Dr Joel Beeke on Bible Versions: Practical Reasons for Retaining the KJV

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Jim's picture

I’m super late to the party on this one, but I just ran across an article by Joel Beeke offering thirteen “Practical Reasons for Retaining the KJV.” Dr. Beeke is respected for good reason, and I have profited in multiple ways from his ministry. He also avoids the extremes of much of the KJV-Only movement.

7 years too late! (December 2008)!

TylerR's picture

Editor

If we interpet Mark Ward's statement according to the principles of Dan 9:24-27, then he's only one week late . . . think about it. 

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

TylerR wrote:

If we interpet Mark Ward's statement according to the principles of Dan 9:24-27, then he's only one week late . . . think about it. 

Thanks

Bert Perry's picture

....the perfect car for me is my grandfather's 1937 Chevy.  It looks like a car, works like a car, and is a traditional car for the Perrys with roots in Lucas, Iowa.   Ignore the fact that it was junked and melted down 70 years ago; we need to make more of those 1937 Chevys.  Great car.

More or less, what our dear brother is doing is jettisoning the process of textual analysis and updating texts to correspond to the changes in the language. He also confuses the TR with the Majority Text, a consistent error among those endorsing the KJV.  they are similar but by no means identical.   I love my 1611, but I realize that it took me a while to master Elizabethan/Jacobean English, and a lot of people won't be able to do so.  Plus, those alternative readings are part of how we know what God put in those autographs.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'll chime in with one short point. I was translating 1 Thess 2:5 last night. My rendering ended up being this:

  • "Neither did we ever come with a word of flattery, as you know, neither by a false motive of greed - God is our witness!"

I then checked the KJV and saw this: 

  • "For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness."

Think about the comparison between these two translations - “a false motive of greed” vs. “cloak of covetousness." That phrase "cloak of covetousness" comes from Tyndale (and found its way to the KJV), and it's a very, very good phrase. What better imagery, and it gets the very same point across! Even more impressive is the fact that Tyndale translated the Greek NT into English while on the run in Europe, as a death sentence hung over his head. And to top it off, he didn’t have BDAG!

Tyndale was a very gifted man. The KJV is truly great literature. What a beautiful turn of phrase. I can't get over it. 

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

Bert Perry wrote:

....the perfect car for me is my grandfather's 1937 Chevy.  It looks like a car, works like a car, and is a traditional car for the Perrys with roots in Lucas, Iowa.   Ignore the fact that it was junked and melted down 70 years ago; we need to make more of those 1937 Chevys.  Great car.

More or less, what our dear brother is doing is jettisoning the process of textual analysis and updating texts to correspond to the changes in the language. He also confuses the TR with the Majority Text, a consistent error among those endorsing the KJV.  they are similar but by no means identical.   I love my 1611, but I realize that it took me a while to master Elizabethan/Jacobean English, and a lot of people won't be able to do so.  Plus, those alternative readings are part of how we know what God put in those autographs.

 

Available locally 

http://www.ellingsonclassiccars.com/inventory/view/8629793/1936-Chevrole...

Jim's picture

  • ‘Sounds’ Like the Bible
  • The Character of the Translators
  • Upholds ‘Old Paths’

Observations

  • ‘Sounds’ Like the Bible: In 1611 ... the KJV sounded like ... modern language!
  • The Character of the Translators: The character of the ESV, NIV and NKJV translators is likewise impeccable
  • Upholds ‘Old Paths’: The KJV translators weren't trying to establish such a marker (see KJV translation introduction)
dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I think the KJV is more like this 1937 below, than like a Chevy.  And I am sympathetic to the arguments about the majesty of that translation, especially at times like Christmas and Easter, where modern translations just sound "flat" to me.  However, just as the car below is impractical for daily use, the KJV isn't really the best option for people younger than 50, and many times, not even for the 50's and up.

 

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Dave, I think that's the Luther Translation, judging by the hood ornament.  but gorgeous, and utterly impractical for anything but date night in the summer.  Well done!

(and shouldn't a missionary to Germany figure this out?  Just sayin')  :^)

Seriously, there is certainly a balance to be had where a translation ought to engage the emotions as well as the mind.  Well said again.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

The experts have proved that older cars are more trustworthy. They've proved that newer models have had things added to them that weren't on the original models.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Dave, I think that's the Luther Translation, judging by the hood ornament.  but gorgeous, and utterly impractical for anything but date night in the summer.  Well done!

(and shouldn't a missionary to Germany figure this out?  Just sayin')  :^)

Seriously, there is certainly a balance to be had where a translation ought to engage the emotions as well as the mind.  Well said again.

I think you must have me mixed up with someone else.  Although I do speak German, I'm not a missionary or in Germany.

However, I must admit you are right that being a Mercedes, it's probably more akin to the Luther version!  I do occasionally read that version as well, and the German in that version is even older (and harder, for me) than the KJV English.  But I think the comparison would be similar -- i.e. the Luther version "sounds" more majestic at times than the more modern German translations, but is less useful for every day reading (and more importantly, understanding) for modern Germans.

The reason I picked that car is that, just as you also noticed, it's beautiful, classic, and like the KJV (Luther), it represents a pinnacle of the art that almost has no equal among modern models.  But with all of that, it would not be very usable as a daily driver, even for those that can afford one.  I still use my KJV (iPhone version) in the pew, and sometimes even my 1611 reprint (with Roman type), while the pastor is preaching from the ESV.  I definitely support use of more modern English for most people (and also for myself, especially for study), but there are times, as I mentioned, where the majesty of the KJV is far superior to our common, modern English.  However, as book to *live* by, understanding trumps majesty.  I'm certainly glad that most of the user manuals I own do not read like the Declaration of Independence! Smile

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've fallen into the habit of listening to Dr. Peter Masters from the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday afternoons, when all three of my own preaching services are over. I was very surprised to see that Masters uses the KJV.

As I've stumbled along in my pitiful Greek education, I have only been confirmed in my opinion that the KJV is an excellent translation. While preaching from any English translation, the Pastor has a duty to better explain and bring out the important points from the Greek. I think the KJV is good and excellent. Sure, I am sometimes forced to better explain some things, but I'd have the same issue with any other translation. I have no problem with it. The kids in AWANA (who haven't grown up in church) understand it. My 6-yr old understands it. I think it's a good and worthy translation.

After reading a short biography on William Tyndale, I've been taking a look at his translation lately. I now see why folks say that most of the KJV NT is simply a copy of the Tyndale NT. I wonder if God will raise up any men today who have the kind of command of both Greek and English that Tyndale had. What an amazing translation he produced! 

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?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Tyler,

I think most adults (even those that were brought up with the KJV and still use it, like myself) have real trouble understanding KJV English in many places in the word (much of the prophets or Revelation, for example).  While I don't think of the NIV as the best modern translation, try reading through Isaiah or Jeremiah with that version compared with the KJV to see what you understand at first read (or use the ESV for a more literal version).  Of course, there is a place for deep study, and for that, it won't really matter which English translation you use, if you are doing lots of digging, especially with the original languages.  However, there is also a place for just reading large sections of the word, and I challenge anyone (let alone your 6-year-old) to show me how much they understand of some of these passages.

Some scripture will always be difficult, unless the Holy Spirit enlightens us, but there is no reason for the language to be an additional barrier.  Even in the epistles, there are places where the language just makes it harder.  Consider this passage from Colossians 2:

"Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."

Try asking your 6-year-old what this means.  Honestly, when we were going through Colossians with a sermon series and memorization, my wife was asking me about this.  Of course, English is her 2nd language, but it's still not something everyone will get by reading it the first time.  It's not that hard if you *study* it, but why use language like this when it's no longer longer the English of the common man?  Of course, a pastor can do lots of explanation and exposition of the text to the congregation, but their hearing sermons should not be the only place they are getting their scriptural food.  Further, why should a good amount of sermon time be taken up with explaining the English before getting to exposit the text?

As I have said before, I still use the KJV as my main translation, and I also decry the lack of English education among young people today, but when you can see they don't even know very many common vocabulary words, using English like that in the KJV is just counterproductive.  A couple years ago, I had a high-schooler (and not one who was an indifferent student) tell me after I'd used it, that she didn't know what "ambivalent" meant.  Astonished, I turned to a recent PCC grad sitting next to me and asked if he knew what it meant, and he couldn't tell me either!  All I could do at that point was just shake my head.  Even if your education of your 6-year-old continues and he turns out to be an expert in KJV and Elizabethan English, his kind will not be very common.

I share your amazement at the work of Tyndale and the further work of the KJV translators.  However, it's not taking away from that at all to say that people we minister to don't talk like that anymore.  It should be obvious that the autographs were perfect in every way, but of course, they would be completely unusable by people in America, me included.  But even with the same language, languages change over time, and we can hold up a work as being majestic and worthy of our respect, but it makes no sense to have people continue to have to learn more and more as time goes on in order to be able to just read God's word.

None of what I've just written answers the argument about the difference in the Greek texts, but even if you want to stick with the TR and traditional Hebrew manuscripts, there should be a newer translation to use if you want to reach people who just don't get the kind of education that used to be common.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

You won't get any arguments against textual criticism from me. I am uncomfortable with some of the decisions the editors of the UBS-5 and NA28 have made, but that has more to do with the philosophy and approach they take than the discipline itself. 

I like the NKJV, and use it oftentimes with the AWANA program because it can be smoother in certain places. 

I do want to share this delightful verse I came across during my devotions a few days ago:

  • Proverbs 11:6 The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. 

I don't think I'd update the English here for all the world! What beautiful imagery and prose. It brings a smile to my face every time I read it. 

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

Dave--or possibly I just misread something you wrote.  Whatever it is, agreed that that Mercedes is a great picture of either the KJV or Luther translations, and it strikes me as well that the Luther translation, like the KJV, has several updates.  Do you know which you're reading?  I've got a copy of the most modern, one printed in Leipzig in 1958 (that one is a treasure I got for a quarter--so cool the Commies had to print them), the Torah and history from the Berlenburg Bibel, and a modern paraphrase.  That last one doesn't get picked up much due to things I've noted in its approach.

Agreed as well with Tyler that the AV borrows a ton from Tyndale and Geneva--I'm reading through the 1599 revision of the latter, and sometimes the resemblance is uncanny.  Sometimes the KJV takes a very different take, though.  

Summing up again, I love the AV, use it often, but when someone tells me that kids reading at a 4th grade level (or adults reading at the same level) "need" to use it, I cringe.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

There is a man in my church who never went past the 6th grade. He is basically illiterate. He uses the NLT because it's on his level, and he does well with it. He listens to the audio version of the KJV on his tablet at home. 

We give NKJV's to first-time visitors. 

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?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

... it strikes me as well that the Luther translation, like the KJV, has several updates.  Do you know which you're reading?

Yes, I'm aware that there have been (at least) as many versions of the Luther as of the KJV.

I believe my main printed one (I don't have it in front of me) is the 1545 version.  The e-version I use is the common 1912 version, which, though retaining much of Luther's language and phrasing, also was revised using the critical texts.

For KJV, I most read out of the typical 1769 version, though again, I have 2 1611's, one an exact reprint (gothic type and all), and one that was reprinted with Roman type, but maintaining the spellings and even typos of the 1611 edition.

Dave Barnhart

Barry L.'s picture

The problem is that there are too many new translations, they dilute themselves, and each of them is used by a small percentage of people.  I personally didn't like the article because the reasons listed were shallow and overlapping; however, studies do show that more than half the people continue to use the KJV, and its popularity has not wavered. 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/march/most-popular-and-fastest-growing-bible-translation-niv-kjv.html

Chances are the pastors preaching out of a new version are preaching to a congregation where most people are following along in their KJV Bibles. So, my question is more of pragmatism than anything,  Why would preachers preach from a translation used by only 10% of the population? I get the need for the Word of God to be understood; however, I think other factors like tradition, literary, and consistency is downplayed a little too much, here, as being important to people.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

This is obviously anecdotal, but in our church where we have a fairly new Pastor who started in 2011, and where pulpit use of the ESV started at the same time (prior was KJV with some use of NKJV), I've noticed that those who retain use of the KJV are almost without exception, 40 or older, and even many of those now use the ESV (some the NIV) in the pew.  Almost all of the young people (middle-school to teens) now use the Bible on a device, rather than a paper copy, and I know of none of our kids still using the KJV.  New Christians in the young adult/singles category always start with something newer.  Without having asked every single person which Bible they use, I would still estimate KJV usage at 10-15% tops in our church.

Our church is in a fairly urban area that is highly technically-oriented, and with several ranked colleges that provide an educated populace.  This is a factor both for and against the KJV -- the people around here are generally the kind that would more easily understand the KJV, due to education, but also are the type who would have very little traditional attachment to it (unlike the more rural areas of our state).  This same congregation also has little trouble when referring to different translations for the same passage.

For consistency, both the scriptural reading and the sermon text are printed out in their entirety in the bulletin, using the ESV.  (Good thing too, at least for me, as having used the KJV my whole life, I definitely stumble when reading aloud passages from the ESV if I don't pay really close attention!)  Those that are using something other than the ESV can easily compare with what is in the bulletin.  Our pastor was raised with the KJV as well, and sometimes refers back to it when reading a particular passage, especially when the KJV wording is particularly memorable.  I really appreciate this, and the younger crowd doesn't even blink when he does this -- they are used to having many translations available.

Obviously, a pastor must know his flock.  If he is in an area or working with an age group that is going to be mostly KJV, using something newer is probably less useful in that instance.  However, I believe he should still keep in mind that with rare exceptions, KJV English is not a language that speaks well to the world today.  Those that still use it might be a significant percentage of Christians, but in a generation, I would estimate that most will have moved off the scene or be nearly there.

Dave Barnhart