Hello, here I am again, and I’m still Tim.

So, one thing that puzzles me sometimes is why some people and churches have a higher opinion of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) than any other translation. One of my friends here has expressed that opinion, but I mostly came across it when I was looking for a church in Canada. Now, I don’t know if more churches in Canada are like that or not; I haven’t gone on the same kind of church-hunt anywhere else in the world, but more than one of the churches I went to more than once used the KJV exclusively, as far as I could tell. The Better Bibles Blog currently has a poll about the standard Bible used in people’s churches. The KJV is in third place as I’m writing this.

Of course, I’ve sometimes tried to ask people why they use the KJV, but most of the time I don’t feel like I know them well enough, so that it might seem like an impolite challenge. My friend here, though, says things like “the words have so much more meaning“. Really? What can that possibly mean? Is the English language as it was spoken in 1611 more efficiently expressive than the English we speak today? If you think so, then try to translate this sentence into less than five syllables of Early Modern English:

I’m reading a blog.

Another of the reasons I’ve heard is that the KJV is what they grew up with. Now that I can understand. I have no complaint about people who feel more comfortable with what they grew up with. But it’s not really an excuse for churches to use the KJV, forcing another generation to grow up with a Bible in a very different dialect from their own. And also, the translation that you’re comfortable with isn’t necessarily the best one to read all the time. If you’re so used to a particular passage that you can repeat the words without thinking about the meaning, then perhaps you should see the way someone else expresses it. (Of course, it’s not bad to be familiar with the Bible, but it is bad not to think about it.) For example, whenever I read Galatians 5:22–23 in the New International Version (NIV):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I find myself switching off, and I have to force myself to think about what those words are actually talking about.

One other reason that I’ve heard about for favouring the KJV is that it’s the only inspired translation in English. I’m sorry; it’s not in English. Not in the English that we speak, anyway. I don’t deny that the KJV was a very important translation, as were Wycliffe’s and Tyndale’s previous English translations. But in the end, a Bible translation in your own language is a very valuable thing.

Take this passage for example, from 1 Corinthians 13:13 in the KJV:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

So dropping a couple of bucks in the Red Cross’s annual appeal is more important than faith and hope? Well, the word that ended up being translated as “charity” there was αγαπη, or agape, and according to Strong’s Greek Bible Dictionary, it means:

love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast:–(feast of) charity(-ably), dear, love.

So perhaps it’s better rendered in Modern English by the word “love” (which can include acts of charity). Funnily enough, that’s exactly how it’s translated in the NIV, and I’d be interested to know if any Modern English translations at all use a different word there, and why.

Finally, I want to end with something Martin Luther said about half a millennium ago, courtesy of Lingamish:

We do not have to inquire of the literal Latin, how we are to speak German, as these asses do. Rather we must inquire about this of the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly. That way they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them.