JICYMI, I’m putting up a series of vides on YouTube talking through “False Friends in the KJV.” Here’s a link to the whole playlist.
In my estimation, “False Friends” is the unanswerable argument in the KJV-Only debate. It’s one thing to say, “Anyone with a bit of elbow grease and a dictionary can read the KJV.” But what if, because of language change, people don’t and can’t know every time they’re misunderstanding a given Elizabethan English word?
Defenses of the KJV rarely get specific, and in my experience they almost never discuss the OED entry for a given archaic word. It’s the rare KJV defender who will talk at length about archaic words. Laurence M. Vance is a real rarity. Most others talk in generalities:
- People can understand the KJV just fine.
- The KJV uses “Biblical English.”
- Accuracy is more important than readability.
People who love the KJV and are inclined to stick with it exclusively nod their heads when these talking points are trotted out. They think in generalities: Other people may have trouble understanding the KJV, but not me. I grew up with it.
But I think there’s a powerful emotional force in simply mentioning dead words and false friends. People know they don’t know the dead words; language is such an intuitive and powerful part of their lives. I don’t think the task of persuading them that these words are dead is very hard. Just say collop, trow, chambering, and they’ll feel the force of the argument.
Getting people to see clearly the concept of false friends is more difficult. Usually the sense the KJV translators intended isn’t terribly far away from the modern sense of the word called up by a particular context. the difference between “limping” between two opinions and “wavering” between them isn’t massive.
But I’m trying my best; I’m trying to win by attrition. If I can’t change everyone’s minds—and I’m under no illusion that any argument will work with people who, in some corner of their hearts I can’t access and have never understood, don’t want any argument for contemporary English translations to work—I truly believe that I will change the conversation. I want textual criticism to recede as “dead words” and (especially) “false friends” take over the KJV-Only debate. I want the truth of 1 Corinthians 14—”edification requires intelligibility”—to be the scriptural appeal my side makes over and over again to our brothers (it’s almost always brothers, rarely sisters) within the various strands of KJV-Onlyism.
Here are all the videos I’ve done heretofore:
Bonus: I also did a long (too long—way too long) review of Laurence M. Vance’s Archaic Words and the Authorized Version: