Friday, August 20, 2010

Dan Wallace on KJV-ism

If you've ever met a KJV-only person and tried discussing Bible versions with them you'll know that it's like talking to a cave man about quantum physics. Personally I think their biggest problem is that they cannot get into their heads the notion that Christianity is not about "them". They have a peculiar belief that the Christianity that they know with its worship style, Bible translation, sub-culture, and sociology is the way Christianity was in the beginning and the way it should always be.

I do not lie when I say that a friend of mine lost his job in a church back in the late 70s when he started using the NIV in a youth group. The senior pastor had him removed on the grounds that, "If the Queen's English was good enough for Jesus then it is good enough for me". I've met Independent Baptist Missionaries in Europe who are trying to translate the Bible into Spanish, not modern Spanish, but into 17th century Spanish so that it is comparable with the KJV. Then there is Grace Baptist College in Michigan that includes in its doctrinal statement the assertion that "We believe Greek study has been and will continue to be the downfall of Protestantism".

What the heck do you do with that stuff? What can you possibly say that will persuade them otherwise? How can you reason with ignorance and arrogance? So generally speaking I don't bother trying to reason with these folks any more. You cannot reason with someone who has more fruitcake that a Christmas party and more nuts in their head than Brazil. So I when I do come across one of these chaps the best thing I can do for them is refer them onto some things that they might like to consider:

1. D.A. Carson's book, The King James Only Debate: A Plea for Realism
2. The KJVO blog by ex-KJVO's.
3. Dan Wallace's short and sweet article on the topic.


Ian said...

G'day, Mike.

Scary, huh? Whilst "KJV-onlyism" is largely a product of the American brand of post-liberal fundamentalism, sadly we aren't immune from such obscurantist thinking here, in the antipodes. Whether very right wing local fellowships of Independent Baptists, or denominational hyper-Pentecostals such as the Revival Centres/Revival Fellowship, there are more than enough ultra-fundamentalists appealing to the purity of the KJV to test the sanctity of even the most phlegmatic of biblical scholars! Ironic, isn't it, that none of their ilk seem predisposed to acknowledge their debt to that great [b]Roman Catholic[/b] and [b]humanist[/b] scholar, Desiderius Erasmus!



Steeejei said...

I remember in my early days of being a Christian having a taxi-ride home with a KJV-Only cab driver... he said the translators of other versions are all going to Hell. Needless to say he did not get a tip...

Helgi said...

In my country an outpost of an American KJVO group actually encourages people not to read the bible in their language but rather read the KJV.
This resulted in a group of people going into their clothes closets to pray, because Jesus told people to go into their "closet" in the sermon on the mount.
If one is going to ask people to read the Bible in an old version of a foreign language, why not just make it greek? At least that was my thought.

I think the reason fundamentalists like the KJV is not necessarily because of certain translation choices, it is first and foremost because of a "standardized" text which allows them to build on specific terminology in that translation. If you are preaching about praying in your closet, it wouldn't be helpful if half your congregation had the TNIV or any other dynamic equivalent translation.

Rachel said...

It's offensive from a historicizing point of view, but it makes perfect sense from a liturgical point of view, which really requires textual stability within a community and a tradition. People need to all be on the same page, and internalizing the same language in order to be shaped. Perhaps the archaism then even delivers some sociological advantages, reinforcing group distinctiveness. I sometimes envy the Catholics their textual stability. Trying to impress internalization of the text on a large class of Protestant students when there are forty versions in play is not easy. Having said that I'm not advocating a return to the AV. I would prefer folks to concentrate on the Greek.

Jeremy said...

"I sometimes envy the Catholics their textual stability." I don't envy anyone whose textual stability has been Latin, a language that they very people they have been ministering to can't understand.

"Personally I think their biggest problem is that they cannot get into their heads the notion that Christianity is not about "them"." This is an interesting point - one that is related to prophecy and the end times. I was brought up in churches that constantly interpreted prophecy and Revelation in light of the current day. Russia and Iran could be working together to build a nuclear weapon, and that is in Revelation! Prophecy is always about me and the present day! It is really sad, because these same people are (rightly) concerned to interpret the Bible according to the author's intention, but that is thrown out when it comes to the apocalyptic genre.

Alen Basic said...

The problem with KJOists isn't their inability to think critically on this issue as much as it is their inability is based on their assurance that they derive from their position.

What I mean is that their position provides them certainty in the way they want it. God has preserved His word (word for word, letter for letter) perfectly throughout the ages up into the KJV.

Concepts like textual criticism are a stumbling block because it shows that God hasn't preserved His word in the way that they wanted. This to them is a slippery slope that goes from bad to worse.

They'd rather believe in a lie because it provides certainty than the truth because it provides nothing but uncertainty in their minds. Unless the position we're offering provides the same comfort, most people won't change their minds about this issue.

Anonymous said...

The best thing to do I believe is just ignore those fundamentalists and warn others not to fall into that kind of mentality.

David Meredith said...

Maybe I move in different circles but I have not heard this debate in years and have not met a KJVer in ages. Many years ago one declared me to be 'NIV positive'.

I think the ref to the Bible College in Michigan is an urban myth.

Of more interest is the positive contribution of the KJV on Christianity which will be rightfully celebrated in the 400th anniversary celebrations next year.

Michael F. Bird said...

David, there are some American missionaries in Scotland that teach KJV-only. One Baptist church in Nairn comes to mind. Surely the FCC can't be all that far from this either. We can celebrate the KJV as a land mark in giving the Bible to the people in a language they can understand. As long as we remember that most people no longer understand KJV English.

Simon said...

I did not find the Greek reference from the Grace baptist college doctrinal statement but I quote the following:

"We further accept the Mazoretic
and Textus Receptus manuscripts from which came the King James Bible and accept the King James Bible as the divinely preserved and perfect Word of God for the English-speaking world."


AndrewCas said...

I found this book to be a good one as well, The King James Only Controversy by James White.

David said...

I work in Mongolia, and there is a group currently translating the KJV into Mongolian so that Mongolians too can have access to the only valid 'Mongolian' version - amazing!

Sola Scriptura said...

What ignorance. Not one comment reflects any knowledge of the issue, and why the wise, discerning, studious and prayerful people who were led by the Spirit of God to the Authorized Version, and who were further shown the corruption and lies of the new versions, their promoters, and their depraved Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland texts, why we reject what you believe. You are the cavemen trying to understand quantum physics. Before you pompous, culturally irrelevant stuffed-shirts open your mouths, perhaps you ought to study.

James White's book, recommended here was refuted and shown to contain at least 79 blatant lies in it. Of course NONE of you know this nor of the book that documents it all.

Your arrogance is only exceeded by your ignorance.