My Position Regarding the King James Version

A good friend of mine, Shawn McGrath of Brethren Apologetics, recently purchased for me a Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible to thank me for the work I have done on the BrAp site. According to noted King James defender Peter Ruckman, however, the gift which I have before me is “Satan’s Masterpiece“: the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

It is difficult to reply to King James defenders because the focus of “the word of God” has been shifted from what the apostles, prophets, and others actually penned to what a few dozen men in the 17th Century produced based upon the originals.

I will definitely be writing more on the subject here, but I am fighting a cold at the moment and need to go to sleep. However, I wanted to define my position thus far, which will serve as the foundation for future writings so that people know where I’m coming from.

Please forgive the lack of organization/order in this. Cold medicine + sickness + drowsiness, ya know.

  • The King James Version is a marvelous translation, easily surpassing the vast majority of available translations simply due to the fact it is a formally equivalent version which is fairly consistent in off-setting “added-for-clarity” words by using italics. That the King James Version is fairly literal and mostly refrains from translation-by-interpretation greatly helps in knowing what “thus says the Lord.”
  • There are more literal versions than the King James Version available which, though less readable, represent even more faithfully the actual words of God in the originals as reprseented by the vast majority of manuscripts available. The New American Standard Version is perhaps the most popular of these literal versions, though like the King James Version, there are times in which there translation-by-interpretation is used, and not all added-for-clarity words are offset. However, the New American Standard Bible lists textual variants in footnotes. The King James Version does not do this, thus forcing the reader to accept what it says rather than being able to weigh the evidence which God has preserved for us for ourselves.
  • The Majority Text is to be preserved over both the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text. Both the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text are supported by fewer manuscripts than the Majority Text is, hence its name. That the Critical Text has the support of older texts does not necessarily lend to its credibility, due to the area and nature of the manuscripts which it is derived from. Egypt had a high population of Gnostics during the early years of the church, and Gnostics were known to alter the biblical texts. Faithful Christian leaders could recognize the altered texts based on their rarity or unfamiliarity, as well as by comparing them to the texts which were in wide circulation within the churches. So these altered texts were not widely used, so they wouldn’t wear out too quickly. The climate of Egypt would also preserve them easily. Meanwhile, the faithful texts were copied diligently and were widely and often used. Thus, the Majority Text is derived from thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, while the Critical Text is preserved on a choice few manuscripts from Egypt which while they may have the benefit of age have several notable alterations not present in the manuscripts preferred by the early church.
  • Despite this, literal and formally equivalent translations done from the Critical Text should not be disregarded, as the New American Standard Bible which sits before me attests to.
  • Lastly, an ideal Bible would be one which is translated in as literal a manner as possible, is based upon all available manuscripts (Critical Text, Textus Receptus, and Majority Text), contains extensive textual variant notes (either in footnote or appendix), and contains a wide variety of explanatory footnotes and alternative or even less-literal renderings available in footnotes. Also, all added-for-clarity material would be offset, and the language of the text itself would be as accessible and grammatically correct as possible. To my knowledge, such a translation does not yet exist.

I don’t expect there ever to be concensus on the Bible versions issue. However, I implore everyone who believes the Bible to love the brethren. Scripture never gives as a reason for slandering or separation differences of opinions concerning Bible versions. Give the arguing a rest, and love one another.

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