I don't use the KJV, and think you shouldn't too

I don’t like the KJV. On a basic level I find it hard to understand, and I like to understand what I am reading. So when I arrived in India I was amazed to find how many evangelical (Pentecostal) Christians used it and were part of the “KJV only” camp – surely this is hard enough to understand for people who have spoken English as their first language, why o why impose it on those speaking it as their second language? Long have I admitted it served a great purpose in its day, God used it in amazing ways, but now it deserves a long, long sleep. Fortunately I am not alone in such thinking and at the end of the year in which the KJV celebrated its 400th anniversary, I was pleased to read – you might not agree with all of their reasoning but I think the thrust of the argument is good.

Today however, the understandability of a Bible translated in 1611 but not significantly updated since the late 1700′s is a questionable premise. For several reasons:

English is a fluid, changing language. In the words of the Cliff Richard song, “It’s so funny how we don’t talk like that anymore.” (I may have added a couple of words.) Furthermore, some words actually mean the opposite today of what they did then.

We now have better manuscripts. And verification from a greater number of fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. And a whole lot of other documents that are contemporary to the time the Bible documents were written. So we know, for example that some KJV place names are really people names and vice versa. (John White’s The King James Only Controversy is must-reading on this subject.)

We have higher standards of translation and a better understanding of when to include something in the text and when to add it as a footnote or save it for a commentary. We also know — for sure — that Paul did not invoke the name of God in Romans 6:1. No other translation adopts the KJV “God forbid!” It is — to use a word that offends Bible translation purists — a paraphrase. A British colloquialism.

Perpetuating language written in a Shakespearean form somehow robs the Bible of its relevance to real people living real lives in the 21st century. Yes, it may be easier to memorize, and it sounds churchy, but it clearly has what linguist Eugene Nida calls “a high fog index.” Really, to cling to it in 2012 is no different than the attitude of Roman Catholics who perpetuated the Latin Mass. And it defies the spirit of William Tyndale, who the KJV translation team greatly revered.

There’s a guilty-by-association thing going on with the KJV-only crowd: The people who stand for the exclusivity of this particular text often tend to stand for other causes. I wouldn’t necessarily associate them people who picket soldier’s funerals, or the people who burn the Koran, or the people who wildly predict dates for the world to end. No, I’d leave that for you to connect the dots. Heck, even the King James Bible translators weren’t KJV-only.

Wesley exemplifies grace

I am reading the Journal of John Wesley – it is available as a Kindle book for only 86 pence, (by the way you can download a kindle app for any computer even if you dont have a kindle) – it is full of wonderful stories and early on this beautiful example of tact and grace is recollected:

Once when Wesley and one of his itinerant preachers were taking lunch at a wealthy home, an incident occurred which showed the great man’ tact. The daughter of the house, a beautiful girl, was much impressed with Wesley’s preaching. While conversing with the young lady, the itinerant noticed she was wearing a number of rings; holding her hand up for Wesley to see, he said, “What do you think of this sir for a Methodist’s hand?” (Wesley’s aversion for the wearing of jewelry was well known.) The girl blushed, and no doubt felt ill at ease, but with characteristic poise Wesley only smiled and said, “The hand is very beautiful.” The young lady appeared at the next service without her gems, and became a devoted Christian.

Jesus

One word, one name, one reason, let all else pale into insignificance in the light of his glory and majesty, he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords – I hope you have a wonderful Christmas time, but more than that, I pray you will know the blessing of God in 2012, that grace, peace and mercy will guide you so that you might love and serve the only true and living God.

 

 

How to be a missionary

My oldest daughter, Hannah, writes for the Wycliffe UK blog, she writes very well informing, stimulating and encouraging the readers.  This insightful sketch of the missionary life was posted by her on December 19th, (though if read carefully it has great relevance for Christians in general). My own disclaimer is that I agree with the first six points only – after all, who needs hair?

From time to time our little Wycliffe blog plays host to a selection of potted biographies of missionary figures. I felt sure that the key to the great missionary life must lie in their stories.

So, after deep analysis, here’s my ‘missionary how-to’:

  1. Be unsuccessful.William Carey, the Bible-translating missionary to India, famously started off as a cobbler, studying languages while mending shoes. Gladys Aylward (catch her biography on January 3rd) was a domestic. David Brainerd never completed his studies because he was expelled from Yale University.
  2. If you get a good job, make sure it has no bearing on the work you will do in the future. CT Studd was a Cambridge student and a professional cricketer; James Fraser was an accomplished pianist; and Anthony Norris Groves was a dentist.
  3. Make sure that your support is generally poor. Carey’s initial enthusiasm to reach the unreached was belittled with the response, ‘Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.’ Groves received so little support that he ended up starting the practice now known as ‘faith missions’.
  4. When you finally wade through your lack of experience and poor support structure, test your faith more by having very little initial response. Brainerd, Fraser and Carey saw very few responses to their call to faith in the initial years. For Adoniram Judson, it was seven years before the first convert. After years working on the Algonquin Bible translation, many of the copies and manuscripts John Eliot has produced were destroyed in a fire. And Townsend and Legters (Wycliffe founders) couldn’t even get across the Mexican border.
  5. Now you’ve got around to work, compound your problems with poor mental and physical health. ‘A museum of diseases’ was the epithet one doctor attached to Studd. Brainerd was both depressed and had tuberculosis, which lead to his death aged 28. Dorothy Carey tried to kill her husband twice.
  6. Really annoy the authorities. John Wycliffe’s translation work was so hated that he was burnt as a heretic 43 years after his death.
  7. If all else fails, try a good hairstyle. Check out Robert Moffat’s and Eliot’s.

The evident truth is that the key to the proclamation of the truth does not lie in the stories of men and women but in God’s Story. He chooses the clay vessels. Share God’s Story.

Disclaimer: Wycliffe Bible Translators take no responsibility for careers failed or lives lost as a result of taking this blog post too seriously.