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A Bible and Book Burning

A Bible and Book Burning

Pastor Marc Grizzard of (oh the irony!) Amazing Grace Baptist Church (I’d link, but the web page at the only link I have is suspended) is planning a book burning. He believes the KJV is the only true Word of God for English speaking people, so he’s going to burn copies of all those “perversions.” But he’s also going to burn books by heretics such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and Mother Theresa.

I think I’m a much worse heretic than any of those guys, and in proof I present my YouTube video, Why I Hate the KJV:

1893729206mIn addition, I write about and commend all those “perversions” of the Bible in my own book, What’s in a Version? complete with the friendly slogan on the front: The best Bible version is the one you read. Alternatively, one might read my book Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Confessions of a Liberal Charismatic. Surely there is enough heresy (as defined by Marc Grizzard) in there to merit burning.

I’ll tell you what. I’ll even supply copies of the books. It’s probably too late to get them there for this Halloween, but it’s not too early to plan for next year.

And send me a video of my books going in the flames, of course.

Just noticed how old the story was. Oh well … it was fun anyhow!

Italics in The Voice – The Story of Bathseba

Italics in The Voice – The Story of Bathseba

Last week I mentioned that while I found the italics in The Voice more logical than I usually do in the formal equivalent translations that use the device (e.g. KJV, NKJV, NASB), I still found them annoying in the text. One goal of a dynamic equivalence translation is generally readability, and for me the italics tend to detract from that.

Then there’s logic. Here are some examples from this coming Sunday’s lectionary passage from the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 11:1-15. This is not a complete list, just those that caught my eye. Numbers refer to verses

1. most kings – I think readers could figure out that not every king in the world went to battle; it was the season.

1. Joab out as general in charge of – Again, I think readers could figure this out. Was the addition necessary? Is it necessary to mark it as an addition? It’s pretty clearly implied. But the text also reads very sparsely, “David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel.” So why is “as general” in italics and “in charge of” not? Note also that “his” is interpreted (correctly) as “David’s”.

1. whole army of Israel – again, a well justified addition, but I question whether the reader wouldn’t assume this easily, and whether, if one thinks the addition is justified, italics are necessary. It’s pretty clearly implied.

2. Early one evening – In this case I think the Hebrew, l’eth ha;ereb, implies the “early” part pretty clearly, but saying “in the evening” in English seems to me to imply it as well.

2. bathing on a roof below his – Here there’s clear justification for the italics, as this is definitely beyond simple dynamic equivalence translation. I’m not sure if all bathing would have taken place on a roof, but if that’s what the translators believe to be the case, these italics are justified by their rules.

3.Uriah was one of David’s officers who had gone to war with the rest of David’s troops. – Here we get into a problem with the meaning of dynamic equivalence, which is intended to produce the same effect for the reader. It think letting the reader know where Uriah is weakens the story line. We’re only supposed to be reminded of where Uriah is as the story progresses. Thus my suggestion would be not to add this point. It will become clear later. If added, of course italics are justified by the rules expressed in the preface. (Note that in the course of 2 Samuel, the reader has not been introduced to Uriah at this point, so the storyteller is able to introduce the fact that not only had David committed adultery, but he’d committed it with the wife of one of his soldiers currently at war.)

4-5. David couldn’t get her off his mind, so he sent messengers – What are the translators doing to the storyteller? The story line does not imply that David spent time thinking about it. It presents a “see, query, get” sequence that is very stark and does not portray David in a good light. The material should clearly be in italics, if added, but I don’t see that it contributes to the story.

4-5 after the purifying bath after her period, her husband Uriah could not have been the father. – What is this? Bible exposition for dummies? Who missed this point?

6. his general Joab – We have, presumably, forgotten who Joab is since the first verse.

8. go to his own house to clean up, relax, and visit his wife. – Again, are we to assume he was going to his house to clean up and then ignore his wife? Surely this is implied by the text, but it makes for much poorer storytelling than does the original.

That is enough sampling, I think. I see much less logic in the use of italics in this passage as well as in the way in which the translators choose to expand on the text. It’s possible that italics in the text doesn’t bother other people as much as it does me. I’m more than ordinarily aware of typography issues.

But in this case we add an additional problem. Is the explanatory material making this story easier to read in English or is it just adding stuff? Any storyteller will be aware that adding implied information to a story does not necessarily improve it, and will often destroy it. If that added information was something that modern readers would not be likely to know, it might well be justified, according to the rules stated in the preface to The Voice.

But I would say that modern readers are at least as likely as ancient ones to get the point that if Bathsheba was purifying herself after her period, that counted out conception prior to that event, and thus made David the father.

I don’t want to become hypercritical of The Voice. Many people are reading it and benefitting. I don’t think anything here gives a wrong impression. It just takes a rather well done story and reduces its impact.


Subjectively Evaluating, Well, Stuff

Subjectively Evaluating, Well, Stuff

J. K. Gayle links to me in a post regarding the notion of “canon.” There’s a good discussion going in the comments as well. Let me note in passing that the label “personal canon” grates on me a bit. Let me be clear that I’m not saying it’s bad; I’m referring to my reaction to it. I observe that it is often quite descriptive.

In the same post, he refers also to a canon of essays, and to the biblical canon(s), besides my sort of personal canon of Bible translations. I have dabbled in both of those areas myself, though I’m much less qualified (by virtue of reading) to comment on a canon of essays for educational reading than I am on the canon of scripture.

In fact, I have made a bit of a personal journey regarding the biblical (and extra-biblical) canon. I grew up Seventh-day Adventist, and the SDA church affirms 66 books of the Old and New Testaments as do most protestant organizations. But SDAs, in addition, grant authority to the writings of Ellen G. White.

Many SDAs will likely object to this characterization and make the claim that they base all their beliefs on the Bible, but in my own experience, I encountered many people who placed Ellen White’s writings above the Bible. If there was a dispute about the interpretation of a Bible passage, Ellen White’s interpretation settled it for them. In cases where Ellen White was clearly wrong, they would insist that what Ellen White said was, in fact, what the Bible meant.

In addition, in areas on which the Bible is silent, they would accept Ellen White’s word as final in many areas, just as much as if they had read it in the Bible. So in practice, Ellen White’s writings became part of the canon of scripture.

So why don’t Seventh-day Adventists want to admit just how they use the writings of Ellen White? It’s this matter of canon. People in other organizations who make lists don’t include Ellen White, and if you want to be included by those people, you can’t violate the list. Other groups depart from Christian orthodoxy more than do SDAs, but they also claim to adhere to the lists.

When I returned to a Christian denomination some years after I left Adventism, it was  United Methodist congregation. Now Methodists affirm the same 66 books that SDAs affirm, but in general their theology is much more friendly to the extra-canonical books, and I personally tend to use a canon that includes the apocrypha. For what it’s worth, this is much easier to do if you are not too much of a literalist.

So whether I like the sound of “personal canon” all that much, it applies to me in some ways.

Similarly, while not dealing with essays, I have previously argued (here and here) that lists of great literature may not be as great as their advocates suggest. So I’m on this subjectivity bandwagon in all three of those areas. All of which leads people to trot out phrases like “post-modern morass of subjectivity.” So do I see any standards at all?

Let me go back to Bible translations. I maintain that different translation approaches convey different information from the source to the receptor language, or my help to communicate different things between the author of the source and the reader of the receptor. So there are aspects of the source texts of the Bible I can get from a formal translation such as the NRSV, but at the same time there are things that this misses. There are other things I can get from the CEV or even from The Message.

Enter the term “paraphrase.” Now to translation theorists, “paraphrase” has a rather precise meaning, but in common discussions it has become a pejorative for translations that are considered too loose to even be considered real translations. Thus someone might say: “The Message is not a translation, it’s a paraphrase.” I’ve heard this sentence or its equivalent regarding any of the dynamic or functional equivalence translations, in which case the speaker defines “translation” as something like a formal equivalence translation.

In practice, again, what takes a translation across the line, or puts it beyond the pale, may be quite variable. For example, is converting measures to modern units translation, paraphrase, or commentary? If you think that’s an easy issue, consider the measurements for Ezekiel’s temple (start in Ezekiel 40) and consider how that passage would read with precisely converted measurements. In that case one would substitute conveying an accurate idea of the distances involved for potentially conveying the symbolic meaning of the numbers (if any), or the fact that the numbers are round numbers.

What I’m trying to illustrate here is that there is a range of different translation options, and while we might what to define what is and what is not translation, there is a range of activities that may be called translation, and what we’re doing is setting boundaries. There are things we can definitely say are not translation. For example, I am not now translating any text. I’ve seen efforts by Greek students that could not be regarded as translations.

It’s not that just anything is a translation. Rather, there are many different methods that fall into the loose category “translation” and many different needs that might be fulfilled by those various approaches.

I think we have way to great a tendency to make the claim, inadequately supported, that a certain translation is wrong and should be something else. I hear it from the pulpit quite often, and generally my opinion is that the claim is incorrect. Sometimes the translation is disputed, and there is good evidence, and good names, on both sides. In many cases, the preacher is just plain wrong. (If I might say what I have said many times before: If you don’t actually know Greek or Hebrew don’t base your sermon on making claims about how verses should be translated.)

But having used the phrase “just plain wrong” regarding a translation, you now know that I think a translation can be wrong. Frequently, however, the just plain wrong translation is actually an alternative with substantial support.

Being subjective about that which is subjective, such as people’s preferences or how people understand something, is just realistic. Trying to pretend objectivity when the topic is subjective just results in silliness. Or it could result in domination of others, as in the claim that everyone “ought” to use a particular Bible version, be that the KJV, ESV, or any other personal choice.

Literature is even more subjective. I loathe lists of books that I really must read in order to be truly literate or truly educated. In general, I’ve read quite a lot of the names on them, but that doesn’t make me like them any better. The most interesting thing about those lists is the good books that aren’t on them. That’s sort of like the things that aren’t conveyed by the favorite translation of the folks who like to advocate just one style.

Want my subjective advice? Read stuff from different lists. Use different lists. Read Bible books that aren’t in your personal or your church’s canon. Use the literature lists to find more stuff that interests you. And if you’re like me, and can’t stand certain pieces of “great” literature read something else.

It’s fun.


David Ker is at It Again!

David Ker is at It Again!

David Ker has started an interesting series. As usual, he’s doing something very different, and the result is some interesting posts. He uses a spreadsheet to randomly choose a chapter from the King James Version and then he writes a post about it.

He has an announcement about the series, and I’d suggest his post For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses (Ezekiel 23) as a good example of the new post genre:

When I was a little boy in Sunday School this was one of our favorite chapters. My buddies and I, we gravitated to this chapter, verse 20 in particular, and snickered. How did we even find the verse? Maybe like dirty jokes, naughty bits of the Bible are passed down from older boys to the younger.

Read the rest and follow the series!

Another KJV-Only Comment

Another KJV-Only Comment

Every so often a KJV-Only advocate comes by this blog to comment.  They normally don’t hang around long, but I occasionally feel inclined to respond.  I like to tolerate and even celebrate other points of view, but I don’t make an idol of it; it’s one value, not the value.  KJV-Only is one of those views I simply cannot respect.  It’s too divorced from reality.

This most recent comment was no exception.  It resulted from my poll on Bible translation.

There were 5 versions of the Biblical Scriptures/Sources-printed–

Really?  Which five were these, and which versions will you exclude from your list?

The One in English from the Textus Receptus(received Text) was the Authorized King James Version-1611-

Well, at least this is approximately correct.

All Others were from the Catholic Codexes/Manuscripts found from 1841 -1881

Well, no, not precisely.  In fact, many other versions were translated from the TR or something similar, many manuscripts were discovered outside that time frame, and I have no idea what makes a manuscript “Catholic.”  If one uses any definition that doesn’t make practically every manuscript at the time Catholic, then relatively few would be.  One wonders whether all manuscripts copied in the eastern church are Catholic or not.

–which were in Philosophical Greek-Not Koine-

No, they were not.  They were in the same dialect as the rest.

that were being used as fire-starters in the churches-

This is a falsehood built from a falsehood.  The initial one was that Sinaiticus was being used to start fires, which would comment on the stupidity of the person so using it rather than on the value of the manuscript, but even then we can hardly jump to “fire-starters in churches.”  But even the fire starting in the monastery is not factual.  (See here.)

and Not complete/or Preserved as God Promises- which Add,Subtract, and Change the Word of God

By what standard do you judge completeness and preservation?  Is not a manuscript with additions just as corrupt (if that is even the correct word) as one with deletions?  In order to determine which is the case, one needs to have some idea of the source text.

And on another note, why can’t KJV-Only advocates punctuate normally and write complete sentences?

/Perverts Doctrines–contrary to the Word of God–From these the American People Seek to make Profit in the Churches like the “Money-Changers” of Old that Jesus chased – out of the Churches ??–

The folks who print KJV Bibles also make a profit.

The 70 Translaters of the King James Bible did Not Hide their Identities like those of the Modernistic Versions-

This is simply false.  Many modern translations include lists of the translators. For editions that do not, a little bit of web research will turn up the information.

Many who themselves claimed to be Atheists, Agnostics, and Members of “Cults” ??—

… assuming that atheists, agnostics, and members of cults cannot translate.  But the fact is that most of the translators of modern versions belonged to churches that would fall within orthodoxy.

My Great Grandparents readily understood the King James Bible- SO are people today More Stupid or What ??—

The argument about readability, as anyone should be able to tell, is not that people are getting less intelligent, it is that language has changed.  Modern English would be similarly difficult for people of a few centuries ago.  The reason KJV-Only advocates generally can’t read Greek isn’t that they’re stupid; it’s that they haven’t learned Greek.

The King James Bible IS The Bible–Not Just Another “Version”–or should I say — a “Perversion” ??

On the contrary, the KJV is a version.  It is not the original.  It is not the best.  It’s not extraordinarily inspired.  It’s just one translation of a set of texts into a new language.

The sad excuse of “Interpretation(s)”–is Weak at the Best-for those who Reject the Authority of God’s Word in their Lives..

Well, no.  Any translation involves interpretation.  Any preaching involves interpretation.  You can’t get away from it.

I have found that the KJV 1611 Bible woks just fine with those that I witness to in other countries that are 3rd World countries–

I’m sure you imagine that you do.  It’s amazing to me how many people can convince themselves they are communicating when they are not.

But these Modern Perversions only Confuses them !!!

I suspect that the problem is that the modern version make them question what you have to say.

– In Cambodia I found that the Mormons(a Cult) even PAYS People to come to Church ??–Further Proof that their “Another Testament of Jesus Christ ” has NO Power in the Word !!!

Of course, use of modern versions is not connected to Mormonism, so this is just a red herring.

And thus we come to the end of another KJV-Only comment.  I spent too much time on it, but on occasion it’s fun.

A KJV-Only Comment on my Video

A KJV-Only Comment on my Video

For a video that includes nothing but me talking and some amateur (by me) captions, my Why I Hate the KJV video has done well on YouTube.  With 3563 viewings as of the time I’m posting this, and 231 comments.

I must confess that I have not paid much attention to the comments thread, because YouTube doesn’t permit links and comments are short, and because most of the comments are quite inane, as is usual in KJV-Only discussions.  After all, what profound and informed argument actually favors KJV-Only?

Comment 231 caught my attention, not because it was profound or informed, but because it was bad in a new way.

The comment reads:

The HIV (NIV) false “bible” is published by the same company that publishes the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVay. Jesus Christ said a corrupt tree cannot produce good fruit. If you think the HIV is good fruit, you’re calling Jesus a liar and you need to get right with God.

I mean one of the translators of the HIV was an OPEN PRACTICING HOMOSEXUAL. How much more obvious does it need to get? Burn your HIV!

Of course we have all the usual charm and logical structure of the normal KJV-Only comment.  I have written previously on the issue of having a homosexual translator on the team, which I regard as not only ad hominem, but largely irrelevant even as ad hominem arguments go.  The key point here is that when a Bible translation is released we have the source texts, we have the translation, we can look and see whether it is accurate or not.  (Usually there will be disagreements, but that’s translation.)

Debating the quality of the translators, even if one is discussing their actual qualifications for translation work, is generally missing the point.  If I find a translation that is poor, and I look and see that the committee involved was underqualified, I might take that as an explanation.  I wouldn’t read the list of translators, decide they’re underqualified, and determine that their translation was lousy without reading it.

But I find the whole tree and fruit thing very interesting.  Here are some questions:

  1. Is the “tree” that produces a Bible translation the company that publishes it?
  2. If so, would a Bible become corrupt if it was first published by a “righteous” company, but later  licensed to a “corrupt” publisher, however defined?
  3. What kind of sin must a publisher be guilty of to pollute otherwise pure scriptures that it might print?
  4. What kind of sin must a translator be guilty of in order to corrupt his translation?  For example, would the translation be corrupt if the translator was a gossip?  An adulterer?
  5. Is the translation corrupt if the translator is guilty of such sin, but we don’t know about it?

While this KJV-Only argument may strike many of my readers as beneath comment–though when has that ever stopped me?–perhaps what we should think about is whether when we make what seem to be high moral pronouncements, we also say things that we really don’t want to say.

Preserving Literary Quality?

Preserving Literary Quality?

Bryon’s Weblog has a quote from Leland Ryken and some commentary, followed by some rather silly comments by an obvious troll.

What I found interesting here, however, was the idea of preserving the literary qualities of the Bible.  Let me reproduce the quote Bryon used:

“If your essentially literal translation is the RSV, the ESV, or the NKJV—in other words, if your essentially literal translation rides the literary coattails of the matchless KJV—you can trust it to preserve the literary qualities of the Bible that the KJV gave to the English-speaking world for nearly four centuries.” [I did different emphasis than Bryon–HN]

My hope here is that he means that the KJV passed on literary qualities of the Bible to the English speaking word, though I think he would still be wrong.  Since I don’t have the book I can’t check the context, but is it possible he’s praising literary qualities introduced by the KJV?  There was a time when I would have dismissed such an interpretation out of hand, but now I don’t know.

Let me assume the best, however.  Even so, there seems to be a very strong tendency to regard representing something like the literal forms of the source language in words in a new language as somehow reproducing those literary qualities.  But that is not correct.  A similar combination of grammatical forms in one language need not, and in fact likely does not, mean the same thing to a reader.  And if the reader doesn’t read or hear the form in the way it would have been read or heard in the source language, has it been passed on?

Creating some new literary quality that pleases certain academics or people of particular literary tastes is easy.  Actually producing a form that has a similar impact is much harder.  To support the value of literal translation over dynamic or functional, other than as a sort of crib sheet for the source language, requires more than finding badly done dynamic translations of which there are plenty.  It requires demonstrating that the nuances and literary features presented by the literal translation both occur in the source language, and are conveyed to the target audience by the literal translation.

Other than amongst the advocates of these literal versions, I don’t see that happening.  In fact, most of the people who “get” the literary nuances do so not because they were actually conveyed by the translation, but because that person knows enough of the source languages to recognize the construction and thereby reads that literary quality into the English.

What is the Best Bible Version?

What is the Best Bible Version?

There a teacher’s saying that there are no bad questions, except the ones you don’t ask. There’s another saying that says that once you know the right question, the right answer will follow. As with many one liners, these two seem to clash.

On the front of my book What’s in a Version?, I have printed the line, “The best Bible version is one you read.” That saying suffers from the same problems as any one liner. It may quite easily be construed in ways that would make it quite false.

On the other hand, such sayings do have the value of making us think a little bit about our assumptions, and even a question you might evaluate as “bad” may well help you understand an issue as you analyze the question.

Every time I have been at a show or a teaching event at which I have used or displayed my book, I’ve heard the question “What is the best Bible version?” That’s even after they look at the cover of my book. If I point to the line on the cover they’ll laugh and say, “Yes, but what is really the best version?” That question is, in a sense, a bad question. It doesn’t really have a very good answer, and that’s because of things that are lacking in the question. But it can lead us to think profitably about the question.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t say what the “best” version is without asking just what the version is to be used for. For example, if you want to read extensively for pleasure and to get an overview, then I might recommend an easy reading version, such as the CEV, because it is easy to read rapidly. Yet if I were personally going to read for an extended period of time, I wouldn’t prefer the CEV. I’d more likely use the REB, or as an intermediate point, the NLT.

For rapid reading, I would regard all three translations as adequately accurate in the way they convey the general story, but they differ in style and vocabulary. Some people find the CEV very attractive. Attention has been paid to style and to how it will sound when read orally. But other people find its shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary tedious. The REB is music to my ears and to my mind, yet I find that most people to whom I read passages don’t hear the same thing I do in it.

So which of these translations is best? I go back to the line on the front cover of my book: The best Bible version is one you read–especially in this case.

No translation conveys all meaning from the source to the target language. To simplify that, when you read the Bible in English, no matter what English version you use, something will be missing over what might be received by a person reading in the source languages. (Another point that should be mentioned here is that different amounts are conveyed to the reader in the source languages depending on language and other skills.)

Here are some things that a translator might try to convey:

  • Style of the original writers
    Hebrews is written in a substantially different style of Greek than Mark, 1 John, Revelation, or Galatians, and each of those four examples differs from one another. Translations tend to obscure these stylistic differences. The CEV, for example, is aiming at an easy reading level, and will break up long, complex sentences in the Greek of Hebrews in order to make them easier to read, thus losing much of the sense of literary style in the book. At the same time, the intended audience of the CEV will probably get more of the sense of the book than they would if it was translated into a style of English that matched the elevated style of the Greek. A translator has to choose. What to you convey? What do you leave behind?
  • Literary devices
    If you want to get an argument going about translation mention literary devices. In this case I use the term broadly. In translating Hebrew poetry do I want to convey the style of Hebrew poetry, i.e. make an English representation of the structure of the Hebrew, or do I want to provide English poetry with a similar impact to that of the source? Personally, I’m happy to have translations that try for either option or a variety of compromise approaches, but the translation will be quite different depending on how one answers this question.
  • Form and vocabulary
    This issue was discussed extensively by the KJV translators. Do you want to have a single English word always represent a particular Greek or Hebrew word? How about a limited subset? This question lies somewhere near the foundation of the dynamic equivalence/formal equivalence debate.

That is just a very basic start at looking at the various questions. Every translation I have read or studied includes passages I wish were translated differently, or makes choices I wish had been made differently. Yet nearly every one has some quality I can appreciate as well.

To answer the question in the title, requires that one consider these questions, and consider the audience as well, without knowing who will read, for what purpose they will read, and under what circumstances they will read, I can’t even take a stab at saying what Bible version will be best.

The final step in choosing a good Bible version should always be to read from it under the circumstances for which you are choosing it. The best test of a tool is whether it performs the intended task.

I have complaints about

An Example of Archaic Words – 1 Samuel 9:9

An Example of Archaic Words – 1 Samuel 9:9

In a comment to a previous post, someone brought up the case of Saul and the seer. In this passage we have the parenthetical note following the reference by one of the characters to a seer, indicating that a prophet was formerly called a seer. This was provided as an example of how to handle archaic words in the KJV–just explain them, or as this commenter suggested, look them up in an 1828 Noah Webster’s!

In my response I indicated that I didn’t see anything new and referred readers to my Bible Translations FAQ, but it turns out that in this case while I have responded to someone on this issue before, probably on the Compuserve Religion Forum, I failed to include the answer in my FAQ file. In addition, I wanted to comment on an exegetical point. You can get the full context of the story by reading 1 Samuel 9:1-14.

My exegetical point is a simple one. Any principle of interpretation you use should be one that can be applied consistently. The application of a principle–I’ll hold off trying to express it–that we see here is the observation that a Bible writer took a particular action, so that action is normative for similar circumstances. I would guess that the best way to express this principle would be that in comparable circumstances, one should consider the actions of a Biblical writer to be normative.

Now here’s where I tend to annoy KJV-Only advocates and other extreme Biblical literalists. I would ask how they would apply that principle in other cases. For example, should we take the literary forms of the Bible as normative for the way in which we should write other material? It’s hard to respond precisely, because I have never seen anyone try to express this as a principle. Whenever I ask someone to express it that way or to apply it to other circumstances, they say I’m not staying on the subject. But I think that when interpreting the Bible, principles of interpretation are always relevant.

A related approach is often used for other Bible stories. If a Bible character, normally limited to one of the good guys, did it, then it’s a good idea. Of course, until it isn’t. Because this “story” approach to Biblical norms is very rarely applied with any consistency.

Can we get information from Bible stories? Indeed we can. For example, I believe that God calls women to leadership. One Biblical support for that position is the call of Deborah. But in that case I’m working with a clear statement that Deborah was a prophetess, and the blessing of God on her action. Further, I use the story not to create a common practice directly, as in “God called Deborah, a woman, to be a prophetess, so all women are called to be prophetesses.” Rather, I use the story to establish that any claim that God excludes women from his call runs up against this clear counter-example.

Interpreting stories requires a good deal of thought and effort, and it is useful to be consistent. I have an essay on interpreting stories for those who are interested in some basic ideas.

But let’s look at this specific case. There are several important points that I would note.

  1. The parenthetical comment provides historical information to the reader that is relevant to the story. Archaic words in the KJV provide knowledge of 17th century English, but provide no knowledge relevant to the story. The actual word used by the ancient Hebrews does not appear in the KJV here or elsewhere. I would suggest that if one consistently used this principle, one should enter in the translation every term with any technical element, and then explain it in a parenthetical comment. (The Complete Jewish Bible heads in this direction.)
  2. This type of comment is extremely rare in scripture. It doesn’t involve the relearning of an entire dialect so that people can have the privilege of using archaic language.
  3. While I’m sure using an 1828 dictionary is exciting to someone, I don’t plan on recommending purchase of such a dictionary to go with any Bible purchase. That is simply another barrier to hearing the word.
  4. In the New Testament we see Hebrew ideas primarily presented in Greek words. The very occasional transliterations (with translation) are for specific purposes.
  5. Finally, any argument in favor of forcing people to learn the language of the KJV applies with greater force to urging them to learn Greek and Hebrew.

The problem here is an ad hoc interpretation desperately grabbed and applied to the KJV. The foundation of such an argument is the assumption that the KJV must be right, therefore we must find the way to preserve it. But other than as a great artifact of English language and literature, I fail to see any reason to try to do that.

The Bible wasn’t written in English. It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. KJV-Only advocates seem to have trouble understanding that, but it remains a fact.

Analyzing another KJV-Only Comment

Analyzing another KJV-Only Comment

A person identifying himself as J B has added a comment to my video post Why I Hate the KJV. It contains so many examples of the misinformation and invalid reasoning presented by KJV-Only Advocates that I couldn’t resist commenting.

I don’t know how you can say the KJV “communicated the scriptures wonderfully to the people of it’s time, over time that language has changed.”

You know, for a moment I thought the comment might be from one of those folks who thinks I give the KJV too much credit. But it turns out that J B thinks that communicating effectively is not an attribute to be desired in a translation.

First you don’t seem to know much about the KJV, at the time it was translated (the 17th century) the “people of it’s time” did not speak the English of the King James Bible, (often referred to as “Kings English.”)

First, I want you to note that at this point J B seems to think knowledge is valuable, as he accuses me of lacking it. Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it later.

Second, what is it with KJV-Only folks and “scare quotes”? Does J B imagine that there were no people at the time of the KJV translation?

Third, I am well aware of the type of language used, but I tend to measure things a little more objectively. I don’t imagine how people would understand a particular dialect, I observe. The rate at which the KJV gained dominance indicates, I believe, that it communicated well.

I am happy to note, however, a KJV-Only advocate actually admitting to archaic language in the KJV. Many of them try to pretend it is relatively close to modern English. But however archaic it was when the translation was made, it is more archaic now. If you place a high value on the failure to communicate, I suppose this is a good thing.

Most language develops for the purpose of communication. There is a dialect of English, politician-speak, which is designed to employ words whilst preventing the readers or hearers from comprehending them, but that’s a special case.

The KJV was translated into this already “archaic” form of English because it was the most perfect form of English, our language is not getting better over time it’s getting worse.

This is rather interesting. What makes a language “perfect”? Would it not perhaps be communication? I have never seen the characteristics of a perfect language. Would a theoretically perfect language structure and vocabulary, but which was not used by anyone be perfect, whilst also being useless?

And on what basis does one say that our language is getting worse? I know that language curmudgeons regularly complain about it, but I give that about as much credence as I do the complaints of people who use computers and the internet to wish they could go back to the “good old days.” Presumably they don’t want to die of the same diseases that people did back in the “good old days” or have the life expectancy of that time.

That old language is of very little use to me in my daily life. The “perfect” English lacked any vocabulary with which to describe this computer at which I’m typing. It lacked terms for large numbers of items in my daily life.

Perfect for what? Presumably perfect for people who think language exists in a vacuum and who don’t care what is done with it. Language is a tool. It’s quality or lack thereof depends on how well it accomplishes that task.

Yet “the people of it’s time” didn’t seem to want a more modern “version” of the Bible, they were merely interested in a more perfect Bible.

Well, actually the people of that time didn’t really have much to say about it. The king wanted a Bible to help unify the church. Various other people had quite a variety of ideas. And the Bible was not immediately accepted by those same people. Like many others, they did not find it easy to accept a new translation easily.

Also the KJV is the most widely used Bible today even more so than it was when it was translated so I don’t quite understand how you can consider those in the 17th century “people of it’s time” and not the people of our time who use it more widely.

Oh, so that’s the purpose of those scare quotes. The “people of its time” are those who were living at the time it was translated. I know you want to extend its time, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

The time of the KJV has not passed, neither of those two groups then or now speak King James English, and both groups have the KJV so how it can be the Bible of their time and not the Bible of our time just doesn’t make sense.

It makes sense to those who acknowledge facts. You can, of course, imagine it to be anything you want.

The other thing that you mentioned is that you study the Bible in “it’s original languages” which I believe I can easily conclude as Greek and Hebrew.

Well, those and Aramaic. Part of the Bible was written in Aramaic, and I read that too.

A lot of people say that you really should learn Greek and Hebrew to understand the Bible more clearly.

Those are smart people. Not everyone needs to know Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, but they are valuable. Those are the languages in which the prophets and apostles wrote.

I don’t understand why I should study Greek and Hebrew when God has already preserved His Word in English, God had the foresight to know that the common World language would be English.

A little earlier you were complaining that I know little about the KJV, though actually you are wrong on that point. But there you seemed to think knowledge was valuable. Here you seem to think knowledge is not valuable. Odd, isn’t it?

You see, nobody could tell just how well God’s Word was preserved in the English of the KJV unless someone read the languages in which the Bible was originally written. The KJV translators used the manuscripts at hand, their language skills, and all the resources they had at hand, and they translated. Do you or any other KJV-Only advocate understand what that means? I doubt it. Translation is hard work. Translation always loses some aspect of the source. Even the best translation is not and never can be equivalent to the original.

When you say that God has preserved his word in English through the KJV you are doing at least two extremely arrogant and stupid things:

  1. You cut yourself off from the Christian community. As a KJV-Only advocate who makes this claim you should no longer call yourself a Christian. I rarely say this, but Christianity has been built on many centuries of tradition. The Bible itself is the result of things that were passed down from the early church. You are free to grab hold of anything you want and call it God’s one true word, but this claim cuts you off from that community.
  2. You make the claim that the English speaking world is specially privileged by God. Even though I am appalled by the first point, I find this one even worse. You and I, who speak English, are not one bit better spiritually than the least tribesman who speaks an as yet unwritten language. God has no more desire to communicate his message to us than to him. The incredible arrogance of claiming that our language has set us above everyone is astounding. If a claim could be made for the privileging of any language it would be the one spoken by the prophets or apostles through whom God spoke.

If I’m having a hard time understanding the English Bible wouldn’t it make more sense to study English?

And suddenly you think understanding is important. Now get this: If studying it in an archaic form of English is better than studying it in Greek, then studying it in a modern, comprehensible form of English is better than studying it in archaic English.

You need to decide which it is on these points. Are you interested in communication or in having the scriptures in an allegedly “perfect” language? Are you interested in knowledge or do you condemn it?

The only thing learning Greek & Hebrew does is allow each individual to translate God’s Word the way he sees fit and not accept it as God intended.

But God intended to present his word in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. At least I believe God does what he intended to do, and that’s what he did, so I assume he intended it.

You, on the other hand, want to replace that with an English translation. What originally astonished me about KJV-Only advocates is the way they try to claim to truly respect God’s Word, and yet at the same time have no concern with the accuracy of translation. Whatever the KJV did is OK with them, no matter how wrong. That’s not respect.

It’s more confusing to me to “purchase multiple English versions” because I do not “read the source languages,” especially now when the majority of modern translations have been continuously revised within the last 20 years.

I’m sure you don’t want to be confused with facts, but the fact remains that no translation conveys everything in the source language. That’s why people keep trying.

How would I know the version I’m currently using is going to be relevant to the next generation, I would be perpetually upgrading to the latest version.

Actually you can be quite certain that at some time in the future any version you’re using will become dated and require revision. Language changes. When it changes enough, people no longer understand it as well as they should. Thus revision is needed.

The people of 17th century England not only had the Bible in it’s “original languages” they also had “multiple English versions,” the whole reason they took on the task of translating the Bible, was so that English speaking people would have a “more exact Translation of the Holy Scriptures into the English tongue;” (quoted from the Epistle Dedicatory which was written by the translators themselves) so going out and buying “multiple English versions” is taking a step backwards not forwards.

You should read “From the translators to the reader.” That gives many of their ideas of how to translate and also their comments on the resistance to new translations.

Just because the English language has become more and more watered down over time doesn’t mean we should water down God’s Word to match it so that it will be more relevant to the world.

First, you have yet to establish what a “perfect” language is and in what way English has been “watered down.” Second, it is not an issue of relevance, but of comprehension. We do not water down the scriptures by translating them, nor do we make them any more or less relevant. We make the relevance that is there understandable.

The world rejects the Word of God because His Word is Holy and it convicts them of their sin. Changing His Word to be more relevant to the world allows the world to be comfortable in their sinful state and does not bring true repentance of sin.

Which applies quite well to any well-done translation of the Bible.

I will leave you with something I found on the the University of Virginia’s website while trying to look up a free online RSV bible.

The Bible, Revised Standard Version
We regret that we are unable to host the Revised Standard Version of the Bible on our website any longer. We were recently contacted by the National Council of Churches of Christ (, who own the copyright for the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in the USA. They have asked us to remove the text from our website, and we have complied with their request. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
The King James Version of the Bible may still be accessed on our website at

The KJV was translated to be freely available to all men, while all other versions were created to be under the control of men. What right do we have to hinder others from freely accessing the Word God for our own greedy gains? Apparently a lot if you own the copyright.

We follow with the standard complaint about copyrights. But the KJV was originally published under a license granted by the crown. That was as close to copyright as it got in those days. Modern translators are no different on this point. I see no reason why they should not be compensated for their work. Surely you can afford the cost of an electronic copy of the RSV.

The arguments for the KJV-Only position never seem to change; they just get stated in different words.