The Majestic Language of the King James Bible

Although some may assume that modern Bible versions are the product of scholarship superior to that of the translators of the King James Version (KJV) of 1611, this assumption is not supported by the facts. The learned men who labored on our English Bible were men of exceptional ability who approached the task with a reverent regard for the Divine inspiration, au-thority and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. To them it was "God's sacred Truth" and demanded the exercise of their utmost care and fidelity in its translation.

Miles Smith, one of the KJV translators, wrote: "There were many cho-sen who were greater in other men's eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise." Mr. Smith wrote an introduction to the KJV which unfortunately is left out of most editions today. Under the heading "The Praise of the Holy Scriptures," he wrote in the same majestic style found in the King James Version:

"But now what piety without truth, what saving truth without the word of God? What word of God whereof we may be sure, without the Scrip-ture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search. They are commend-ed that searched and studied them. They are reproved that were unskill-ful in them, or slow to believe them. They can make us wise unto salva-tion. If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, com-fort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us. Tolle lege; Tolle lege; take up and read, take up and read the Scriptures."

Time does not permit an exhaustive treatment of the majesty of the language used in the KJV. Sufficient must be a few illustrations of the 'verve' of the KJV compared to other versions. Often by coincidence and sometimes by intent, some of the so-called "improved translations" constitute a challenge to accuracy as well as style.

The James Moffat Bible, understood to be a controversial translation, was developed with the stated goal of presenting the Bible in plain English. Yet consider how the 1934 edition of the James Moffat translation presents the commentary on the Prophet Moses in the last three verses of Deuteronomy (34:10-12):

James Moffat Bible: Since then, no prophet has ever appeared in Israel like Moses, a man with whom the Eternal had intercourse face to face - un-equaled for all the signal acts which the Eternal sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, on Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land, as well as for all the mighty deeds and awful power which Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel.

In contrast, the KJV reads: 10And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11In all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants, and to all his land, 12And in all that mighty hand, and all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel. Moffat is rough and matter of fact; the KJV dramatic and inspiring.

No more damage could be done to a passage of Scripture, both in beau-ty and accuracy than has been done to the words of Job (19:25-27) in the New English Bible (NEB), which reads:

NEB: But in my heart I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; and I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other.

In contrast, the KJV reads: 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Truly what clarity and confidence the language of the KJV inspires in those who hope in the Lord!

The New International Version (NIV) is one of the most popular trans-lations in use today, described as fresh and dynamic yet notorious for its deletion of words as well as whole verses in addition to other changes in its attempt to produce a translation that would speak to people 'in their own culture.' That goal was pursued at the expense of the inerrancy and inspira-tion of the individual words of Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 4:12 serves as an example of the NIV's language impacting both style and meaning:

NIV: So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

In contrast, the KJV reads: That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

The majesty of the KJV's language here flows sublime in contrast to the NIV verse, but of greater concern is the NIV interpretation. Although its proponents argue that none of the textual 'variants' are particularly important and no doctrine is affected, in this passage, the original desire expressed was for Christians to "walk honestly toward them that are without" while the NIV would have the believer "win the respect of outsiders," in essence sub-stituting the desired result for the effect; and while the original statement would have the believer "lacking nothing," the NIV interprets that as not having to depend upon anyone, again a different thought. As far as accuracy and fidelity to the texts of the original languages are concerned, the NIV is found to be lacking.

We who believe in the Divine inspiration of the Bible are inclined to feel that the Lord chose the most suitable time and place in history as well as the most suitable translators to introduce His word to the English speaking peo-ple who have cherished it for four hundred years and have transported it to the ends of the earth. In the words of Miles Smith, "The Scriptures then be-ing acknowledged to be so full and so perfect, how can we excuse ourselves of negligence, if we do not study them? of curiosity, if we be not content with them."

E. R. Evans, Burlington, ON