Augustine on the King James Version

From Augustine’s On Christian Teaching (4.10-11):

What is the use of correct speech if it does not meet with the listener’s understanding? There is no point in speaking at all if our words are not understood by the people to whose understanding our words are directed. The teacher, then, will avoid all words that do not communicate; if, in their place, he can use other words which are intelligible in their correct forms, he will choose to do that, but if he cannot—either because they do not exist or because they do not occur to him at the time—he will use words that are less correct, provided that the subject-matter itself is communicated and learnt correctly.

This aim of being intelligible should be strenuously pursued . . . . What use is a golden key, if it cannot unlock what we want to be unlocked, and what is wrong with a wooden one, if it can, since our sole aim is to open closed doors?

HT: Jeremy Larson

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.


  1. J on May 2, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Great post! I want to read Bible versions that I’ll actually understand.

    What do you think of the NKJV? I’ve seen some of your posts regarding other translations, but I haven’t found your opinion on the NKJV text.

    • Mark L Ward Jr on May 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

      The NJKV was not present in my four-version parallel study Bible years ago, so I never achieved much familiarity with it. I tend to hear good things about it, and its sales are perennially good according to CBA. I don’t know that I’ve seen editions of the KJV that have quite the physical and typographical beauty of a lot of the ESV editions. I’d be open to the input of others on this. In all my years using BibleWorks I don’t ever remember encountering a NKJV rendering that seemed really strange or anything. It clearly fits in the mainstream of conservative American Bible translations.

  2. Jeremy Patterson on May 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Your anti-KJV rhetoric is intensifying! Now even Augustine is being summoned to speak against the Authorized Version. 😉

  3. Mark L Ward Jr on May 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    If it was bad enough for Augustine to criticize, it’s bad enough for me.

  4. Jeremy Larson on May 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Is KJV the version used by BJUP?

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