Friday, July 11, 2008

Hey, now I'm a "Bible Corrector" (part I)

[Note: Edited slightly to clarify the second bullet point]

What is it about the week after you get back from vacation? Not only do I have a pile of stuff to do at work, but in the same week I meet up with a couple of Mormon missionaries and now get into an discussion with a King James onlyist. My posting about the Mormon experience somehow brought on a flood - for me, anyway - of Mormon responders. My experience with the Mormons was positive. The responses were all kind; one responder in particular was extremely enlightening. I hope - although I don't expect - my interactions with responders to this posting will be as pleasant.

It all started when I somehow stumbled onto this video on youtube. I made a comment about 1 John 5:7. Little did I guess the floodgates that would open up. The person who put up the video has many well-entrenched - though poorly-informed - opinions on why the King James is the Only Bible that English speakers should use. The discussion (read it yourself) included such luminary points as:
  • The KJV translators did not italicize 1 John 5:7, so it must be original.
  • "The TR was the authorized body of text in Hebrew and Greek," so "ultimately, you are going to have that TR text translated into English for any English party to understand what was written in Greek, and Hebrew." (This point says a lot about the level of understanding we're dealing with here. If you are not familiar with the manuscripts, the TR only covers the Greek source of the New Testament, and contains no Hebrew. Besides, there are at least five different versions of the TR, as even KJV onlyist Peter Ruckman admits.)
  • Any Bible version that does not have every verse in the KJV is guilty of a transgression of Revelation 22:19. (Never dealt with is the question of how we know that it's not the KJV translators themselves or compiler of the TR and various Byzantine manuscripts that preceeded it who transgressed Revelation 22:18b.)
  • "Somewhere, to the English speaking public, which is the world language of commerce, God will have to come good on his expectations, and produce an authoritative book to hold his subjects to account in areas concerning Gods word." (A not totally unreasonable point, but not a reason why the KJV is it.)
  • Every book in the Bible testifies of Christ. (This is true, but what does it have to do with the question of whether the KJV is the single authoritative Bible version for English speakers?)
  • God apparently authorized the KJV as the first version in English. (Later, we discover that not only was the KJV not the first English version, it was not even the first authorized by an English king.)
  • "The [verse] number system was imposed by God under the Old Testament [quotes Acts:13:33]... and then reinstated as a security tool by the King James translators." (Actually it wasn't: the Bible was long divided into chapters but not verses. And it wasn't the KJV that first did versification in English, it was the Geneva Bible, as this image from the 1581 Geneva Bible clearly shows.)
  • "King James, was the ONLY English King, who AUTHORIZED the translation from the Hebrew and Greek into Shakespearean English during the time of the Renaissance. The scriptures correlated a profound connection to Kings relative to the inspiration, and preservation of Scriptures." (Actually, the Great Bible of Coverdale was authorized by both Henry VIII and Edward VI before the KJV. The KJV was commissioned by King James, as I understand it in response to philosophical objections against Calvinism.)
  • "King Saul proceeded David. The first Adam failed, then second Adam did not.
    God hated Esau (the first born) but loved Jacob." (Apparently the argument is now being made that the first Bible version authorized by a king no longer is authoritative, but the second one.)
It should be fairly obvious from reading the exchange that he has his mind made up: the King James is the one and only authoritative Bible version for English speakers of all time. Any "facts" that can be brought in and marshalled to the defense of that belief are brought forward, regardless of truth. When required, they will be dropped or changed to support the main "fact" that the King James is the only authoritative version. It's like some defenders of evolution, who will accept no evidence that we might have been designed: if you ask how we know that evolution is true, they offer "well, we're here, aren't we? It must be true."

His parting shots to me are that I "don't have any faith, because you still have not offered us an infallible English document, and faith comes from the book brother" and that I am a "Bible corrector" because I refuse to continue this ridiculous argument with him. Actually, my faith is not in a man-made object, no matter how wonderful or majestic. My faith is in God Himself and His eternal word. The KJV is an excellent achievement (although many honest observers note that even at the time it was written, it was not the best or easiest to understand version). But it is man-made. Note that I do not say (I can feel the comments coming now) that Scripture itself is man-made. Every word of Scripture is God-breathed. But that does not mean every word in every language in every translation. If it did, then one would be forced to accept very poor translations (such as the new "inclusive ones" or the Jehovah's Witness "New World Translation").

In my second part, I would like to consider the reasons the King James onlyists respond as strongly and viscerally as they often do to questions about their preferred Bible version.

1 comment:

Seth R. said...

Seems like an odd position for a traditional Christian to take.

I know Mormons use the King James Version because it was the version Joseph Smith was familiar with. In his role as translator of the Book of Mormon, he often utilized KJV phrasing as the phrasing his readers would have been familiar with. So it's in our Book of Mormon, which means until we're willing to edit that book, we're probably stuck with the KJV. We don't really object to the other translations, but they aren't the officially approved ones, and the KJV is what is on the shelves at LDS bookstores.

Not that it matters too much, since our primary interest in the scriptures, is to gain a sense of historical narrative and correct ethical practice - which seems to come through just fine in the KJV.

I prefer the KJV for the simple reason that it's language is pervasive throughout English-speaking culture and literature. Honestly, Handel's Messiah would sound a LOT less impressive in NIV language or - shudder - CESV.