Literacy Rates and the King James Version

Literacy in the U.S. is embarrassingly low.

Nearly 50% of the adult US population reads at a 7th grade level or lower. Nearly 25% has reading proficiency so low they cannot read instructions on medication bottles, the manual that comes with a piece of machinery, or a newspaper. This means roughly 40 million Americans cannot do something as simple and critical as read the handout a pharmacist gives them that warns them of lethal drug interactions.

[From Blog Action Day 2008: Attack Poverty Through Literacy]

What does this say about the continued use of the King James Version in American churches?

The kids I have tried to evangelize over the past 10 years can’t even read the New American Standard. I’ve explained the theme verse at my one long-time weekly ministry—”Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck”—to countless low-income junior highers, and I’m not sure any of them ever understood it.

God used the common language of the day in the New Testament, Koine Greek. Koine (Κοινη), in fact, simply means “common.” We should not fear to do the same. The Bible contains some passages and truths that are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Some are impossible to grasp without divine enablement (1 Cor. 2:14). But why make understanding impossible by using a language no one in this world speaks?

P.S.

I’ve already posted a list of a few verses in the KJV that are unintelligible. I just found a new one, Joshua 17:18. “It is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine.”

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.

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