In my previous post, I asked if churches should abandon the King James Version for a modern English translation. I answered, “Yes,” and suggested there were two main reasons. The first is the inferior Greek text from which the KJV was translated, the Textus Receptus (TR). The second is the nature of the translation itself. The KJV is often lauded as an outstanding literary achievement, never to be repeated. But the truth is that after 400 years it suffers a number of shortcomings when compared to modern versions. I will mention two.
The biggest problem by far with the KJV is the archaic language. English is constantly changing, and after 400 years the language of the KJV might even be considered a different dialect. Notice 2 Cor 6:11–13 in the KJV:
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children) be ye also enlarged.
How is any English reader supposed to make sense of that? Compare the same verses in the NIV:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
There is no legitimate reason why anyone should be put at the disadvantage of reading a Bible written in an archaic dialect when there are excellent versions available in current English. Even if one believes that the TR is the preferred Greek text, they have an excellent modern English translation available to them in the New King James Version, which is translated from the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the KJV.
Another part of the translation problem with the KJV is that although it was well done for its day, our knowledge of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek has advanced significantly since 1611. This means that today we have a more accurate understanding of what the original authors of Scripture were saying, and we can express that in current, natural English. Even though KJV-only advocates rave about the scholarship of the KJV translators, in fact, they did not understand many of the finer points of the Greek language of the first century.
The KJV translators often failed, for example, to grasp something seemingly so minor as the use of the Greek article, or lack thereof, which has some important differences from English. For example, in John 4:24 (KJV) Jesus explains to a Samaritan woman that “God is a Spirit.” Because of the lack of the article before the word spirit, the KJV translators take the word “spirit” to be indefinite, “a Spirit.” However, it is now well understood that the lack of the definite article indicates that spirit in this situation is qualitative and that the correct translation is “God is spirit,” stressing the nature or essence of God, as we find in the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and NIV. Later in 4:27 when the disciples return, they are surprised, as the KJV puts it, that He was speaking “with the woman,” as though the Gospel writer was pointing to a particular woman—the woman. There is, however, no article “the” in the Greek text, but the KJV translators insert one, failing to understand that the word woman should be taken as an indefinite noun. What was surprising to the disciples was not that Jesus was speaking to this particular woman (“the woman”), but that as a rabbi He was speaking to a woman at all, particularly a Samaritan woman. Again, modern translations like the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and NIV, correctly record the disciples astonishment that Jesus was speaking “with a woman.”
We constantly emphasize the primacy of the Scriptures and how we want people to read and understand the Bible. And truly nothing is more important for a believer than to hear and obey God’s Word. That being the case, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will be of more benefit in aiding a person’s understanding of Scripture than a modern version of Bible.