Criticism of “an Excellent Translation”
The June, 2004 issue of the Standard Bearer continues the dialogue regarding the alleged superiority of the King James Bible (KJV) over all the other “corrupt” translations. Among other things, we are informed that “The constant drumbeat about the archaic language of the KJV is exaggerated and overblown.”
While the translators are no longer with us, they have not left us without a witness to the process and the philosophy that guided their efforts. A preface, “The Translators to the Reader,” was included in the 1611 edition, but is seldom heard of today. Those who know of it attempt to keep it from the faithful, as it is devastating to the KJOnly position.
As to the alleged perspicuity of the Authorized Version (AV), there are any number of passages that will drive the serious reader to his commentary (or to a modern version!).
In Acts 28:13 Paul, during his voyage to Rome, informs us that they “fetched a compass,” and sailed to Rhegium. Fetched a compass? All he meant was that they turned the ship around and sailed in another direction. Do we wonder why the modern versions are popular?
We are told that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” but was the love of money the cause of Adam’s great sin? Few would so argue, as Adam didn’t know what money was. He had no need for it; had not God provided everything for them? The AV is simply wrong at this point: sins like murder, adultery, and idol worship are often unrelated to the love of money.
We are told repeatedly that the AV is derived from the Textus Receptus, but history records that the translators also relied heavily on the Bishops Bible, as well as the Geneva, the Matthews, and those attributed to Tyndale, Whitchurch, and Coverdale.
They also referred to the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, “neither did they think it wrong to consult translations [in] Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, Latin, no, nor Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch.” Good scholars that they were, they used every reputable source they could get their hands on, in addition to the Textus Receptus. Should we not do the same?
Those who fret about the disparity between the words used in the AV and those used in modern translations should know that the translators felt at liberty about the words they chose. They asked, rhetorically,
Has the Kingdom of God become words or syllables? Then why should we be in bondage to them, or use one word precisely when another would be no less appropriate? Squeamishness in words has always been counted the next step to trifling.
If God used different words for the same thing in nature, then we, if we are not superstitious, may take the same liberty in our English translations from Hebrew and Greek.
Rather than deny, we claim that the poorest translation of the Bible into English … contains the Word of God, no, is the Word of God.
There is no reason, therefore, why one should deny that a translation is the Word of God or forbid its circulation because some imperfections or blemishes are noticeable in the renderings. What is perfect under the sun?
The KJV is an excellent translation, and has served the English-speaking world to the glory of God and the salvation of millions of His elect. That it alone was preserved by God as His Word would be denied by its own translators.
Ralph W. Hahn
The thinking of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) is that the AV is still the best translation of the Bible available in English. Most of the modern versions are seriously deficient in that they are not faithful translations into English of the original Hebrew and Greek text. Many are unacceptable because they weaken or corrupt sound doctrine.
It is also the judgment of the PRC, or should be, that they will not subject themselves to a new and different version of the Bible every few years.
What modern version do you recommend in place of the AV as superior to the AV, not only in clarity and beauty, but also, and decisively, in faithfulness to the very words of the inspired Scripture as we have it in the Hebrew and Greek text?
It is not our opinion that there are no archaic and difficult words and phrases, or that believers may not have recourse to other versions, as also to commentaries, to help in their understanding of the Bible.
I have read, long ago, the preface by the translators to which you refer. I cannot see that it in any way nullifies the reasonable position of the PRC outlined above.
Regarding several of your particular assertions, I have the following comments. First, your criticism of the AV’s rendering of I Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” is, in fact, not a criticism of the translation, but of the text itself in the Greek original. The text used by the AV and the critical text used by modern versions have the same reading in I Timothy 6:10. Even if one prefers to translate more literally than the AV does, doing justice to the plural, “The love of money is (the) root of all evils,” a critic could, if he were so minded, make the same objection you raise against the translation of the AV.
Second, it is true that the translators of the AV used the Geneva Bible and other English translations in their own translation. But this certainly does not call into question the fact that in the translation of the New Testament the AV is based on the Textus Receptus (“Received Text”), or Traditional Text. For the earlier English translations, going back to the marvelous Tyndale, also based the New Testament on the Textus Receptus.
There is an issue here of great consequence as regards replacing the AV with most modern versions. This issue is the Greek text of the New Testament. The Greek text used by most modern versions differs significantly from the Textus Receptus in important, doctrinal respects. I give one example. Basing I Timothy 3:16 on the critical Greek text, the modern versions no longer have “God was manifest in the flesh,” but “He” (NIV). Aggravating the corruption of the passage is the NIV’s arbitrary, erroneous translation of the rest of the phrase: “appeared in a body.” That “He” (Jesus?) was manifest is not without controversy the great mystery of godliness. The great mystery of godliness is that God was manifest. And God was not manifest “in a body.” Nor does the Greek text say so. But God was manifest in the “flesh,” that is, a complete human nature.
Third, I note your disparagement of our “fret[ting] about the disparity between the words used in the AV and those used in modern translations” in connection with your appeal to the translators’ defense of their right to use one “word precisely when another would be no less appropriate.”
Your disparagement of our “fretting” over the words used in the translation happily brings to the foreground a fundamental issue in the matter of the church’s English version of Holy Scripture. We demand an English Bible translated with scrupulous faithfulness to the very words of the original Hebrew and Greek text. As the translators of the AV expressed it, we must have a Bible using “one word precisely” or “another … no less appropriate.”
The translators of most modern versions have employed a theory of translation that allows them to depart widely and often from the very words of the Hebrew and Greek text. At no point can the reader of these versions be sure that what he is reading is the Word of God, and not the word of the translators. This is a denial, in the Bibles that Protestants actually use, of the doctrine of the infallible, verbal inspiration of Scripture (II Tim. 3:16; Gal. 3:16). And this is fatal, not alone to particular churches, but to Christianity itself.
The people of God (which is not the same as every unconverted, illiterate Tom, Dick, and Harry) must have the Bible in their own, understandable language. If ever the English changes so drastically from that used in 1611 that the AV is virtually, or even significantly, unintelligible to the educated saints, the churches must launch the huge project of translating Holy Scripture into English anew. But this darkness of the AV must be demonstrated. “Fetched a compass” for “going about in the sea” falls somewhat short of the required demonstration.
With your concluding judgment of the King James Bible, that it is “an excellent translation, and has served the English-speaking world to the glory of God and the salvation of millions of His elect,” we are in hearty agreement.
Upholding the KJV
This is in response to the contri-
bution, “In Favor of the Vernacular” (Standard Bearer, April 1, 2004).
There are pamphlets written by Protestant Reformed ministers that uphold the KJV as the most faithful Bible translation, and rightly so. Granted, it is always necessary to examine our positions to see if we are standing on the faithful principles (the traditions of God) or if we are standing on the mere, useless, and destructive traditions of men.
If we as churches or as church members hold to any tradition without being able faithfully to defend our position, belief, and faith we are in a dilemma. A full study of the issue at hand should reveal to all involved that the Protestant Reformed Churches have stood on faithful ground and, Lord willing, will continue to stand on faithful ground by rejecting modern Bible translations.
Those who are in favor of using modern Bible translations present shallow proof of any need to use such translations. It is said that the archaic words and language of the KJV are stumbling blocks to the believer living in the twenty-first century. It is said that the spirit of the Reformation would be better carried out by having the Scriptures in updated language. If we are to consider using a translation other than the Authorized Version (or KJV), it would leave us with two choices, one of which would be to use an existing translation, and the other would be to produce another translation.
Modern Bible translations have corrupted God’s Word. A very large book could be written on all the places in Scripture that this has been done. Those interested in each place this has been done can contact the Trinitarian Bible Society at 1600 Leonard NW, Grand Rapids, MI (Phone: 616 735-3695). They have an abundance of material on the errors of modern Bible translations.
Let us look briefly at the NIV. The problems with the NIV begin at its very core, the philosophy of translation held by its translators, which led to the dynamic equivalence method of translation. This is really no translation at all, but a practice which leaves to the translators to determine the meaning of the text in relation to the present society. This would imply that God’s Word means something different to the twenty-first century believer than it did to the Old Testament or apostolic believer. This obscures the direct word of God to man. This puts scales back on the eyes of the believer. This is what the Romish church wanted — the common people deprived of God’s Word in its pure form. The result of this modern dynamic view of translation is a Bible that reads like a newspaper, with short, choppy sentences, implying that the modern reader of English is incapable of understanding more than a few words at a time. One example of this is the NIV rendering of Ephesians 1:3-14. The NIV breaks it down into eight simple sentences, broken at verses 3 and 4, thus changing the normal interpretation.
Some of the footnotes in the NIV do not even agree with its own translation. Some of the renderings are based on only one text, and that one text not being the Masoretic text. Most translations use the Masoretic text as a basis in the Old Testament.
The NIV’s rendering of Judges 1:18 contradicts its footnote on that passage. Also the NIV’s footnote for Numbers 11:25reverses its own translation of that verse. The result is that the NIV casts doubt upon God’s Word.
The consistent faithful poetry of the KJV is also changed in the NIV. One example of this is found inPsalm 23, where the word “mercy” is changed to “love,” for the sake of the unlearned reader. The word “mercy” has a profound theological significance that any child of God can understand. Think of the knowledge of mercy David had when he penned this Psalm. Think of its relation to the mercy seat of the tabernacle. There are many omissions, additions, unacceptable words, synonym problems, and unusual renderings in the NIV.
Let us take a brief look at the NKJV. There are those who think that they can have the accuracy and fidelity of the KJV with updated language by using the NKJV. Such do not realize that the NKJV is not an updated Authorized Version. The NKJV is a highly edited new translation which is theologically and philosophically inconsistent with the AV. The NKJV does not omit hundreds of verses, phrases, and words as is done in other modern Bible translations. It is not a loose translation or paraphrase. However, the problems of the NKJV are significant in the light of its proclamation of accurate improvements of the AV. For a number of years, the text has been revised, and thousands of changes have been made. There are numerous changes of editions, with the same copyright, and thus there are many NKJV Bibles that are different. One would hope that a Bible that is proclaimed to be as faithful as the AV would have the same consistency.
There were nine men who worked on both the NKJV and the NIV. It is interesting and puzzling that men who supported the dynamic equivalence method would be able to submit to the historical method of translation. It makes one wonder what kind of convictions, if any, they had. Most men who are committed to the use of the Textus Receptus are so because of their strong convictions regarding the true text of Scripture. Such men were persecuted, abused in print, or ridiculed by scholars who support the critical text. So it is difficult to understand how these men could work on both translations. It is also interesting that in the advertising of the NKJV, the translators are referred to as “revisers”; however, the 1990 American edition states that it is a new translation.
The real character of the AV does not reside in its archaic pronouns, or verbs, or other grammatical forms of the seventeenth century, but rather in the care taken by its scholars to impart the letter and spirit of the original text in a majestic and reverent style.
The NKJV does not differentiate between “you” singular and “you” plural. This distinction, which is made in the biblical languages, was recognized by the AV translators. They used “thee,” “thou,” and “thine” to designate the singular and plural forms of “you.” Consider I Corinthians 3:17.
The NKJV replaces pronouns with nouns. In Genesis 29:30and Genesis 30:29, “he” is replaced with “Jacob,” and in II Kings 6:18 “they” is replaced with “the Syrians.” Although this reduces the ambiguity of the passages, it is not consistent with the Hebrew. If words need to be added to enhance clarity they must be printed in italics.
There are headings in most editions of the NKJV that do not accurately render the meaning of the text. A couple of examples: 1) Romans 8:1—”Free from indwelling sin” suggests that the believer has no problem with sin any longer; 2) in II Corinthians 13:7, Paul prefers “gentleness.” This is a problem because gentleness is not mentioned there and is not the topic of the passage.
There are also unnecessary changes from the AV. One example is as follows: “sodomite” in Deuteronomy 23:17 becomes “perverted one” in the NKJV. This change not only downplays the intent of the word, but also removes if from its historical context of Sodom and Gomorrah. The NKJV also contains several readings that are simply incorrect. An example of this is in Isaiah 53:9, where the Hebrew reading is, “and he made his grave with the wicked,” and the NKJV reading is, “And they made his grave with the wicked.”
There is also a different theological and philosophical bias in the NKJV when compared to the AV. The NKJV is the product primarily of a late twentieth century American Fundamentalist Baptist-Evangelical (in its broadest terms) perspective. An example of this theological bias is found in II Thessalonians 2:7. Here the NKJV has, “He who now restrains.” The capitalization of “He” indicates that it is the Holy Spirit who restrains and who will be “taken out of the way.” This lends encouragement to the dispensational interpretation of this passage and will then confirm the dispensationalist’s supposition that the Holy Spirit is being mentioned here.
Another example of theological bias is found in the subject/chapter headings in the NKJV. The AV translators desired to draw attention to Christ, as seen in its subject chapter headings. The NKJV translators removed the title Christ from their version’s Old Testament headings. All other modern Bible translations are as faulty as the NKJV, some much more so. Some may not be as faulty as the NIV.
Now to address the possibility of producing another translation. To think that we could produce a translation that would be equal to the AV seems absurd. The AV is a product of the great Reformation, which was a defining event in the post-apostolic church, when men, women, and children were burned at the stake and brutally martyred for the truth of God’s Word. The AV was born at a time when the post-apostolic church was as strong and vibrant as ever it was. It took seven years to produce the AV. Fifty-four men were chosen for this work. Some died and some withdrew before the translation was started. Seven years later the list of men numbered forty-seven. They were men of such scholarship and ability that I doubt if such men are available today. These men approached the task of translation with a reverent regard for the divine inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. The most learned men of the land were chosen for this work. They all had profound knowledge of the languages in which the Bible was written. The translators’ preface to the Authorized Version reads as follows: “We recommend thee to God and to the Spirit of His grace, which is able to build further than we can ask or think. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the veil from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand His Word, enlarging our hearts, yea correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea, that we may love it to the end.”
The AV is a word-for-word translation of the original. The words that have been added in order to make sense in the English language are in italics. When we pick up the AV we may be sure we have God’s infallible Word in our hands. We may be confident, and are confident, that when we read it, we hear “thus saith the Lord.”
Modern Bible translations are a product of their time. A time of me, me, me, I, I, I, and self, self, self. To address someone personally and intimately does not flow with our modern times. A time when girls and women are often referred to as “you guys”; a time when two or more people may be referred to as “yous”; a time when many men don’t know what they are supposed to do. A time when very few want to be defined as singular or plural. A time when very few want to accept personal responsibility or obligation to anyone. Indeed, the language of our egocentric, gender neutral times does not match the language of the AV. The language of our times stands to be condemned, rather than that the language that has faithfully served God’s church since the time of the Great Reformation be changed.
As members of the true and living church of Jesus Christ, we should compare the AV with modern Bible translations and thereby clearly see that the devil still presents the ancient lie, “Yea, hath God said?”
A Rock Against the Storm
“We’re gonna miss you when you’re gone!” Thank you, brother, for the many years of great and faithful articles and editorials by your hand in the Standard Bearer.
I appreciate as well your critiques of other denominations, including my own Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). So often it takes an outsider to see us as we really are. The OPC, while still relatively faithful, is unaware of its being “a falling church” as you described her. With reluctance to censure false brethren within her own ranks, tolerance is elevated above truth. We often pray that we would return to a love of the heritage and history that is ours.
I have read with interest also the late discussion on the Authorized Version’s continued use in the Protestant Reformed Churches. Most do not realize that there is no apostate church which has not first thrown away the old KJV. Most people don’t even know that there is any difference in the underlying texts of the KJV (and New KJV), they just want an English Bible that is easy to read! We pride ourselves on having an “infallible” Bible, yet the Greek used to translate from is in its 26th edition (Nestles)! How can that which is “infallible” be always in flux.
Many of those who desire new Bible versions claim that the old English can not be understood by our youth. However, in truth, these same youth can master in a matter of minutes the most mind-boggling video and computer games! And they can’t grasp as fast the meaning of words like thee, thou, doth, hast, dung, or conversation?
The AV is the faithful church text, it brings the difficulties of the original with it, to be sure, but it needs to be studied and taught; to throw it away is to place ourselves in theological peril. For example, in our OPC the Westminster Standards are held in high regard (and many insist upon strict subscription to them), yet they are filled with many of the same old words: doth, begotten, Holy Ghost, hath, taketh, etc. It is nonsense to say either they or the Bible cannot be understood today. What we need is a standard church text (KJV) in pulpit and pew, and let preachers give explanation and fuller meanings, and bring the people up to a higher level of sound doctrine. The dumbing down of Bibles for a hundred years has hurt the church at large in understanding and commitment. This shows up in our contemporary worship services and shallow publications of most Christian denominations.
Thank God for the PRC, the Standard Bearer, and the Reformed Free Publishing Association! You are like a rock standing against the storm of modernism and liberalism of the past and present. May God grant that you will all remain so for many, many years to come.
Keep up the good work.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will (and word) of God (Rom. 12:2).