How do we wrap up the wording of the KJV section? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Again, I am leaving a lot of stuff out that is tedious as it is just doing things like counting the number of syllables. This chapter ends with some odds and ends and we’re going to go ahead and get to those. As always, the source material can be found here.
Not only does the King James use simpler words, but it also uses a shorter vocabulary of ‘different’ words. In his book “The Majority Text”, Theodore Letis points out:
“The AV contains only about six thousand words as compared to Shakespeare’s fifteen to twenty thousand and Milton’s thirteen thousand …”
Okay. And? Even if I grant this as true, what follows from this? What is asked is not how many different words are used but how easy those words are to understand. There are times fewer words are better and there are times more words are better. It depends on the situation. For instance, we don’t want to have endless vocabulary lists to learn to say something, but meanwhile, Greek has four different words for love and we only have one to contain everything.
What about the King James’ words we don’t recognize? G.A. Riplinger responds to this question:
“The … words in the KJV, which are unfamiliar, at first glance, to dictionary shy Americans are actually simpler and more accurate than their new substitutes. A ‘stomacher’ for example (Isa. 3:24) is NOT a belt, as new versions indicate, but a chest ornament. (It seems the only ‘simpler’ words in new versions are incorrect or from a corrupt Greek text.) New versions not only do not improve the KJV’s ‘sackbut’ (Daniel 3:7), calling it a ‘trigon’, but in the same sentence change the KJV’s simple ‘harp’ to a ‘zither’
This seems like a bizarre argument. How do I know that a stomacher is a chest ornament? I went to Blue Letter Bible to look up the verse and found that it says it’s a robe. Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s a belt. Since this is the only place the word shows up in Scripture, it’s harder to tell.
It’s hard to understand how replacing one difficult term, a sackbut, with another difficult term, a trigon, is an argument. It amounts to “Well they do it to!” This doesn’t deal with the wording of the KJV. As for harp, the word is best translated as a lyre or zither.
But supposedly Riplinger has dealt with the whole argument by citing two verses. Well done.
A second claim is that: ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’, and ‘thine’ are out of date. The ‘pitch’ is that these words were spoken in 1611, are archaic, and need to be eliminated.
Let’s examine this claim. In his book ‘The King James Version Defended’, Edward F. Hills gives us some interesting insight into these words. On page 218, he says:
“… the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century … 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 … The King James Version … 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 the New Testament Greek. 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” [S12P218].
In his book ‘The Old Is Better’, Alfred E. Levell also comments on the need for thee’s and thou’s. On page 31, he says:
“Why did the AV translators not adopt the up to date English of their time? For one reason … accuracy of translation! Whenever the Hebrew and Greek texts use the singular of the pronoun, so does the AV; and whenever those texts use the plural, so does the AV … There is a distinct loss of accuracy in translation if ‘You’ is used for singular as well as the plural: it becomes an ambiguous word … Thus in Luke 22:31-32 the Lord says to Peter “Satan hath desired to have you, to sift you as wheat,” “you” here referring to Peter and the other disciples; “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,” “thee” and “thy” referring to Peter only. Such shades in meaning are completely lost when ‘you’ is used throughout” [S13P31].
The words: ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’ are clearly needed. The Holy Spirit picked these words for a reason: It is to distinguish the ‘singular you’ from the ‘plural you’ for the purpose of clarity. Praise God!
I can easily grant this shows a lack in our language today. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we still speak in thee and thou today. (Gotta love the statement that this is what the Holy Spirit chose, something I am sure the KJV translators would not want said.) It’s one reason in my recent Greek classes we even talked about how in the South we differ between you and y’all.
Objective, analytical, data shows new versions are NOT EASIER to read, they are HARDER. Also, new versions are wordier, have more syllables per word, and use harder words.
The words God chose, for His Traditional Majority Text, are simpler. And, like the use of ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’; each word was chosen for a reason. We may or may not understand each word, but it is there for a purpose; just like you and I are here for a purpose.
Lately; Bible publishers are trying to tell Christians the King James Bible is ‘hard to understand’. Their ‘claim’ is that we need to buy a ‘new version’.
Well, if the King James Bible is ‘hard to understand’, then this is a very, very, RECENT phenomenon. Our grandparents were able to read the King James!
And, how would Bible publishers explain this supposed problem with King James ‘readability’ when we are actually MORE EDUCATED than our grandparents?
No; their claim does not make sense. Something else is wrong.
And meanwhile, our great-great-great grandparents down the line were able to read Elizabethan English. Our older ancestors were able to read languages like Greek and Latin and Hebrew. People can read different things at different times due to the changes in language.
The truth is that the King James Bible is NOT the problem.
“The real gap is one of distance between God and man, not a lapse between us and Father Time … The spiritual chasm is so vast that even those close to Jesus could not understand him. He was NOT speaking archaic Aramaic to Mary and Joseph yet, “they understood NOT the saying which he spake unto them”. Obsolete words were NOT the obstacle when he asked Peter, “Are ye also yet WITHOUT understanding?” [S3P635].
Something to think about.
And many of the great heroes in the Bible didn’t understand, including Mary and Joseph, the apostles, and others in the Old Testament. Are we to assume that all of these figures didn’t understand because they were obstinate in sin?
I am not against the KJV if one prefers it and wants to use it. I am against saying it is the only one you should use and all others are wicked translations.
But we’ll go on next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)