Why I don’t preach or teach from the King James Version
(Photo: Psalm 23 in the original 1611 edition of the King James Version.)
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
I love the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. It is written in beautiful, literary English. Psalm 23 and many other familiar passages resonate in the KJV. However, I usually do not use the KJV when I preach and teach. Why is that? There are two main reasons.
- The English language has changed over the centuries. Many words that were clear when the KJV was written, are now confusing or offensive to the modern reader, simply because modern English is a different dialect. For example, the KJV uses the word “unicorn” nine times (Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7). Skeptics have made fun of the Bible because of this; however, hundreds of years ago “unicorn” used to mean an animal with one horn, like a rhinoceros. Over time, the word came to refer to a mythical animal, so modern translations use other terms, such as “wild ox.” Exodus 28:40 says to make “girdles and bonnets” for the priests (referring to sashes and headbands), 2 Kings 18:27 refers to men who “drink their own piss;” James 2:3 refers to “gay clothing” (referring to fine clothes), 2 Corinthians 6:12 says, “ye are straitened in your bowels (referring to holding back affection), and Philippians 3:20 says “our conversation is in heaven” because “conversation” meant way of life in Middle English, but today the word means speech, and thus would be completely misunderstood. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
- The KJV is not based on the best ancient manuscripts. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the New Testament was written in Greek. Bible scholars determined the wording of the original manuscripts by collecting and comparing thousands of ancient manuscripts. However, the oldest and most reliable manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Old Testament, were discovered and studied long after the King James Version was translated in 1611. Thus, it is ironic but true that newer translations use older and more dependable manuscripts as the basis for their translation. For example, the KJV includes the longer ending to the Gospel of Mark, which says that believers “shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents…” (Mark 16:17-18, KJV). These verses have been quoted by snake-handling sects, yet the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end with Mark 16:8! Another example is 1 John 5:7-8 (a passage mentioning the Trinity), which includes additional words in verse 7, as well as all of verse 8, that are absent from every known Greek manuscript except four manuscripts written in Greek during Middle Ages. It is apparent that a scribe added these words to testify to the Trinity. There are other scriptures that attest to the Trinity, but this is not one of them. (Those KJV Only people who argue that “liberals have taken verses out of the Bible” are ignoring the fact that the chapter and verse number system was added to the text hundreds of years after the original writings, for our convenience in referencing passages.)
All of this begs the question, if not the KJV, what translation should one use? To answer that, I refer you to a previous post I wrote, What Bible translation should I use?
What Bible translation should a pastor use from the pulpit?
Copyright by Bob Rogers
What translation of the Bible is best for a pastor to use in the pulpit? Pastors and laypeople feel differently about the issue.
My Unscientific Survey
Recently I did an unscientific opinion poll on Facebook among pastors and laypeople about what Bible translation they preferred for use from the pulpit. On a Facebook page with 1,300 pastors, I asked them what translation they used in the pulpit. Then I asked laypeople on my own Facebook page, with over 2,000 friends, what translation they preferred that their pastor use (I blocked my pastor friends from seeing the post). I received 95 responses from pastors, and 48 responses from laypeople. This is an unscientific survey, since it was based on those who decided to answer, and the two Facebook groups have demographic differences, although the pastors Facebook page is dominated by conservative evangelical Christians, and most of my friends on Facebook are also conservative evangelicals. Despite that qualification, I noticed some significant results that are worth noting. Here are the results and lessons learned:
KJV: 31 %
Given the unscientific nature of this survey and relatively small size of the sample, one should not read too much into this survey, but some trends should be noted:
*There is no one translation that the majority of people prefer. We live in an era in which many English translations of the Bible are available. No one translation is even close to being used by a majority of pastors or laypeople.
*The KJV is still the most popular translation, especially among pastors. The KJV was the number one answer among both groups, and half of all pastors either named the KJV or its updated version, the NKJV.
*There is a big divide between pastors and laypeople over the NIV. The NIV ranks beside the KJV in Bible sales in the USA, and this was reflected in the survey, as laypeople (who buy most of the Bibles) listed the NIV almost as much as the KJV. In contrast, almost no pastor listed the NIV. Laypeople also mentioned a greater variety of translations.
*The majority prefer that the pastor preach from a traditional, accurate translation. The KJV, NKJV, NASB and ESV are traditional, literal translations of the Bible. The CSB and HCSB are also accurate, though more contemporary translations, and even the NIV is much more accurate than free translations like the NLT or paraphrases like The Message. Pastors and laypeople overwhelmingly named accurate translations as their preference for pulpit use.
I do not presume to tell a pastor how to preach, but it I believe that pastors would do well to use an accurate translation from the pulpit. It has been my experience that many church members will go out and buy or download to their device the translation that their pastor uses. So choose your translation prayerfully, and use it consistently. Know your audience– just as a Hispanic pastor will choose a Spanish translation, a pastor needs to know the kind of congregation he has, and what will best communicate God’s word accurately and effectively to his people.
While reading the text from his preferred Bible translation, pastors would also do well to mention a variety of translations from time to time from the pulpit. Doing so can help clarify passages that are hard to understand, and also reminds the congregation that all English translations come from an original text that was in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.
Pastors should not condemn church members who are reading another translation of the Bible. Public condemnation of people over their Bible translation is unkind, and may humiliate a brother or sister in Christ who sincerely wants to know God’s word. Many new believers and young Christians prefer a more contemporary translation because they have difficulty understanding more traditional translations. If you have a conviction that they are not using a good translation of the Bible, you can instruct them lovingly and privately, as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos (see Acts 18:26).
Finally, pastors should announce the translation they are using, either audibly, or at least by showing it on the PowerPoint screen. It frustrates members to guess which translation is being used. Believe me, I have heard this opinion repeatedly from worshipers. Let them know what translation you are using!
Top blog posts in 2016
In case you missed them, here were my top blog posts and top new blog posts in 2016, in order of the most visits:
TOP THREE POSTS OF 2016:
1. Blessing the food: ways to say “Grace”: https://bobrogers.me/2013/10/25/blessing-the-food-ways-to-say-grace-before-meals/
2. Four great truths from the creation account in Genesis: https://bobrogers.me/2013/10/14/four-great-truths-from-the-creation-account-in-genesis/
3. Why I am changing Bible translations: https://bobrogers.me/2012/04/17/why-i-am-changing-bible-translations/
TOP THREE NEW POSTS OF 2016:
1. In this weird political year, be a patriotic prayer warrior! https://bobrogers.me/2016/05/05/be-a-patriotic-prayer-warrior/
2. Twisted scripture: “by His stripes, we are healed”: https://bobrogers.me/2016/08/07/twisted-scripture-by-his-stripes-we-are-healed/
3. Twisted scripture: “God doesn’t put on you more than you can handle”: https://bobrogers.me/2016/06/10/twisted-scripture-god-doesnt-put-on-you-more-than-you-can-handle/
The Voice translation and The Compass Study Bible
Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life, is a study Bible edition of The Voice translation, a new translation released in 2012.
I received an advance copy of The Compass Bible to review. It will not be released until February 2014, but The Voice translation itself is available in other editions now.
First, let me discuss the translation itself. Second, I will comment on the distinctions in this study edition.
The Voice translation takes a unique approach in Bible translation, which makes it difficult to classify this as a translation or a paraphrase. Perhaps it’s best to say that it is a translation that is amplified with paraphrase. That is, the text has a fairly accurate translation, but then it inserts additional words into the text in italics for clarity and explanation. For example, Romans 10:9 is translated and amplified like this: “So if you believe deep in your heart that God raised Jesus from the pit of death and if you voice your allegiance by confessing the truth that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ then you will be saved!” Here’s another example that includes even more amplification, Psalm 23:5: “You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace.” In both of these verses, the text without italics is an accurate translation, but the text added in italics amplifies and explains the meaning of the verse. The advantage of this over other paraphrases is that the reader knows which part is translation, and which part is commentary.
But there is more. On nearly every page, there is bracketed, bold text, giving background explanation of the history, culture and meaning of words and events in the passage.
As its name implies, The Voice is written to be heard. It appears in screenplay format, whenever there is dialogue, giving the name of the speaker in bold, followed by a colon. For instance, in Luke 1:60-61, the text is laid out like this:
Elizabeth (disagreeing): No, We will name him John.
Her Relatives (protesting): That name is found nowhere in your family.
The translation pays close attention to alliteration and other devices of sound, such as Genesis 1:16: “the Divine needled night with the stars.” Or another example, when the angels rejoice over Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:14: “To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!”
All of these features make The Voice a Bible that is well-suited to be heard, whether read aloud or heard in the reader’s mind.
The Compass Bible is an edition of The Voice translation that adds some appropriate Bible-reading aids, primarily in the back, which include a 40-day reading retreat plan with suggestions for meditation and prayer, a 365-day reading plan through the whole Bible, an index of notes by topic, and maps. Other than a few Bible-reading aids, there is no difference between the text in the Compass Bible and other editions of The Voice translation, as they all include the topical notes in the text. The Compass Bible is printed on a less expensive paper, and retails for less than the regular edition.
Taken together, the Compass edition of The Voice translation should make the Bible come alive to people who are not familiar with the Bible, and it should bring new insights to those who are familiar with the Bible.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I received a free copy of the Compass Bible for review, without any obligation to give a favorable review, and I did not receive any other compensation for writing this review.
If you see a video ad below this post, I do not necessarily endorse the product.