The subject assigned to the undersigned is far more interesting than the title might suggest. As a rule an article which contains comparisons of two or more things does not make pleasant reading. Yet a comparison of the two versions of our English Bible is both interesting and profitable. It is interesting because of the history back of these two versions but also and above all because it deals with different versions of the Word of God. As Reformed people we are interested in pure doctrine and are zealous to know the real meaning of Scripture. Therefore we are also eager to know which version, the King James or the American Revised gives us more purely the English equivalent of the original Hebrew and Greek.
A comparison of these two versions must begin with a comparison of their origin. “What,” you say, “is there not one Word of God, one origin of both versions?’’ Indeed there is. Nevertheless these two versions are not translations of the same document. Let me explain this briefly.
You realize of course that the original document written by Moses, the prophets, and even those of the Apostles in the New Dispensation, are no longer in existence. Through much use they have long ago perished or become lost. However copies were made of these original writings by the Church. The churches which received epistles from Paul for example, would read them, make copies of them and send the original to a neighboring church. This church would follow the same procedure. Thus we read in, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that ye likewise read the epistle from the Laodiceans”. The original soon became soiled, cracked and unreadable. But by God’s providence there were many copies of these epistles in circulation.
These copies that had been made from the original in turn were re-copied by some others. You can readily understand that discrepancies and variations soon crept in. In copying there is always the danger of omitting a word, misspelling or even repetition. Especially was this danger present with making copies from the original, for at that time the Greek was written entirely in capital letters, and the words were connected on to each other. Inyou would find this in the Greek; only of course in Greek letters and wording: INTHEBEGINNINGWASTHEWORD. Besides this many of the copyists were not any too sincere and honest in their work and often doubting that the copyist before them had copied his manuscript correctly, these copyists would change the words to make a difficult passage easier to read and understand. You have a striking example of this in . The King James Version following one of these copies has, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren”. The American Revised Version following another copy reads, “Ye know this, my beloved brethren”. The difference is due to the changing of the first letter of the word in the Greek even as the meaning of our English word is changed entirely by substituting a “b” for the “1”. Then the word “look” becomes “book”. Thus also in the Greek “wherefore” becomes “ye “know”.
In other instances a copyist would forget where he left off the previous day and would begin at the wrong place omitting sentences and phrases. In many other ways variations appeared in the copies that could be found.
Now it stands to reason that the older the copy is the more reliable it is apt to be, for each copying carries the danger of more variations and errors.
These copies for the greater share were either in the Hebrew or the Greek. Many Latin translations were made of them later. But it was not until the year 1382 that the entire Bible was translated into the English language. This was the work of John Wycliffe. In 1526 an English version of the New Testament appeared as the work of Wm. Tyndale. Then in the 17th Century the King of England, James VI appointed fifty-four men to translate the Old and New Testament into the English language, Since King James had appointed and authorized these men, the version was called the King James or Authorized Version. This version of the Bible was accepted and cherished by all English speaking peoples and is still highly prized today, so well was it translated by these fifty-four men.
This King James Version was completed in the year 1611. That same year a very old copy of the original was found by the famous German scholar Dr. Tischendorf in a convent at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The translators of the King James version had no access to this copy, their work being completed before this copy was brought to light. The style of this copy shows plainly that it was a very old one. It was called the Sinaitic Manuscript. In 1628 another very old copy of the original was presented to King Charles I of England. It had formerly been kept in the Library at Alexandria. It therefore acquired the name Alexandrian Manuscript. Needless to say the translators of the King James Version had no access to this copy either. There was also in the Vatican at Rome another very old, copy called the Vatican Manuscript which the Roman Catholic Church prizes highly and which the translators of the King James Version were unable to consult. In time copies were printed of both the Sinaitic and Vatican Manuscripts and kept in the British Library at London.
In 1870 it was decided in England to make a new version of the Bible in the English language making use of these very old copies which they now could consult and the many other copies which were not quite as old and which were the sources used by the translators of the King James Version. In June 1870 ninety-nine men began this work. Of these ninety-nine men, thirty four were scholars from America. The work was finished in the year 1880 and was called the Revised Version of the Bible.
After the work was completed, the thirty-four American revisers decided not to disband but to continue working having disagreed with the English revisers on certain points. They changed the wording and punctuation together with other changes to make it more suitable for American reading, removing such obsolete English words as magnifical, neesings, and the like which the English translators preferred. The work of this American Committee is called the American Revised Version of the Bible,
Let me give you a few more differences between the King James and the American Revised versions. In contrast to the King James Version the American Revised Version has all the poetic passages such as the Psalms and Proverbs written in poetic style. The American Revised Version has simplified the punctuation and altered the paragraphs very often shortening them.
A few very noticeable differences between these two versions is that the American Revised Version throughout the Old Testament uses the name Jehovah where it is so used in the Hebrew while the King James Version translates it Lord. Similarly the American Revised Version consistently speaks of the Holy Spirit where the King James Version always calls the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Ghost. The American Revised Version also is more correct when it makes a distinction in the New Testament between Hades and Hell. Hades is the place of the dead, the grave, while Hell is the place of eternal torment. The King James Version makes no distinction between the two using the word hell regardless of the fact that the original uses two separate words. The American Revised Version likewise uses the word sheol in the Old Testament which means the place of the dead, literally a cavity or hollow place, in the place of the word hell which appears in the King James Version. In the King James Version a Greek word was often translated differently in two separate places. You find for example inin the King James Version, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith.” The American Revised Version is correct when it translates, “Let us hold fast the profession of our hope.” The King James Version has in , “For our conversation is m heaven.” Again the American Revised Version is the correct one when it reads, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” These are only a few of the many places in which the American Revised Version presents the original words correctly.
Perhaps you are ready to say, “I think I had better see to it that I invest in an American Revised Version of the Bible.” Do not be too hasty. There is at least one serious weakness, if we may so call it, in the American Revised Version which to the mind of the undersigned far outweighs any of the improvements that might have been made. The American Revised Version has omitted many passages of scripture which should be included. In the American Revised Version you do not find the complete Lord’s Prayer, to mention only one example. The beautiful close, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen” is not found except as a footnote. Many other passages are omitted,, and are a few of these passages.
It would indeed be profitable to have both the King James and the American Revised Versions to compare them as you read at the table or study your lesson for society. But if the choice must be made between the two the undersigned would choose and recommend the King James Version.
Another criticism might be added to substantiate the view of the undersigned. No less an authority than Dr. Hastings who is known for the Bible dictionary he wrote has this to say of the American Revised Version, “The principles of classical Greek were applied too rigidly to a Greek that was not classical.”