Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why Read the King James Bible?

Photo by Billy Hatham 2010

Imagine being able to hold the Word of God in your hand!  Indeed, you can do just that. The Authorized King James Version (KJV) Bible is God's Word. It is God's love letter to all mankind, containing Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It does not contain God's Word or describe what God said; rather, it is the Word of God, written during a period of 1,500 years by about 40 authors inspired by the Holy Spirit to record His Word for all eternity (2 Timothy 3:16).

The authorized KJV Bible has appeared on Norton Anthology's list of "the world's best literature" for decades, and it is the most widely published, best-selling book of all time. The Bible is even the most commonly stolen book -- go figure! I guess Bible thieves overlook the "Thou shalt not steal" commandment! (Exodus 20:15)

Since God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and gave them to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25:12), He has gone to great pains to preserve His inerrant Word unchanged (Matthew 5:18). Throughout the centuries, great Christians like Martin Luther. John Wycliffe, and William Tyndale have suffered persecution and imprisonment so that the Bible would be preserved, translated into different languages, and made available to all. The result is that by reading the Bible, everyone who wants to know can understand God's will and plan for their lives (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10).

God's plan of salvation is that Jesus Christ -- God the Son -- came to earth in human form (John 1:14) but without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), was crucified, and died as a perfect sacrifice to pay for all our sins, past, future and present (John 1:29). He then defeated death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55), rose on the third day, and ascended into Heaven, where He sits at God the Father's right hand (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 12:2).

Everyone who acknowledges and turns away from their sins, asks God for forgiveness, believes in Jesus' finished work of salvation, and accepts Him as their personal Savior with simple, childlike faith will not die eternally in hell, but will live joyously forever in Heaven (John 3:16, Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

Once we are born again (John 3:1-8), the Holy Spirit enters our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), teaching us the truth of God’s Word if we pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and apply ourselves to learning it (2 Timothy 2:15).

That truth will light the path of our Christian walk (Psalm 119:105), helping us to make the right choices (Proverbs 3:5-6), keeping us from sin (Psalm 119:105), and bringing us closer to Christ. Before we were saved, God’s Word seemed to us to be foolish, but when we are born again, we realize that it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

As the Christmas season begins, many of us might want to give a Bible to a loved one, or even choose a new Bible for ourselves and a reading plan to go through all the Scripture in 2015.  Depending on the reader’s background, spiritual maturity, and life circumstances, we might be tempted to choose a “modern” version perceived to be more “relevant” or “easier to read.” My personal preference for everyone, regardless of these factors, would be the KJV.

Why read the KJV Bible, and not one of the more contemporary versions? The KJV Bible, published in 1611, is the signed, sealed and delivered official Word of God in the English language. It was authorized by King James and commissioned by God Himself, as He brought together a team of more than 50 of the world's best scholars to translate His Word into English, the world's most widely used official language. Rather than seeking their own fame, glory or profit, these scholars were humble, dedicated to the Lord and to spreading His Word to all people, even if they had to pay for it with their own lives.

The Old Testament of the KJV Bible was translated from the Masoretic Hebrew Text, and the New Testament was translated from the Majority Text. The latter is also called the Received Text or Textus Receptus because most (99.92%) of the 5,686 existing Greek texts are in agreement with it.

Most modern English Bible revisions are based on a Greek text not agreeing with the Majority Text. Two men instrumental in authoring these new versions, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, intentionally omitted or changed portions of the Greek text to suit their own beliefs, or rather doubts, regarding many key Bible truths.

They did not believe literal six-day creation (Genesis 1), the many miracles of Jesus described in the Gospels, His substitutionary sacrifice for us (2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.) the power of His shed blood to wash away our sins (Revelation 1:5; 7:14; 1 John 1:7, Colossians  1:14 ,etc), or the existence of Heaven and hell as real places (John 14:2; Acts 7:55-56; Luke 16:20-31; Mark 9:43-44, etc.).

The newer English versions are actually revisions, not translations, of God's Word. Jesus warns of the dangers of adding to, taking away from, or changing His Word in any way, and the punishment for those who do so (Revelation 22:18-19; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 5:18).

Apart from this most important reason to stick with the KJV Bible, there is the poetic beauty of the text that reflects its inspiration from God. If you compare Psalm 23, for example, beginning with "The Lord is my shepherd..." in the KJV Bible with that of any other version, you can easily appreciate the majestic, musical quality of the KJV. The profound influence of the KJV Bible on English literature is evident in the masterpieces of famous authors including John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, and William Wordsworth.

One of my personal favorite reasons to read the KJV Bible is that Jesus promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven, and in the KJV, He promises each of us a "mansion" (John 14:2). How can that compare with the "room" mentioned in the modern versions?

A common objection to reading the KJV Bible is that it is "hard to understand." Actually, studies comparing the language used in the different versions show that the KJV is the easiest to read because it uses more action words and contains no "fluff" or wordiness.

A standard readability test (Flesch-Kincaid) shows that the KJV Bible is at a 5th grade reading level, whereas the English Standard Version (ESV), for example, is at an 8th grade reading level. The average number of words per sentence is 9 in the KJV and 19 in the ESV, and the KJV turns out to be easier to read than the ESV in terms of sentence and vocabulary complexity and use of short and simple sentences.

True, the KJV contains “thee” and “thou,” (but so does Shakespeare, and we can get used to that very quickly). It also contains words that we seldom use today, like “fornication,” and doctrinally specific words like “propitiation.” These are easily understood with a good Bible dictionary or study Bible. I have the KJV on Kindle for use when we travel, and if you highlight a word, the Kindle automatically provides a definition!

But by far the most important reason to avoid the new versions is that they delete verses altogether; they delete key portions of other verses; and they frequently omit the Name of Jesus, Christ and Jesus Christ, as we shall see next week. Faith comes by hearing (and reading) the word of God (Romans 10:17), so may we believe what God has spoken, and not in men’s revisions designed to suit their own agenda. 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
That is a very interesting article you posted this week, and do have a few things to say, so I hope you won't find this comment too long or drawn out.
In many aspects of your post I agree with you. There is something superbly classic about the KJV, and as you say, has been the bedrock Bible for the Church of England for centuries. For example, in the KJV, 2 Corinthians 5:19 which reads, "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." No modern translation can pack such a punch in this verse as the KJV! However, as with all Bible translations, to expound the author's exact thought when writing the original manuscript may not have been that straightforward. One good example of this is one of your quotes, John 14:2. I have an interlinear Greek/English New Testament, with the marginial English in the KJV version. The exact translation from the Greek is, "In the house of the Father abodes many there are; otherwise I would have told you."
This leaves a degree of how this could be translated into English, as exactly what Jesus had in mind during that discourse. The translators on behalf of King James must have speculated "mansions", modern versions use "rooms" but it could be possible that the whole of the Celestial City could be one huge mansion. On this side of the grave, we cannot be to sure. But having said that, I fully agree with you that "mansions" is much more appealing to the reader than "rooms". The same can be said for Revelation 4:11, where the KJV says that for his pleasure that all things were created. But according to the interlinear, the Greek word "thelima" was used, and it is translated as "will" as in Matthew 7:21. But I would still agree with you that the KJV's "pleasure" is a much more intimate word than "will."
Also, on a daily basis, I have a preference to a modern version over the KJV for the sake of clarity. Not a few times after reading the KJV, I had to resort to a modern version after reading long passages of the KJV and stumbling through some of the archaic language. That is why I believe that the NIV, criticised by many, is also the Word of God. Surely, that is how the Lord want to communicate, with complete clarity and understanding, as the original authors intended.
An excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you for your thorough and erudite comment. My faith in the KJV is confirmed by its primacy. God's Word is unchanging, and He is not the author of confusion, but of peace. The modern versions differ substantively from the KJV, as I plan to explain next week, so how can both be His inspired, inerrant, infallible Word? Wouldn't God ensure that the first widely available English translation is accurate? It is certainly true that the original Greek could be translated in a variety of ways, which is why I favor the KJV team of 50 scholars using more than 5600 Greek texts over Hort and Westcott deleting big chunks of the Greek to suit their own biases. Some of the KJV may initially seem awkward to the modern reader, but like Shakespeare, it is an acquired taste. Thankfully, there are good dictionaries and commentaries available. Even better, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us if we ask Him.
Thank you again, as always, for sharing your views -- I greatly appreciate your input.
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I have always loved the King James Bible, and I have always loved the 'thee' and 'thou', I don't know why. I have the King James Bible and also the New Oxford Annotated Bible which I find very good too. The notes at the foot of the page in this Bible are excellent. I know what you mean about some of the modern ones though. I bought a 'Reader's digest' version of the Bible once and could not believe what they had done to the scriptures, they had actually removed verses from the Psalms, and I suppose from other chapters - I did not bother to read it after I saw the adjusting they had done.. I found the 'book' useful for something though. There was a photograph of an Israeli Druze in it and so I did a painting of him in water colour and put a scripture beneath at the foot of it:- 'The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me'.
I have heard people read from what they call Bibles that have verses which do not line up with the original scriptures and appear to take away from scriptural instruction. I have Hebrew books and I use the internet to check many translations of words. I have always loved the Hebrew language, my grandfather was Jewish.
I look forward to reading your next post. God bless you Laurie for this encouraging post.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Excellent post, Laurie.

Westcott and Hort openly admitted they had deliberately left out portions of the text they didn't approve of. Not all the others were as honest. Some of the new translations, such as the Reader's Digest version were written in and attempt to make the Bible understandable to everyone, Unfortunately the ignored Paul's statement in I Corinthians 2:14, that some things can not be explained in human terms, and can only be understood as the Holy Spirit gives understanding. In their effort to simplify to where unspiritual people can understand it, they lose the actual meaning of the scripture. It is like translating jokes from one language to another. Some things translate exactly, while others make no sense when translated.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
I'm glad that you are a fellow KJV lover! Scofield is a good KJV study Bible with interesting footnotes. Of course, like any commentary, the footnotes in any Bible are the opinion and interpretation of one person, and we therefore need to test what they say against Scripture itself. It has been said that the best commentary is the Bible itself -- understanding a single verse in the context of other verses.
I admire you for your love of Hebrew. I find it fascinating also, and I tried to learn it shortly after I was saved, but unfortunately I gave it up because it was too time-consuming.
It is a shame that people read the "Readers' Digest" Bible and think they have actually read the Word of God. I'm glad the photo in yours inspired you to create a painting, though!
Thanks as always for your encouragement, and many blessings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

Great point and analogy, Donald. Ultimately only the Spirit can teach us God's Word, which seems to those without the Holy Spirit to be foolishness. God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and man's attempts to take away from, add to, or change God's Word are the result of his own pride.
Thanks as always for your comment, and God bless,

Brenda said...

Sorry Laurie,
when I said 'the notes' what I meant was the notations showing the Hebrew interpretations of the words at the foot of each page. These notations open up what is really said in the scripture.

Brenda said...

Here I am again Laurie,
just looked in my Reader's Digest Bible for the pic of the Druze. It was not there. The pic I painted from that one was of a man fishing, the Druze was from a library book.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Hebrew truly is a beautiful language, rich in meaning.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
God is good to send us inspiration from many sources! I have bought other Bible versions in thrift stores simply because I liked the artwork.
God bless,