400 is Really Old

400In reading New Year greetings, I was just reminded that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible will celebrate its 400  years of publication in 2011. The KJV has been used by God to transform millions of lives. This is a noteworthy accomplishment and should be celebrated.

What I am not looking forward to is any resurgence of the “KJV Only” rhetoric that has plagued the Church since the American Standard Version was published in the early 1900’s.

I’m OK with someone who has a preference for the KJV. It was and is a beautiful translation. If you are encouraged in your relationship with God by reading the KJV, then please keep using it.

What I’m not OK with is those who make the claim that the newer translations are “perversions” of the Scripture and that the KJV is the only reliable translation into English. This is not true. Those that hold this view miss three important points.

First, language is not static, it changes and the English of 2011 is different than that of 1611. I grew up hearing and reading the KJV and yet, when I read it now, it is a little bit like reading a foreign language. In many places I have to do translation in my head because of the archaic terminology.

The newer translations use terminology and syntax which is in keeping with current English use. This makes Scripture accessible to a larger audience and is in keeping with the practice of the founders of the Church. Jesus used the language of his day to communicate with his audience. The New Testament was written in the Greek of the marketplace and not in Classic Greek that would be difficult for the readers to understand.

The second point that the KJV Only crowd misses is that since 1611, there have been many manuscripts found which provide additional evidence about what the original manuscripts contained. Since 1611, manuscripts going back to the 2nd Century have been found. The age of the manuscripts is important because the closer the copy is to the original in time, the less likely that error has crept in.

The third point is that the KJV Only crowd maligns the intent and character of the translators of the newer translations. One of the translators of the NASB was my professor years ago and I can vouch for his scholarship and character. These translations were done by people who love God and have spent a lifetime seeking to understand God’s word. Their intent is to accurately communicate God’s message to the people around them in language that they understand.

Enjoy your KJV if it is helpful to you and please allow the rest of us to enjoy our translation of preference. If you are still thinking about condemning the new translations, please remember what Jesus said about wineskins.