Many students of Scripture will notice that there are multiple variations in different versions of the English Bible. Study will reveal that there are many verses and phrases in the King James Version of the Bible that are omitted from current versions.
The King James Version, or Authorised Version, published in 1611 is based on the historic ‘Received Text’, whereas most versions since 1881 have been based on ‘the critical Greek text’, which changes and omits many phrases and verses in the King James Version.
The argument for the ‘critical text’ is that the discovery of more manuscripts helps to ‘restore’ the original text of the Bible. This overlooks the fact that God has preserved as well as inspired His Word Ps 12:6-7.
“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
O Lord, Thou shalt guard them and preserve them for ever from this hostile generation.”Psalm 12:6-7
Many more manuscripts may be discovered but God’s Word does not need to be discovered. We have it already.
The ‘critical text’ is based mainly on the principles of the Westcott and Hort text. These were unbiblical principles that ignored the inspiration and preservation of Scripture. A summary can be seen in this video which shows you the spirit in which Westcott and Hort went about their work.
Singular and plural accuracy
Another advantage of the King James Version is the distinction between the singular and plural – compare Lk 22:31-32 where v31 is plural ‘you’, but v32 is singular ‘thee, thy and thou’. This distinction is used throughout the Old and New Testaments, which is very helpful.
The claim that the old English form ‘thou, thee’ is difficult to understand is not true. It continues to be used in popular hymns and songs to the present hour.
Of course, there are occasional mistakes, where the English bishops insisted on the use of ‘bishop’ instead of ‘overseer’ 1Tim 3:2 and ‘Easter’ instead of ‘Passover’ Act 12:4, but these are comparatively rare, so that the King James Version is still the most accurate translation of the Bible in the English language, and it will remain so until the English language finds a new way to distinguish the second person singular and plural. I have written an article on this here.
Another advantage of the King James Version is that it always translates the tetragrammaton Jehovah/Yahweh as Lord in capital letters, so that the English reader knows that it refers to Jehovah, the covenant name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that their New World Translation of the Bible is very accurate. Its earlier versions distinguished between the singular and plural by printing the plural ‘you’ in small capital letters, like the King James Version did with ‘Lord’. This practice is abandoned in the current New World Translation 2013 edition. My point stands that current English translations, including even the New King James Version and the King James 2000 Bible, do not accurately translate the singular ‘you’ in their versions.
Further, Appendix A3 of the New World Translation confirms that it follows the ‘critical text’ and has swallowed the theories of Westcott and Hort and modern academia rather than biblical principles.
Additionally, in spite of Jehovah, Jerusalem, Jericho, Joshua and Jesus, the Hebrew language has no letter ‘J’ and the Hebrew words translated with a ‘J’ are actually written and pronounced ‘Y’ in the Hebrew language.
The New World Translation has translated the tetragrammaton as Jehovah through the whole Old Testament as well as translating the Greek word kurios ‘Lord’ as Jehovah 237 times in the New Testament, while unrealistically claiming in Appendix A5 “those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyrios, the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.” This also impugns the biblical doctrine of the divine preservation of the inspired text of Scripture.
There are other advantages of the King James Version, such as copyright rules, which modern versions enforce. It is sad when translations of the Bible are commercialised.
Historical commemoration of the King James Version
I commemorated the 400th anniversary of its publication here. There were events held all round the British Isles throughout 2011 to commemorate this 400th anniversary, and at the opening event Melvyn Bragg, the veteran BBC Radio 4 presenter, not only praised the translation but he looked forward to its continuation through the next 100 years and to those who would commemorate the 500th anniversary in due course.
The New International Version unsuccessfully challenged the KJV for global supremacy in the English speaking world but there are now so many current versions competing with each other for the market-place, using new translational features to attract a readership to itself, that the KJV continues to lead the field.
There are other aspects of the poor quality of modern translations beyond their inadequate textual basis and the failure of the translation teams to subscribe to the divine inspiration and preservation of Scripture.
‘Dynamic equivalence’ is when translators do not translate but interpret the meaning and use another word. It is now ‘standard fare’ among current translations. Easter instead of Passover in the King James Version is an example of this in earlier times, trying to identify the time of year with current concepts instead of translating accurately.
There are some passages of Scripture that have difficult concepts and instead of faithfully translating the passage current versions tend to interpret the passage instead of transate it. It is not the language of the King James Version that is difficult to understand but the concepts of Scripture itself. However, many African children ask the Trinitarian Bible Society for free copies of the King James Version on a regular basis.
The quality of exegesis by translational teams is suspect. Another blogpost shows that modern teams of translators do not translate but copy each other. I have called this copying phenomenon ‘academic exegesis’ because it masquerades as exegesis by academics. From an academic point of view, the King James Version is still the standard against which other versions are compared and contrasted.
Memorising and quoting Scripture
There are now so many versions of the English Bible that people do not recognise quotations from the Bible and not many people learn quotations off by heart nor use them. Even arch-sceptic Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion admires the King James Version as literature and recommends his readers to read it and familiarise themselves with it, although for his own purposes. We should use biblical quotations in our prayers, sermons and conversation and this means learning them off by heart from a version that has and continues to stand the test of time. It is very easy to turn the -est and -eth endings into -s for popular quotation and my blog regularly does this.
8 Dec 2020: some textual issues with modern versions of the Bible.