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Four Reasons You Should Read the KJV Bible More

Some Mormons play guitar. I saw a few of them doing just that at a park a few months back. It does not, however, follow that all people who play the guitar are Mormons. The logical fallacy I’m addressing here is quite common today, so I want to start off by making sure everyone is aware of it.

There are also a lot of people who prefer the King James Bible who are absolute nutters—people who couldn’t tell the difference between a Nestle-Aland New Testament and a Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Old Testament. They say and really believe things like, “If it was good for Paul, it’s good enough for me.” But just because someone—say, the author of this post—prefers the Authorized Version (KJV) doesn’t mean he is a nutter—or at least that kind of nutter.

With that out of the way, let me make four brief arguments for why you should make an effort to ensure your King James Bible doesn’t get too dusty on your shelf.

  1. Its Age – Not everything that came out of the year 1611 was great, but neither is everything that came out of the year 2011. The King James was translated by men who were plagued by the errors of a different era. The translators of the ESV are plagued by many of the same generational errors that influence you and I. Reading an old translation is a good way to become aware of the faulty presuppositions of our age.
  2. Its Manuscripts – The King James Version was translated from a different set of manuscripts than your modern translation. Many argue that these are inferior to the manuscripts we have now. The difficulty is that the philosophy behind how our modern manuscripts were assembled was heavily influenced by secularist thought—and secularism’s method for finding and assessing truth is quite different from the church’s. I certainly agree with some of the things the United Bible Society has done in the Nestle-Aland 28, but I disagree with other things they’ve done. This is why I read modern translations alongside the Authorized Version.
  3. Its Translators – The King James Version was translated mostly by pastors and theologians who were accountable to elders. This is the case for many (but not all) translators of modern translators, but the final product is often ultimately determined by the publishers. Publishers can easily become more concerned with what will sell than what is an accurate translation of God’s Word. The King James Version had its own political gamut to maneuver through, but it was very different situation compared to what we see today.
  4. Its Language – The King James Bible effectively shaped the way we speak English today. It is an unrivaled literary masterpiece. Anyone interested in writing should be in the habit of devouring the King James Bible, commonplace book in-hand.

These arguments are briefly stated and some of the issues I’ve mentioned are a bit more complicated when you start to examine them, but the points still stand. I’m not trying to get you to throw out your other translations, but I would strongly advise that you not neglect the King James Version as you read and study the Scriptures.

Comments

  • Matt Handley says:

    I’m curious about the phrase “how our modern manuscripts were assembled.” The Alexandrian text type manuscripts considered superior to the Byzantine text type aren’t modern, they’re older. And they’re not assembled, they’re discovered.

    • David Mikucki says:

      Good question, Matt. I kind of oversimplified the issue here for the sake of brevity. The text that most modern translations work from is the Nestle-Aland 27—although any future translations will likely use version 28, which isn’t substantially different. The NA27 is a compilation of various manuscripts with a critical apparatus that helps to explain the choices behind the Greek words that ultimately made it into the final manuscript.

      So you’re right that the Alexandrian manuscripts aren’t assembled—but the texts our translations work from (the Nestle-Aland) are assembled or compiled from all the texts we have. Whole books could be written (and are written) on the philosophies behind choosing which early Greek manuscripts should be relied on most heavily, but I’ll try to state the issue simply. The United Bible Society assumes that God has little-to-no hand in the preservation of His Word, so they assume that the accuracy of New Testament manuscripts degrades over time. Therefore, they choose the variants in the older Alexandrian manuscripts (of which there are fewer) over the variants of the more recent Byzantine manuscripts (of which there are far more). This has not been the historic position of the Church and its not a presupposition I agree with.

      That’s not to say I disagree with every decision the UBS has made. I certainly think the Textus Receptus needs significant improvements, but I’d like to see it be done by Christians who have a high view of God’s sovereignty and love for His people. The last time that really happened was with the Textus Receptus, so I would hate to ignore it and in many ways prefer it.

  • Matt Handley says:

    Interesting. So, is your view then that since there are more manuscripts of the Byzantine text type that is evidence that God is preserving His word through that text type?

    Also, I think calling the conventional scholarly consensus on textual criticism “secular” is a bit of a mischaracterization. Many seminaries and Christian scholars are in the camp that views the Alexandrian text type as vastly superior to the Byzantine, and for many reasons beyond simply their age.

    • David Mikucki says:

      Sort of. My presupposition is that God preserves His Word, because of the promises He gives in Scripture. If you take the Alexandrian texts is primary, then you must conclude that God allowed the church universal to have inferior manuscripts from about 400AD until less than a hundred years ago. This isn’t to say I think we should ignore the Alexandrian manuscripts, but I do think our philosophy should be one that assumes God’s intentional preservation of His Word rather than His non-involvement in the process.

      As for the term secular, I’m not referring to the people so much as the philosophy. The assumption that God will not preserve His Word and that the manuscripts degrades over time is one that many people (though you’re right, not all) make because they trust evidence more than God’s promises. This is definitely a secular thing to do. Beyond that, the people who articulated the criteria for our modern textual criticism really were mostly secularists, which should make Christians cautious concerning their work with God’s Word to begin with.

      But you’re right, not all seminaries and scholars that hold this view of textual criticism are secularists or even holding to the secular presuppositions that undergird the philosophy. I had a much higher view of the modern form of textual criticism until about two years ago, but I would by no means say I’d done so because I was a secularist.

  • Matt Handley says:

    So, in your view, what exactly is the mechanism through which God is preserving His scriptures and what does that preservation entail? If you view it simply as “The Bible” then it is, indeed, probably the most copied, produced, translated, and extant text in history by far. So in that sense I suppose He has preserved it quite effectively. But He has done so by allowing it to exist in such multitudinous conflicting variations that I don’t see what your belief in that preservation accomplished, other than obliging you to own a copy of every translation you can get your hands on and trying to use all of them.

    The manuscripts of the New Testament contain up to 400,000 textual variations. Is there one particular text that God has preserved through history or is it your view that He simply has preserved it overall and that the majority text is then the best representation of the originals?

    I know most Christians believe the widely repeated idiom that “there is no textual variant that affects a major doctrine.” You would literally have to discuss all 400,000 to figure out that debate. But I am curious in particular about things like the Johannine Comma or the longer ending of Mark that I believe would appear in your King James Bible. How do you feel about them?

  • David Mikucki says:

    More comments on this were posted here, for anyone who was following this conversation.

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This article was posted on 03/13/2015 . It relates to these topics:
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