Christians have long held the view that the Bible is God’s infallible word, speaking directly to the hearts of men and containing therein the entirety of His law and revelation. However, in the past 100 years or so, Christians have become split on the issue of WHICH Bible translation to use.
For many years, there was only one translation in English that was widely available. William Tyndale completed the first New Testament in English. He printed it in either 1525 or 1526. He faced great persecution from the Anglican church and his New Testaments were confiscated and burned by the king and the bishops. However, copies continued to be successfully smuggled into England. Eventually Tyndale was betrayed, strangled and burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord open the eyes of the king.”
The first complete Bible in English was the Coverdale Bible. October 4th, 1535 was the printing of the first complete English Bible. At that point the church lost its grip on the Word of God. The common people could now read what God spoke without the church and could see the un-Biblical practices that the church indulged in. After that, the next complete Bible was the Matthew’s Bible. Published under the pseudonym of ‘Thomas Matthew’ John Rogers completed the Matthew’s Bible, which was in large part a translation from Tyndale. In 1539, Thomas Cranmer published at the request of the archbishop of Canterbury the ‘Great Bible’. It was the first English Bible authorized for public use. Copies were sent to churches and chained to the pulpit. Every person was entitled to a reader so that the illiterate could hear the Word.
Then there was the first widely used and nearly exclusively used English Bible: the Geneva Bible. This was the Bible that Pilgrims carried to America and founded this nation upon. It contained 90% of Tyndale’s work and was the first Bible in English to add verse numbering to make referencing easier. For over a hundred years it was the standard Bible, even after the King James was released in 1611.
The Geneva Bible had a very harsh stance against the church of the day (inflammatory marginal notes etc.) and the Anglican church desired a less hostile version. As such, the Bishop’s Bible was introduced. But the populace never gained a liking for the Bishop’s since the Geneva was already well trusted and loved.
The Catholic church wanted a translation that was based on the Latin Vulgate. It was called the Douay Rheims version. Compared to the Geneva Bible however, there was glaring mistakes and inconsistencies and the Rheims version never gained widespread acceptance outside of the Catholic church.
Then in 1611 the King James version of the Bible was released. It was released as a Bible for everyone, rich and poor, old and young, commoners and royalty. It replaced the marginal notes calling the pope an anti-Christ and instead simply translated the Word of God into English for Protestants and Catholics alike. While it took many years to replace the Geneva Bible, it eventually overtook it and began it’s reign as the undisputed Word of God for almost a quarter of a century.
However, in 1885, the Revised Version of the Bible rolled off the printing press. It was a revision of the King James and became popular among British Christians though the KJV retained its top status.
In 1901, the RV came to America in the form of the American Standard Version or ASV. Nearly identical to the RV, the ASV changed the proper name of God from THE LORD to Jehovah. This was the beginning of the first translation war between KJV advocates and ASV advocates. Ultimately, the KJV prevailed again against the ASV, though the ASV is still used in some places.
Far more popular however was the Revised Standard Version. First published in 1952, this translation was the absolute first to give the King James a serious challenge to its pedestal of best translation. However, the KJV only people came out in force with this translation’s printing. Fudamentalists and Evangelicals alike agreed that the RSV seemed to tamper with Christ’s divinity by translating Isaiah 7:14’s ‘virgin’ into ‘young woman’. They concluded that this was an assault on the Virgin birth and therefore on the entire divinity of Jesus. Some opponents took their opposition to extremes. One pastor in the southern U.S. burned the RSV with a blowlamp AT THE PULPIT. Although it has been replaced with more conservative editions such as the ESV, the RSV is still widely held by many as a worthwhile Bible. (As for An Informed Mind, my stance is that the RSV, though no doubt done with excellent scholarship, should never have translated ‘virgin’ as ‘young woman’. I recommend newer and more accurate translations.)
Since then, beginning in 1971, there has been an influx of translations in English, starting with the New American Standard Bible (1971) and continuing with the English Standard Version (2002) and beyond with the yet to be named NIV 2011 (tentative title).
As you have seen, the English Bible has a long standing history and the King James is one version in a long line of them. But there are some that state that KJV is the only version that God has allowed and preserved. They claim that there are perversions of the text in the newer versions that corrupt God’s word, rob Jesus of His divinity, or present inaccuracies that make the Bible contradict itself.
But I will make the argument that newer translations actually present a clearer, more accurate and more faithful reading:
The first problem with the KJV and the one most often brought up by today’s Christian is the use of archaic nouns and verb usage. Such issues as adding the ‘eth’, ‘est’, or sometimes ‘th’ to the end of a verb is confusing and robs the reading of a flow that speaks to the reader. ‘Thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thine’ etc also are lost on today’s reader. Sentence structure is also dated as well. Let me give an example of archaic language and sentence structure in the KJV: “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.” II Corinthians 6:11-13 KJV. Try reading it in any other version and it will become much clearer.
Another claim of the KJV-onlyites is that Christ is relegated to less than God and robbed of His Sonhood. Gail Riplinger is one of the leading purveyors of this nonsense and thanks to her book New Age Bible Versions (hereafter referred to as NABV) she has distorted and maligned new Bible versions to the detriment of many Christians. KJV-onlyites use verses such as Daniel 3:25 to claim that newer versions are from the devil. The KJV reads: “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Note the phrase “Son of God.” The NASB (1972) reads: He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods. Note the phrase “son of the gods.” They claim that this negates Jesus in the passage and instead inserts pagan deism into the Bible. Actually, Nebuchadezzar WAS a pagan and therefore believed in ‘son of the gods’ rather than ‘the Son of God’. This is a foolish way of trying to destroy perfectly good translations. Another verse they use is I Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…” KJV whereas NASB (1995) states: “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness; He who was revealed in the flesh…” The thing with that is, in the KJV, the authors gratuitously inserted God there where He was in the original text. Also, he is capitalized in the NASB thereby indicating the Bible is referring to deity, IE God.
Now I am going to switch gears here. I am going to go on the offensive, not attacking the KJV, but showing instead that all translations have something upon which they can be improved. The KJV, reflecting the popular phrasing of the time, translated the correct Hebrew phrasing ‘Let the king live’ into the British saying ‘God save the king’. While this does not change the meaning of the passage, it does not accurately represent the correct Hebrew. The NASB, NIV and NKJV (among others) all translate correctly. The same is done with the British idiom ‘gave up the ghost’ for the accurate reading of ‘die’ or ‘expire’.
“Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” is Acts 5:30, speaking of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross according to the KJV. This gives ammo to the critics that claim that Jesus was slain and then hung on a cross. The NASB accurately and correctly renders it “whom you had put to death by hanging Him on the cross.” This is one of the worst offenses from the KJV.
But even with those criticisms, KJV-onlyites continue to defend their translation. Some seem to hold the view of: ‘it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me,’ as if Jesus actually spoke Elizabethean English instead of Aramaic and Greek. The KJV is only one translation in a long line of good English translations. However, there are more glaring errors in the KJV that are fixed in other versions:
The KJV changes ‘lamp’ and ‘lampstand’ to ‘candle’ and ‘candlestick’. Other versions change to the correct.
The King James version also speaks of ‘unicorns’ and ‘dragons’ when their really mean ‘wild ox’ or ‘serpent’. People of the time of the KJV believed such animals existed and as such, they were inserted into the text.
I have shown a few reasons why the new translations are just as good as the KJV and in some cases BETTER. Also, when I speak of KJV-onlyites, I don’t mean people that only use the KJV, I mean the people that claim that the KJV is God’s only written word in English and that all other translations are either A. corrupt or B. Satanic. I have given ample evidence to the contrary and I hope that these people’s eyes will be opened before they alienate any further weak Christians.