Recently there was a question put out in a series of articles by Mr. Josh Teis to those who love the KJV.(1) The question was: if we are not willing to accept a new translation now, when will we? We would like to answer that question. The answer is simply this: since we do not need a new translation now, we probably never will. The reasons for this answer come partly from our own journey in accepting the Biblical principles involved in this debate, and from elements of Mr. Teis’s articles that seem misleading or to leave out important information. Of course, we cannot thoroughly explore all aspects of this issue in one or two articles. But we would like to point out some ideas and doctrines that apply to this question. In this first article, we will deal with some of the misleading information from Mr. Teis’ articles and in the second talk about the underlying doctrinal issues.
It is important to note that the need for a new translation is being exaggerated in these articles. Whether by intent or not, is between the writers and the Lord. Either way, the fact remains that the KJV is not as incomprehensible as these articles make it out to be. The author(s) emphasize that the KJV is 400 years old and that words mean different things in 2019 than they did in 1611. But the actual length of time is closer to 200 than 400. Many instances of archaic wording, spelling, punctuation and other such updates are seen in the current edition of the KJV that we read, preach and study from today, which is from 1769, not 1611. Mr. Teis mentions archaic words like “besom” and “emerods” that are unfamiliar, and yes, the KJV has its share of archaic words. What he doesn’t mention is the all of the equally unfamiliar words in more “updated” translations like the NKJV. Consider the following examples: (NKJV first KJV second)
“jackdaw” vs. “pelican” Leviticus 11:18
“armlets” vs. “chains” Numbers 31:50
“ascent of Heres” vs. “the sun was up” Judges 8:13
“retinue” vs. “train” I Kings 10:2
“pinions” vs. “feathers” Job 39:13
“festal” vs. “suits” Isaiah 3:22
“verdant” vs. fat” Isaiah 28:1
“rivulets” vs. “little rivers” Ezekiel 31:4
“wend” vs. “went” Zecharaiah 10:2
Mr. Teis also mentions words or phrases that are familiar but supposedly mean something so drastically different from the original translation that we are misunderstanding them without realizing it. One case Mr. Teis and his colleague, Dr. Ward, mention repeatedly, both in these articles and elsewhere, is the phrase, “remove not the ancient landmark”, from Proverbs 22:28. Supposedly the meaning of these words have altered so much since 1611 that we cannot understand what the verse is saying without researching word histories. Yet in two of the modern versions Mr. Teis is advocating, (NKJV and the MEV), the phrase appears this way: “do not remove the ancient landmark”. We can be truly grateful that modern translations have finally opened up the true meaning of this passage for us.
Mr. Teis asserts that modern English readers are not familiar with Elizabethan syntax, therefore we need an updated translation. This statement is surprising since it was at the same educational institution Mr. Teis attended where I was taught that the KJV did not represent Elizabethan era English. Belief in verbal inspiration, that every word of the Bible was purposefully and specifically breathed out by God, requires a faithfulness to those words as they were given. Driven by this belief, the translators of 1611, reflected the underlying texts as much as linguistically possible in their translation. C. S. Lewis put the matter this way:
“the Authorized Version owes to the original its matter, its images,
and its figures. (2)
As someone who has translated extensively in the NT and much in the OT, we can personally attest to how much the KJV follows the Greek and Hebrew in word order and syntax.
Mr. Teis dismisses the italics in the KJV as relevant only for Greek and Hebrew scholars, yet the opposite is the case. Italicizing words that have no Greek or Hebrew support but that helped the English translation, was a way to bring those with no original language training closer to the the underlying texts. The reader is given the opportunity to make a decision for themselves, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, what God was actually communicating. This connection and accuracy is lost in the modern translations.
Teis also, along with practically everyone else, dismisses the “thee’s” and “thou’s” as irrelevant. They are not. They are, again, a way to communicate Greek and Hebrew grammatical information that English no longer does. Consider Luke 22:31-32 where Christ says: “. . . Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee . . .” Did you see the change? Satan desired to have you - plural, meaning all the disciples. But Christ said “I have prayed for thee” - singular, meaning Simon alone. Why the change? That’s a good question to study. Thanks to the “thee”, we can recognize the difference and be alerted that there is a question to study. True, modern English is not spoken or written like that today. But we are dealing with eternal truths which require precision. No one wants a doctor who studied from easy, though less detailed, textbooks. Legal contracts are very wordy, precise and meticulous. We want them to be. It is necessary for everything to be spelled out precisely for our protection. NASA takes great pains to be precise in all of their work. Why? Because it is important. Lives are at stake. With the Bible, it is not just physical lives which are at stake, but eternal souls. We cannot be too precise and exact.
One final observation before we conclude this article. The truth is, the whole readability argument arose from a marketing tactic. In the middle ages when the only Bible available was Latin, then yes, there was a need for a Bible in the “common” language. That is, the language common to the people of the country. The “common” language was German, French, English and Spanish as opposed to Latin. Those early translators were not setting out to keep up with the slang changes of each generation. They wanted a Bible translated into their native language. In America today, according to the American Bible society, there are roughly 900 full or partial translations of the Bible into English.(3) 900! No language changes that much. Yet with any new translation comes the tired old line that we need a Bible that is “readable”. Actually what the publishers need is a Bible that is marketable. The Bible remains the leading best seller of all time. Publishers who want a piece of that market have to convince a demographic who likely already own several Bibles, to buy yet another one.
To conclude an already too long article, we repeat the answer we gave in our opening paragraph. If the newer translations cannot offer more significant improvements in our readability than we have seen, if newer translations leave out or obscure important information that more accurately reflects what God inspired, then we have no need for a newer translation. If we do not need another translation now, we likely never will.
As we have alluded to significant doctrinal foundations involved in the Bible version debate throughout this article. Our next article will deal with those issues and Lord willing, provide a more solid basis for our thoughts regarding the current debate. Thank you for taking the time to read our thoughts on this and feel free to visit our website: www.yourbibleanswer.com. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you! God bless!
1. Josh Teis, Are We Ready? A Question For Those Who Love The KJV, The History Of KJV Onlyism, A Bible For The Plow Boy, (joshuateis.com)
2. C.S. Lewis, The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version, (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1967), 3.