Why the King James Version Sticks Around

People can be very passionate about the version of the Bible they prefer to use. It is not uncommon to hear someone fervently demanding the King James Version is the Bible. The joke I sometimes hear (and enjoy using myself), goes like this. “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me!” Now, of course, we know that Jesus did not read the ol’ KJV. The KJV was an English translation of the Latin Vulgate and happened in 1611 AD. The Latin Bible, from which the KJV was translated, came a good while after Jesus also. The KJV was a great and historic production in its time. But, if one is looking for accuracy, making our English language reflect as closely as possible the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic of the Bible authors, there are some fine works today. I give a shout out to my fav; the New Revised Standard Version.

So why is the KJV still so widely used? The language, with all of the thee and thou sounds holy. It sounds like we might expect God to sound. We like God sounding very formal, high brow, and refined. God sounds good as an British Gentleman.  The language of the KJV gives the impression that the words of the Bible are not like the words we use on a daily basis. Our daily English is common. It is used for everything from used car commercials, advertising, and dialogue with others. It feels like we are doing scripture a injustice by allowing it to be so common sounding.

Here is a sample selection of the KJV from John 1:15 “John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.”

Yet, common language is exactly what God is going for. We like words like “incarnation” in church. It feels good to use those big words. But, we can miss the meaning. Incarnation is just a fancy way of saying that God became human in Jesus in order to build a deep and lasting relationship with us. This is why it is OK that the Bible uses the same language we use on a daily basis. Sticking with the KJV reinforces the idea that God is distant, far-off, and out of touch with our reality. The truth, is that God comes to every nation, person , and situation on earth. God speaks your native, common language. Thee and thou was great when everyone else used it daily. The glory of God is shown not only in that He makes the first move to speak to us, but that He chooses to do so in our common everyday language. This is so we can see and experience God’s Word in our common and everyday lives.

What version do you use, and why?

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About Brian Johnson

Husband, Pastor, Water-Lover

Posted on December 2, 2011, in Scripture, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I use the New American Standard Bible. Interestingly, this version and the Revised Standard Version are both revisions of the (old) American Standard Bible.

    As you pointed out, the KJV is based on another translation, not on the original languages. The Latin Vulgate was based on less than ideal original texts. Therefore, both Bibles include verses that were probably not in the original text.

    I think this is the main reason the KJV has stuck around for so long. Do an analysis of the KJV and a newer translation (NIV, NASB, NRV) and it would appear that the newer translations have removed key verses (trampling on Rev 22:19).

  2. Yes, “Thou shalt not want” sounds a lot cooler then “I have all I need”, Yet I understand the meaning better in the latter. Thanks Pastor B.
    Wayne

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