I know that many of you hold the King James Version of the Bible in a special place in your hearts as your favorite translation. Many of you read and quote nothing else, and I am about to make all of you kind of mad- but before you go throwing full grape juice bottles at your computer screen, please hear me out.
My position is founded on the many MANY videos I have watched on the interwebs about theology. I like theology because I am that kind of nerd, and so I watch a lot of videos about many Bible related topics. However, when I hear a man quoting scripture say “Thou” or “speakest” or “bubukles,” it’s a red flag that tells me his theology has a better than 79% chance of being ridiculous.
When a person on the internet breaks out the old King James like it’s nothing and starts quoting the 1611 AD English, I know before he even makes his point that whatever theological point he is about to make has a better chance of being ridiculous than a Tweet made by a New York politician.
Ok, that is an exaggeration, but to make a point.
Yes, he is quoting the Bible, which has convinced him that his position is the ONLY Biblical position that should be tolerated by the church. Yet, his position is almost certain to be nonsense that makes me want to involuntarily slap my own forehead in dismay because a man is using the Bible to teach the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the Bible actually teaches. Sometimes it is revealed that they are insane cultists who are intending to fight actual Christian doctrine, but not all of the time. Just too often.
But HOW? How does a man quoting from the Bible manage to come to such an absurdly unbiblical position?
It’s because he has no idea what the Bible actually SAYS.
And the reason why is that NOBODY HAS TALKED LIKE THAT FOR 400 YEARS.
Shakespeare is beautiful
Shakespeare is beautiful poetry which still influences modern culture. But no one knows what it means. That’s why I’ve never bought a Shakespeare play unless it was the “No Fear Shakespeare” version (Or No Sweat Shakespeare) with the Modern English translation in it. Otherwise you get to a line like “Say, good Caesar, that I some lady trifles have reserved, immoment toys, things of such dignity as we greet modern friends withal.” and you have to just skip on by and hope it wasn’t important to the plot.
And a few pages later you read “The poisonous damp of night disponge upon me.” and you start sweating, immediately looking for a summary on YouTube so you can finish that English class homework you’ve been putting off for two and a half weeks.
I get why people perform and watch Shakespeare in the original language. It’s because it is written as musical poetry, and the words and meter and rhymes all create a sort of musical performance to the text that the plain modern translation can’t do. But this doesn’t explain why some people still read the KJV. No one is reading the KJV as performance art.
The Power of Nostalgia
Readers of the KJV, both Christians and cultists alike, just like the way it sounds, and most of them were raised on it. It has the familiar sound of the preaching they were raised on, and the scriptures they memorized. When you’re familiar with the sound of the KJV translation, reading anything else is like hearing Romeo saying, “Hey, look, it’s Juliet leaning on her hand!” and Juliet saying, “Why are you named Romeo? Why are you a Montague? Why can’t you be named something else?” Technically, that’s exactly what they are saying but it doesn’t SOUND right.
Some people have some stupid belief that the KJV translation is the one true Bible – not only the ONLY acceptable translation, but somehow more true and Holy than the original scripture written 1600 years before. They call the NIV “satanic.” There is even a preacher in this country stupid enough to tell people that, unless they’ve heard the KJV read out loud that they cannot be saved.
I wonder if he knows that there are languages other than English. But I digress.
For most people, it’s a simple matter of tradition. It SOUNDS religious because it’s what they have heard in church their whole lives, or in movies where characters read from the Bible. Or maybe on the Simpsons. But these are all terrible reasons to keep reading the Bible in a language that hasn’t been spoken in hundreds of years.
British is STILL a Foreign Language
Here is the foundation of my argument: YOU DO NOT SPEAK 1611AD British English. Therefore, you cannot use the KJV to understand what God intended us to learn from His Word without the same amount of effort you would have to make to read it in the original Greek or Hebrew. And let’s face it, you haven’t done that and there is little to no chance that you’re going to. You have ranch salad dressing in your fridge that you’ve meant to throw away for almost a full year, and laundry that you’ve intended to fold and put away for WEEKS. You haven’t even watched half of those videos you bookmarked on Netflix or on YouTube. You’re never getting around to learning another language. I’m not judging. I’m right there with you. As I write this, my laundry sits behind me waiting to be put away, and my “Watch Later” list has more than a thousand videos in it. We’re all in this together.
400 year old 1611AD British English IS another language. Just consider the fact that most Americans can’t understand the English people of TODAY (including any television put out by the BBC since Monty Python’s Flying Circus), and we have trouble reading the books written by Americans from before the 1920’s. Most of us still get confused by the fact that Canadians don’t call Canadian Bacon “Canadian Bacon.” And Canada is basically just Michigan North.
The Bible exists to teach people about the history of the world, the nation of Israel, and the Christian church. It depicts the events and doctrines which have come from God interacting with his people. If you can’t understand it, then it is useless to you. You won’t learn the truth anymore than if you were to try and read the original Greek. For most Americans, reading the KJV is no different from reading Shakespeare- we only understand a third of it. But that means the other two thirds are going to be used by flat earthers and cultists and weirdos of every kind. Don’t be that weirdo. If I watch your theology video and catch you quoting the KJV, I shall headst to thine comments section and say “Thou speakest bubukles!”
And neither of us will have any idea what I mean.