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John Howard Reid

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King James versus the Bible
by John Howard Reid   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

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I was shocked to receive a Christmas greeting from a Bible website quoting an impossibly prolix King James scripture full of ridiculous wheretofores and howsomevers. I thought this rubbish had died a well-deserved death. Even most Fundamentalists don't use it any more. But no! Good old King James is still puffing along at some major Bible sites.


The original language used in most of the New Testament is simple, everyday stuff. Picking up my Greek bible at random and quoting from Mark 3:13: "And he goes up into the mountain and he calls those he wanted. And they went to him. And he made twelve to be with him. He wanted to send them out to preach, and to have authority to expel demons. And he selected the twelve. And he added a name to Simon: Peter."
That's about as far away from King James language as you can possibly get. When you're reading the New Testament, your natural reaction should be to itch to polish it up a bit. To eliminate some of the unnecessarily repetitive "ands" and to do something to vary the monotonous progression of subject verb object, subject verb object, subject verb object.
I see in my translation, "MARK and JOHN: The First and Last Gospels", I've written: "Later on, Jesus went up into the hill country and summoned some of His disciples. They came to Him and He chose twelve of them to be His close companions, whom He would send out to preach in His name, and to whom He gave the power to exorcize devils. And these were the twelve He chose: Simon (whom He renamed Peter)..." 
Even this, simple as it is, is taking an enormous liberty with what Mark actually wrote. I feel guilty about making so many changes. And if Jesus were to shout at me, "Why did you do all that?" I'd have to shuffle my feet, and say, "I'm sorry, Lord, I couldn't help it. I just had to clean it up a bit!"
But when you read a King James Bible, you don't get the feeling that the "translators" feel guilty about embroidering the Bible. Not the least bit guilty in fact. Rather, the reverse! I get the feeling that they're actually relishing all this tosh they're writing. That they're actually having a competition among themselves as to who can get the furthest away and the most removed from the original text without doing too much violence to the inspired author's original meaning.
It comes down to a simple question: Does embroidering the Bible, by changing its vocabulary and sentence structure from the everyday language of the streets and marketplaces to the refined doublespeak of the king's court, assist readers to come closer to God and to learn His true intentions? 

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Reviewed by Aubrey Hammack 12/24/2009
I love the beauty of the words in the King James Version also. Keith Rowley's comments as pertaining to the King James Version, I agree.
Reviewed by Beryl McMullen 12/24/2009
I prefer the King James's Version of the Bible - I like the beauty of words - How about Shakespeare's writing - it is much the same
Reviewed by Keith Rowley 12/24/2009
Merry Xmas John.
Personally, I think you have this wrong. Although no longer a Christian, I grew up on the King James, and I still find the beauty of its language extraordinary. I do not think the language was embroidered, but rather that in translation, an attempt was made to correctly translate the language, ethos, and spirit of the bible's times of origin. Whether this was achieved may well be moot.
I also think that more modern versions strip the scriptures of their spirit and reflect a modern need to dumb down to the level of the modern-day, dumbed-down mass. This may well be convenient, but to denigrate the beauty of the King James translation in the attempt to accommodate today's flock is both unjust and unwise.
Incidentally, although you comment on the translation, I wonder whether or not you have actually read the bible in Hebrew? I acknowledge that I have not, but I have several Jewish friends who have and have on occasion discussed this very issue with them. In the main, they support the King James.

Two more thoughts for you:
1. Something is always lost in translation. And, inevitably, something is always added!
2. Literal translations of ancient works lead to HUGE misunderstanding - I really do not think that any ancient work can be translated and understood without its historical and cultural context being integrated into the translation. I am doubtful this was EVER done with the bible.

As I said above, I am not Christian. Indeed, I am no longer a theist in the conventional and religious sense. But I wish you and yours a joyous and blessed Christmas.

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