Notice I put opinions plural and not singular. It seems like I’m wired to see everything in shades of gray. I can almost always understand differing opinions about various issues. This issue is no different – in fact it may be the epitome of gray for me! Hope I don’t offend anyone. I love you, brothers and sisters!
Why KJV-Only, or Why Not?
It probably doesn’t even seem like an issue in churches around the nation, and it sure isn’t an issue in areas where English is not the predominate language spoken. Here in the Bible belt, though, some people get pretty bent out of shape when someone starts quoting from the “Non-Inspired perVersion” or some such. Personally I have gone full circle with this issue, and would like to note my observations here.
In my childhood home, my dad had copies of the New English New Testament, the J.B. Phillips New Testament, and an Amplified NT. He also had a Catholic Bible and a big old copy of the Works of Josephus. That was the biggest book in the house and quite impressive, but that’s a story for another time. Once I was picking out a Bible for some purpose and I read “King James Version” on the spine.
I said to my mother, “That can’t be right!” I thought it sounded like a cult Bible for sure! She assured me it was the right one to take to church.
Later, way back in 1976, I took a New Testament class in a state university, and was taught that the NIV would replace the KJV as the standard English Bible. It supposedly had better scholarship behind it, used the most ancient and reliable manuscripts, and all that. We all were eagerly awaiting the release of the entire Old Testament, grabbing copies of the various OT books as they were translated.
One advantage the NIV was supposed to have was that they didn’t refer to the KJV at all when translating it. In other words, they didn’t let themselves be swayed by preconceived notions of what it should say. That all sounded logical to a wet-behind-the-ears 18-year old.
I went on to lose and refind my faith over the next 9 years, but that again is a story for another time. When I gave my life to Jesus for good in 1984, I immediately went out and bought an NIV, which I wore out in the next 4 years. By this time I was living in the Bible belt again, and was aware that some people thought the NIV was hooey and that the KJ was the only way to go.
So, when I visited the local Bible store to pick out a new one, I made it a matter of prayer. I really wanted a modern version, because it just seems to me like God’s message to mankind should be packaged in the most accessible, realistic language possible. I was willing to go with KJV, though, if it was God’s will. I wound up choosing a New Schofield NIV study Bible.
A few years later I met my husband, who was a dyed in the wool KJV user although he didn’t object to my modern version. He did have one concern, and I’d like to mention it here. He said that when he was a kid, there was just one version everyone used, so when a preacher said “Thus saith the Lord!” it was understood to be so, no questions asked. The multiplicity of modern versions seemed to be weakening that statement. He has a point.
Within a few years, we were members of a King James only church. Our initial attraction to that church was its strong support for homeschooling. We attended for 12 years. During that time, I was given a little book published by Jack Chick called Let’s Weigh the Evidence. Jack Chick is the “J.T.C.” who writes the little comic book gospel tracts you see everywhere. This book was an examination of the facts behind the King James vs. modern versions controversy.
The first thing that caught my attention was a drawing of the serpent in the Garden of Eden saying to Eve, “Yea, hath God said?” It pointed out that right from the beginning, the devil’s tactic was to cast doubt on the Word of God, and that this is precisely the effect of having a wide range of possible translations of a given text. It went on to look at the differences in various verses, and to tell about the different early manuscripts that are used in Bible translation.
The book was pretty convincing, and I have used a King James as my primary Bible ever since. I don’t like the doctrine, though. I love the King James, don’t get me wrong, but I still feel like God’s message to people really should be in the most easily read, accessible words possible. You know, a Bible any “plow-boy” could read and understand.
I once heard a believer from the Philippines talking about having the Bible in his native tribal language. He referred to it as his “heart language.” I guess that’s what I’d like – a reliable Bible in my heart language. But when you compare them passage for passage, there are just too many deep, beautiful thoughts that are simply not there in many of the modern Bibles. I will probably blog about some of these specific scriptures in days to come.
I guess one alternative is the New King James because it at least acknowledges the work of the King James translators and is supposed to be based on the same ancient manuscript, known as the Textus Receptus, or “Received Text.” The only thing is, it seems to lack the sparkle of style found in both the poetic traditional King James and the straight-forward newer Bibles. For style, I like the NLT and the NEB pretty well.
By the way, I found a website where a brother had gone through the NIV and fixed everything that was wrong with it. I’ll give you a link to that site sometime in the future, Lord willing.
One other observation I’ve had about the whole thing is that sometimes people get downright dogmatic over Bible versions and it wrecks any chance of Christian unity between different churches. I can’t help but feel that being over-zealous and opinionated like that must grieve the Holy Spirit.
I recently saw a church sign that said, “The best Bible version is the one that’s read.” I guess I’d have to agree with that! Still, I would like anyone who reads this to at least be aware that the King James only people have some pretty convincing facts and logic on their side when you take the time to “weigh the evidence.”