Book Review: The Legacy of The King James Bible

The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English TranslationThe Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation by Leland Ryken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all English translations of the Bible, the King James Version is certainly the one which has stood the test of time. Four hundred years after it was first printed, the KJV is still loved by many. This book celebrates the accuracy, beauty, and influence of the King James Version of the Bible.

Ryken gives credit where it is due to both Tyndale and Wycliffe, whose translations laid the foundation for the King James Version. Their desire was to translate the Scriptures faithfully so that English speaking people could read and understand God’s Word. The King James Version stands upon the shoulders of these translations as well as a few others such as the Bishops Bible.

Ryken takes the time to give us interesting facts about the translation process. The work was divided among committees, and they were instructed to use the existing English translations and compare them. In fact, that King James Version is a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, which was also compared with the original languages to assure that it was as accurate as possible. The translators also consulted Luther’s Bible, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac New Testament, Aramaic Targums, and various commentaries. This was indeed a great undertaking that was taken very seriously. Once it was published, it only took fifty years for the KJV to surpass the Geneva Bible in popularity.

Ryken gives a very timely warning to those who accept that there are more accurate Greek manuscripts than those used by the KJV translators. He reminds us that the ones that were used to translate the KJV were by no means bad texts, and that the difference between the Received Text and today’s Critical Text is actually minor. No one is in danger of being misled by the King James Version of the Bible.

The influence of the KJV is extensive. Although it is not named a “Standard Bible”, it is the standard for many English translations. The RSV, NKJV, and ESV are all in the stream of the King James tradition in that they seek to adhere to an essentially literal approach. Another thing that points to the King James Version as a standard is the fact that many who follow the dynamic equivalence translational philosophy find fault with the King James Version and try to show how theirs is in some way superior. This may be a back handed acknowledgement of the KJV as a standard, but it is indeed an acknowledgement that it is.

The KJV has permeated English culture, language, and literature. Billy Graham, one of the world’s foremost evangelists, preached from the KJV. Expressions that are in our everyday speech come from the KJV. Great literature either quotes or has language that is very similar to the KJV. Many writers acknowledge that they used, or are indebted to the KJV. Public inscriptions of Scripture are more often quotations of the KJV than not. Great musicals, poetry, and paintings have been influenced by the KJV. There is no area of English speaking culture that has not been influenced by the KJV.

Ryken calls the KJV the “gold standard for a literary Bible”. The language, cadence, and beauty all show the KJV to be an excellent translation. In fact, many consider the KJV to be a miracle of literary excellence. The one place where Ryken faults the KJV translators is in their printing of poetry as prose. In all, he holds the King James Version in high esteem, as well we all should. He makes an amazing statement when he says, “I do not remember ever having encountered a member of the literary establishment who preferred any English Bible other than the KJV.”

Today we have a proliferation of English Bible translations. One would think that would be a blessing. Ryken, who greatly loves and supports the work of the English Standard Version, declares that “biblical illiteracy has accompanied the decline of the King James Bible.” He states that this is widely acknowledged. He even quotes a colleague who said that even Christian students have become inept at seeing biblical references in literature, because they do not know the KJV and its influence. There is no greater praise to be given to the King James Version by one who is a great supporter of a modern version. In fact, Ryken recommends that Bible readers continue to read the KJV along with their modern version.

Time and space would fail me to say all that could be said about this book. Let it suffice to say that this book is a must read for all who care about literature, whether it be biblical or secular. In fact, I would highly recommend this book for those who are King James Version only believers as well as those who are King James Version critics. Both groups could learn much from this book.

This book provided for review by Crossway with no requirement of a positive review.

View all my reviews

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A Question Regarding the KJV and “Eis”

I am curious as to why the King James Version translators translated eis as into, unto, for instead of consistently using one word.

For example, when reading verses about baptism, John baptized unto (eis) repentance and preached the baptism of repentance for (eis) the remission of sins.  Peter preached that people should be baptized for (eis) the remission of sins.  Paul said we are baptized into (eis) Christ, and that Israel was baptize unto (eis) Moses.

I cannot see that the word actually has a wide variety of meaning from one of these texts to  another.  It would have been helpful, I think, for it to have been translated with a little more consistency.

Perhaps someone could help me on the whole issue.

Regarding Moderation

I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog.  We especially appreciate those who care enough for God’s Word to take a stand for what they believe, even if we do not always agree.

Our moderation at this site has been mentioned at another site as well as in the comments on this blog.

Let us remember two things:

1. The rules are here.

2.  Before someone is banned the moderators usually discuss it privately.  In the end, we typically are patient and give the offender a week or two and multiple warnings before they are banned.

While it may seem that the rules are stacked in our favor, let it be said that we involve ourselves in a heated debate.  We try not to involve ourselves in name calling and personal attacks.  Those are the things for which people get banned, and we try not to hold to a double standard on that. We actually allow guests to continue commenting long after they have crossed the line.  We also give multiple warnings.  We try to hold to that rule with ALL who comment here and not simply those who agree with us.

Please take the time to refresh your memory regarding the rules of debate here before proceeding with anymore comments.

Kevin Bauder on The King James Only Movement And Fundamentalism

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The error of the King James Only movement is opposite but equal to the error of the new evangelicalism. The new evangelicals wanted to remove the fundamentals (i.e., the gospel) as the boundary of Christian fellowship. The King James Only movement wishes to add to the fundamentals (i.e., the gospel) as the boundary of Christian fellowship. Neoevangelicalism could be called “sub-fundamentalist,” while the King James Only movement is hyper-fundamentalist.

Of course, the King James Only movement is only one species of hyper-fundamentalism. Hyper-fundamentalism may revolve around personal and institutional loyalties, idiosyncratic agendas, absurd ethical standards, or the elevation of incidental doctrines and practices. The thing that characterizes all versions of hyper-fundamentalism is the insistence upon draconian reactions for relatively pedestrian—or even imaginary—offenses.

Hyper-fundamentalism and the new evangelicalism are mirror images of each other. The old neoevangelicalsim damaged the gospel, not by denying it, but by attacking its role as a demarcator between Christianity and apostasy. The hyper-fundamentalist does the same kind of damage by adding something else alongside the gospel. If anything, King James Onlyism is worse, for it shows contempt for the Word of God. It attacks the heart of Christianity by sitting in judgment over its source of authority.

via Now, About Those Differences, Part Twenty Three | SharperIron.

Cross-posted on Re:Fundamentals.

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Revelation 22:18-19 And Perfect Textual Preservation

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Does Revelation 22:18-19 Teach Perfect Textual Preservation?

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. ” (Revelation 22:18–19)

The above verses have been used to argue for the King James Version against other translations of the Bible. Simply stated, the argument is that the original text is preserved in the KJV and that all other translations add to, or take away from the original text.

Our question is this, “Does this passage actually teach said doctrine?” Some say that it does, and others say that it does not. What do the Scriptures say?

Words

First of all, let us ask what words are. That is what we are warned against embellishing or removing. Words are expressions of thought. The form of words change over time so that words become archaic and are replaced by other words that convey the same meaning. One instance of this is that we use the word “let” to mean “to allow”. In the King James Version the word was used to mean “to hinder”. We must ask ourselves, then, whether the use of synonyms is acceptable in Bible translation. We must then ask ourselves whether a sentence in a more recent English translation of the Bible could have more or less words in it than a sentence in the KJV contains and yet still convey the same thought.

In the Scriptures we find that sometimes the very word “word” is used to express the decree, or command of God. One example can be found in Psalm 33:6-9 where we know that it simply means that God spoke the command and the worlds were made. We again see this in Hebrews 1:3 where we find that universe is sustained by the word, or decree of God.

The meaning of “word” does not have to be the lexical form of a word, but can be a word, its synonym, or the command of God.

The Bible does not condemn the use of synonyms or loose quotations of Scripture, as long as the thought of the Scripture is conveyed. Most students of the Bible are aware of the fact that the New Testament writers sometimes quoted the Old Testament in ways that were definitely not verbatim quotations. One interesting instance is found in James’ writing. James said, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5) Have you ever tried to find the instance in the Old Testament where that statement is made? Most of us will admit that there is no place in the Old Testament where one can find this statement verbatim. It will not do for someone to claim that the Bible writers were inspired and could use Scripture in such a fashion, because to do so would be to charge the Bible writers and God the Holy Spirit with inconsistency. After all, if God tells us not to change the form of one single word, we can be sure that He would be inconsistent to command one to do so even if he were inspired.

Jots And Tittles

What, then, of the jots and tittles of Matthew 5:17-18? What is that all about? Simply put, it means that the Scriptures will be perfectly fulfilled. We have a saying today that goes something like this: “He follows the rules to the letter.” What we mean is that a person strictly adheres to the meaning and intent of the rules. So it is with God’s Word. All will come to pass perfectly, just as God has told us.

The words of Jesus concerning jots and tittles cannot teach perfect textual preservation, because the law itself neither teaches, nor is presented as an example of perfect textual preservation. This truth is seen in a comparison of the ten commandments as given in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. When Moses spoke the law to Israel the second time he did not speak it verbatim, but actually added words to what he said previously. We will find, too, that it is this same Moses who said that we are not to add to the words of God.

Revelation 22:18-19

What is meant by the adding to and taking away of Revelation 22:18-19? The answer to that question has to be found by considering the previous places in which we were warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God.

Moses told Israel, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. ” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Why was Israel warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God? So that they would obey God. The issue that is before us is that the message cannot be changed by adding commandments, or taking away commandments. Either one would be sin. Either one would lead people into disobedience. That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, because they were adding commandments to God’s Word, and taking away commandments, also. (See Matthew 5:33-35;15:1-10) Furthermore, Moses told Israel, “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. ” (Deuteronomy 5:22) We already saw that Moses did not give a verbatim quotation of the ten commandments here. Now he adds that God gave them no more words. In other words, the law that God gave at Sinai was all the word that they needed at that time. Simply put, “Ye shall not add unto”, or “He added no more” simply means that what they had been given was all that they needed. The message that God had given Israel through Moses was sufficient for them at that time, and was not to be changed so as to make the message say something that God did not say.

In the same vein of thought, we read in the Proverbs, “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. ” (Proverbs 30:5–6) Those who add to the words of God will be shown to be wrong, and demonstrated to be liars. One is not a liar who uses synonyms and yet retains the message accurately. He is a liar who changes the words to the extent that the message is changed. God’s warning is for us to not change the message. This is the foundation of Paul’s anathema in Galatians 1:7-9. The message IS NOT TO BE CHANGED!

Thus it is that Revelation 22:18-19 is the last in a long chain of warnings against changing the message of God, and not a text that supports the doctrine of perfect textual preservation.

The Definition of Corrupt and the KJVO Issue

Corrupt

–adjective

1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.

2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.

3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.

4. infected; tainted.

5. decayed; putrid. *

What do the above definitions have to do with the King James Only issue? Much, I think. You see, there is a difference between the definition that is in use by those who are KJVO and those who are not. (This is a blanket statement that is not representative of everyone involved.) The definition is applied to NT manuscripts.

Those who are not KJVO tend to use the definition of corrupt that is seen in number 3. Their view is that many texts have been tainted (thus a little of number 4 enters in) and made inferior. That means that there are some NT manuscripts which are better than others.

Those who are KJVO will tend to use the definition of corrupt that is seen in numbers 1,2,4, and 5. Their idea is that there are manuscripts that are dishonest, depraved, wicked, evil, tainted, and putrid. This means that there are some NT manuscripts that are hopelessly tainted and are to be totally rejected.

The problem with the KJVO stance on this issue is that it is a subtle move from defining corruption as something being made inferior by changes or alterations to defining corruption as something that is absolutely corrupt. It is a move from relative corruption to absolute corruption. It is a move from partial corruption to total corruption. Whether this subtle move is intentional or not, it clouds the issue at hand and makes the debate more difficult.

The other problem with this is that the KJVO believer tends to present the text which is not the Textus Receptus as being totally and hopelessly corrupt. This is a logical fallacy. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Finally, the KJVO believer must demonstrate, then, that those texts outside of the TR are totally and hopelessly corrupt in the sense that they are theologically deviant and depraved to the point that the Word of God is not there in any recognizable form. If not, then we must return to using the word corrupt in the sense of definition number three.

*It might be useful to note as well that when someone writing in Latin (like say Erasmus) would have used the word corruptus as meaning ‘broken into pieces’ rather than the Anglicized definition we now use. So there is a 6th definition as well – broken into pieces. (Erik D.)

Inspiration and Preservation

Daniel Wallace on  has an interesting post on Bible.org entitled Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism.  In this post the author states:

not only do they put preservation on exactly the same level as inspiration, but they also can be more certain about the text, since they advocate a printed edition. But their argumentation is so palpably weak on other fronts that we will only make two observations here: (a) since the TR itself went through several different editions by Erasmus and others, TR advocates need to clarify which edition is the inspired one; (b) one simply cannot argue for the theological necessity of public accessibility throughout church history and for the TR in the same breath—for the TR did not exist during the first 1500 years of the Christian era. (Rather inconsistent, for example, is the logic of Theo Letis when he, on the one hand, argues that God must have preserved the pure text in an open, public, and accessible manner for Christians in every generation and, on the other hand, he argues that “the Latin and non-majority readings [of the TR] were indeed restorations of ancient readings that fell out of the medieval Greek tradition”!

He goes further and says:

As we have argued concerning the faulty assumption that preservation must be through “majority rule,” the scriptures nowhere tell us how God would preserve the NT text. What is ironic is that as much ink as MT/TR advocates spill on pressing the point that theirs is the only biblical view, when it comes to the preserved text being found in the majority of witnesses, they never quote one verse. Although they accuse other textual critics of rationalism, their argument for preservation via the majority has only a rational basis, not a biblical one. “God must have done this”—not because the Bible says so, but because logic dictates that this must be the case.

A statement that I found extremely interesting was the following:

the doctrine of preservation was not a doctrine of the ancient church. In fact, it was not stated in any creed until the seventeenth century (in the Westminster Confession of 1646). The recent arrival of such a doctrine, of course, does not necessarily argue against it—but neither does its youthfulness argue for it. Perhaps what needs to be explored more fully is precisely what the framers of the Westminster Confession and the Helvetic Consensus Formula (in 1675) really meant by providential preservation.

I must add this comment here:  At this point I have no idea as to the veracity of this claim.  It is interesting, however, because we have seen the argument over and over by one particular person who visits this blog that the TR/KJVO view is based upon a historical view of preservation.  I would certainly like to see more detail on this from both sides of the issue.

The following struck a chord with me, though I’m not exactly sure at this time how much I agree:

if the doctrine of the preservation of scripture has neither ancient historical roots, nor any direct biblical basis, what can we legitimately say about the text of the New Testament? My own preference is to speak of God’s providential care of the text as can be seen throughout church history, without elevating such to the level of doctrine. If this makes us theologically uncomfortable, it should at the same time make us at ease historically, for the NT is the most remarkably preserved text of the ancient world—both in terms of the quantity of manuscripts and in their temporal proximity to the originals. Not only this, but the fact that no major doctrine is affected by any viable textual variant surely speaks of God’s providential care of the text. Just because there is no verse to prove this does not make it any less true.

A very interesting argument in the inspiration=preservation discussion is given:

there is a tacit assumption on the part of Pickering that everything a biblical author writes is inspired. But this is almost certainly not true, as can be seen by the lost epistles of Paul and the agrapha of Jesus. The argument is this: there seem to be a few, fairly well-attested (in patristic literature), authentic sayings of Jesus which are not found in the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament. Of course, evangelicals would claim that they are inerrant. But they would not be inspired because inspiration refers strictly to what is inscripturated within the canon. Further, Paul seems to have written three or four letters to the Corinthians, perhaps a now-lost letter to the Laodiceans, and apparently more than a few letters before 2 Thessalonians. If some NT epistles could be lost, and even some authentic sayings of Jesus could show up outside the NT, then either they were not inspired or else they were inspired but not preserved. Assuming the former to be true, then the question facing us in Mark’s Gospel is whether an inspired writer can author non-inspired material within the same document—material which is now lost. Such a possibility admittedly opens up a Pandora’s box for evangelicals, and certainly deserves critical thought and dialogue. Nevertheless, the analogies with the lost epistles of Paul and the authentic, non-canonical agrapha of Jesus seem to damage Pickering’s contention that if the last portion of Mark’s Gospel is lost, then inspiration is defeated.

The author concludes by saying:

In sum, there is no valid doctrinal argument for either the Textus Receptus or the majority text. A theological a priori has no place in textual criticism. That is not to say that the majority text is to be rejected outright. There may, in fact, be good arguments for the majority text which are not theologically motivated. But until TR/MT advocates make converts of those who do not share with them their peculiar views of preservation and inspiration, their theory must remain highly suspect.

It will probably take reading and re-reading for me to digest all that is said here.  I must say, however, that there is much to commend this article, though I may not embrace all that is said.  I believe it provides a relatively balanced approach to the debate in that it takes the arguments of the MT/TR/KJVO seriously and seeks to answer them Biblically, doctrinally, textually, and historically.