How readable is the KJV? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This time, I’m not quoting everything. There is information that is just bit by bit that I find tedious. This is not hiding anything. I always link to the material here and I recommend you go and read it. Anyway, let’s answer the question of if the material is more readable or not in the KJV.
One persistent advertisement is that new versions are ‘easier to read’. If this is true, it is easily verified.
The Flesch-Kincaid research company has a formula which measures the grade level of a book. The higher the grade level the more education is required. And, the lower the grade level, the less education is required.
The Flesch-Kincaid formula is:
Grade level = (.39) times (the average number of words per sentence) + (11.8) times (the average number of syllables per word) minus (15.59)
From this formula; fewer syllables per word lowers the grade level and/or shorter sentences lowers the grade level. Both make sense.
Now, let’s compare some ‘modern’ versions to the King James Bible.
In her excellent book “New Age Bible Versions”, on page 196, G.A. Riplinger gives us the Flesch-Kincaid readability results of various ‘Bibles’. In her first analysis, she compares the average grade level required to read the first chapter of the first and last books of both the Old and New Testaments.
Leaving aside Kiplinger as a source, I have a few concerns here. For one thing, this could work well all things being equal if we use modern language, but what if we don’t? What if we use an ancient book still? For instance, in this case, I went to the metaphysics of Aristotle which I got here.
So what did I get?
(https://archive.org/stream/aristotlesmetaph0001aris/aristotlesmetaph0001aris_djvu.txt) has an average reading ease of about 80.6 of 100. It should be easily understood by 9 to 10 year olds.
There are PhDs who are struggling to understand this work. No. It will not be easily understood by 9 to 10 year olds.
So next I went here to the first part of the Summa of Aquinas dealing with questions of existence. Results?
(https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1001.htm) has an average reading ease of about 62.5 of 100. It should be easily understood by 14 to 15 year olds.
Again, PhDs are struggling and debating with this.
I next went to Romeo and Juliet.
That one was deemed too complicated, yet I bet many of us understand that more than we do Aristotle and Aquinas.
How about the transcript of Joe Biden’s inauguration address?
That one got the same rating as Aquinas, which means you would have a harder time understanding that address than you would understanding Aristotle.
Finally, I put in my article on the virgin birth, which I do affirm. The results are it is fitting for 10 to 11 year-olds. There you have it folks. I’m writing material that is slightly harder to understand than Aristotle. Never knew it.
So did Johnson ever bother to check on any of this? You already know the answer. The test itself could be fine, all things being equal, but there are some problems.
There is material on memorization after which Johnson says the following:
READER NOTE: The Word is “The Sword of the Spirit”. When G.A. Riplinger says that: “The memorization of scripture is a necessary self-defense against sin” and that: “simple sentence structure and single syllable words … simplify this task”; I believe she has hit on a very SUBTLE but EXTREMELY important point.
The memorization of scripture REQUIRES repetition. And, it requires hearing the SAME words again and again. When each ‘modern’ version, substitutes different words (so it can ‘sell itself’ as a ‘new’ version), it hinders and confuses the memorization of scripture.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, I suspect He DID NOT have scrolls of scripture with him. Nor do I think He fumbled around with which version to quote back to Satan. The only thing Jesus had was the Word, memorized! Think about it!
The problem is that if you look at the same story in different Gospels, you would find different words being used. Which is it? What you will normally find is the same idea is being expressed. Frankly, unless you’re quoting the words in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, you’re already not using the exact words that were used.
And yes, there were variants in Old Testament manuscripts. What Johnson is doing is treating the text like it’s a magic book. You have to say the words the exact right way or else the effect won’t happen.
Now I will grant that there are many passages I still remember in the KJV. John 3:16 anyone? But I do know I have many other passages memorized and even if I don’t have the exact words, I have the voice that is being used. It’s ironic that in wanting to defend a position he considers orthodox, Johnson really has a view of language that is pagan.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)