An Answer to One of My Top Two Critics

by Apr 4, 2018Books, KJV11 comments

I just wrote a 2,200-word response to a fairly brief Amazon review. I’m either OCD or just O. But it takes obsession to write a good book, I’m convinced—and to keep up with the promotion and then the discussion the book generates. I really care about this issue, and I’ve been itching to hear from accredited critics. But nota bene: it’s your own fault if you read this. You’re feeding my obsession. I did wait weeks to post this, just to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. I hope the waiting worked.

My respected friend, Dr. Ben Heffernan, a pastor in the Midwest, has given the most substantive critical review so far of my new book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. He gave me five Amazon stars I didn’t deserve—and very kind and sincere praises, which I will omit here. In other words, he was very gracious. But he offered some criticisms and disagreements with which I would like to take some time to interact. I’ve been itching to get someone as well trained as Ben to disagree with my central thesis. I wish I’d thought to send him the book before publication.

Ben wrote:

While arguing for the necessity of translating into the vernacular of the people, this book lacks the balance of emphasizing the most important aspect of translation work and that is fidelity to the original text. The vernacular argument, as important as it is, does not trump accuracy to the original words. These two tensions are not mutually exclusive, but the vernacular can be emphasized to the exclusion of Biblical accuracy. When it is, modern theology tries to adjust what God has written and calls for adjusting of things like gender pronouns in the Bible. A careful distinction needs to be made between vernacular language and contemporary theology which impacts the vernacular language.

Ben notes that the two issues of vernacularity and accuracy are ultimately separate: I don’t think he would say that it’s “impossible” to translate the Bible into contemporary English vernacular. If it was possible in 1611, it’s possible today (right, Ben?).

So… how about using an accurate Bible translation into the vernacular, one that doesn’t “adjust gender pronouns”—like the NASB? Or, if one prefers the TR/Majority Text, why not the NKJV or MEV?

Now, if understanding is truly set against accuracy, accuracy must win. But I’d rather say that the two are inseparably tied together within the very concept of “translation.”

An accurate translation no one can understand isn’t a translation. But if the target audience can’t read it, the text in question didn’t get translated. Glen Scorgie: “If a translation is published but fails to communicate, is it really a translation?” An “accurate” translation into a language I don’t speak does me no good. I’m tempted, in fact, to say it’s not really accurate in that case. To get real practical, besom is not an “accurate” translation of X in Isaiah 14:23, even though it used to be—because hardly anybody knows that word anymore. Broom is the accurate translation.

A readable translation that isn’t accurate isn’t a translation, either. Maybe it’s a paraphrase or an interpretation. But if it doesn’t communicate what the original communicated, it’s not a translation. So, okay, yes, The Message is not a Bible translation.

The whole concept of “translation” includes—entails—the concepts of accuracy and readability. Unless, I suppose, the original text being translated is unreadable, too difficult for the intended audience; but is that what the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament were? Would God give us unintelligible revelation?

There’s an unbreakable chain stretched taut between the two poles of accuracy and readability. But there is space between the two poles. There’s a continuum. I think far too much of the fighting over English Bible translation is over which link of that chain is the best one. And I’m still left wondering: why do I have to choose just one link?

To make things even more complicated and to make my metaphor do too much work, every major English Bible translation moves back and forth on that chain in every line. Every (predominantly) “accurate” Bible translation has its God forbids, and every (predominantly) “readable” translation has its Psalm 44:14s. Psalm 44:14 is translated quite literally in the NLT: “they shake their heads at us.” Meanwhile, the usually more literal ESV has “a laughingstock among the peoples.” Both are good translations, but as the writer from whom I borrow this illustration, Bible translator Dave Brunn, says, maybe we shouldn’t get so upset about the readable/dynamic vs. accurate/literal spectrum-when all translations, including the KJV, use every portion of it.

If the Russians took over America and, uh, burned all the Bibles except the KJVs and TNIVs, and forced every Christian to choose one for life and refuse to use the other (those Russians and their crazy plots!), I could see why we might have a problem in the Christian church. That choice would present real difficulties.

I’d choose the TNIV for my family and any church I pastored. I’d rather have to explain the occasional gender pronoun problem (and there are some; I’ve found some of Poythress’ examples compelling on this score) than violate the principle of vernacular translation. The KJV is not in an entirely different language, but it is different enough—this is the point of my book—that it’s past time to look for an alternative. But I could see someone going the other way, and I would respect that choice.

But thankfully the Russians are only tampering with our elections and not forcing us to choose only one English Bible translation. It’s Christians who are doing that. And I want to say back to them, as they hold the KJV up against all other versions, “Uh, can’t I have both?”

“All are yours,” Paul said (1 Cor 3:22). All God’s gifts to the church are, in a definite way, gifts for us all. Different gifts may serve different purposes. Maybe the NLT or even the NIV works better as a study aid than as a general purpose Bible, but we do have general purpose Bibles that have none of the gender pronoun issues Ben is concerned about: the NASB, ESV, NKJV, MEV, etc.

An overstated case

Here’s Ben again:

Second, the author overstates his case. We should all acknowledge that the KJV presents challenges to the reader because of language changes, but it is simply an overstatement to say that the KJV is no longer in our language. Elements of it are archaic, but the majority of it is not. False friends are quantifiable, and rare archaic words are just that, rare. (I took the book of Philippians, and of the roughly 1600 words, I found less than 10 that impeded the meaning of the original text-and with two of those, modern translations don’t necessarily solve the issues either. This analysis is subjective and arbitrarily selective but the main arguments of this book against the KJV are as well.

I actually handed this objection to Ben by writing it in the book, and I will continue to hand it to all KJV-Only readers. I acknowledge at the end of chapter 6 of Authorized that the strongest objection to my viewpoint is, “It’s not that big a deal—there just aren’t that many false friends.” I have some answers in the book, to which I’ll refer the reader.

But I still have some questions for the good Dr. Heffernan:

  1. How many false friends are there, then? I didn’t count them; I offered about 50. If my list is arbitrary (which I deny) and selective (which was kind of the whole point!), who will count them objectively and make the list known to the English-speaking church? There are ten in Philippians—okay. Philippians is four pages in my ESV, out of an 1,825-page Bible. A little presto-change-o math tells me that an average of ten every four pages would make for 4,562 or so words that impede the meaning of the text for modern readers. Is that a problem? Does that concern you?
  2. I agree fully that the majority of the lexemes (words) in the KJV are not archaic. Pretty well all of the syntax is, however; there’s hardly a sentence which is put precisely the way we would put it today. But I want to know: how many archaic words, syntactical structures, and punctuation conventions should a translation be permitted to have before it’s time to update or replace it? 4,563, maybe?
  3. Should the Bible sound like our English (and French people’s French’s, and Russian people’s Russian), or should it sound archaic, elevated, and solemn? I argue in the book that the choice to use Elizabethan English adds meaning the KJV translators never intended and that was not contained in the original Hebrew and Greek. (I can’t seem to get an answer to this argument from anyone: I’m genuinely curious to hear! Dr. Heffernan, please help!)


Finally, this book reduces the motives for championing a single version to a self-glorying pride. I’m sure that he has addressed an element of it, but to not explore other alternative motives is an over-simplification of the issue at best.

I get what he’s saying here, and I want to affirm that I do not believe that championing a single translation of Scripture is always or universally the result of a tribalistic impulse. This shoe does not fit all the KJV defenders I know, particularly the ones I know well, like Ben. He has always been humble toward me, and his countenance has always radiated Christian joy. The shoe does fit KJV-Onlyism as an -ism, however. They have a reputation. And they acknowledge it somewhat with a term I’ve heard many of them use for the proponents of their view of whom they are embarrassed: “KJV-Ugly.” Every position has its ugly, graceless adherents, and it isn’t fair to assume that all of KJV-Onlyism is just like its worst defenders, even if there do seem to be a lot of them. But then there do seem to be a lot of them… What is it about this viewpoint which has given it such a reputation for irascibleness?

If you’re going to be an effective, constructive critic of other Christians, a critic whose aim is the restoration of fellowship and unity, you’ve got to work as hard at discerning the good in their views as you do at discerning the errors. So let me explore alternative motives for KJV-Onlyism for a moment. I see good in the KJV-Only crowd, I really do, or I would have given up appealing to them a long time ago. The ones I know are true brothers in Christ; they are faithful witnesses to Christ; they care about leading holy lives; they don’t care too much about what the culture thinks of them; and in their defense of the KJV they are going for something that is ultimately good: they want a definite, accessible standard for all doctrine in the church. They want doctrinal and spiritual stability for Christians. They think the existence of multiple Bible translations is a threat to that standard and that stability. To be clear, I think they’re right to seek stability and a clear standard for Christian doctrine. I think they’re wrong, however, to seek those things by holding onto a traditional Bible translation—simply because that’s not the ultimate place of divine authority in the church. No translation is. Subtly, a good and trusted translation can take over from the inspired originals as the locus of authority for the church (the Vulgate did this centuries ago). And that is what is happening in every variety of KJV-Onlyism I’m aware of. This is one reason I write at length about it. I’m deeply, deeply concerned.

I don’t know that Ben is “KJV-Only”; I truly welcome his correction as I seek to put the best spin I can on the motives of those who are still loyal to the KJV and critical of other translations.

But I feel jealous for God’s people to enjoy all his good gifts, and I think my friend is inappropriately withholding some of them from his people and from those he influences.

Read More 

Review: Comanche Empire

The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hämäläinen This excellent book does what modern history is supposed to do nowadays: it gives a voice to the voiceless and the marginalized; it gives agency to the victims. And yet you can’t always predict what will happen when you go...

Review: Means of Ascent

Means of Ascent by Robert A. CaroMy rating: 5 of 5 stars This book is positively monumental. How does Caro do it? Well, I know how he does it. I read his book on the topic. He does it with a lot of hard and humble work (and some excellent help from his wife). I was...

Authorized Documentary Freely Available on YouTube!

The Authorized infotainment documentary (emphasis on the -tainment, though I hope the info is good!) is now up on YouTube for free to everyone! This is kinda big! For some time it has been behind a paywall on FaithlifeTV. This project was one of the great privileges...

Review: Think Again by Stanley Fish

Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education by Stanley FishMy rating: 5 of 5 stars I have read multiple Stanley Fish books; I read quite a number of these columns when they were originally published in the New York...

Leave a comment.

  1. Robert Vaughn

    I enjoyed your post, and Ben’s review — thanks for linking it. Out of the abundance of your post, I will try to be brief (hard for me!).

    Mark: “A little presto-change-o math tells me that an average of ten every four pages would make for 4,562 or so words that impede the meaning of the text…how many archaic words…should a translation be permitted to have…”

    Not particularly in answer to your question “should” — a question that intrigues me is “how many archaic/difficult words does the KJV have?” I have a spreadsheet on which I had 105 words. But, for example, it didn’t include “besom” which is in your post above, or “stanch/stanched” — which I heard a guy use twice today, and not in a biblical conversation! (They are now on the list.) My list began with a few other small lists of “hard” words that I found, to which I’ve added probably a dozen. I don’t have answers, but I find this an intriguing study that no one seems interested in undertaking seriously (i.e., in depth). The KJVOs are probably afraid they’ll find too many, and the MVIs (Modern Versions Indefinitely) may be afraid they won’t find enough! (Just kidding; well, maybe.)

    Mark: “But then there do seem to be a lot of them… What is it about this viewpoint which has given it such a reputation for irascibleness?” [btw, would it be OK to use irascible in a Bible translation? 😉 ]

    In my opinion this is not a cause and effect issue (it’s correlation, not causation). That is, a satisfaction for the KJV, only, doesn’t produce the anger and irritability that is found in some KJVOs. I believe irascible folks tend to gravitate toward any “onlyism” type issues, issues that are controversial, issues in which they can use their “skills” to their fullest. I am a strong partisan for independent churches (as opposed to joining conventions, etc.), but it seems pretty evident that independence and fundamentalism is also attractive to the irascibles.

    • Mark Ward

      Great points. I confess to occasionally worrying that I’ve overstated my case, just as Ben thought I did. I’ve taken comfort from the existence of tools like D.A. Waite’s Defined KJB and thick books like The King James Bible Word Book. And my concept of “false friends” applies beyond words—to syntax and punctuation. I haven’t rested my case solely on false friends, either. I’ve worked to show that Elizabethan English itself, even when easy to understand (with a little practice), carries a message that the original authors (and the KJV translators) did not intend. It says, “Thou art now reading solemn, elevated, religious verbiage.” I was just reading the KJV the other day and thinking, this language puts me at one or two removes from the immediacy the text would otherwise have.

      I’ve also taken comfort from the fact that you and Ben are the only people I’ve ever met who prefer the KJV but are willing to do any counting of “dead words” and “false friends” whatsoever. Everyone else I’ve ever met dismisses this concern completely, without listening, with the simple retort, “Look it up, lazy bones!” They won’t listen long enough to realize that “look it up” cannot be the answer to false friends, because modern readers don’t know to look them up.

      I’m putting the case to the KJV-Only movement: is it really consistent with the character of God that he would insist you read his words in a version of English you don’t speak?

  2. Thomas Overmiller

    In some ways, Tyndale (who predates the KJV) provided a more immediate, vernacular translation by choosing straightforward words like “congregation” and “repentance” over high-church words like “church” and “penance.” And then there is the choice for “baptize” rather than “immerse,” which I believe to be an unfortunate development in the KJV.

  3. Benjamin Heffernan

    And here arrives the afore mentioned critic in all his ugliness!

    I am a pastor of a small church that is committed to using the KJV. I am not KJVonly but I prefer the KJV to other versions. I’m not opposed to updating the archaic language (words or style), but I would want a translation from the majority text that has the same translation philosophy as the KJV translators. There is still a sizable group of Christians who use the KJV and are not KJVonly. To lump them together will only muddy the waters of argumentation by using arguments that at times will not apply to me.

    Your book made many good points I could agree with but I thought it made an unsustainable leap to “stop using the KJV” as a moral imperative. (Your book almost made me wonder if I was a Pentecostal because I’m seeing people in my church learning, growing, and being transformed by a book that is not even in their language.) The onus is on you to persuade me of such a dogmatic assertion. If I am sinning against my people, then I want to know and I want to change but I have not come to that conclusion yet.

    You make a good point about translation being both readability and accuracy. I can agree. But when it comes to making actual translation decisions, one has to be guided by certain principles. Just studying the KJV against the originals gives one a good indication of their overall fidelity to formal equivalency. They utilized dynamic equivalency infrequently. They made interpretations as all translations must do, but they seemed to try to limit their interpretations because for them the original words were sacred. I firmly believe that they would not have translated adelphos as “brothers and sisters” based on translation philosophy and for that they have my respect and trust. (The fact that the Bible is addressed predominately to men is a theological point that our culture despises. To adapt the language to fit modern conceptions turns exegesis into eisegesis. There are reasons why the left celebrated this translation, in my opinion.)

    Your point about the NKJV is a good one. I have not done the research at this point in my life but because of your book I have begun to do so. I would love to update the KJV myself, but judging from our discussions I would not go far enough for you and too far for others. : )

    Your point about the solemnity of the KJV language is interesting to me but it seems rather minor and inconclusive when we really don’t know what the original readers would have sensed and felt. It is worth mentioning, I understand that, but it just not very convincing to me personally.

    It is interesting to me that a debate is won or lost in how it is framed. I feel like I am being framed with questions like “why can’t people read the Bible in their own English?” I never said they couldn’t – I’m not “insisting” that men in our jail ministry put down their NIV and pick up a KJV! I just trust the KJV translators because I have observed how they translate the original. The “faith of Christ” debate is just an example of where well-meaning interpretations are unnecessarily inserted into the text.

    This seems to me that you value readability and I value a specific translation philosophy. You have not convinced me that you see the value of that specific translation philosophy as much as I do.

    Another part of this argument is that translation theory can be discussed in a vacuum, but the choice of a translation for corporate use in my church does not. The choice to use the KJV is primarily a translation decision but it involves a host of other values as well. When these values are considered, it is not difficult to stay with the tried and true.

  4. Benjamin Heffernan

    It is my understanding that English translations prior to the KJV used the word baptize, including the Tyndale and even the Geneva Bible.

  5. Robert Vaughn

    Here are a couple of follow-up thoughts.

    Mark, you wrote that reading the KJV sends a message, “Thou art now reading solemn, elevated, religious verbiage.” I think here you are transferring your personal feelings – which may be influenced by your background, training, and such like – that would not apply across the board to folks reading the KJV. What in this case might be a concern for one might not be for others. I either don’t feel that message or am too dumb to know that I do. Perhaps this is also somewhat a post-RSV generational disease – wasn’t it those translators who arbitrarily kept the thou/thee usage in certain cases as if it was some grand pronoun assigned to Deity?

    Mark: “I’m putting the case to the KJV-Only movement: is it really consistent with the character of God that he would insist you read his words in a version of English you don’t speak?” I believe this is a fair question – and certainly founded where your best cases lies. But I suppose we all must realize that the case for TR or Majority texts versus Critical Text definitely comes in play for a lot of people. Does it really matter how the ESV or NIV would have translated the words that are not in 1 John 5:7? So eventually this cannot be completely detached from textual issues.

    But back to the character of God. I think there are a number of issues that could call into question your interpretation of the character of God “insisting that we read his words in a version of English we don’t speak.” The true answer might be somewhere near the middle – leaning in favour of the KJV, of course! 🙂

    The revelation of God to man doesn’t always align with easy. Sometimes an inspired writer used old or archaic words – see 1 Samuel 9:9, e.g. We can see there that it is explained, but the Hebrew word is translated “seer” about 12 other times with no explanation to the poor reader. Sometimes instead of using the “easy word” the writers used words or phrases that had to be explained, or even translated (e.g. Mark 7:2; Heb. 9:11; 10:20; Matt. 27:33). Our modern translational philosophy (at least the main direction its seems to be going) would jettison all that for an “easy-reader” word. The Bible teaches that its words aren’t just read, but have to be studied, considered, meditated upon. Teachings are passed down; explained by the older generation, teachers, etc. (Deut. 32:7; 2 Tim. 2:2). Jesus spoke with and the Spirit inspired words, thoughts, principles, that were hard to understand. Not all was simple and easy, and Jesus sometimes even taught in cryptic words that hid his meaning from some while he explained it to others. I don’t think all these thoughts apply directly to translation, but I think these kinds of things must be entered into the record when we think of the character of God in regard to revealing himself to man.

  6. Mark Ward

    Robert, it’s fun to have my top two critics (you’re the other) interacting on one post! Thank you, sincerely.

    1) People who grow strongly accustomed to the KJV may not feel as strongly the “thou-art-now-reading-solemn-and-religious-verbiage.” It may feel normal to them. But consider the flip side: I often hear KJV-Only and KJV-preferred people say that the modern versions “just don’t sound like Scripture” to them. For your view to carry the day, I think you’d have to show that people don’t notice either style of English. I still think I’m right! =)

    2) And I also have to insist that the failure of the NKJV and MEV among KJV-Only Christians shows that text and translation can and must be separated. The two topics have no necessary connection to one another. When the “TR-Only” folks start to be evenly split between users of the NKJV and users of the KJV, then I’ll talk textual criticism with them. But right now it seems to me that 100% of “TR-Only” folks use the KJV. I know of only two individual exceptions; that’s statistically insignificant.

    3) You bring up some interesting points of evidence thoughts in your final paragraph, so let me clarify, as I do in the book: I’m not saying the whole Bible should be easy to read. I’m saying we should use words as they are used today, not as they used to be used—especially when those uses conflict. Broom is not “easier” than besom; it’s possible for the plow boy to understand instead of impossible. And limp in 1 Kings 18:21 is not “easier” than halt; it’s possible for the plow boy to understand rather than impossible. All of your examples actually prove my point, save perhaps “seer.” I find it interesting, however, that a) “seer” shows up only after it gets defined in 9:9; and b) we don’t actually know whether “seer” had fallen out of use in Hebrew. The text doesn’t say that.

  7. Mark Ward

    Ben, thanks for stopping by! You’re clearly not an ugly critic! I’ve met them, and you’re not them. May God help us both never to become them. Wisdom that is from above is open to entreaty.

    I think part of our disagreement, as far as it goes, lies in the classic problem of the book reviewer wanting a book the author didn’t want to write. It just wasn’t my concern in that book to discuss translation philosophy in any detail. I did acknowledge a distinction between formal and functional approaches to translation, and I gave formal translations the edge, saying that that’s where I’d start in Bible study. FWIW, for church ministry to high-school-educated, middle class believers, I definitely prefer a more formal translation such as the ESV, NASB, or NKJV. Formal translation philosophy is most definitely a value I hold when helping choose a main teaching translation for my church.

    So, yes, there are other values that come into a discussion of translation choice. But I don’t think there are a “host.” And with regard to *almost* every value I think you value that I also value =), I think I can point you to an alternative translation that would fulfill that value:

    • If you value a Byzantine-priority textual-critical viewpoint, I can point you to the NKJV and MEV.
    • If you value formal translation philosophy, I can point you to the NKJV, MEV, NASB, ESV, etc.
    • If you value literary beauty, I can point you to the ESV.
    • If you value a traditional rendering of gender terminology (no changing of “Blessed is the man” to “Blessed is the one”) I can point you to the NASB, ESV, NKJV, and MEV.
    • If you value the existence of many editions and study materials, I can point you to all the versions I’ve just been mentioning, save perhaps the MEV.
    • If you value cultural continuity with previous generations of the Christian church, I believe I can point to the MEV, ESV, and NKJV again. They really are very similar to the KJV.
    • If you value Bible-based evangelism and Scripture memory for kids, it seems to me there’s no contest: use one of the contemporary translations above rather than making non-Christians and Christian kids learn a new version of English that will regularly sound like nonsense syllables to them (“And you hath he quickened…”).

    But if I’m right that many individual words and sentence structures and punctuation conventions—thousands, by my math based on your own counting in Philippians—within the KJV are unintelligible to modern speakers; and if I’m right that Paul says in 1 Cor 14 that this is not okay; then you need to consider that you can only have all the things you rightly value if you will cease being “committed to using the KJV.”

    Now, if you value keeping the peace in your church, as well you should, you may wish to hold on to the KJV for a time—maybe a long time, depending on the level of influence KJV-Onlyism has had over your people.

    But my strong sense is that among the KJV-Only crowd as a whole, that legitimate value of keeping the peace has overridden the premium Paul places on intelligibility. Sometimes you have to threaten the peace to retain something of greater value. And in KJV-Onlyism a new value has crept in, a bad value, namely the value of having a totem of group identity and superiority. I do *not* claim that this applies to you. I don’t know that. It certainly applies very broadly across those who insist on the use of the KJV.

    Both of the churches I’ve been in in the last 21 years have switched from the KJV to something different, and nothing terrible happened—though at the first church (Mark Minnick’s) we lost some families. I’d like to say some very good things happened, especially that people started getting handed Bibles in their own English.

    I want to accurately represent you, Ben, so I am taking to heart your comment about how the debate is framed. It’s true that I’m targeting mainly the KJV-Only crowd, the people who, as I’m sure you know, do very much insist that men in jail ministries put down their NIVs and pick up KJVs. And as I state explicitly in the book, I have no wish to deny that people who grow up using only the KJV will subsequently grow in grace. I’m one such person! I loved your line about Pentecostals. =) Our English and Elizabethan English make a Venn Diagram:

    via GIPHY

    There is clearly a large area of overlap. And there are clearly areas that do not overlap. No one, not even D.A. Waite, denies this—it’s why he put out his “Defined KJB.” Clearly there are “dead words” in the KJV like besom, chambering, and emerod. At those points, our English and theirs does not overlap. What my book did is show that the the circles are further apart than any KJV user I’ve ever met has acknowledged or even known. I showed that there are “false friends,” words (and syntactical structures and punctuation conventions, etc.) that modern readers don’t realize they’re misunderstanding. If you can have all the things you value and get rid of the “false friends” problem, it seems to me you ought to. Paul says in 1 Cor 14 that you ought to. Is it really possible that the KJV translation philosophy is so vastly superior to that of the NKJV that it warrants using unintelligible words?

    And as for your point about gender in Bible translation… I’m not as concerned about that issue as you are, and I’m not really sure what it means to say that the Bible is addressed primarily to men. That sounds like a longer discussion. I do have some concerns about gender in Bible translation—and I am a strong, published complementarian of the more conservative “broad” sort described by Jonathan Leeman here. But I refer you back to my bulleted list above. You can have vernacular English *and* traditional rendering of gender terminology. Why not have both, since you can?

  8. Robert Vaughn

    Mark, thanks for your reply. I’ll try to finish up and leave you with the last word – since it is your blog — unless you have something specific to which you’d ask me to reply. I’ll use your numbers (above) to try to keep it on point.

    1) I understand the concept that what “is normal” to someone therefore “feels normal” to that person. So really we’re out in the field of what can be observed but is hard to objectively test. I suspect we are both right, and some people in between are right too – simply because every individual is different. I don’t feel compelled to that people don’t notice either style of English. It seems one would have to be a fool not to notice at all! But what that “noticing” means is the matter under consideration. I doubt not that some KJV-people who say that the modern versions “just don’t sound like Scripture” mean exactly what you think. It is not a given that every one of them means that. Folks notice differences in the KJV and NIV, for example, that is word and meaning based that has nothing to do with “solemn religious verbiage.”

    2) Like you, I know a few folks who support the TR and prefer the NKJV, but you are right that it seems an insignificant number. I don’t see why, though, that we can’t accept the fact that people could envision a revision of the KJV or a new translation from the TR, and just aren’t satisfied with what has been done with the NKJV or the MEV. (I had not even heard of the MEV until a couple years ago. From time to time I’ve checked out its translation of a verse at Bible Gateway, and have been generally favorably impressed – but hold not against me that I have a healthy skepticism toward a Bible published by a Charismatic publishing house!) I see no reason “TR-Only” folks should be evenly split between users of the NKJV and users of the KJV. That seems more like a contrived proof point than a necessity. Many just don’t see the need to fix what they don’t perceive as broken – even if others think it is broken.

    3) I understand that you are not arguing that the whole Bible should be easy to read. But I am speaking to the general tenor of discussion in the Bible translation debate and ongoing multiplication of English translations. In the “version information” of almost every modern Bible version at Bible Gateway, there is some kind of reference to making the Bible simpler, easier to read, or such like. And no doubt our presuppositions about how God would operate within his character to communicate with us affect how we view the overall subject of God’s revelation. If so, we need to have a fuller view of how God chooses to communicate – including such things as mystical writing in an unknown language that made a powerful king so frightened that he soiled his pants, or sending a lying spirit to deceive false prophets.

    3 cont.) As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think updating words is out of line. At the same time I see no big issue with a word like besom just because it isn’t as common as broom (I see nothing wrong with broom either). You seem to be saying, if I misunderstand not, that it is impossible to understand besom and halt, but possible to understand broom and limp?

    3 cont.) You say that the text in 1 Samuel doesn’t say whether “seer” had fallen out of use in Hebrew. Why do you think the explanation was necessary?

    I knew a man (whether in his mind or out of his mind, I cannot tell) who believed that a revision agreeable to most all could have been effected if the translators had made the right turn in the 1880s and then again in the 1950s. He wonders whether translators, for all their knowledge and skills, have one pastor’s heart among them – to view not only their work but also the effect of their work on the churches. A group of revisers in the late 1800s, had they not become enamored with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, might have produced a modest and reasonable vernacular revision of the King James Bible that would have moved the churches along in a continuum of modern language that could have been updated in the 1950s and again in 2000. Instead they produced a dramatically different Bible that took people where they didn’t want to go, and there has been no turning back. Too much, too soon. Too little, too late. Sheep need to be led, not driven.

  9. Mark Ward

    Robert, careful comments as always. I appreciate them, and your tone. You are someone with whom one can have a dialogue. Thanks for the last word, though it’s not necessary, truly.

    The only comments I’d like to pick up on, briefly, are these:

    I see no reason “TR-Only” folks should be evenly split between users of the NKJV and users of the KJV.

    I do: the KJV uses unintelligible words, both dead words and false friends. If the many people out there (this is the mainstream KJV-Only view) who say they are TR-Only, not precisely KJV-Only, wish to follow 1 Cor 14, they ought to pick up the NKJV or MEV. The NKJV is a seventh (depending on how you count) revision of the KJV—why is it so universally ignored or rejected in the “TR-Only” movement?

    No doubt our presuppositions about how God would operate within his character to communicate with us affect how we view the overall subject of God’s revelation.

    You go on to cite Belshazzar and the lying spirit sent to false prophets. I presume God can do the same thing today; I think he does. But does he do this to believers? Does he put little linguistic tricks (such as halt and remove and commend) in the Bible he prefers for us to use?

    And, finally, I’m with you in the substance of your final paragraph. It seems to me that the 1880s revisers gave insufficient care to how the Bible-reading English public would react to their work. The RSV did the same in its uncareful and dismissive (even incendiary) comments on the KJV. KJV-Onlyism is, in my view, something to have great patience with as long as it’s fueled by the inertia that we call “tradition”—that is, as long as it’s driven by laypeople confused by the profusion of translations or who just prefer to stick with what they learned in their youth. I get that. Where KJV-Onlyism needs to be opposed is when it becomes a formally confessed church doctrine. KJV-Only church doctrinal statements *almost always* lead with their KJV beliefs, and the things they say are often confused and worse. It is the insistence that people *ought* to read the KJV (and nothing else) that called me out of my dull, humdrum life and into the fires of controversy. =)

  10. Robert Vaughn

    Mark, I have come back (trying to be brief, not my specialty) to (attempt to) answer your questions, (1) “does [God] do [things like he did to Belshazzar and the false prophets] to believers?” and (2) “Does he put little linguistic tricks (such as halt and remove and commend) in the Bible he prefers for us to use?”

    1. No, I wouldn’t say so, not in the same sense anyway. But, I believe God does “hide” things from us, much in the sense we keep things back from children until they are ready to process them. He leads and reveals to us incrementally, so that growing in grace and knowledge of the truth is a lifelong process.

    2. We might call the Babel judgment a “linguistic trick” on the whole world, but I don’t think that is what we’re talking about! 😉 Perhaps some of the hapax legomena of the original language scriptures might come close? Such words that appear only once can be much more difficult for ascertaining meaning. For example, why would God inspire a hapax for the purpose of assonance rather than use a more common word? (I don’t propose to have the answer.)

    [BTW, “commend” was one of my other choices for your “punch word” about which your were wrong, but your mention of it in context with “halt” and “remove” (in your linguistic tricks question) suggests would not so consider it.]



  1. 27 sermons, articles, and other useful items from around the Web - […] An Answer to One of My Top Two Critics (by Mark Ward, author of Authorized: The Use and Misuse…