How Accurate Is the KJV 400 Years Later?
- Monday, April 11, 2011
I will offer one more personal anecdote. I recently listened to a sermon based on a passage in Galatians 4 that included verse 15. The NIV from which the preacher was preaching renders it, “What has happened to all your joy?” This makes it appear that the Galatian Christians were deficient in their religious emotions. My ears perked up when the preacher wondered aloud “whether the King James Bible doesn’t say it best,” despite its archaic language. The KJV reads, “Where is the blessedness you spake of?” The Galatians were not deficient in religious emotions but had allowed their “works righteousness” to obscure the true foundation of their religious standing with God, namely, the blessedness that God conferred on them by faith in the work of Christ. An anecdote like this should serve as a caution against a facile dismissal of the possibility that the King James Bible might represent accuracy (even a superior accuracy) in our day.
Whether or not the King James is an accurate version depends partly on how we define accuracy. If we believe that the standard of accuracy is a translation’s giving us the words of the original text in equivalent English words, then the KJV shows its superior accuracy over modern dynamic equivalent translations on virtually every page of the Bible (and probably multiple times on every page).
When the 1611 King James Bible was published, it was a book that summed up and refined the preceding tradition of English Bible translation, and that represented accuracy of translation as understood within a translation philosophy of essentially literal translation. How noteworthy was the achievement of the King James Bible in these areas? I will end this chapter with a medley of scholarly quotations:
• “It grew to be a national possession and . . . is in truth a national classic. No other book has so penetrated and permeated the hearts and speech of the English race.” - Albert S. Cook, The 'Authorized' Version and Its Influence
• “If everything else in our language should perish it would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power." - Thomas Babington Maccaulay, The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Maccaulay
• “And that was their triumph: a polished collation, a refinement of a century’s translating, a book that became both clear and rich." - Adam Nicolson, God's Secretaries
• “It was the genius of the King James Version that it made [the word of God] speak so directly to those who heard it that though men knew it was a translation . . . they could never really think of it as such, for never did a translation speak with such directness and lifegiving power.” - Geddes MacGregor, The Bible in the Making
• “In popular Christian culture, the King James translation is seen to possess a dignity and authority that modern translations somehow fail to convey. . . . The King James Bible retains its place as a literary and religious classic, by which all others continue to be judged.” - As McGrath, In the Beginning
• “On a historical scale, the sheer longevity of this version is a phenomenon, without parallel. . . . ‘King James’ is still the bestselling book in the world. . . . In the story of the earth we live on, its influence cannot be calculated.” - David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence
• “The Authorized Version is a miracle and a landmark. . . . There is no corner of English life, no conversation ribald or reverent that it has not adorned.” - J. Isaacs, The Sixteenth-Century Versions
“Fact Sheet” on the 1611 King James Bible
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