Why I DON’T Use King James

I love the re-post from Don Merritt of Life Reference on the King James. He is even easier on the KJV  than I. The New Testament is written in Koine – the trade, street language of the day. It was not anywhere near the quality and sophistication of the classical Greek I studied in college. It was so much simpler, smaller vocabulary, with less complicated sentence structure that the classical. It was the everyday language of the people. God did not make it a “special” Bible language. He used the common language of the trade community that was used all over the area. The KJV was not even that when it came out, let alone now. That is the reason I teach classes using the NLT, but encourage my students to use the NIV or ESV to get a broader idea of what we are discussing. 

Now, I freely admit, that in my devotions, as I try to refresh my Greek NT skills, I find the vocabulary of Acts much more challenging than going through John. That is not the koine Greek – that is my loss of memory and skill as the years go by.

Don’t article:

Long ago I grew accustomed to receiving “hate” emails from KJV fans.  I should have kept them, because I’m sure you would be greatly amused if I posted a list of the names I’ve been called because I use the NIV in this blog most of the time. The first few times I received these emails, I thought that maybe I should reconsider, then I began to find them amusing and even hilarious, but now I’m just bored!

Dear reader, I do not use the KJV because it is written in a language that nobody speaks; it’s just that simple.  In that sense, it has much in common with things that are written in Latin, it’s a dead language that isn’t spoken anywhere, with the possible exception of Ivory Tower professors somewhere.

With that out of the way, I will agree with those who would say that the King James English is beautiful and poetic.  Why should that surprise anyone? After all, it is the language of Shakespeare! Yet ask any freshman student about studying Shakespeare: they have to translate it into modern English before they can follow it! Many of my detractors claim that the KJV is the only accurate translation of the Bible.  While it is my view that the KJV is a fine translation, it is very far from perfect!  The other day, I saw a post that consisted of a list of words and the number of times they were used in the KJV and the NIV.  They were words like “hell” “damnation” and so on, all dealing with judgment and punishment.  The KJV had these word more than the NIV, and judging from the fact that the same blog had another post attacking the NIV for being “politically correct” I’m going to assume that the blogger was trying to show that the NIV is soft of judgment and condemnation.  (I apologize for not having the links here for you to verify this, but this morning I couldn’t find the post again…)

To be honest and fair, however, the KJV would have the word “hell” more often than the NIV because the KJV renders five different words “hell” even though the five different words mean five different things. This is an example of a KJV weakness, not a KJV strength!  Of course the NIV doesn’t have the word “damnation” a single time, it is a word that is no longer in use in the English language, but it means “condemnation, judgment, punishment” and those are the words the NIV uses, depending on context. Here’s a KJV weakness that you might not even want to know about:  The Greek word baptiso is a verb which means “to immerse.” King James was translated in a rough time in history, during the time of the English Reformation.  Those poor translators couldn’t be sure who was going to win out, and the way they handled this word could spell either life or death, so they transliterated it rather than translating it, thus creating a new English word: Baptize.  Now you figure out what it means!  Can you translate “immerse” into “sprinkle”?  We still can’t all agree on that question, can we?

The KJV has its problems, the NIV has its problems; they all have their problems! That’s why many of us study in Greek and Hebrew and then look at the English; KJV fans, the original language is the best, not the KJV.  Still, I like the KJV, I learned this stuff in KJV, I can even speak King James English, but I don’t teach in it because few can fully understand it today.

Over 20 years ago, I was teaching in a church where several of the older members complained about the NIV, saying that they prefer the KJV. “If it isn’t King James, it isn’t the Bible” was the rallying cry.  So being young and eager to please, I announced one Sunday in church that I would be starting a new class that would be all King James.  We would use the KJV exclusively, all teaching would be in King James English, and all questions and comments by participants would be in King James English. ” There is a sign up sheet on the table outside, so be sure and sign up so I will know how many class handouts we will need; and they too will be written in King James English!”

Well of course nobody signed up!  They wanted to hear King James, but they wanted it explained in language they would understand…

In conclusion, if you prefer the King James, by all means use it.  As I have said, it is a fine translation.  But if another person uses a different translation, it really isn’t your place to order them to switch!  It really doesn’t mean they are the “devil’s blogger”!

Yes, that is by far the most hilarious thing I’ve been called for using NIV! 🙂

One Response

  1. I’ve already gotten these comments and my blog is brand new! ha! I had no idea so many people still got their panties in a wad over Bible translations. Maybe I should just link all my verses to the original Hebrew and Greek! lol.

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