Is the KJV the Most Concordant English Bible Translation?

On the degree to which KJV uses "the same English word each time [a] Greek or Hebrew word is used." - Mark Ward

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G. N. Barkman's picture

The KJV translators didn't observe concordance when they chose to translate agape as "charity" instead of "love" in I Corinthians thirteen.  That decision has produced a fair amount of confusion.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, it could be a mistranslation, or it could be that "charity" then was the closest to "agape" back then, but got the denotion meaning mostly "alms to the poor" in the past couple of centuries.  You see the same thing with words like "conversation" and "shambles", and it's not for no reason that older translations like my 1599 Geneva have a glossary at the back to help those whose native language is not Jacobean English.

Either way, you come to the same conclusion; if the modern sense is not the Biblical sense in a given translation, why not a new translation?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

It isn't the most concordant English translation. Anyone who can make the statement highlighted in the teaser excerpt has no idea how language works, has never done translation work of any kind, and should not be taken seriously. If you want word for word, find an interlinear. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I remember looking up 2 Corinthians 2:17 and wondering whether the KJVO folks had a point in insisting on "corrupt" instead of "peddle".  It turned out that the word involved literally means "peddle", but that ("caveat emptor" and all that) the ancients had about the same regard for door to door salesmen and their honesty that we do today, hence it also means "corrupt."  

Now which one do we put in our hypothetical interlinear?   Really, there are reasons that we like to have prospective pastors learn a touch of Greek and Hebrew, and one thing KJVO activists do that is good in this regard is--ironically-- to demonstrate to anyone willing to look up the original words that yes, translation is as much art as science.  

Not that everyone who wants to understand Scripture well needs to learn Greek and Hebrew for himself, but being willing to look things up and gain an appreciation for the range of meaning of words and their ambiguity is something I'd encourage anyone to do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

It's so hard to broad-brush a translation. There are so many intangible factors to take into account. For my sermon this past Sunday, I preached Mark 8:34 - 9:1 and did my own translation, and used it for the sermon (see the translation in the article here). Should I have used "soul" or "life" in vv.35-37? There is no concrete answer. You can't make sweeping statements about translations, generally (unless they're heretical). 

Another example, during family devotions last night we covered John 9. At one point, my oldest son read aloud his designated portion of the chapter, and read John 9:24:

Then they summoned the man who used to be blind a second time and said to him, “Promise before God to tell the truth. We know that this man is a sinner.” 

That's an interpretation. The NET translators believe the command δὸς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ is an idiom. The rest of our translations (my youngest has the NIrV, I have ESV, my wife and middle son have NLT) all went with the more literal, "Give glory to God!" (i.e. God healed the man, not that sinner Jesus!). I think the NET translators are trying to be too cute, here. Can I condemn the NET? No; it's a great translation. There are likewise places where I believe the ESV is a bit too wooden. My own modest translation of Mark 8:34 - 9:1 (see link, above) can be accused of being rather free at some points; I'm generally in the NET's orbit for translation philosophy.

Bottom line; it's complicated. You can trust the major English translations. They're all good.   

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bert, whether or not "charity" is a legitimate translation of "agape" misses the point.  The issue is concordance.  In almost every other place the Greek has "agape," the KJV translators rendered it "love."  Here, they chose "charity."  Why not consistently translate agape as love every time ?  Is there any discernable reason why "charity" better renders agape in I Corinthians thirteen?  (Not as far as I can discern.)

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, got it, and again, I grant the principle that using "charity" in 1 Cor. 13 does trouble modern ears.  I dare suggest that this choice, if warranted by the definition of "charity" in 1611 (some might debate that, I'm fine with that), falls into the bin Mark Ward describes as "perfect concordance is not a good idea".  That is, if each word has a range of meanings and usages, I don't really see the purpose of insisting on the same translation choice each time it's used.

A great example is Hebrew conjunctions (the vav) and prepositions, of which there are only a few.  Yes, the KJV is more "concordant" with the former than modern translations, but even they know that they can finagle a "but" out of the context instead of the usual "and".  Same thing with the 50-odd prepositions we have in English, I think.  

A final reason to reduce concordance is simply because it can make, at least when you use words that are genuinely synonymous, a more readable translation that will "pierce the veil of familiarity."  Along the lines of what many will say regarding using multiple translations, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bert, I'm not lobbying for concordance.  I prefer a variety of words when suitable synonyms are available.  The question of the original article was, "Is the KJV the most concordant translation?"  I simply cited a notable example of non-concordance to show that the KJV is not particularly concordant, and evidently did not intend to be.  That's all I was attempting to say.  Jim Peet added several more examples.

G. N. Barkman