Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am a TR Man

No not Teddy Roosevelt, but the Textus Receptus. It is the Greek New Testament which the translators used to produce the King James Bible (also called, more accurately, the "Authorized Version"). Now I am not one of those "King James Only Folks," who reject all other translations. I just prefer to read from the KJV and preach and teach from the New King James Version. Why? For some technical reasons, you can read this page of helpful information, but suffice to say I am more comfortable using a Bible that is based on 90% of the 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts, than one which is based on only several texts from Alexandria in Egypt, which may be of dubious origin and theologically heterodox. But there are other reasons I use the King James and New King James versions over others. These are more subjective reasons:

1. I love the phrasing, the beauty of the prose, and the exalted poetry found there. It's the same reason I love Shakespeare. Compare the KJV to The Message (a recent paraphrase "Bible"). The Message offers Psalm 23:1 as "God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing." That sounds more like rap music than Scripture.

2. It is the Bible of our culture. It has found a permanent home in our literature, our English-speaking consciousness. It would be a tragedy for our children not to know the source of so many of our phrases and ideas.

3. Newer translations adopt a looser format called "dynamic equivalence" when they translate from the Hebrew and Greek. Instead of word for word, they try to guess the meaning of a passage and translate accordingly. That's not translation - that's interpretation. The KJV alerts you to added words by placing them in italics. In the end, the KJV is a more accurate and honest text.

4. Dr. Joel Beeke has pointed out that it is really the only ecumenical translation, due to its prominence (it still sells better than any other Bible except for the NIV), and widespread use.

5. Newer translations seem to me to be mere marketing gimics. In the most recent New Yorker, there is an article which shines a spotlight on how publishers continually strive for increased sales by turning the Bible into magazines, and offering specialty versions for every possible niche. I prefer my black leather Oxford edition thank you.

6. The KJV makes you work to understand God's Word. That's right, work for it. Newer translations dumb down the Bible to a 6th grade reading level. The KJV makes you stop, which is always a good thing, and use a dictionary from time to time. Reading the Bible too fast is never a good thing.

7. Finally, when I read the Bible, I want God exalted in its prose. I want to refer to Him as "Thou" or "Thee." Newer translations turn God into a buddy.

This morning in my devotions I read Isaiah 49:16. The KJV translates this verse of supreme comfort this way: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." The Message gives us, "Look, I've written your names on the backs of my hands." You decide.


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