King James Quiz!

A few weeks ago a fundamentalist pastor I deeply respect told his congregation that the King James Version is an “impediment to many if not most of the Lord’s people in really understanding many passages of Scripture.” (I leave his name out only so as not to create trouble for him.) He said this despite the line I most often hear: “Oh, well, I grew up on the KJV so I can understand it.” I used to think that way myself.

So let’s get specific. Take my three-question open-book quiz! The book you may open is the KJV, no others. What do the following two phrases and a sentence mean? (And no looking at others comments until you’ve formulated your own!)

  1. We’ll start easy: “…he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb 2:18)
  2. “…not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col 2:23)
  3. “Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (Ps 37:8)

I love the English language. I read and write it for a living. But I have no idea what the second and third items mean in English (even though I helped multiple Wilds campers memorize the latter!).

Extra Anecdote

And here’s an anecdote I can’t resist passing along: my brother-in-law, when he was a little Awana clubber in Tennessee, asked his leader after memorizing Psalm 23, “If Jesus is our shepherd, why shall we not want Him?”

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

6 thoughts on “King James Quiz!”

  1. I have always been amazed at how few people know what “commendeth” means from Romans 5:8 or what “consist” means from Colossians 1:17 even though they are common verses. Especially Rom 5:8 since it is quoted so often in presenting the Gospel.

    Btw, did you realize your ESV Scripture tags are on? 🙂

  2. Mark,

    I knwe the first one, that one was easy, as you said – that’s just a vocabulary question.

    The second one was rough, but I think I was on the right track by thinking that it meant that very little benefit can be gained from external religious trappings, but I don’t think I got the full meaning, just part.

    The last one was baffling. If I were just to paraphrase the KJV, I would say this, “Don’t worry yourself in any way into sinning.” I don’t know if that captures the meaning or not. That one was rough.
    I have a few Scriptures that really cause me trouble, not because I don’t like what they ahve to say, I just don’t understand it, or maybe more specifically, if it is saying what I think it is saying, it is either contrary to the general tenor of Scripture. I’ll have to find them and let you know – I have question marks by them in my (KJV) Bible.

  3. Hey, Austin! Good to hear from you!

    I think on that second one you may be picking up that meaning from what you already know of the context. The phrase itself as it stands still isn’t saying anything to me.

    The obvious question is: is it really God’s purpose to make people learn antiquated vocabulary and syntax in order to read His Word? I say—based on the language he chose for Scripture in the first place—no.

    I admit I’m more clear that this is the case with Greek than with Hebrew. Perhaps biblical Hebrew is more literary and difficult than what people spoke on the street; I’m not sure how we could really know, because (I believe) there is little to no existing Hebrew literature from the period in which the canonical books were written.

  4. I almost wrote something snarky in response to that ploughboy comment, but this is too serious an issue. I care about the ploughboy. His modern equivalent would be who—the kid who mows lawns on the weekend? Hasn’t the modern KJVO movement told that story with (appropriate!) pride, meanwhile ripping the vernacular Bible out of the lawn mower’s hand and giving him the Vulgate?

    Did God inspire the GNT or the Hebrew Bible in a difficult-to-access religious jargon or in the day-to-day language of ordinary people? The concepts in the Bible may be difficult in many places, but the words typically aren’t. Some versions make Bible reading too easy, I’ll grant, and some books in the NT (Luke, Acts, Hebrews) seem to be less accessible in Greek than others. And there will always be a cultural and historical and theological and spiritual gap between a modern reader and the original author. But why purposefully make the gap wider?

    I write Bible textbooks for ploughboys and kitchen girls. This matters a great deal to me!

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