Pros and Cons of the KJV Bible
Among numerous versions of the Bible, King James is undeniably the most well-known version of the Bible today. Whether you’re finding which version suits you well, curious about what makes this version distinct from the rest, or are a serious learner of the Bible, this article is for you. What makes the KJV Bible special is that it retains the wordings of ancient texts and therefore the most faithful and accurate translation. However, as English continues to evolve, and some words used in KJV change meaning as time passes by, which makes this version harder to read to newer students of the Bible. In this article, we will explore the history of the KJV and discuss in depth the pros and cons of the KJB Bible.
What is the King James Version of the Bible?
The King James Version of the Bible was published in 1611 and is one of the oldest word-for-word versions we see and read today.
History of the King James Version
King James’ rule was at a time when factions between religious groups were predominant. Queen Elizabeth I approved the Anglican Church built by his father King Henry VIII while settling Puritans and Protestants as long as they hold gatherings at an appointed place. However, Puritans and Calvinists didn’t stop attacking the bishops and the hierarchical system. Planning to settle religious differences against factions, King James agreed on creating a new translation of the Bible, a suggestion by a Puritan initially to put King James to shame as he would about to mock the Bishop’s Bible, but the plan backfired.
Creating a well-funded Bible translation project is a wise move for King James for another reason, too. At that time different versions of the Bible created inconsistencies for devout members. They would hear one version of a sermon and read another at home. Also, the Geneva Bible was popular at that time, but it was written by Calvinist exiles, people who question the bishop’s and king’s power.
Most Faithful Translation
Words have different meanings based on context. Furthermore, linguists take grammar, idioms, connotations, nuances, etc. before proceeding with the translation. There is no one-to-one equivalent for every sentence.
KJV is an example of a formally equivalent translation. Compared to dynamically equivalent translation, KJV provides a word-for-word interpretation of the Bible. This is why both preachers and believers rely on the accuracy of the King James Version. Old English words such as thee, thy, ye, and thou manifest whether a speaker is talking to one or many people as opposed to modern English.
Good News Translation is an example of dynamically equivalent translation. It sacrifices accuracy for readability. For example, in Isaiah 49:23, the idiom “…lick up the dust of thy feet” may be ambiguous for a new reader. GNT translates this idiom as “show their respect to you”. For younger readers, dynamically equivalent translations are easy to understand.
Optimally equivalent translations are somewhere in between. They try to preserve the original text while keeping readability in check.
The King James Bible was published during a period when printing was invented. Not only that, but the grandiose funding of the project made this version so widely loved and used even centuries after King James’ death. The project consists of six committees of 47 scholars from Oxford and Cambridge. Added that English is the language, many people came to read it and its influence on the Anglo-American world was so strong that missionaries would use KJV in Asia and Africa.
Theologians love KJV for the use of ancient language. The poetic word and arrangement of verses make it seem like you’re reading the language of God Himself. Additionally, the vivid imagery conserves the idea a verse would be likely to imply. KJV is the best choice for lovers of tradition.
However, for the sake of readability, translators italicized words to signify that they were not in the original text, as apparent in Ephesians 2:1 “hath he quickened”.
KJV leaves the biggest impact on history. Most of the versions today are derived from the King James Version. Lines from KJV influenced our day-to-day language as well. Words like “apple of my eye,” “charity comes from the home, “and “eat and be merry” came from the King James Version.
The use of ancient language in religious doctrines is not appealing to younger individuals. Only a few people say nevertheless today and no one or almost to none use lest, thy, thee, or thou. This makes an impression that faith in God is irrelevant or outdated.
To add, terms like “Take no thought for your life” is confusing for the general public. If mistakenly interpreted, it reads as considering your life as insignificant while the message is about not worrying about what you’ll eat or dress. Modern versions are more readable and hence more recommended for new readers.
Fewer Source Material
Most of the texts from the New Testament in the King James Version are from Textus Receptus. However, a group of scholars and devout Christians argue that Textus Receptus is a poor Greek rendition. Textus Receptus has passages that cannot be found in any Greek manuscripts from the 16th century.
Fewer source materials also mean less comparison to original texts. In the book of Genesis chapter four verse eight, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” The KJV translation contains sentence fragments and has no flow. After Cain talked to Abel, they were suddenly in the field. Meanwhile, modern versions have access to Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac manuscripts and therefore made the passage complete. The New International Version states, “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”
Words in Old English are not the same as those we use today. For instance, in the book of Jude, the phrase “making a difference” meant making a distinction but can be misinterpreted in modern English as making an impact. There is also a variation of the word diakrinomenous (διακρινομένους) which is to doubt or to waver which is a better translation when you apply context clues.
KJV translations use “man” instead of “people” more than 1,000 times. Although this does not matter in most instances, there are verses in the Bible that gender inclusivity changes the meaning entirely.
For example, Mark 1:17, “I will make you become fishers of men.” emphasizes the masculinity of the New Testament. The verse is all about Jesus convincing Simon and Andrew to leave their nets and instead, fish for the people. This is an idiom expressing that people are likened to fish. Some will receive the gospel but not everyone will accept the true faith. Fishermen will catch plenty of creatures in the net, but not all of them are suitable for consumption. Meanwhile, modern translations phrase the verse as “fish for people”.
Frequently Asked Questions
We recommend getting the KJV Bible if you’re a devout Christian aiming to study the Bible seriously. Take note, though, that the language used in the KJV Bible is outdated and this may lead to misinterpretations if you’re not well-versed in Old English. It would help if you supplement your reading with other versions such as NASB, NIV, and GNT.
Yes, it is wise to keep multiple translations as there is no perfect translation. Comparing versions will mostly (but not entirely) eliminate bias in translation. However, if you want to keep things simple, we recommend use the New Living Translation, as it is a perfect Bible for beginners.