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.
I’m a missionary in the Philippines, and even here–where English is the third language for many millions–the wicked KJV-only teaching is blocking people from having a Bible in their language. 😡
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Hey John, can you give some more details on this for those of us in the USA? Where I’m at it’s a matter of people coming to false doctrine because of their inability to really understand the text, but I didn’t consider that it would encourage people to hinder making the Bible available in other languages. Thanks for sharing, and God bless you my friend!
The KJV-Only loonies claim to be loyal to the Textus Receptus, a Greek New Testament manuscript compilation completed in the 1500s. Since modern translations in every language (correctly) use other manuscripts in their translation work, the KJVOs insist that everyone should read the one translation that relies on the Textus Receptus.
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I’ve heard a few debates back and forth, and the KJV side, while not completely devoid of thought or reason, (to put it nicely) does not seem like the stronger position. Yet people end up saying weird things like, “The Bible didn’t exist for 1600 years,” and I always think, HOW do you not hear yourself say these things? And why do you think the ONE TRUE Bible would be in Shakespearean English? I don’t understand the human race sometimes, and I have to constantly remind myself, Jesus loves all of those people.
Thanks for your comments as always John!
‘Tis is food f’r bethought. One ought to pond’r and prayeth upon this. But at which hour thine prayest, doth ensureth yond at each given moment yond thou useth king james english exclusively lest our Fath’r in heaven shalt holdeth not His peace ‘gainst thine prayeth’r
Uh… forsooth? Me thinkest thou hast a gas leak in thine house. Callest for thine kingsmen to check for methane and deprivation of oxygen milad!
I like the KJV in the Psalms.
I can see that.
Hopefully the cultists can learn to be a little more accepting.
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I agree with you mostly I am not a cultist or a flat earther and I use KJV I didn’t really grow up with it, gut did hear it preached the few times my mother sent me to church when I was little. My very first Bible of my own was in plain English we speak today and I loved that Bible so much. My daughter has it now it is full of high lighter where I marked things I love. In my twenties I read that Bible three times ( not bragging just love the Word that much.) The Bible I purchased from The Way Ministries they ran home based church meetings that I attended as a teenager. I have never read the KJV cover to cover, but I am seriously considering and I think many people do not know what a lot of the words mean like you said.
I read a lot of Shakespeare in high school and had a great teacher that helped me a lot. I love British TV shows and humor. Learning new languages at the age of 60 is probably not going to happen at least not fully I have a hard enough time with American English at times I tell my man words are hard. I have been an avid reader since I was a young child so maybe that helps. The first book I ever read on my own was the 12 Labors of Hercules and many of the words i didn’t understand and couldn’t pronounce, but I got the point of it.
In my opinion there are far to many bad translations out there today like the Bible just for women, the Bible just for men, Bibles that make God gender neutral, Bibles that make God a woman, and one that makes the Holy Spirit female. I think these do far more harm than the KJV does. Just yesterday I had a conversation with a woman that insisted that Holy Spirit is female and I couldn’t get out of her what Bible she used, but I bet it is one of the weird new ones out there.
I do have a question for you though is Mary the mother of Jesus? I do have a reason for asking.
Is Mary the mother of Jesus? Yes, in the sense that Jesus is the Son of God incarnate, and she is the mother of his humanity. But that is distinct from how some call her the “mother of God,” because she is not the mother of His divinity. Jesus is and always was God, and did not come into being when he was born, but only took on humanity when he was born. This is what John chapter 1 is trying to say. Let me know if all of that makes sense. I am here to help.
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Yes, that makes sense and that is what I told someone Mary is the mother of His humanity. This person kept insisting she was nothing more than a vessel and I feel that even Jesus would object to that. I would never say she was the mother of God, because He has always been. The point I was trying to make to her is the fact she gave birth to His human form that makes Him her son in that part of it and her His mother. I know He had many names before He was named Yeshua like the Word.
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Hope you’re having a good day today.
Hello from the UK
Many thanks for your post. As John Allcot says “…KJV-Only loonies…”! The KJV is great to read in once sense though. When I went to university I met up with the Christian Union and found that when I went to the bible studies with my christening leather bound KJV things made sense that hadn’t before.
However, I knew it had limitations and bought a NASB which was certainly better in many ways.
But none of the translations are that good, and even words have been left out that should have and could have been translated. I looked at the original text in Hebrew for example and said after some study ‘Well that is clearly what it means.’
But ultimately the Holy Spirit guides us and uses the imperfect translations to get at the truth.
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