Why The KJV (AV) Should Still Be Used by The Christian, and Exposing a Modern Myth

As you know, I am not a KJV onlyist, but I am in favor of the Traditional Text of the New Testament. I read recently in E.F. Hills: "The King James Version Defended" (written in 1956) some things that I find very interesting. The King James Version isn't what Modern Scholars have made it out to be, nor is it what KJV onlyists have made it out to be. In researching this subject, I am finding that the KJV is tied to a lot more than Secular Scholarship and Fundamentalism. It seems that when one extreme view appears, there is another one that forms in response. Much of this issue with modern translations and the KJV is fought on three fronts. The Original Language Scholarship front, Church history front, and the English language front. Arguments are made against the KJV for various reasons. Some of them are factual, and some of them are not. Just like the inaccurate information that I revealed about 1 John 5:7 that has been going around concerning a mythical scribe named "Froy" or "Roy," I want to expose another misconception. This one isn't so much about the Greek text as it is about the "Old English" of the KJV. You see, many think that the KJV was written in the modern language of the 17th century when in fact it wasn't. "You" had already replaced "thee" and "thou" in everyday conversation. The following excerpt from E.F. Hill"s book on pages 285 & 286 is factual and of course laced with some of his opinion (Not only was he a New Testament Greek Scholar, he was a Reformed Presbyterian). The following will also reveal some things we should consider concerning the English language, Bible memorization, and the Church's role in schools.

"(g) Why the King lames Version Should be Retained
But, someone may reply, even if the King James Version needs only a few corrections, why take the trouble to make them? Why keep on with the old King James and its 17th-century language, its thee and thou and all the rest? Granted that the Textus Receptus is the best text, but why not make a new translation of it in the language of today? In answer to these objections there are several facts which must be pointed out.
In the first place, the English of the King James Version is not the English of the early 17th century. To be exact, it is not a type of English that was ever spoken anywhere. It is biblical English, which was not used on ordinary occasions even by the translators who produced the King James Version. As H. Wheeler Robinson (1940) pointed out, one need only compare the preface written by the translators with the text of their translation to feel the difference in style. (46) And the observations of W. A. Irwin (1952) are to the same purport. The King James Version, he reminds us, owes its merit, not to 17th-century English—which was very different—but to its faithful translation of the original. Its style is that of the Hebrew and of the New Testament Greek. (47) Even in their use of thee and thou the translators were not following 17th-century English usage but biblical usage, for at the time these translators were doing their work these singular forms had already been replaced by the plural you in polite conversation. (48)
In the second place, those who talk about translating the Bible into the "language of today" never define what they mean by this expression. What is the languageof today? The language of 1881 is not the language of today, nor the language of 1901, nor even the language of 1921. In none of these languages, we are told, can we communicate with today's youth. There are even some who feel that the best way to translate the Bible into the language of today is to convert it into "folk songs." Accordingly, in many contemporary youth conferences and even worship services there is little or no Bible reading but only crude kinds of vocal music accompanied by vigorous piano and strumming guitars. But in contrast to these absurdities the language of the King James Version is enduring diction which will remain as long as the English language remains, in other words, throughout the foreseeable future.
In the third place, the current attack on the King James Version and the promotion of modern-speech versions is discouraging the memorization of the Scriptures, especially by children. Why memorize or require your children to memorize something that is out of date and about to be replaced by something new and better? And why memorize a modern version when there are so many to choose from? Hence even in conservative churches children are growing up densely ignorant of the holy Bible because they are not encouraged to hide its life-giving words in their hearts.
In the fourth place, modem-speech Bibles are unhistorical and irreverent. The Bible is not a modern, human book. It is not as new as the morning newspaper, and no translation should suggest this. If the Bible were this new, it would not be the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is an ancient, divine Book, which nevertheless is always new because in it God reveals Himself. Hence the language of the Bible should be venerable as well as intelligible, and the King James Version fulfills these two requirements better than any other Bible in English. Hence it is the King James Version which converts sinners soundly and makes of them diligent Bible students.
In the fifth place, modern-speech Bibles are unscholarly. The language of the Bible has always savored of the things of heaven rather than the things of earth. It has always been biblical rather than contemporary and colloquial. Fifty years ago this fact was denied by E. J. Goodspeed and others who were pushing their modern versions. On the basis of the papyrus discoveries which had recently been made in Egypt it was said that the New Testament authors wrote in the everyday Greek of their own times. (49) This claim, however, is now acknowledged to have been an exaggeration. As R. M. Grant (1963) admits (50) the New Testament writers were saturated with the Septuagint and most of them were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. Hence their language was not actually that of the secular papyri of Egypt but biblical. Hence New Testament versions must be biblical and not contemporary and colloquial like Goodspeed's version.
Finally, in the sixth place, the King James Version is the historic Bible of English-speaking Protestants. Upon it God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval through the usage of many generations of Bible-believing Christians. Hence, if we believe in God's providential preservation of the Scriptures, we will retain the King James Version, for in so doing we will be following the clear leading of the Almighty."
(The King James Version Defended, E.F. Hills pp. 285-286)

One question I think we should ask ourselves is: "How much should we dumb down the English language for the sake of being relevant?" Personally I think we have done it too much, just like we have dumbed down the standards for entry into College for the sake of making a Bachelor's degree accessible to everyone (diminishing the value of a Bachelor's degree). I am not saying that we all should speak the form of English that was used to translate the KJV. In fact, it wasn't spoken like that in the 1600's or any other time in English history. What I am saying is that we all should raise our standards and expectations concerning our own spiritual growth, education, and how we minister to others. Paul initially became "all things to all people," but not with the intention of leaving them there. His intention was to raise them up into maturity. He started on a level they could understand, and then brought them up into the "faith" by teaching them unfiltered Biblical truth. I am not referring to culture, nor am I referring to musical preference necessarily. What I am referring to is the source from which we derive truth. The "well" that we drink from. Words are important and have meaning. Words convey a message to us. How we use them is important. The ASV and NASB are considered awkward by some because they are a literal rendering of the Modern Critical Texts preferred by Christian and Secular Greek & Hebrew Scholars. The KJV has the same problem. Both the KJV & ASV family of translations are literal English translations from the Hebrew and Greek Texts from which they are derived. The first NASB was actually written in old English! It wasn't until 1996 I think, or somewhere around there that it was updated to be more modern like the NKJV was in the 1970's for the KJV. Even if you don't prefer to use the KJV in your every day study and meditation, I think it should find a place in your library for the sake of history and good English grammar. It is written in a more pure form of English, and is also a more literal and accurate rendering of the Traditional Hebrew and Greek Texts (so next time someone tells you the KJV isn't as close to the original Greek as their translation, ask them: "which Greek Text are you referring to?"). You may need a dictionary handy to look up some big words, but what and education you will receive!

Another false idea is that King James himself was involved in the translation process. He authorized it, but allowed the scholars to do their work. Was King James a scoundrel? In many ways he was, and that is why the KJV really should be called the AV or Authorized Version. He authorized it, but did not translate it.

Much of English and American History contains the KJV. Matthew Henry, J.C. Ryle, John Owen, John Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, The United States Founding Fathers, and the list goes on of those in our history who used the KJV. Even though all of the Reformers didn't speak English, and the ones who did existed before the time of the KJV, they all used the same Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts the KJV translators used as a source. Even the Puritans who primarily used the Geneva Bible were relying on the same source manuscripts that the KJV was based on. Puritans like John Bunyan even used many of the deleted texts in his writings that are not found in our modern translations. Many Puritans were involved in translating the KJV contrary to popular opinion, and much of the sacred liturgy and the traditional version of the Lord's Prayer comes from the KJV. The Old Hymns that we love because of their rich theology and teaching come from the KJV. The KJV is a very edifying translation, and in many cases, contains the best translation. I am not here to necessarily advocate for the KJV as the primary Bible of choice in your personal Study and devotion. However, I am saying that we should reconsider the KJV and not throw it away entirely. We should refer to it in our study of the Bible, the English language, history, and many other aspects of our culture. We should read it, just like we all had to read Shakespeare in school (do they read Shakespeare anymore in schools?). Personally, I use it more in my personal study of the Word, but I also use the NKJV, Geneva, and occasionally the NASB and ESV. How wonderful to have such a variety and plethora of knowledge at our fingertips! Even some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers quoted from the Traditional Greek writings from which the KJV is derived, contrary to popular opinion.

I hope this little excerpt is helpful. Regardless of your preference when it comes to the Bible, it is important to be honest concerning the facts. The KJV was written in a more pure form of English for clarity. Regardless of popular opinion, Older English is richer, more versatile, and more precise than today's English. The false idea that the KJV was written in the Contemporary language of the 17th century has and is being spread throughout the world, seminaries, and local churches. Many use this false argument to advocate for Bible translations in the common tongue when it is entirely unnecessary.  


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