlying text.  With that in mind, it has to be something different that Ward wants than providing an easier Bible for the child in a crumbling and failing inner city school.  That child has numerous options right this moment if someone wants to give that to him.  I'll have to await, purchase, and then read Ward's book to see if he tells us what his real point is.  Right now, it seems like someone standing next to a fully operational well and begging for water.

I can't talk to Ward about anything right now except how much I agree with him, even though I don't.  That spells impasse.  On the other hand, Ward reveres McWhorter, who not long ago wrote that "gay really is the new black."  McWhorter also argues for an update of Shakespeare, both Ward and he agreeing for something 90% Shakespeare so as not to lose the flavor of Shakespeare, but to provide accessibility.  Numerous new performances of Shakespeare already exist, including a recent Julius Caesar in Central Park, New York City, featuring the assassination of President Trump.

Postmodernists have already revised the history of the United States to scrub the gigantic biblical and God honoring parts.  Many are pulling down most of the statues and acting like that isn't Moses over the Supreme Court building or on the back wall of the chamber of Congress.  They are already in essence rewriting the Constitution to fit their progressive worldview.

The only goal I can see from Ward's crusade is for churches that like the King James Version, like ours, to lead in the changes Ward wishes them to adopt.  They first must agree that Ward is right, including his premise that he represents Tyndale.  I would be a more likely person among those he targets to consider what he asks, and I see Ward's premise as dishonest.  The ploughboy couldn't read Latin.  Tyndale wasn't updating the English.  Ploughboys needed a Bible in their own language and a printed one for their own hands, not something possessed only by religious authorities.  The King James translators borrowed heavily from Tyndale's translation into English.  The current translation is a 1769 update, the Benjamin Blayney edition.

A prime second premise of Ward is that he really, really cares about modern ploughboys, implicating the compassion of those who keep using the King James Version.  If he wishes to reach his goal, this will fail.  Perhaps the ploughboy Ward needs a contemporary primer, one that he can understand, to instruct his reaching of his goal.  He won't convince the deplorables by insulting them.

I see those who use the King James Version to be among the most evangelistic in the United States.  I don't see the modern language folk even evangelizing the poor kids in the inner city.  We do.  We go to every door preaching the gospel to them and the version I use hasn't hurt that cause one iota.  Our church has evangelized every door in multiple cities in very difficult areas or conditions with the King James Version.  I don't see the Ward-types doing this thing that he says he is an important basis for what he's calling for.

I don't know what John McWhorter knows about the King James Version, but I'm guessing he doesn't understand the underlying textual issues or the historical doctrine of preservation of scripture.  Ward doesn't want to talk about those.  The regular KJV church distrusts the establishment, the hierarchy, or academia.  The New King James Version is a recent example.  They say it is a New King James, but it is translated by men against the King James and not from the identical text.  It was a lie.

King James churches will need to see the need for an update and then lead it.   Bibles like the Defined King James, which provides definitions or explanations of hard to be understood out-of-use language in footnotes, says that they think about it.  However, those churches and their leaders must want the update, if it will occur.  They resist the men who don't acknowledge the true uniqueness of the King James Version.  When McWhorter asked Ward what the best translation was, he said, "All of them."  That kind of gobbledygook brings resistance from those asked to change.  They are skeptical also for many more reasons.

One, they don't like the cultural degradation that solicits a new translation.  They see that as contributing to further downgrade.  You reach a point that the receptor cultures can't embrace scripture.  Churches shouldn't accommodate them.

Two, they see urges to change as a reversal of the divine order.  God's Word changes us; we don't change His Word.  We are not in charge of God's Word, but God's Word is in charge of us.  Men easily adopt or adapt a translation for themselves.

Three, God is immutable and His Word doesn't change.  It shouldn't be easy to update, because it violates the principle of a standard or an authority.  If you don't like or prefer something, now you just change it.  The underlying text doesn't and shouldn't change or be changed.  The translation should reflect that.  Amending the Constitution of the United States requires a formidable process, but those who call for an update seem to think that it's something easily to be done.

Four, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, not publishers, bible product professionals, colleges, universities, graduate schools, or seminaries.  Churches should decide.  That's where the impulse to update should start.  The same people should then be satisfied upon completion.  Right now I don't hear or see that impetus among those churches.  Whatever Ward sees, they don't see, and he isn't helping.  Someone who won't even talk with them and only talks at them is not someone whom they will listen to.  His book isn't for them.

Mark Ward writes for his own audience, who already doesn't use the King James Version.  It's ironic really.  It's just another book for those who want to bash the King James, whatever Ward may say to deny that.  I read reviews of Ward's interview, and the modern version people loved the interview.  They have already switched from the King James Version.  It would seem his target audience would be people like me and he offends people like me.  He turns them off.

There are other aspects about Ward that would turn off King James Version supporters, including the way he talks, his cadence, mannerisms, and style.  If you don't hear it, then don't expect to get it.  You can play dumb, but anyone can hear it, when he talks.  I guess that's impressive to a certain audience, and Ward is being invited to speak among fundamentalists right now in order to say that they approve.  It's not going to help reach that goal.  He isn't the right spokesman.  He isn't persuasive toward this cause.

Having John McWhorter have you, accept you, agree with you, and praise you won't gain any traction toward a King James Version update.  I like reading John McWhorter, but I know he doesn't understand the Bible.  He is an unbeliever.  His acceptance of Ward on this issue doesn't speak well of Ward and his take on the King James Version.  Ward will sell more books because of the interview.  I'm sure there was a spike in sales right away.  For those who will see through what Ward says he wants, it just brings further skepticism.  Ward doesn't speak for them.

There are many, many more pressing issues today than an update of the KJV.  I don't know that we live in a culture that could take that responsibility.  I don't know that we ever will.  Before we ever get agreement on those problems and their solution, an update of the KJV will not be entertained, no matter what Mark Ward or John McWhorter say about it.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Something is either a lie or it isn't.

Tyler Robbins said...

Nobody is saying anything, but I know folks are out there, waiting ... so I'll take the plunge. Here my points:

1. The vernacular argument is a good argument. A Bible ought to be understood, and it ought to be translated into modern English. The same goes for all translations into any language. If you're reading this, and you don't know Greek, and haven't done exegesis and translation in your own study, this will be abstract to you. But, trust me, clarity matters in translation.
2. If your NT fidelity is to the TR, the English version of the TR you use shouldn't be a stumbling-block, unless you have issues with translation philosophy, etc.
3. The KJV and the TR issues theoretically shouldn't be tied together, yet they often are by their proponents. For many people, the TR position is little more than a pious smokescreen for some flavor of KJVO-ism. Not necessarily for you, Kent, but for many people. You've seen the websites, where churches try to tap-dance.

Let the floodgates open ...

Kent Brandenburg said...


1. Isn't this argument a moot argument when you don't have churches asking for a new translation of the textus receptus? I know of none. So who is Ward making his argument to? He wants a 90% King James, at the same time saying that he likes all the translations. He's got all the various translations of the King James. IF he wants a defined KJV, he's got that. It seems like he's arguing for something else.
2. I think there is more to it than that. People who don't know the original languages have to trust that translation and the KJV is tried. Believers have accepted it. I have no problem with a new translation, but it's another thing to say that it is an authority. This is God's Word.
3. A translation shouldn't be a loosey-goosey issue. There are issues at stake, no? Tyndale translated ekklesia, congregation. That makes a difference. When Jesus said, Search the Scriptures, KJV translated it imperative, but the indicative is the same form. This is making a difference, no? Decisions have to be made. Who makes them? This isn't a nothing-burger. People can make a translation ever since Erasmus printed edition, which Luther did, because he could, while he hid at Wartburg Castle. Now we have Bibles in English, many. Having another one is not a nothing issue. Churches should agree, but those churches see no crying need, like Mark Ward seems to think there is. I look at my Bible works and have dozens. Online, dozens. This isn't the only issue here.

Thanks for chiming in. I would be interested why KJV supporters don't want an update, or do want one. Ward isn't going to be the one who prods them. He would make them think twice.

Tyler Robbins said...

I'm not aware of any situation where groups of local churches got together, and a translation was the result. It's always been an individual (e.g. Tyndale, Luther, Phillips, Peterson, etc.) a state-directed effort (e.g. KJV) or a para-church organization (e.g. ASV, RSV, NIV, ESV, et al).

So, the "churches haven't agreed on the need for one" argument seems particular weak to me. Yet, unless I'm mistaken, this is one of your objections to the MEV.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Respectfully, it seems you aren't hearing me. Christians, churches, church leaders as a matter of long time historical record trusted the King James Version, so it was authoritative. How do people, who don't know Hebrew and Greek, know their translation is true or trustworthy. Jehovah's Witnesses don't trust anything but the NWT, just as an example that you could relate with.

These churches are not being hoodwinked who trust the KJV because it has long time been trusted. There is a loosey goosey approach to scripture that says, let's use this one now, the MEV. Who did it? Why should we trust it? You've got a lot of questions to answer. Why do you want the MEV? What will it do for your church? You say it will provide the Bible in the vernacular, which the KJV isn't.

Let's say the vernacular argument has merit. It still has to outweigh other factors to be the translation a church will unify around, saying, this is God's Word. This is the Bible.

My argument here is a theological argument, which I'm giving in shorthand here, but it is one. Ward says to McWhorter he's got a biblical argument for vernacular, and I've heard a glimpse of it. It's interesting for people who can't make applications of fleshly lust and worldly lust, can see vernacular argument in passages. Children understanding scripture, having that desire. Sure, we want that, but for awhile we've had the literal, formal, dynamic, fluid, etc. and what should be done, taken into consideration. How often does this have to be done? If you keep doing it, it looks like men are turning the Bible into what they want it to mean. You say, no. Why not though? That couldn't happen? That's why this should be serious, agreed upon.

There is fellowship between churches. If we work with other churches, unity on the translation would be an issue. Our kind of churches use the KJV. We should agree to change. That is the unity of the Spirit, as I see it. It's found in each church, etc.

Gotta go, at Starbucks at Lake Tahoe and the natives are restless.

Bill Hardecker said...

Personally, I think there's a greater need to study the KJB than to update it. Yes, there may be a reason or two to update it but I am not persuaded that it is on the level of a "necessity." It doesn't read too difficult even with a cursory reading of it, and when the reading of it is coupled with serious study the translation stands superior to even the modern "conservative" renderings.

Example, to render Timothy for everywhere you find "Timotheus" because it makes it an easier read takes away first of all from the actual Greek word, and secondly, erases the cultural distinction of rendering of Timothy's name as such. "Timotheus" makes the modern reader think "why?" and then with a little study it helps the reader to consider the Greek culture. And yes, that isn't a super significant point only to say that study helps elevate the reader's information.

Example two, in Jer. 2:9, the KJB says that the Lord "pleads" with Jerusalem. In the NIV, he "charges" them. In the ESV, and MEV,he "contends" with them. Now, there's something to pleading vs. charging, and even contending. These types of renderings is what I am talking about. And while it seems insignificant, the Lord is gracious for pleading with Jerusalem than charging them or contending with them (at least in chapter 2). Again, not a major point but I think an important point nonetheless.

Example three. How about those theologically loaded words like redeem? The KJV says redeeming the time, a modern translation would say something to the effect of make the best use of the time (as in the ESV). Well, it takes grace to redeem, and it takes some good effort to make the best use of the time but grace doesn't seem necessary. Okay, this may example may already be off topic, but it shows that some KJV words have some theological depth to them (think of how difficult it would be to render words like propitiation or mortify or only begotten without excluding or eliminating particular theological meanings).

So, my opinion would be study it better more so than "update" it, even though I am not opposed to "updating" it for a smoother reading experience. The more I study the KJV and make comparisons and the more I am thankful to God for His hand of providence in blessing the English speaking people with a faithful translation, italics and all. I could only dream of a Tagalog (Filipino) equivalent that would be faithful to the MT and the TR and on par with all the pre-critical English Bibles.

Anonymous said...

As missionaries, this is a conversation my wife and I have had on occasion. We don't think there is any need for a new translation, but we question if a new revision should be done.

A lot of preachers teach "1611" without realizing that they are actually using a revision of what was translated in 1611. From my understanding it has been about 250 years since the last revision (about as much time from Wycliffe to the KJV), so it may be worth looking at a more recent revision.

I realize this was a claim of the NKJV, but it proved to be false. I fear that may be a reason that another revision will never happen.

What are your thoughts on revising the KJV, not a new translation?

Bill Hardecker said...

Mr. Felce of the Trinitarian Bible Society has an article posted in their Quarterly Record, Issue Number 575 - April to June 2006 - basically saying that the current KJV (1769 Cambridge edition) is much more accurate to the original languages more than the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (David Norton's edition). The article highlights the reasons why Dr. Norton wanted to return to the 1611 thus making 1,550 significant variations from today's KJV. Here's an example: John 11:3 current KJV "his sisters" whereas Norton's AV has it as "his sister."
I am glad for modernizing the spellings and punctuation but not for removing the italics, and returning the improvements made upon the current (1769) edition to something less accurate to the originals.
One more, Mr. Felce also points out that the English of the KJV isn't simply the English of 1611 but that it is in effect Biblicized English (if I could say it like that). Meaning, English that is influenced by the MT and TR.
It is an interesting read and here is a paste from my url:
If that fails, just go to the Trinitarian Bible Society website and type in Norton on the search bar and it should be the first article that comes up, at least as of today. FWIW.
His article basically makes me appreciate even more so the current KJV edition that we have available.

Tyler Robbins said...

All - I just completed a 67 minute video interview with Mark Ward on his book. It'll be up at SharperIron in about a week or so. I'll let ya'll know when you can watch it.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I just carefully watched your interview with Mark in a very open minded and careful way. My arguments are not answered, not even atttempted to be answered. You didn't ask any of the questions, at least it didn't seem, that you and I talked about for an hour on the phone, Tyler. I don't know why you talked to me if there was some purpose to include it in the interview. It was a promotion of his book only, not a challenge, at all.

I think his book will hurt. It can't help. I get why he thinks it will help, because people will feel free to read any translation they want in order to find the meaning of scripture. They will be freed to do that. That's viewed as a positive. That will result, to show you I get it, more study, more Christians, more love for the Bible. People falling by the wayside in the Bible by the droves because they don't look at a vernacular Bible will be back in play. I get what he says. As an anecdote, proving nothing, he says it was him. Is that even true? We don't know. It's what he thinks, but we don't know if it is true that this is why. He thinks it's why. But I'm saying that it's book looking for a problem that will do the opposite. It's being touted by anti-King James people. For sure, some of those will say they really, really respect the KJV. Really.

Mark says all TR Only people are just attempting to keep the KJV alive -- if not then they would use the NKJV (which comes from a different text)? That makes me see it as a lie, or he's just ignorant. Is he? It might be he just doesn't care, because he doesn't think we can know what the very words are. I see that as dangerous, because of the loss of authority.

There are so many things I could say that it would take a whole blog post.

Tyler Robbins said...


I only got to about half my material during the interview, and I told him it'd take an hour. I began to address the textual issue at about 43, but we then had technical problems (which I'm sure you noticed - there's an obvious edit at about 56), and I ran out of time.

So, I basically ran out of time.