Saturday, March 26, 2011

The basic argument against the new versions

A talk given at the Trinitarian Bible Society in 2007 by Pastor John Thackway, The English Standard Version, covers all the basics.

I have a good impression of Pastor Thackway from having heard part of his series on the Song of Songs, which he recognizes as about the spiritual life of a Christian in our relationship with Christ.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Updating the KJV - Why It Should But Probably Won't Happen

From an appreciation of the King James Bible by Kevin Bauder, an anti-KJV-Only, an author of a book against KJVOnlyism. I agree with everything he said except his appreciation of the modern versions. Perhaps he's right that most of them have something to contribute but until the Alexandrian texts are no longer regarded as "the earliest and the best" I can't agree. However, since I do agree with most of what he says, it's really amazing that I keep being called a KJVO myself, even recently a "Ruckmanite" of all things. I've never read a word of Ruckman (seen him quoted quite enough, thanks) and I've posted against Riplinger in this blog. Good grief.

Anyway, this is a nice statement, pretty much exactly what I've said many times myself about the KJV still needing the revision it didn't get in 1881, both how it should be done and that it won't be, and how the proliferation of translations is bad for the church:

In the case of truly obsolete language, the King James Version can and should be updated. It has been before. It can be again. The work should be undertaken with reverence, not merely for the content of what is revealed, but for the locutions of the King James Version itself. No more should be changed than is really necessary. The people who would perform this task would place all readers of English in their debt.

It will never happen.
The New King James Version fails by making changes that are unnecessary and sometimes banal. It is the worst of all possible worlds. No other translation, however, is likely to do better. The problem is that a version incorporating only necessary changes could never obtain an exclusive copyright. No publisher could hold exclusive rights to it. With no large sums to be made from a gentle revision, the printing houses will distribute and the pious will receive only a continuing stream of translations du jour.

Therein lies the real problem with the proliferation of modern translations. Few of them are objectionable in their own right. Most of them contribute something, and most are worthy of being consulted by readers who cannot understand the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the multiplication of translations, however, today’s Christians have lost significant intelligibility in sharing the Scriptures with one another.

...How many Christians appreciate the irony that most new versions include the word Standard in their title? The fact is that the English language has only ever had one standard version, and that is the King James. Beginning with the publication of the New American Standard Bible, the English-speaking evangelical world has lost any semblance of, and probably any hope for, biblical standardization. How could anyone not see this as an evil?

...In sum, a good version of the Bible will be accurate, but it will not oversimplify. It will choose elevated language because it aims to shape feeling as well as thinking. It should be widely used and readily shared. It must leave the reader with the impression that the book wasn’t just written yesterday. It ought to be just a bit archaic.

In my opinion, the King James Version is the only translation of Holy Scripture into English that meets these criteria. It is not just a good version, it is a great one. It is both a great translation and a great work of literature. For me, the use of the King James Version is not simply a matter of nostalgia or sentimentality. It is unsurpassed for use in the corporate church setting, and it is as good as any for private devotional reading.

I like that -- "It ought to be just a bit archaic."

SOLVING THE PROBLEM (Getting the money problem out of it): There should be a coalition of Bible-believing churches that can agree on the desirability of a minimal updating/revision of the KJV, who get together and appoint a large committee of the best scholars to do the work of revision, who must all meet spiritual standards as well, and the project should be inaugurated and sustained by prayer and financed by donors. It could perhaps be done roughly according to the pattern of the KJV translators.

Their Bible wouldn't belong to anyone, anyone would be able to publish their own edition of it, but that could only be good for the Church at large even if not financially rewarding for those who did the work. Yet donors could pay them for their work and pay for the costs of publication. Isn't that how the Church is supposed to operate anyway?

They'd have the job of meticulously comparing ALL the versions ever made in arriving at every single change to be made to the KJV. Changes to the Textus Receptus as needed could be part of the project too, but NO Alexandrians allowed. Unlike the revisers of 1881 they'd be required to make USEFUL notes in the margins and keep careful notes of their work, for instance concerning disputes and how they resolved --or were unable to resolve --them. Etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Burgon on dealing with errors in the KJV

Finally I found a place where Burgon refers to the "blemishes" in the King James, specifically to the translators' feeling that it's good to vary the English even when the writer hammers away at a particular Greek word, which some debaters I've encountered also emphasized. I'd even marked the page on a previous reading but had forgotten about it. The link to the book online is in the margin so anyone can check it.
But if the learned men who gave us our A.V may be thought to have erred on the side of excess, there can be no doubt whatever, (at least among competent judges,) that our Revisionists have sinned far more grievously and with greater injury to the Deposit, by their slavish proclivity to the opposite form of error. We must needs speak out plainly: for the question before us is not, What defects are discoverable in our Authorized Version? -- but, What amount of gain would be likely to accrue to the Church if the present Revision were accepted as a substitute? And we assert without hesitation, that the amount of certain loss would so largely outweigh the amount of possible gain, that the proposal may not be seriously entertained for a moment. As well on grounds of Scholarship and Taste, as of Textual Criticism (as explained at large in our former Article), the work before us is immensely inferior. To speak plainly, it is an utter failure. [p. 190, Revision Revised]
And then he goes on to discuss how the Revisers refuse to vary the English even when it's necessary.

If their revision hadn't been so horrible overall, and their policy of change so irresponsible, I suppose he'd have seen the point of changing some of the KJV's blemishes.

Changes in the New King James that derived from W-H-influenced translations

The reason for this post is that the NKJV is billed as simply an updating of the KJV, based on the Textus Receptus and so on, but then it turns out it contains all kinds of influence from the Westcott and Hort revision, in its footnotes and apparently also in changes in wording that follow their pattern.

I found this list of some of those changes online , and it looks like the typical list of changes in the NKJV that were influenced by the Westcott and Hort revision. Yes, it's from an extreme KJVO website.

(By the time I got through this post, by the way, I found myself not agreeing much with the KJVO point of view on this. I'd never personally investigated any of this before, so that was a discovery).

As I go through the list, checking each briefly with Strong's and with the other versions, it's clear that the NKJV did come up with renderings that agree with the Westcott-Hort-influenced translations, whether they took them directly from them or not. The modern versions defenders claim the changes were not copied from the other versions, and perhaps they are right, but judging from Strong's it appears that very few could actually be claimed to be more accurate translation so that their similarity to the others doesn't seem to be the accidental result of independent work.

While the modern versions defenders always ask whether it is more accurate or not, I always want to ask whether the change was really needed or not since preserving the KJV as much as possible is what the revising committee of 1881 was supposed to do, and the NKJV as well. This shouldn't sacrifice accuracy of course. As I went through them I found a few that could be justified as clearer, and quite a few that didn't make enough of a change to qualify as necessary, simply change for change's sake. There are also some changes I just don't get. The KJVO commentary seems overheated for the occasion on many of them, and to miss the point on some.

[FUCHSIA = I agree with the KJV; RED = I prefer the change; GREEN = I can't decide]

Genesis 22:8: One of the greatest verses in the Bible proclaiming that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh: "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:" The NKJV adds that little word "for": "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering" And destroys the wonderful promise! Where'd they get their little "for"? From the NASV!
It's possible I'm missing the whole thing here as I don't see how the change destroys the promise, but I also don't see any need for the change either. The original reads just fine. Checking Strong's it appears that "himself" isn't even in the Greek but added in the translation, though all the versions include it and I don't know Greek so all I can say is it looks like that from Strong's breakdown of the Greek words. The "for (himself)" was also added in those that have it -- the ESV, the NASB and the NKJV. Was there really no influence here?
Genesis 24:47: The "old" KJV reads: "I put the earring upon her face". But the NKJV has different plans for beautiful Rebekah: "I put the nose ring on her nose". Where did it get the ridiculous idea to "cannibalize" Rebekah? Just take a peek at the NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV!
According to Strong's it can be a ring, an earring or a nose ring. "Nose" is also a possible translation for the word the KJV translated as "face." Putting it on the "face" does seem very odd and I can see how the translator would prefer "nose" in that place; on the other hand the bracelets were put on her "hands." Are there any other reasons for calling it a nose ring? But also Strong's shows that there are other places in the Greek text where a specific reference to the ear is made when referencing this same piece of jewelry. I can't be sure in this case which is better, and since I trust the KJV translators on such a basic translational point, which the W-H committee didn't, and can't see any necessity for the change, I'll tentatively say it should have been left as "earring."
Ezra 8:36: The KJV reads, "And they delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants. . ." The "much clearer" NKJV reads, "And they delivered the king's orders to the king's satraps. . ." Who in the world thinks "satraps" is "much clearer" than lieutenants? The NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV - they do! They put in the same "much clearer" word!
I noticed this one years ago. I certainly agree that "satraps" conveys absolutely nothing to the English reader. Some ENGLISH word for the kind of officer referred to is needed, so I see nothing wrong with "lieutenants."
Psalms 109:6: removes "Satan". (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV).
And puts in variations on "accuser," "adversary" etc. I'm going with the KJV. The translators knew what they were doing and this is not one of those places where it could be improved with a change.
Matthew 7:14: change "narrow is the way" to "difficult is the way". There's nothing "difficult" about the salvation of Jesus Christ! Jesus says in Matt. 11:30, "For my yoke is EASY, and my burden is light." THE EXACT OPPOSITE! Boy, you talk about a contradiction!
This one I find hard to resolve. I don't think the meaning is so completely lost by "difficult" myself since I believe it's probably referring more to the walk with Christ than justification by faith, but I also don't think it improves the meaning at all and perhaps blurs it. "Strait" is a bit archaic on the other hand. This is one for my Dream Team Translation Committee. (Really, they all are; I wouldn't want my own impressions to prevail).
Matthew 12:40: change "whale" to "fish" (ditto NIV) I don't guess it matters (what's the truth got to do with it?), the Greek word used in Matthew 12:40 is ketos. The scientific study of whales just happens to be - CETOLOGY - from the Greek ketos for whale and logos for study! The scientific name for whales just happens to be - CETACEANS - from the Greek ketos for whale!
I totally agree with this KJVO's observation. While a "big fish" COULD be the better translation in some contexts, according to Strong's, this context doesn't require it and the change seems irritatingly unnecessary.
Matthew 18:26 & Matthew 20:20: The NKJV removes "worshipped him" (robbing worship from Jesus) (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
The Greek word definitely implies worship, changing the English word is completely unnecessary.
Mark 13:6 & Luke 21:8: removes "Christ" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
I'm going on my memory for most of these and I think these are places where "Christ" is in italics in the KJV, which indicates that it isn't in the Greek but strongly implied in the context. I trust the KJV translators, see no reason for any change.
John 1:3: change "All things were made BY him;" to "All things were made THROUGH Him" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
There is a difference in meaning from this change that could affect doctrine. I also can't grasp what it means to say anything was made THROUGH a person. Things are made BY a person. Again I trust the KJV translators. Burgon has plenty to say about this substitution and changes to the other part of this verse in other versions as well (pages 132, 135, 174, Revision Revised), but I'm not going to take the time to copy it out here right now as I'm just running through my own impressions.
John 4:24: change "God is a spirit" to the impersonal, New Age pantheistic,"God is spirit" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
At first I couldn't see any big difference but Strong's clearly shows the article with the noun -- yes, in English, not in Greek, but the two languages aren't exactly equivalent after all -- and with such examples as an angel, an evil spirit, the human soul and so on it seems very clear leaving off the article must be wrong and it does suggest a pantheistic idea of spirit. Since the article is indicated in Strong's I don't see how anyone would independently think to remove it based on the Greek, and that suggests that the NKJV was influenced by the other translations.
John 14:2: (NKJV 1979 edition) change "mansions" to "dwelling places" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
I didn't look this one up for some reason but off the top of my head it seems a completely gratuitous unnecessary change, so leaving the time-honored word in place is my first choice. But then I think it does imply something perhaps unintended, at least to our ears today, a KIND of dwelling place that's unnecessary, so I may end up going with the change.
John 14:16: change "comforter" to "helper"(refers to Holy Spirit) (NASV)
"Helper" looks more accurate to me from a glance at Strong's but I have to ask why the KJV translators would prefer "Comforter," which they did in four of the five places parakletos is found in the Greek text, choosing "Advocate" in the fifth. So I tentatively vote that it should have been left alone. No, I do like "helper" better and it seems to fit the Greek better.
Acts 4:27, 30: change "holy child" to "holy servant" (refers to Jesus) (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
One of those changes where the new versions seem to have chosen the least likely from Strong's list of possible renderings. "Child" is the first rendering listed, somehow more lovely too, and here I go clearly with the KJV. No need for this change.
Acts 12:4: change "Easter" to "Passover" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
While modern versions defenders think this is an obviously necessary change I'm not completely convinced. Something to do with historical usage. One for the Dream Team Translation Committee.

Acts 17:22:changes "superstitious" to "religious" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)

"Superstitious" is fine in context, but so is "religious." I personally LIKE "religious" better but this is another I'd leave to the DTTC.
Acts 24:14: change "heresy" to "sect" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Another place where context makes the difference and "heresy" is more appropriate, the change was not necessary.
Romans 1:18: change "hold the truth" to "suppress the truth" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
The change in this case seems to me to be clearer but I defer to the Dream Team Translation Committee.
Romans 1:25: change "changed the truth" to "exchanged the truth" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
No need for this change, the original is quite clear.
Romans 5:8: change "commendeth" to "demonstrates" (NIV, NASV)
Strong's doesn't give any warrant for "demonstrates." "Commends" may be somewhat archaic, however, and yet the KJV used it in a majority of places for the Greek word. I can't think of another alternative either. I'd leave it as "commends" until the Dream Team can deal with it.
Romans 16:18: change "good words and fair speeches" to "smooth words and flattering speech" (NIV, NASV, NRSV)
The change is clearer to my mind, though the original wording wasn't hard to understand. I'll go with the change on this one.
1 Cor. 1:21: change "foolishness of preaching" to "foolishness of the message preached" (ditto NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV) There's nothing foolish about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless you're not saved! 1 Cor. 1:18 says: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish FOOLISHNESS. . ." I wonder where that leaves the translators of the NKJV, NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV?
I don't see a problem with the change as far as meaning goes, as the gospel IS foolishness to the world as scripture says elsewhere, but I also don't see a reason to change it, the original is clear enough.
1 Cor. 1:22: change "require" to "request" (NASV)
Seems to me like one of those completely unnecessary changes. Strong's makes either acceptable. I like "require" if my likings count.
1 Cor. 6:9: removes "effeminate" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
Here's a case where I think the modern changes in the last words are clearer for today's readers, to "homosexuals" and "sodomites," and I don't see that anything is lost in the meaning.
1 Cor. 9:27: change "castaway" to "disqualified" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
The change translates the Greek more literally, but I'm not sure I see anything seriously wrong with "castaway" as far as meaning goes. Wonder what inspired that word. I like "disqualified" better myself.
2 Cor. 2:10: change "person of Christ" to "presence of Christ" (NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Both are OK by Strong's, don't see that the change improves things. I go with the KJV.
2 Cor. 2:17: With all the "corruptions" in the NKJV, you'd expect 2 Cor. 2:17 to change. IT DOES! They change, "For we not as many which CORRUPT the word of God" to "For we are not, as so many, PEDDLING the word of God" (ditto NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Strong's gives "corrupt" as a fair translation, derived from the peddler's adulteration of their wares. "Peddling the word of God" doesn't evoke anything very clear. I strongly prefer the KJV's "corrupt."
2 Cor. 5:17: change "new creature" to "new creation" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
Both are OK, need to hear arguments pro and con.
2 Cor. 10:5: change "imaginations" to "arguments". Considering New Age "imaging" and "visualization" is now entering the church, this verse in the "old" KJV just won't do. (NIV, RSV)
I like "imaginations" myself, but I could go with "reasonings" better than "arguments" which is another possibility from Strong's. Another for the DTTC.
2 Cor. 11:6: change "rude in speech" to "untrained in speech" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Rude" is MUCH better than "untrained." Simpler, more direct.
Gal. 2:20: omit "nevertheless I live" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
According to Strong's this phrase is very clearly in the Greek of the Textus Receptus. Perhaps this is a change due to the substitution of the Alexandrians in the critical texts that underlie the modern versions? If so that would demonstrate a definite influence from them to the NKJV.
Phil. 2:6: (NKJV 1979e.) change "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" to "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped". (robs Jesus Christ of deity) (NIV, NASV, RSV)
I've always thought the changed reading is incomprehensible. I don't know if it denies Christ's deity or not, it just doesn't make sense. The KJV rendering is a lot clearer.
Phil. 3:8: change "dung" to "rubbish" (NIV, NASV, NRSV)
Both are acceptable according to Strong's, neither is more accurate, but again, that being the case, why change it? Tender sensibilities? Would like to hear pros and cons.
1 Thess. 5:22 change "all appearance of evil" to "every form of evil" (NASV, RSV, NSRV)
Since I do give the KJV team much more credit than the modern versions defenders do I'm inclined to go with "appearance." Again, both are acceptable according to Strong's, so it's a matter to be determined by the judgment of the best Greek scholars. I've seen arguments that there's no way to abstain from the "appearance" of evil, it's too much to ask of us, but that doesn't hold water to my mind. There's no way to avoid sin either as long as we are in the flesh but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be making every effort.
1 Timothy 6:5: The NKJV changes "gain is godliness" to "godliness is a MEANS OF gain". There are NO Greek texts with "means of" in them! Where, oh where, did they come from? Care to take a wild guess? YOU GOT IT! The NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV!

There's nothing wrong with rewording a phrase if it's needed to convey the meaning better to the reader, but in this case I don't see the need for it. "Gain is godliness" appears to be an exact literal translation of the Greek of the Textus Receptus and I go for the neatest simplest rendering.

1 Timothy 6:10: The NKJV changes "For the love of money is the root of all evil:" to "For the love of money is a root of all KINDS OF evil". The words "KINDS OF" are found in NO Greek text in the world! Where did they get them? Straight from the NIV, NASV, NRSV!
The KJV wording appears to follow the Textus Receptus exactly as far as I can tell from Strong's. The commenter says the phrase "kinds of" isn't in any Greek text, in which case it must have been added because the translator felt it made it clearer. Seems to me that if "a root" is permissible, as opposed to "the root" no other change is needed for those who are sure the love of money couldn't be THE root of ALL evil: so it would read "a root of all evil." "All kinds of" doesn't improve it.
1 Tim. 6:20: change "science" to "knowledge" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Science" MEANS "knowledge" or it did originally. Now it's acquired a more specific meaning that doesn't fit well, so "knowledge" is the better word -- an updating rather than a correction.
Titus 3:10: change "heretic" to "divisive man" (NIV)
This one is a really terrible change, and I even did a post on it a while back. It can be translated "divisive" or "factious" or "heretic," all of them implying a holder of false doctrine, but the problem with the first two is that today they all too easily suggest the reverse, condemning a person who IDENTIFIES a heretic, as someone who raises such questions these days is likely to be called "divisive." It's akin to the false theology of "love" or the command to "judge not," that claims "love" would never judge even the worst heresy. I have definitely encountered this misreading in action. Perhaps this change in the text is even the cause of this reversal of meaning. At best this is a case of softening and blurring the meaning. Stick to the strong clear word, "heretic." (If there is no influence from the other versions it's just odd that the NKJV would prefer this much less desirable reading since it's supposed to be preserving the KJV wherever it can. Very odd).
Hebrews 4:8 & Acts 7:45: "Jesus" is changed to "Joshua". (NIV, NASV, RSV)

Yes, very bad change, like all those changes that treat the original Hebrew as better. {Later, I see I misunderstood this because I didn't check the verse. It is referring to Joshua son of Nun, right-hand man and successor to Moses. "Jesus" was used to refer to that Joshua in the KJV and that IS confusing so it's a GOOD THING it was changed.

But back to my general point about retaining the original languages even though it turns out it was off topic: } Retaining names in Hebrew also feeds the Hebrew Names heresy. Such as "Yahweh." Completely unnecessary change that causes more problems than it solves. I also object to changing the KJV's "Hell" back to the Greek or Hebrew term, Hades or Sheol or Gehenna or whatnot. I've seen where some confuse Hell with the lake of fire and make that the argument for retaining the original words, but this makes no sense to me. If there's some reason in scripture for the confusion I'm not aware of it. Meanwhile there is nothing wrong with "Hell." "Hell" is the English word so it belongs in English Bibles. Nobody really knows what Hell entails anyway, and using foreign words only compounds the mystification. All the owlish discussions of the different cultural notions of abodes after death add nothing to the understanding of the reader who comes across the foreign word in the scripture, but "Hell" at least has some meaning in English, however vaguely apprehended. Let individual pastors do the detailed study to discuss the shades of meaning for their congregations if they want to. Nobody is going to know what it's all about until the End anyway.]

2 Pet. 2:1: change "damnable heresies" to "destructive heresies" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Damnable" is apparently read as implied by the KJV translators, and Strong's treats it as an option though "destructive" is higher on the list. I'd say the new versions are softening and blurring the meaning and the strong word "damnable" is far better, clearer and more pointed.
1 John 3:16: remove "love of God"; (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
They remove "of God," which is in italics or parentheses in the KJV. This is a matter of what exactly the Greek says, and I don't know, but again I wouldn't dismiss the KJV's choice lightly.
1 John 5:13: The NKJV reads: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may CONTINUE TO believe in the name of the Son of God." They add "CONTINUE TO" without any Greek text whatsoever! Not even the perverted NIV, NASV, NRSV and RSV go that far! A cruel, subtil (see Genesis 3:1) attack on the believer's eternal security!
I don't see how this is an attack on eternal security. If those who believe are addressed it makes sense that John is saying he wrote so they might continue to believe, but it seems there is more going on here that I'm not able to judge. Strong's has the KJV reading clearly based on the Greek. I wonder if this is one of those places as discussed by Burgon, where the incompetence of the 1881 revisers in dealing with Greek grammar, tenses and so on, has reared its ugly head. That would mean the idea of continuing is simply a wrong reading of the tense that would have been learned through the bad examples of Westcott and Hort, and somehow the NKJV followed up on it while the other modern versions for some reason didn't. Just a speculation of course.
Rev. 2:13: change "Satan's seat" to "Satan's throne" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
Does seem unnecessary. "Seat" implies this is his base of operations, "throne" doesn't improve it as far as I can see, in fact it gives an overly literal image for what is meant to be metaphorical. Both are reasonable renderings according to Strong's.
Rev. 6:14: "Heaven" is changed to "sky" in (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)

NO need for this change at ALL. "Heaven" is sometimes synonymous with "sky" anyway.

* * * * * *

As I went through the list I got caught up in deciding whether I thought the reading was more or less accurate, or necessary, and lost track of the claim that the changes reflect the Westcott and Hort influence. So when I'm up to it I hope to go back and make a few more comments in that direction.


I am still pondering parts of this post and it is still subject to change. I would like to add at this point though that it's interesting how little I side with the KJVO point of view and find the changes congenial when I get into the specifics. I'm still going to end up far more conservative about these things than the modern versions defenders but I think maybe this exercise of going through these verses has made it clear that I start off accepting more of the KJVO position than I really agree with when I get into the particulars. Well, there aren't many in the middle of the road as I am from whom to draw information and arguments, and the KJVOs do often have some good ones. In this case, though, I'm glad to find out that the NKJV wasn't quite the disaster I'd been led to believe it was, especially since I used it for years. I could certainly do without the footnotes to the Alexandrian - based critical texts, however. And there is still more to explore about it.

Another discussion of the NKJV changes is here.

7/25/11: I don't see the change from "world" to "age" that I discuss in my post on "aion" yesterday. That's one big error that does derive from the poor scholarship of Westcott and Hort that should get top billing in these discussions.

Early Attempts at Revising the KJV -- good or bad?

At KJV-Only Debate this morning Erik DiVietro has a very interesting post on the various attempts at improving the KJV in the century or so before the 1881 revision, which he gleaned from Philip Schaff's Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version. He reproduces Schaff's list of prior translations which is really very eye-opening. I was aware there had been SOME earlier attempts to correct the KJV along these lines, mostly by individuals, but nothing like this great number of attempts.

I was also aware of this book by Schaff but it was way down my list of resources to check out because I knew Schaff was one of those in favor of the 1881 revision, a position I figure I've heard enough of to last me a couple more lifetimes. However, this list IS very interesting to think about, and I have a prior positive acquaintance with Schaff I'd like to mention too, through his History of the Christian Church which is a great read to take in small bites from the linked online copy at CCEL. I don't have to agree with him to appreciate some of his work.

DiVietro quotes Schaff:
It may well be said, without the least disparagement of the merits of the Revising Committees, that the great majority of the changes of text and version (probably more than four fifths) which they finally adopted had been anticipated by previous translators and commentators, and had become the common property of biblical scholars before the year 1870. But these improvements were scattered among many books, and lacked public recognition. They had literary worth, but no ecclesiastical authority. They were the work of individuals, not of the Church. (p 368)

Interestingly I was just on a debate forum where Schaff's estimate of the number of changes made by the Revised Version was mentioned as extremely small compared to other estimates, "by half," the number 36,000 showing up enough to be recognized as the true number. (See Comments; apparently I misremembered this). It would be a huge undertaking but it would be great to know just how many of the changes in these pre-Westcott-and-Hort revisions really did have "literary worth," were really "improvements." I don't doubt that some were.

That so many had felt a need to update and/or correct the KJV for such a long period before the revision of 1881 was commissioned to my mind reflects exactly my own state of mind NOW. I wish there WERE a good revision of the KJV, a really GOOD one. (Maybe it exists but the task of finding it would be overwhelming, certainly impossible for me). I also wish of course that it would be taken up by some sort of authoritative body -- of a majority of the orthodox Bible-believing churches, and become the new Standard, ousting all the modern pretenders. Surely I'm allowed such an unrealistic wish since it would obviously be the ideal situation, whereas all these lone-wolf attempts at revision are of no value to the church at all.

So I would like to know a lot more about all those pre-Revised Version attempts -- an assessment of how many changes were made in different versions and of what kind and how much they tried to preserve the feel of the KJV, and of course a good sample of the changes.

I also have the question how much of this clamor for revision might have been prompted by the burgeoning rationalism of the day, the influence of the liberal German Tubingen school of textual criticism, Deism and so on because it could be that some fair proportion were influenced from that direction (some followed Tischendorf for instance) just as the revision of 1881 itself is said to have been. Yet I doubt that was the only or even the majority influence. Still, this trend was a reality during that period, Burgon being one who fought it on many fronts, and it is a problem that still needs to be dealt with.

It would be great to see all that taken into account by a NEW revising committee with the ecclesiastical authority I so unrealistically wish for, a revising committee that rejects the Alexandrian texts as corrupted and rejects all the modern versions based on the critical texts that incorporate the Alexandrians, and appreciates Burgon's assessment of both Greek and English grammar and idiom. My Dream Team Translation Committee that probably can't exist.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Restatement of Position

I would like to make a few things clear if at all possible.

This blog is intended to be about what the revising committee of 1881 did and the effect it had on all the modern Bible versions, as learned mainly from what I've read by Dean John William Burgon but also from others who share his views.

My opinion that what they did has been a disaster for the church comes mainly from Burgon -- is deduced from his judgment of the 1881 revision, that is -- and what I know of its effects on the modern versions. I am sure he must have been wrong about some things but overall his judgment simply reads true and I've made him the center of this blog.

As for my judgment of the King James Bible, I do try not to get into that because it distracts from my main objective as stated above, but it is NOT because it is old that I trust it over the modern Bibles, it is because of the quality of the translators and the known high quality of the Bible itself as judged by all kinds of people for its 400 years of existence, which is only brought into sharper relief by the contrast with the debacle of 1881. I believe it still needs revision. I accept what Philip Mauro wrote about how the 1881 revision did make some needed changes in the KJV, I only wish he had specified them.

After some experiences of debating some of these things I've concluded that I hate debate and want nothing more to do with it. You'd think debating other Christians about a specifically Christian concern would be less of a nasty business than debating evolution or politics, but I've now had experience of all of it and I see little difference -- except if anything the attacks on personality are even worse. I'm too old to want that kind of conflict any more and I'm heartily sorry for my own contribution to it. Best to keep to my blog and add to it as I keep learning.

This will probably not clear up anything for those who are determined to class me according to their own system, but perhaps it will be of some value to others.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Deterioration of Biblical Scholarship the necessary result of the acceptance of the 1881 Greek and English texts

I've often asserted that Biblical scholarship in the last century has most likely declined terribly since the acceptance of the work of the revising committee of 1881 -- to the point that errors in Biblical Greek are accepted as good Greek instead, and bad English translation is regarded as the most accurate. I deduce this from Burgon's criticism of the Revision and its underlying Greek texts, from his claim that the majority of the revisers were incompetent in textual criticism -- which they themselves admitted -- and in Greek scholarship, and from the fact that the majority prevailed over those who were competent, and that it is their work that has been passed down in the seminaries, while Burgon has been relegated to silence.

If it is true that what is being taught is error and not accurate Greek or English it wouldn't be a criticism of any particular scholar to suggest that his scholarship is deficient because of this. He could be the most industrious and knowledgeable student of Greek and nevertheless have learned error instead of true Greek.

Simply because that is now what is taught, the BAD Greek of Westcott and Hort.

Burgon makes a poignant remark in Revision Revised that implies this is unfortunately what must have happened. He makes this remark after criticizing the revisers' promotion of what he calls a well-known blunder in the Greek text, a blunder they nevertheless accepted as authentic instead and used to change the reading of John 4:15. But I'd say the occasion is incidental; I think his remark sadly applies to ALL their errors which he wrote book after book documenting:
Ordinary readers, in the meantime, will of course assume that the change results from the Revisers' skill in translating, -- the advances which have been made in the study of Greek; for no trace of the textual vagary before us survives in the English margin. [RR, p. 408]
Sure sounds like what is generally accepted today, a high assessment of the skill of the scholars behind the modern versions, the advances in Greek study, the discovery of better texts, all in the service of demoting the KJV and promoting the versions that are based on the Critical Texts which incorporate Westcott and Hort's false Greek texts. Today's scholars are even held to be better than those who worked on the KJV, though they have been trained on those same suspect Greek texts and in the principles of translation that come down from W and H that Burgon's laborious work SHOULD have sent to oblivion.

They left no record so there is nothing that could prove them wrong. Throughout their work there is little to prove them wrong. There is Burgon and there are other critics, but somehow his greater wisdom was buried while their incompetence survived and became the authoritative foundation for all Biblical scholarship after them, and most of their other critics now have been relegated to the dismissible category of "KJV-Only" by the defenders of the modern versions.

Who are the "ordinary readers" Burgon refers to? These must include not only the sheep in the congregations but all the shepherds as well, some of the very best of the shepherds too, who have accepted the modern versions as superior to the KJV, having no training that would enable them to see through such a deception if it occurred, and nobody EVER reads Burgon. But today's scholars must also be included since they have only the arguments in favor of the Alexandrian texts and the modern versions to go on, plus the din of discrediting smears against Burgon along with other critics.

Of course I'm criticized for my dependence on Burgon about these things, but a nonexpert has to depend on someone, and Burgon's qualifications and obvious demonstrable knowledge make him a solid source, the very best. I have found that here and there I am likely to disagree with him about a particular translational choice nevertheless, but the time hasn't come to get into all that yet. Meanwhile as long as I have the time and the energy I hope to go on producing quotes from him to show up the fraud that he spent the last years of his life trying to expose.

[Later: Relevant to this topic I note that Burgon often takes his critics to task for merely parroting Hort instead of addressing the criticism of him. Since that was happening then and being used against Burgon then, so much the more it would be happening now when Burgon's arguments are no longer heard. The way they are automatically dismissed by people who know of them only by hearsay evidences the acceptance of the W-H framework as the standard. What he feared was happening then has happened -- the inferior scholarship of Hort and the stupidities of the W-H English translation have become the standard.]

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Accuracy versus Tradition in translational choices

A debater complains that I slight accuracy in favor of tradition, in answer to my argument that the many different renderings of a particular Greek word or phrase in the various modern versions demonstrates change for change's sake. He insists that the accurate translation of the word is the main thing and that I overlook that by such a list, as if I treat all the words as identical. Since this is hardly the case the discussion can get very frustrating.

It occurred to me today that perhaps what causes the confusion is that I treat the KJV choice as the most accurate. I assume it. Where I see a need for a change it isn't because the KJV's word is inaccurate, it's usually because its meaning has changed over time so that now it means something different to us.

The word "corn" as in a "corn of wheat," for instance, is not part of our language at all now, and I can't see that anything is lost in this case by replacing it with "grain." There is no question of accuracy versus tradition here, both are accurate. In the case of "strain at a gnat" versus "strain out a gnat" it seems obvious to me that "out" is correct and "at" is not (Orthodox Jews still strain their soup in case they might accidentally swallow unclean meat such as a gnat), and in this case it's not the fault of the KJV translators (who had "out" in their first edition according to something I read), but was a printing error. There are those who argue for "at" on the ground that it's in the language and the culture now, and while I consider that to be a very strong argument in some cases, I don't in this case, especially since the two words are so close in sound there's no chance anyone will mistake the reference when it is quoted. So this is one place where one could say tradition is being wrongly put ahead of accuracy.

We also don't use the word "virtue" as it is used in Luke 8 where Jesus said he felt "virtue" go out of him when the woman touched his garment, and unless "virtue" carries special meaning that is lacking in "power" or "strength" I would like to see it changed to "strength." All are accurate enough, the question is which conveys the meaning best to our ears today. Burgon thinks the RV's "power" is a poor choice over "virtue" and perhaps "virtue" did carry a meaning then that is now lost to us, even because "power" has been substituted in its place. That's a sad thought if so and if that's the case I could be persuaded that "virtue" should be retained.

But the KJV's choice was the most accurate at the time. They were certainly aware of the possible alternatives in "power" and "strength" and in fact that is why I think it's important to be very cautious in making changes to the KJV. What looks like a needed change may simply be the result of our own ignorance of nuances in the KJV term that should be taught rather than replaced by a less accurate word. This is Burgon's argument against substituting "love" for "charity" for the Greek agape for instance, and I think he makes a very good case that "charity" is the most accurate word, and "love" is very inaccurate. Unfortunately, since the substitution of "love" has stuck in many of the new versions, the subtleties in the word "charity" are even more remote to us than ever. But that's a whole discussion unto itself.

In any case I don't put tradition ahead of accuracy, I just don't agree with the debater about which is the most accurate translation, as he would often side with one of the modern versions against the KJV. And since the comparisons of six or eight different versions usually show quite a few different translations for a single Greek word from one version to another, the idea that they were chosen for accuracy of translation rings hollow in any case.

Again, I ALWAYS assume the KJV translators made the most accurate choice. It would be very strange if they hadn't. At the same time I accept that there are some places where the KJV needs to be corrected -- but that becomes an issue only when I come to those places. Otherwise I assume the KJV translation is the superior translation.

But I suspect that this very position means to a defender of the modern versions only that I must be KJV-Only after all since I put the KJV above all the others, and that automatically means to them putting tradition above accuracy. Apparently there's no way to get around their assumption. There's no such thing in their mental set as a fair assessment that the KJV is simply BETTER -- meaning a more accurate translation among other things -- than all the modern versions, because they are so convinced that's not the case. So they have to treat it as an irrational prejudice. With such a clash of basic assumptions fair debate is really not possible.

Just because the KJV is the best doesn't mean it can't be improved. It's best in comparison with the versions which are based on bad Greek texts and translated according to bad Greek and English grammar and misunderstanding of idioms -- according to J W Burgon, whose arguments always impress me with his clear grasp of these things. (This assessment of Burgon gets me accused of "worshipping" Burgon, too, rather than recognized as fairly making a rational assessment of his superior judgment. Really, there is no way to debate any of this, it's all going to be twisted against me). Anyway, since the other versions are that bad the KJV doesn't have to be perfection itself to be better.

But also I do think there are probably some instances in which a KJV reading should be retained simply because of tradition -- that is, because it's been established for so long in English culture and literature -- but I don't know if this necessarily involves a sacrifice of accuracy until I encounter such instances.

added 3/7 - 6 am

I see I'm being discussed by this debater at another forum. A poster has read my blog and opined that the only reason I like "strength" over "power" is that Burgon opposes "power." This is not in fact the case. I don't like "power" myself in that particular place and like "strength" better, based on the context of the passage alone, and I suspect Burgon would not have liked "strength" either, so Euthymius is just making up stuff. I also said I could be talked into "virtue" if there are good reasons for it. I also say, however, that "power" is acceptable. THE NUMBER OF TIMES the KJV translates a Greek word by a particular English word is irrelevant, by the way (7 times for "strength") as it is the context which determines which they choose, not being blind mechanical one-for-one translators as Westcott and Hort were, which is something Burgon criticized them for.

As for "corn" of wheat, I thought it might still be current British and failed to check. My bad, but it did occur to me. So I'm for an Americanized Bible.

Everyone seems terribly concerned about the 36,000 changes Burgon reports -- I run across this number in many places, not just in Burgon. Unfortunately it doesn't show up in the index to Burgon's Revision Revised. I note that someone found it quoted by Bishop Wordsworth there however. The usual way it is phrased is something like "36,000 changes, THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHICH were unnecessary and in fact changes for the worse." If I failed to add that clause it would have been a rare occurrence but of course something someone looking for faults would pounce on. Burgon offers counts for smaller portions of the scriptures as well, such as the gospel of Luke where he finds an enormous number of changes for the worse.

AND A LAST WORD on the fact that the KJV translators ALSO made a great number of similar type changes to the previous Bibles as the 1881 revision made in the KJV. The answer to this is very simple: Accuracy is the important thing, right? And in this case too I assume the KJV translators to have produced the most accurate rendering unless shown otherwise (in the very few instances where that might be the case). This assumption is based on their demonstrable superiority, both the number and quality of the translators, plus their faithfulness to their commission to preserve as much as possible of the Bishop's Bible in particular but the earlier English Bibles in general, which is a RULE THEY TOOK SERIOUSLY AND FOLLOWED, unlike the revisers of 1881.


Oh and somebody comments that "charity" and "virtue" are "Vulgatisms" as if that alone disqualifies them. (The Vulgate was the Latin translation that had survived for centuries.) Odd to my mind how they complain about the fact that this Latin translation was involved in the KJV. English has plenty of Latin influences, it's not as if it's an alien imposition on the language.