Philip P. Eapen
This year, 2011, the church is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the release of the King James Bible. Millions of Christians value the King James Version (KJV). Many would go to any length to defend their preference for KJV. Yet, I believe, it is high time Christians stop romanticising the KJV and to go beyond this classic version.
The KJV came as an answer to the prayers of many Christians. Most notably, we remember William Tyndale’s last prayer just before the “Holy Roman Empire” burnt him at the stake. Indeed, the KJV has its place in world history as the book that singularly influenced generations of Christians, the world of arts, literature, governance and law.
Recently I visited a Christian family and joined them in their “family prayer.” The man of the house selected a passage from the book of Isaiah and read it out to his family. I knew he was reading from the venerated KJV. I looked around and saw the blank expression on the faces of his children. They did not get the head or tail of the reading. I was unable to get the import of the text. This family’s hard-core devotion to the King James Version did not make any sense. I thought sticking to the KJV is probably the best way to keep the next generation from understanding the Word of God!
Why would anyone root for a Bible written in archaic English? Why would anyone impose a disadvantage upon their children and grandchildren?
Jesus said, in the Parable of the Sower, that only those who hear and understand God’s Word can bear the “fruit” of obedience (Matthew 13:23). Those who fail to understand can never obey God! The archaic language and constructs of the KJV prevent easy comprehension of God’s Word.
Some Christians believe that the KJV is the ‘original’ English Bible. Supporters of the KJV say the KJV was translated from the most faithful version of the Greek New Testament, commonly known as the “Received Text” or “Textus Receptus.” Modern translators prefer other Greek versions to the “Textus Receptus.”
Is the “Textus Receptus” Greek NT superior to other “critical” versions? Biblical scholars should answer that question. The matter is more complex than can be handled here. The Greek NT was first printed in 1516. A hundred and twenty years later, in 1633, the publisher Elzevirs of Leyden added a “blurb” on the title page of the Greek NT. It read, “textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum.” Or, “therefore you have the text now received by all.” From this we got the commonly used term “received text.” Unfortunately, people wrongly applied the phrase to all older Greek NT editions released before 1633. The question is, should a publisher’s blurb be treated as a stamp of God’s approval or as a mark of superior text transmission?
The translators of the KJV did not restrict themselves to one printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Primarily, they relied on Beza’s edition of 1598. Over 170 times, they departed from this text preferring other editions of the Greek NT. Over 60 times, the translators departed from all the available Greek NT edition for the Latin Vulgate!
Until 1881, there was no Greek NT edition that fully agreed with the KJV. Therefore, it is unwise to claim that King James Version relied on one “Received Text” or that the KJV is superior to other English versions of the Bible.
People claim that the King James Version is the only “authorized” version of the Bible. Who “authorized” the KJV? Even if it was none other than King James who authorized it, who is man to authorize God’s Word?
There is a long list of the errors in this “authorized” version. A few months ago, a retired scientist who belongs to the Brethren Assemblies said to me, “The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus is divine. Jesus himself didn’t claim to be divine.”
I asked the gentleman which version of the Bible he read all his life. He said he read the King James Version. I guided him to Titus 2:13 in the KJV. It read, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Any reader would understand that translation as referring to the appearance of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
The KJV missed out a crucial comma. The verse should read: “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (NAU) Undoubtedly, St Paul described Jesus Christ as “our great God and Savior.” A man who spent more than 70 years in the Brethren Assemblies missed out on this great truth because he restricted himself to the KJV. That is too much of a loss for “KJV only” readers.
That’s not the only verse where the KJV got it wrong about the Lord Jesus Christ. Check out the opening verse of Peter’s second epistle. The KJV renders it as
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:”
Here again, the righteousness seems to be that of God the Father and of Jesus the Son. Instead, it should be “the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Peter describes Jesus as “God and Savior.”
Do I need more reasons to look beyond the KJV in favour of more accurate versions of the English Bible? I don’t think so.
Originally published in the newspaper ‘Praise The Almighty’ in Feb 2011.
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Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers; he also runs a small ‘tent-making’ business. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.
Date: Feb 1, 2011