Others in the congregation just laughed at the hoopla, or even rolled their eyes at all the fuss being made over which English translation (or "version") of the Bible they were using. Honestly, I didn't really know which group I should be a part of, so I mostly remained quiet. I did, however, feel a certain pressure to identify with the loudest group--the "KJV people."
My parents had raised me in KJV-only churches. I went a few years to a Christian school that was KJV-only. I married into a family that was very strong KJV-only on both sides. I had grown up around Christians who would take a Sharpie and mark out the NIV Bible quote on the back of a greeting card and rewrite it in KJV. Now, here I sat in a Bible College that taught the KJV-only position, but there was only one problem--I didn't really know why I was KJV-only!
Now, over two decades later, I find myself in the ministry, standing in the pulpit, saying "Get out your Old King James Bible..." And I realize there are some yelling "Amen" who have no idea why they are KJV-only, and there are others rolling their eyes saying, "Really? What is the big deal?!" I could bore you with several pages explaining the reasons I have come to be so strong on my position regarding the King James Version of the Bible, but instead, I simply want to address the readers who might be wondering, "Why the big fuss over a Bible version?" Please don't just think of us as over-zealous, radical, conspiracy theorists (all of which we may very well be), but rather consider some very basic reasons for our concern.
As technology advances, and information becomes more abundant than ever before, we are also finding an increasing ignorance of the content of the Bible. Religion as a whole seems to be shrinking, and we find our nation to be primarily of a secular "humanistic (do whatever makes you happy)" mindset. Among "non-conforming" people who call themselves "Bible-believing Christians," there are so many varying belief systems that one can hardly identify themselves with a particular set of beliefs. Yet, as many divisions as there are, many are becoming part of a movement that tries to do away with any denominational title and where everyone can just keep their divisive views and opinions to themselves. They simply want to come together to "praise and worship" God in whatever popular method of "praising" and "worshiping" their church leaders choose to lead them.
What does that have to do with Bible translations? Let me try to explain. Currently, there are hundreds of versions of the Bible, at least 50 of which are commonly used and popular in America. Among these are:
New International Version (NIV)
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
New King James Version (NKJV)
English Standard Version (ESV)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Century Version (NCV)
New English Bible (NEB)
American Standard Version (ASV)
Good News Bible (GNB) / Today’s English Version (TEV)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
New English Translation (NET)
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
God’s Word Translation (GW)
Common English Bible (CEB)
New International Readers Version (NIrV)
Easy-To-Read Version (ERV)
Bible in Basic English (BBE)
21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
What is the Modern King James Version (MKJV)?
What is the Modern English Version (MEV)?
World English Bible (WEB)
Revised English Bible (REB)
Jerusalem Bible (JB)
New American Bible (NAB)
The Living Bible (TLB)
The Message (MSG)
Young's Literal Translation (YLT)
For hundreds of years, there was basically only one English translation used among English speaking people--the "Authorized" King James Version of 1611. This was sort of a "final draft" of earlier English versions. Minor revisions were made in 1769, but they were only to keep up with major changes in the English language in regards to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Overall, the words were kept the same until the middle of the twentieth century.
Modern versions arose after archaeological discoveries were made in the late 1800's (more were made in the 1940's and early 1950's including the "Dead Sea Scrolls"). Experts claimed that many manuscripts found in these discoveries dated back before the manuscripts used to translate the King James Bible, and so they must be closer to the original Greek writings. (NOTE: Most Bible scholars will point out that the differences found in these manuscripts were so minor that it affected little, if any, "major" doctrinal beliefs. Others are not so convinced of that.)
It is interesting to notice that this was also at a time when evolutionary theories were increasingly being accepted by "scholars." Scientific experts were producing large amounts of evidence that seemed to put some biblical concepts into question (such as the age of the earth, evolution of our species, etc.). Christians started combating these ideas with new interpretations of passages in the Bible that would bridge the gap between evolutionary theories and the Bible.
So naturally, the majority of people saw a need to update the Bible to make it "relevant." They put out a new translation in 1952 called the Revised Standard Version, and from there many, many more have come. Not only did these new translations include various changes based on the "new" discoveries, but many took the liberty to change words to "better explain" what the translators believed certain passages meant. Now, it is easier than ever to pick a Bible that says what you want it to say regarding just about any topic. This brings us back to the condition of our society that is increasingly concerned about doing whatever makes them happy as opposed to seeking to do things of which God approves and disapproves.
The main reason people typically choose to use a modern version is because, they say, it is easier to understand. I haven't found that to be the case. There are many words in modern translations that are far less understandable than the words used in the King James Version.
Probably the most common phrase I hear is that "modern translations take out the confusing words like 'thee' and 'thou' and 'ye' and all that stuff." In actuality, a basic understanding of these words make certain passages much clearer. "Thee," "thy," and "thine" are all singular and "you," "your," and "yours" are all plural. In modern translations they are all changed to "you." Other languages use singular and plural tenses of personal pronouns, but in modern English there is no distinction. For this reason, the King James Version makes it much easier to understand in deciding, for example, if a passage is addressing one person or a group of people. So even if we don't talk like they did in the 1600's and 1700's, it is not that hard to figure out what the words mean (sometimes an old dictionary is helpful to see what a word meant long ago). I say all that simply to point out that there is much more to modern translations than just making archaic words easier to understand.
Quiet honestly, I believe we are in a battle against forces that want to rid the world of true Christianity, and an attack on the Bible is probably the most effective tactic that can be used to accomplish this. When people lose faith in the authority of God's word, they begin a downward spiral away from God entirely. The destruction of Christianity has always come from three sources: The world (rulers and systems that oppose the true God), the flesh (our own desires to please ourselves), and the Devil (a literal, spiritual being we call Satan, with all his forces of evil, who seeks to devour mankind and keep us from following God).
Consider the following, random ways in which we can see "the world," "the flesh," and "the Devil" at work in modern translations:
- Bibles cost money, and companies want to publish Bibles that will sell well. Remember the Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil (attack from the system of the world).
- We want to read Bibles that make us feel good about ourselves and are more enjoyable to read (attack of the flesh)
- Multiple Bibles in a church causes confusion and doubt about the authority of the Bible. This can lead people away from the faith entirely (attack of Satan)
- Various translations can accommodate different belief systems, keeping people from the truth (attack of Satan)
- We want to keep up with modern trends (attack of the flesh)
- A variety of choices in translations fits into our "tolerant," humanistic culture (attack from the system of the world)
So, as much as there is out there to understand about the preservation of the Bible and the accuracies and inaccuracies of modern translations, the real question is who are you going to trust to translate your Bible without being affected by "the world," "the flesh," and "the devil?" If the King James Bible was used successfully for hundreds of years with hardly any other translations out there for English speaking people to read, it seems like we should be okay with that one. In my opinion, we should be very cautious to accept anything our modern world has to offer.
Please understand that just because some of us are so passionate about this subject, it doesn't make us all crazy. Excuse us if we seem to be making too much of a fuss out of this issue. If you go to a church where a different version is used, we may be concerned about it, but we are not implying that you or your church leaders are inherently evil and hate the Bible. We just feel very confident in standing firm on the "Old King James Bible," and want you to consider doing the same.