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August 2013

Should We Only Read The King James Version?

By John Carter

For sheer beauty and majesty it can’t be matched.  Written under the patronage of King James of England, it breathes the grandeur and glory of royalty.  James had been brought up in Presbyterian Scotland with its Calvinistic traditions of strictness and an abhorrence of all things Papal.  He had been tutored by unyielding Scottish elders who were convinced that the royal personage was subject to the Kirk (Scottish church), not the other way around.  When the dour James finally became King of England and Scotland and made his triumphal procession to London, he came with a desire to rid his kingdom of harsh Puritanism.  Many of the Puritans were firmly anti-royalist, and the newly minted monarch wanted a new translation, that while anti-Papal, would give majesty its proper place.
He assembled a group of England’s best scholars.  James was no neophyte and actively, if behind the scenes, guided the new translation that, unlike the monumental Geneva Bible, would reflect the loyalist sentiments of his soul.  The old Presbyterian theologians had tried to beat those ideas out of his stubborn head, but they had failed.  His new Bible, lovingly called the King James Version, would breath the majesty of holiness and uphold his throne.
When finally published in 1611 with all the quaint verbiage of Elizabethan England, it had a mixed reception.  The common people loved the Geneva Bible with its strong Protestant tradition, and the KJV made slow progress, not helped by one edition called the “sinful Bible.”  Somehow the printer had managed to have the seventh commandment say, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”  In spite of these occasional hiccups, King James’ Bible made its way and triumphed over all earlier translations.  It is hard to believe at this distance that the most revered book in the English-speaking world would receive such initial opposition.  People railed against it, accusing it of changing the Word of God.  Has anything changed?
No book has influenced our English-speaking world more than this translation.  Its very language has become part of our culture.  It remains a monumental milestone on the road to the kingdom of God.
But time moves on, and we who would keep abreast of truth need to move with it.  We don’t speak Elizabethan English, and it is important and appropriate that God’s Word be allowed to speak to the people in their own language.  We don’t say, “thou” or “thee” or “thine” anymore. Remember, Jesus spoke to the people in their own language and did not use terms that had with time passed out of their vernacular.  If Jesus were here today he would not be saying, “thee, thou, or thine.”  Then why do we? Perhaps it has something to do with old traditions dying a slow death.
Just as the King James Version of the Church of England was a new translation of its day, so we have new translations for our day.  These translations benefit from more recent discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It is of course an accepted fact that we have no original manuscripts of the Holy Bible.  They have been lost in the mists of time.  The best we have are copies of copies of copies, but it is apparent to the student that God has miraculously preserved His sacred Word.  The Dead Sea Scrolls certainly indicate that the voice of God still speaks to us, in spite of our human limitations.  The Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation, and will lead us to Christ if we read it with open minds and contrite hearts.  Instead of quibbling over this word or that, we need to take it just as it is—God’s revelation of truth to needy sinners.  It is indeed the Word of the Lord, and the ancient writers were His penmen, not His pens.
I have read and used many different translations.  Although I venerate the majestic KJV of 1611, I find it more helpful these days to read God’s Word in a language that resonates with the times.  Thus I find myself often reading and studying the New International Version and the New American Standard Translation.  There are, of course, many other helpful versions.  One needs to be wary of the paraphrases that err in that they represent the individual views of the well-meaning authors.  We need to carefully choose a good, readable, accurate translation of the ancient Hebrew and Greek text, and study it, “to know God’s will.”
There will be things in the Bible that we do not understand, but there will be plenty of things that we can understand if we have willing hearts.  If we concentrate on those we can understand, we will have enough to save our souls.  The more we obey plain truths, the clearer difficult passages will become.
We must never forget that the Bible is meant to humble our proud hearts, and lead us to repentance and faith in the Savior.
Whatever the good translation you choose, God will powerfully speak to you if you listen.  Start reading and listening today.

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