Over on TFR I counted the blessings that the King James Version has brought to me. That post should be read before, and in conjunction with, what I have to say below. I’m grateful to have had this contact with the world’s most famous version. On this 400th year of the KJV’s publication, we do well to honor the work of the translators and their predecessors.
The KJV gave rise to a whole stream of revisions and derivative translations. The ERV/ASV, RSV, NASV, NRSV, ESV, and NKJV among them. The KJV itself, as we have it today, has been revised. The original edition, from what they say, has been significantly modified.
While we give thanks to God for this distinguished past, and for the many revisions and translations that have followed in its path, the KJV has ceased to be the best-selling Bible, and for good reason. It’s time to lay aside the KJV for superior versions.
In the title I use the verb “ditch” to encourage us to lay aside the KJV for later versions that are superior in most every way. The verb is strong, and I mean no disrespect to the KJV, but my purpose in using it is to emphasize in a forceful way that it is time to retire this version because of the needs of our day and the progress made since its publication.
Recently, on Facebook somebody posted a verse from the KJV with the word “lunatick.” First, nobody spells the word that way anymore. Second, the word is no longer used in that sense. This example can be repeated over and again. It means requiring people not familiar with the word of God to learn an antiquated language, and I can’t conceive of the Lord approving of putting any type of barrier, other than that of the Cross, before potential converts.
This point is all the more important today, because American educational levels have fallen (is this a worldwide trend?), and people are less able than ever to understand complex language. Add to that the large increase in the unchurched, and you have a great need for the use of versions that people who have no contact with Christianity can comprehend.
#2. Preaching and Teaching
Those who preach using the KJV are required to explain the translation before they can explain the text and apply it. In fact, some preachers’ sermons consist basically of explaining KJV language to the hearers. Put a modern-language version (I mean no negative connotation in that phrase — to the contrary!) in their hands and you take away their sermon.
Preaching is communication, and the KJV is a barrier to the message. 99.9% (don’t you just love statistics?) of people don’t speak 1611 English. Whoever denies this fact doesn’t live in the real world, or ministers only to people over 60 who’ve grown up with the KJV and word their prayers in bad attempts to mimic the Authorized Version.
#3. Personal Study
Since 1611 enormous discoveries have been made, both of manuscripts and in linguistics, that render the KJV outmoded. The discoveries of the Greek papyri in Egypt in the late 1800s and of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, to name just two, have revolutionized biblical research. Textual critical studies have provided better approaches to determining the original readings.
The only reason to continue using the KJV is because one may be used to it. But personal preferences should be set aside to allow for growth in one’s own walk with God and for greater effectiveness in one’s service of edification and evangelism.
For Others and For Self
There is every reason, then, to set aside the KJV and pick up a more recent version that uses today’s language and takes advantage of the research that has opened new understanding of the original languages. For these reasons, much of what is said above also applies to the ASV and NKJV.
Because we value Scripture as the word of God, we want it to speak to us and to others in accurate and intelligible language and so that its power may be fully applied in conversion of those outside of Christ and transformation of those in his body. Otherwise, without understanding the Word, its purpose will be frustrated and we will be held responsible for clinging to a version that no longer serves the mission of God in the world.