The 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible is coming up, and the cultural atmosphere in which the anniversary takes place is quite fascinating. I write specifically about the reception the KJV is getting from different quarters.
Publishers Weekly had a nice announcement this week: “Save the date for the 400th birthday party of the King James English translation of the Bible, first published on May 5, 1611, and widely considered to be one of the most influential shapers of English language, literature and culture. Thomas Nelson, the world’s leading publisher of King James Version (KJV) Bibles, and Oxford University Press, whose Bible publishing dates back to the original’s era, are among the shindig planners.”
Nelson will launch a 400-day celebration in November with a website and partnering with The History Channel Club and Salem Communications for promotion. Among the fascinating projects slated to buttress the launch is “The King Behind the King James Bible” by David Teems. Hopefully we won’t learn that king was “gay,” or that Saul of Tarsus was “gay,” or anyone associated with the Bible was “gay.”
Which brings us to another aspect of this story: “King James only” folks. I find it intriguing that PW is giving the KJV its due – if only for the historical nature of the translation – but for years the KJV has been marginalized by … Christians. For years, and this has washed over into even ads for Christian publishers promoting their modern translations, the KJV is marginalized in so many ways.
That’s correct; as the culture has bought into the idea that the KJV is “hard to read,” the venerable translation has been thrown over for a hodgepodge of harmful translations and versions that reflect liberal scholarship bias … a byproduct of hundreds of years of Enlightenment thinking.
As presses in the Christian publishing community realized they could dazzle customers – for a selling season or two – with “innovative” versions of the Bible, the dam broke. Today, it seems nothing is beyond the boundaries of decency in presenting “the Bible” to younger audiences steeped in postmodern thinking. Bibles with metal covers, multicolored covers, magazine format and more wrap themselves around text that barely resembles the KJV.
I have a KJV that my father gave me in 1966. This particular translation contains biblical text and nothing else. No footnotes telling me that the Old Testament passages related to prophecy are thought by some to be metaphor. There are no notes that seek to reconcile Darwinian philosophy with the early Genesis accounts.
It’s hard for some people to accept that a sovereign God decided on the method of communication with his highest creation, and that method includes written language accessible to all people in all times and places. Translation: you don’t need a scholar to help you read the Bible.
This mindset – that we need the help of scholarship to read the Bible – has manifested itself in biblical scholarship in two ways: the aforementioned “The KJV is simply too hard to read,” and the increasingly diabolical scholarship notes contained in modern Bible translations and versions.
As an aside, no one is arguing that the KJV translators’ use of “hoary headed” – which in modern language means “white” – should be forced on modern audiences. Perhaps someone would take on the task of publishing a KJV that has explanatory notes for such language; maybe someone has.
In 2002, a flap occurred between James Dobson and Zondervan, the book publisher owned by HarperCollins. Zondervan’s “gender-friendly” New International Version sought to change certain pronouns used in the Bible that stated, for example, “Men.” It should be noted that Joel Belz of World magazine entered the same fight.
An example of awful scholarship that is passed on to the masses is found in Zondervan’s “The Quest Study Bible” (NIV). Here I cite just one passage, that of Ezekiel 37. In my 1966 KJV, unencumbered of notes from scholars steeped in Higher Criticism, I read that God is presenting the future of the Jewish people; He goes so far as to say this passage refers to “The House of Israel.”
In “The Quest Study Bible,” we read in the footnote:
Ezekiel recognized that God had a plan in mind for the future of his people as a nation. He had promised a homeland for his people Israel and had affirmed his promise to Abraham and David.
Many believe that the Jewish nation continues to figure prominently in God’s prophetic plan. They note that though the Israelites were forced to leave their land several times throughout history, God always brought them back. They see the re-establishment of Israel as another indication of God’s work among his chosen people.
Some are careful to point to God’s promise to restore Israel spiritually. They interpret the future glory of Israel as an indication of spiritual blessings poured out on a spiritual Israel – the church of Jesus Christ. The foundation of the restoration is Christ (Heb. 8:6). Salvation – for both Jew and Gentile – is by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).
There are others who see this prophecy primarily fulfilled in the return of Israel from captivity in Babylon. They believe modern parallels of the Jews returning to their homeland are mostly coincidental.
Wow, where to start in pointing out the difference between biblical text and modern bias?
Perhaps the worst part of the above passage is the end, when it is noted that “others” view the return of the Jews as coincidental. To say that of the Jews’ return to the land, buttressed by the numerous Old Testament passages predicting The Return, is to defy logic, history and reality.
Otherwise, the middle section harkens to that ghastly teaching known as Replacement Theology, which so infects the Church today.
Again, if one simply reads the text of the Bible, one understands the meaning. But if one reads it along with the notes of modern scholars who are liberal in their thinking, then one absorbs bias that masquerades as scholarship.
In the NLT study Bible published by Tyndale, one can see further evidence of tampering by modern scholars. The notes for Job 40 and 41, the famous “Leviathan” and “Behemoth” passages, reveal to us that these creatures are thought by “most” scholars to be the crocodile and the hippopotamus. This even though Behemoth has a tail “strong as a cedar.”
In the KJV of 1966, we read that Behemoth “moveth his tail like a cedar.”
This might seem to be a trivial distinction, but it is not.
The King James translators were not influenced by Darwinian philosophy, so they saw no need to liken these two creatures to modern animals. Modern translators cannot accept that the creatures described could be akin to dinosaurs – read the descriptions of these animals in Job carefully – so they are “thought to be” the crocodile and hippo.
The NLT goes further; in the notes for Job 40 and 41, we are also treated to the idea that some of these creatures could be leftover descriptions from ancient Near East mythology.
Get it? The Bible might have been influenced by Sumerian myth, not the other way around.
Well, I digress. Here’s to the 400th celebration of the KJV.
May her hoary headed translators rest in peace.