Saturday, June 01, 2013

Elizabethan/KJV English

I was thinking the other day about the advantages of the King James Version. Here's what I came up with.

1. It is more precise than modern versions. Note I didn't say more accurate, but rather, more precise, as demonstrated by this tutorial. But, in order to take advantage of that precision, the reader must learn a new language (as demonstrated by that tutorial). You can get the gist of the KJV if you understand 21st Century English, but to take advantage of its precision, you have to do some language studies. At that point, you might as well just go all the way and learn the original underlying Greek and/or Hebrew.

2. It's Public Domain, which means you can quote/copy it freely, without fear of infringing some copyright. This is somewhat mitigated however by more modern versions that are also PD, such as the World English Bible (an updated version of the 1901 ASV).

3. Everyone has access to it, thus making it the Lowest Common Denominator for accessible versions of the Bible. It's likely the version most people are familiar with, and which most people associate as being "the Bible".

4. It's the basis for many of our historical/cultural references ("Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death..."; "For unto you is born this day..."; "Judge not, that ye be not judged."; etc).

In my view, these advantages are outweighed by its disadvantages, of which these two seem the biggest to me:

1) It's less accurate than more modern versions, due both to changes in the English language since then and to better understandings/findings of the ancient text/world in which the Bible was written.

2) It's less understandable than modern versions. Many KJV advocates would disagree, but I'm confident that if you put a KJV and an ESV or HCSB in front of a 10th grader and have him read random portions out of each version, the student will understand the modern version more readily.

It should also be noted that some KJV advocates believe that just as God inspired the original writing of the Bible's text, he inspired the translation of that text into the KJV. That's a whole 'nuther subject.

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