Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

King James Bible only?

Evolution of King Jimmy
by Dale Brown

It is common persuasion, usually by those unfamiliar with the difficulties of translating ancient languages, that the Bible translated in 1611 under the authority of King James was not merely authorized by the king of England but rather the "King of the Universe." They compare the style of modern English to that of 1611 and come to the conclusion that all modern translations have been tampered with and are therefore corrupt. Though it is possible for scholars to make mistakes it is generally not their intention. Even within the same language, over time there are spelling and definition problems that arise. Compare the following styles of "Englysh."

The Lord’s prayer in Old English of A.D. 1000:
Fæder ure, thu the eart on heofonum, si thin ama gehalgod . . . Urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg.

1300 English:
Fader oure that is i heuen, blessid be thi name . . . Oure ilk day bred gif us to day.

Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name . . . Give us this day our daily bread.

Our father who is in heaven, may your name be hallowed . . . Give us our daily bread today.

The evolution of English can be seen in general greetings outside the Bible as well. The origin of the modern phrase, "Good Bye," shortened to simply "Bye!" came from the gesture, "God be with you," which in 1659 was "God b ‘wy" and later in 1687 was "B’w ‘y."

Most would be offended by the King James description of men, as those who "pisseth against the wall." (1 Sam. 25:22,34, 2 Kg 9:8) However, to urinate in 1611 was nothing other than to piss, and that is how the Bible scholars spelled it. Thus we might haply peraventure to be holden to aforetime terms that no longer make for pleasant communication.  What most English translations have translated "wild ox" the KJV translates unicorn in Job 39:9 and other places.  This gives ammunition for critics who claim the Bible is nothing more than a book of myths.
Geneva Bible
King James Bible Authorized by Who?
The first Bible brought to America by the Puritan Separatists in 1620 aboard the Mayflower was the Geneva Bible.
Few people understand that the Authorized King James Version Bible of today is not an exact copy of the 1611 edition. Most people today would have a very difficult time reading the Bible as it was translated in 1611 simply because of it’s archaic style. This is especially true for people which English is their second language. It was originally printed including the Apocrypha which nearly all Evangelicals reject. Compare John 3:7 with a modern KJV. The 1611 reads, "Marueile not that I saide vnto thee, Ye must be bourne againe." The KJV went through a major revision in 1769 to correct problems in translation, wording and punctuation; and several other revisions since then, yet there are minor problems that remain to this day. In Acts 19:37, is one example. Where the Greek reads hirosulous, "robbers of temples," the KJV incorrectly renders "robbers of churches." The Greek word for Passover pasch has been mistranslated in Acts 12:4 to Easter.

A Hot Topic!
A word study of the word hell in any good concordance of the KJV reveals that there was a bit of confusion regarding hades and gehenna. Though they are two different things they are both translated hell. Revelation 20:14 further adds to the confusion by stating that hell is to be cast into the lake of fire, whereas it should read hades is to be cast into the lake of fire. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are quick to point out this problem. 

How many Devils are there?

The KJV presents us with another problem in the way it translated Devil and demons.  DIABOLOS is the word used for Satan or the Devil, whereas another word Daimon, a demon, is often mistranslated devil.  Therefore we see devils being cast out of people when in fact it should read that demons are being cast out.  There is only one Devil but many demons.  Jesus cast out an unclean spirit and then it is later called simply the devil. (Mark 1:34, 5:2,15)  

Recognizing the weaknesses of the KJV we now have a New King James Version on the market. It must be understood that the apostles did not speak English.

Though we hold to the idea that the scripture is accurate in it’s original language "All scripture is given by inspiration of God"(1 Tim. 3:16), we unfortunately do not have those originals available to us. We therefore strive to examine manuscripts dating as close to the originals as possible.

It’s All Greek Anyhow

It is claimed by some that the KJV was translated from superior manuscripts, mainly the Texus Receptus (or "Received Text"). This is a Greek translation by Catholic priest and scholar Desiderius Erasmus published in 1516, based on a few Greek manuscripts, along with the Catholic standard Latin Vulgate. This group of manuscripts is generally referred to as the Byzantine family of manuscripts. The Hebrew (Masoretic) text used in 1611 is still considered the Old Testament standard.

Since then a family of other manuscripts have been collected which come from outside the Byzantine tradition which are the Alexandrian, Western and Caesarean families. They shed new light on the scripture for a number of reasons. First, they strengthen the credibility of the Bible because though many are much older than previous manuscripts, they still harmonize, differing mainly in style but not content. Where one might say Jesus Christ, another could say Christ Jesus, etc. The 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls dating about 200 B.C. make them the oldest Jewish (Hebrew/Chaldean) manuscripts of the Old Testament. They are hundreds of years older than the standard Masoretic text yet tell the same story. Secondly, these all help clear up some areas that in the past the translators, because of ambiguity in the text, were left scratching their heads. By comparing the most reliable and oldest Greek and Hebrew text we can come up with a clearer picture of what the original author had in mind. Studying the letters or legionaries of early church fathers (especially those who were direct disciples of the apostles) is helpful because we can see how they understood the text.

In order to make the transition from a language which has a different alphabet, different structure, and is addressed to a culture of a different time period, one must use certain liberties yet within the confines of rather strict rules of textual criticism. Should lamp be translated "torch" or "flashlight" or should it remain lamp and simply let the reader bridge the gap for himself. It is often impossible to translate exactly word for word from the original language to the receptor language because one language might have no word equivalent. Or, where one language might have one word, it may require several in the other to get the point across. In English we have only one word "love" to express three Greek words, agape, phileo, and eros.  If a guy says he loves his truck, we usually understand this is something quite different than his love for his wife.
Though the KJV has served us well, one needs to be careful not to elevate any translation to the point of idolatry, and end up straining at gnats and eating camels. Nor do we want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Modern translations have approached the task of communicating a message to a diverse people using different philosophies. A "word-for-word" approach might be more accurate but makes readability wooden. The "thought-for-thought" method makes for easier reading yet leaving more room for error in translation. The "paraphrase" version is an attempt to bridge the cultural and historical gap. It serves well those who do not read well but misses the mark as far as literal meaning. A good study Bible of any version will have notes in the margin where there is discrepancy among manuscripts. It has been said that the devil is in the details. The cults who are critical of the scripture are famous for zeroing in on these minor details, and thus missing the whole picture.

Translations with an obvious cult bias such as the New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witnesses), The Clear Word Bible (Seventh-Day Adventist) and the George Lamsa version based on the Peshitta (Syriac Bible) with it’s Nestorian and anti-Greek bias are best avoided.
Some of the manuscripts housed in the British Library in London that were not available to the translators of the KJV:
The Codex Sinaiticus This is one of the two earliest complete Bibles in Greek. Constantine Tischendor discovered it in the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai where it had been for a thousand years. It was transferred to the Czar of Russia in 1859. The Russians sold it to Britain in 1933 for £100,000.
The Codex Alexandrinus This 5th-century Greek Bible was in the Patriarchal Library of Alexandria for 300 years. It was presented to Charles I in 1627 by Cyril Lucar, the Calvinistic Patriarch of Constantinople.

Books helpful in understanding the difficulties in Bible translations:
History of the New Testament in Plain language, by Clayton Harrop, Word Inc. 1984
How to Read the Bible for all its Worth, by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, Zondervan 1993
So Many Versions?, by Sakae Kubo and Walter Specht, Zondervon, 1983
The King James Version Debate, Donald Carson, Baker, 1979
The Men Behind the King James Version, by J.S. Paine 1959

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes 1997
The Story of the Scrolls by Geza Vermes 2010

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