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Author Topic: The King James Version and Fundamentalism  (Read 1432 times)

ehbowen

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The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« on: September 23, 2017, 03:20:51 am »
Found while searching for Jenett's meme:



You are mostly correct. The King James bible is very popular with Fundamentalists. In fact, the two fundamentalist schools I went to wouldn't allow versions other than King James. Which meant that we had to go out and buy a new bible just for my classes at school. Stupid. Because my maternal grandmother had given me quite an excellent bible for my first communion. It had lots of footnotes explaining the trickier parts of the text, and had charts and things listing dates and whatnot. Funny, because my mother's parents weren't really all that enthused about my mom and dad converting to Catholicism...

The New American Bible is the official Catholic version used in the States. We also use the New Jerusalem Bible. My mom used to read that one every morning before she became somewhat disillusioned. Now she seems to prefer the Dalai Lama, and describes herself as a Universalist. I love how she's evolved spiritually.

I never understood the fundamentalist insistence on the King James Bible, since as translations go, it has some real problems if you're insisting on the literal truth. Like...translating re'em as "unicorn." That's the one I can think of off the top of my head. I can't think of any evangelicals that advocate for the existence of real unicorns, but they're in there, and if they're not real, then it's a problem with the translation (and it is, since a re'em seems to have actually been a wild ox) and if it's a problem with the translation, why don't you get a better translation? Or better still, just realize that you can't insist on the whole text being literally true, because IT CONTRADICTS ITSELF IN SO MANY PLACES.

Speaking as someone who has spent a good deal of time in fundamentalist churches, I wanted to explain...as explained to me...the reasons why many insist upon the King James Version. Now, some of it is plain and simple inertia; that is the version which was used almost universally during the early years of my nation's existence and it had a great influence upon language, scholarship and law. However, there are some reasons why many fundamentalist churches continue to promote the King James Version. You may not agree that they are good reasons, but they are reasons.

First, you should know that KJV-onlyism (as it's sometimes known) is a polarizing subject. A number of churches and believers scoff at it while others cling to it. The ones who promote it most strongly, in my experience, are those from the Independent Fundamental Baptist (aka Bible Baptist Fellowship) tradition. Many of them were heavily influenced by John R. Rice; check out The Sword of the Lord for some light reading... ;) Be that as it may, here are some of the reasons as explained to me by an IFB pastor:

  • The source text: Most of the recent English New Testament translations are based upon a "critical text"...one which was edited together from fragments of older manuscripts, some of which are dated back to the 4th century and possibly earlier. The most common one in use is that of Westcott & Hort, although the Nestle-Aland text which follows it closely is sometimes used as well. On the other hand, the King James Version was translated from the Textus Receptus which comes directly from the Byzantine tradition and which was used as the basis for Martin Luther's works. While the tradition it is based upon has ancient roots, the TR was not officially published as such until the early 16th century and so is regarded lightly by many these days for its lack of antiquity. The TR apologists, which include the KJV-only community, argue that antiquity is no guarantee of purity and that a text which is "eclectic" and "critical" is likely to have distortions introduced by the biases of its editors.
  • Dynamic equivalence vs. literal equivalence: Many of the more recent translations, such as the NIV, use what is called dynamic equivalence: They don't try to actually translate the original word-for-word, but rather "thought for thought." The King James translators, on the other hand, attempted to come to the most literal rendering of the text which was possible given the state of the English language at the time the translation was made and their knowledge of ancient Greek. Those who most strongly support the KJV feel that "dynamic equivalence" is tantamount to paraphrasing or substituting man's words for God's.
  • Divine sanction: While this is not something which can be quantified, those who emphasize use of the KJV often believe that it evidences a special anointing from God in the many works and great revivals which were based upon it, such as the Great Awakenings. The pastor I spoke with put it this way: "I believe that God will provide his words to me in a language and an idiom which I can understand, and I believe that the King James Version is that word in the English language."
  • Majesty and poetry of language: There can be little argument that much of the KJV is incredibly majestic and poetic. Genesis 1 is awe-inspiring, and the tone seldom lets down from there. The KJV, in many cases, is the version of record for hymns, quotations, secular writings, and more. Quick; quote John 3:16 from memory; which version did you use? While I normally use the New King James Version of 1982 in reading, review, and study I will usually drop back to the KJV if you ask me to quote a passage, such as the 23rd Psalm, from memory.

With all that said there are also valid reasons not to use the KJV. The English language has moved on since 1611...and a lot. For that matter the KJV has moved on as well; many of the KJV-only types will tell you that they only use the "King James Version of 1611!"...only to find, when you press them on it, that they've never even seen a copy of the King James Version from 1611. I have; it verges upon unreadable. The "King James Version" actually received major revisions and updates in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. And there things sat for more than two centuries; the "King James Version" sold as such these days is almost certainly the 1769 revision.

In the mid-1970s the Thomas Nelson company had the idea to revisit the KJV again and commissioned an entirely new translation. Their translators were chosen for doctrinal orthodoxy and for adherence to the principle of literal equivalence in translation, excepting only those passages where the ancient idiom could not be directly translated into English in a meaningful way. For the Old Testament source text they used Biblia Hebraica; for the New Testament source they used the Textus Receptus. For both Old and New Testaments they also referred to other variant sources such as the Septuagint, the eclectic/critical Westcott-Hort & Nestle-Aland texts, and the Greek "Majority Text", using footnotes to document differences. They used the KJV style as a basis but updated the obsolete pronouns and took care to render poetry, such as Psalms and Proverbs, in a poetic format. This was published as the "New King James Version" in 1982 and I find it very enlightening; it's the version I use most often for personal study.

Of course, some people still weren't happy with it....
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Naunau

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2017, 07:36:04 am »
Of course, some people still weren't happy with it....

Lol, that site. "Both translations cannot be correct. If one is right, the other has to be wrong. No matter how you slice it, the NKJV does not have the same meaning as the accurate King James Bible."

Why are they basing the accuracy on the older translation instead of the original? I have no idea which one is more accurate but come on

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2017, 09:03:02 am »
Found while searching for Jenett's meme:

Speaking as someone who has spent a good deal of time in fundamentalist churches, I wanted to explain...as explained to me...the reasons why many insist upon the King James Version. Now, some of it is plain and simple inertia; that is the version which was used almost universally during the early years of my nation's existence and it had a great influence upon language, scholarship and law. However, there are some reasons why many fundamentalist churches continue to promote the King James Version. You may not agree that they are good reasons, but they are reasons.

First, you should know that KJV-onlyism (as it's sometimes known) is a polarizing subject. A number of churches and believers scoff at it while others cling to it. The ones who promote it most strongly, in my experience, are those from the Independent Fundamental Baptist (aka Bible Baptist Fellowship) tradition. Many of them were heavily influenced by John R. Rice; check out The Sword of the Lord for some light reading... ;) Be that as it may, here are some of the reasons as explained to me by an IFB pastor:

  • The source text: Most of the recent English New Testament translations are based upon a "critical text"...one which was edited together from fragments of older manuscripts, some of which are dated back to the 4th century and possibly earlier. The most common one in use is that of Westcott & Hort, although the Nestle-Aland text which follows it closely is sometimes used as well. On the other hand, the King James Version was translated from the Textus Receptus which comes directly from the Byzantine tradition and which was used as the basis for Martin Luther's works. While the tradition it is based upon has ancient roots, the TR was not officially published as such until the early 16th century and so is regarded lightly by many these days for its lack of antiquity. The TR apologists, which include the KJV-only community, argue that antiquity is no guarantee of purity and that a text which is "eclectic" and "critical" is likely to have distortions introduced by the biases of its editors.
  • Dynamic equivalence vs. literal equivalence: Many of the more recent translations, such as the NIV, use what is called dynamic equivalence: They don't try to actually translate the original word-for-word, but rather "thought for thought." The King James translators, on the other hand, attempted to come to the most literal rendering of the text which was possible given the state of the English language at the time the translation was made and their knowledge of ancient Greek. Those who most strongly support the KJV feel that "dynamic equivalence" is tantamount to paraphrasing or substituting man's words for God's.
  • Divine sanction: While this is not something which can be quantified, those who emphasize use of the KJV often believe that it evidences a special anointing from God in the many works and great revivals which were based upon it, such as the Great Awakenings. The pastor I spoke with put it this way: "I believe that God will provide his words to me in a language and an idiom which I can understand, and I believe that the King James Version is that word in the English language."
  • Majesty and poetry of language: There can be little argument that much of the KJV is incredibly majestic and poetic. Genesis 1 is awe-inspiring, and the tone seldom lets down from there. The KJV, in many cases, is the version of record for hymns, quotations, secular writings, and more. Quick; quote John 3:16 from memory; which version did you use? While I normally use the New King James Version of 1982 in reading, review, and study I will usually drop back to the KJV if you ask me to quote a passage, such as the 23rd Psalm, from memory.

With all that said there are also valid reasons not to use the KJV. The English language has moved on since 1611...and a lot. For that matter the KJV has moved on as well; many of the KJV-only types will tell you that they only use the "King James Version of 1611!"...only to find, when you press them on it, that they've never even seen a copy of the King James Version from 1611. I have; it verges upon unreadable. The "King James Version" actually received major revisions and updates in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. And there things sat for more than two centuries; the "King James Version" sold as such these days is almost certainly the 1769 revision.

In the mid-1970s the Thomas Nelson company had the idea to revisit the KJV again and commissioned an entirely new translation. Their translators were chosen for doctrinal orthodoxy and for adherence to the principle of literal equivalence in translation, excepting only those passages where the ancient idiom could not be directly translated into English in a meaningful way. For the Old Testament source text they used Biblia Hebraica; for the New Testament source they used the Textus Receptus. For both Old and New Testaments they also referred to other variant sources such as the Septuagint, the eclectic/critical Westcott-Hort & Nestle-Aland texts, and the Greek "Majority Text", using footnotes to document differences. They used the KJV style as a basis but updated the obsolete pronouns and took care to render poetry, such as Psalms and Proverbs, in a poetic format. This was published as the "New King James Version" in 1982 and I find it very enlightening; it's the version I use most often for personal study.

Of course, some people still weren't happy with it....

I love the KJV.  I use it for personal reading and the Daily Office, but it is odd that fundamentalists often ascribe inerrancy and a divinely inspired status to a translation made by Anglicans, and Anglicans have never been fundamentalists.  We have never ascribed such a status to this text, and at least in the USA most Episcopal parishes rarely or never use it anymore.  My parish uses the RSV in a Rite One and also a 1928 BCP context. Furthermore the text was intended for use with the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer containing doctrines foreign to fundamentalism.  It also includes the Apocrypha.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2017, 09:07:46 am by EclecticWheel »
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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2017, 06:39:33 pm »
... it is odd that fundamentalists often ascribe inerrancy and a divinely inspired status to a translation made by Anglicans...

It also contains errors. Funny, that.
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MadZealot

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2017, 07:20:49 pm »
With all that said there are also valid reasons not to use the KJV. The English language has moved on since 1611...and a lot.

Yep. So has the field of scholarship when it comes to translation. That pastor you mention talked about having useful and understandable idiom. Well the original texts are full of idiom, most of which will be lost on the modern reader. And the guys behind the KJV were very likely not historians, nor versed in philology, linguistics, or cultural studies.
You can tell I'm not a KJV-only guy. Heh.

Quote
Of course, some people still weren't happy with it....
Yeah. Chick dot com. About that...
« Last Edit: November 01, 2017, 07:22:49 pm by MadZealot »
Oh, is it time again to say "Fuck Trump gently in the ear with a swarm of pissed-off hornets?"?

Okay. Fuck Trump gently in the ear with a swarm of pissed-off hornets.

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2017, 07:33:06 pm »
That pastor you mention talked about having useful and understandable idiom. Well the original texts are full of idiom, most of which will be lost on the modern reader. And the guys behind the KJV were very likely not historians, nor versed in philology, linguistics, or cultural studies.

One of my favs here - from my college New Testament Greek class, which was me, another student, and our professor - was doing the letter from Paul to Philemon. He pointed out all the formal legal language, and the fact that we don't always know these days exactly what was meant by some of it - i.e. some of it clearly has implications that no one wrote down anywhere we can read it - but that a lot of translators skim over the fact where he's using precise phrases with a highly refined meaning.
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MadZealot

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2017, 07:45:29 pm »
One of my favs here - from my college New Testament Greek class, which was me, another student, and our professor - was doing the letter from Paul to Philemon. He pointed out all the formal legal language, and the fact that we don't always know these days exactly what was meant by some of it - i.e. some of it clearly has implications that no one wrote down anywhere we can read it - but that a lot of translators skim over the fact where he's using precise phrases with a highly refined meaning.

Yup, stuff like that. 

Not long ago I heard a pastor discuss the 'be not unequally yoked' bit in II Corinthians (that's "Two Corinthians", if you're reading from the Gospel of Trump).  He broke it down in a way first-Century agrarian audiences would've understood it, because modern readers just don't think in those terms.
I'm sure there are plenty more examples, but I'm drawing a blank.
Oh, is it time again to say "Fuck Trump gently in the ear with a swarm of pissed-off hornets?"?

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Re: The King James Version and Fundamentalism
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2017, 06:18:24 pm »
Yup, stuff like that. 

Not long ago I heard a pastor discuss the 'be not unequally yoked' bit in II Corinthians (that's "Two Corinthians", if you're reading from the Gospel of Trump).  He broke it down in a way first-Century agrarian audiences would've understood it, because modern readers just don't think in those terms.
I'm sure there are plenty more examples, but I'm drawing a blank.

I vaguely recall hearing about a whole book based around this idea, basically finding some modern middle-eastern farmers and such and interviewing them about what meanings they picked up from stories in the New Testament. It would make an interesting read, if I could remember what the heck it was called.

 

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