Faith for All of Life
Faith for All of Life
it should be
and here,all arguments to the contrary notwith-standing, the King James speaks a lan-guage which, while sometimes difcultbecause the matter itself is so, is moreoften simple, clear-cut, and beautiful.Some modern versions are very help-ful, but none equal the King James inits clarity and memorable beauty. Thegreatest single demerit of the King James Version is simply this, it is notcopyrighted and, hence, no organizationand no scholar can prot thereby.
A Trustworthy Translation
The question of a
trans-lation is all-important, especially sincenovelty is increasingly characteristic of many new translations. Which transla-tion is a trustworthy one? At this point, it needs to be notedthat all translations face certain per-plexing problems. The meanings of certain Hebrew words are uncertain,and the exact identity of many plantsand animals subject to debate. Withthese details, we are not concerned. Themarginal readings of a good edition arehelpful in clarifying meanings or givingalternates translations at difcult points.The important question is inanother area. What
of the Bible isbeing translated? In answering this ques-tion, let it be noted, we are departingfrom virtually all accepted scholarship.This however does not trouble us for,after all, the major break with “accept-ed” scholarship comes with acceptanceof Christ as Lord and Savior, and theBible as the inspired and infallible wordof God.Since the days of Westcott andHort, textual criticism has applied toBiblical textual criticism a rigorously alien category of thought and “an es-sentially naturalistic method.”
Thisscholarship assumes man to be autono-mous and ultimate rather than God;and it requires all documents to meetThe sales value of these new versions, judging by some promotional mate-rial, seems to depend on new and novelreadings. There is, in the minds of somebuyers at least, a premium on newnessand on departures from the “old Bible.” With some, there is almost a hope-ful note that the newer Bibles mightgradually convert “Thou shalt notcommit adultery” to “Thou shalt com-mit adultery”! New versions, of variousqualities of good and bad, are purchasedby many persons almost as fetish objectsand remain unread.But many of the new versions arenot
. They are
. What is the difference? A transla-tion is an exact and literal renderingof the original Greek or Hebrew intoEnglish. A paraphrase tries to put theoriginal thought into modern thoughtforms. One of the most popular liberalparaphrasers today is J. B. Phillips. A paraphrase can be a very valuable helpat times, but it can never substitute fora translation. Thus, Edgar J. Goodspeedrenders Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are thepoor in spirit,” as “Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need.” This isbrilliant and telling; it gives us a vividgrasp of the meaning, but unfortunately Goodspeed, while giving us a few suchgems, also neutralizes many of the basictheological terms of the New Testament with weak paraphrases.The King James Version is not aparaphrase. It is both a revision of earliertranslations in part and a new transla-tion in its day.
One of the charges consistently leveled against the King James Version isthat its language is archaic and obso-lete. The answer is a simple one: it isintended to be. In 1611 the King JamesVersion was as “out of date” as it istoday. Compare the writings of Shake-speare, Ben Jonson, King James I, and John Lyly with the King James Versionand this becomes quickly apparent. Thetranslators
the speech of theirday for a basic English which would besimple, timeless, and beautiful, and they succeeded. Their version spoke fromoutside their age and tradition withelemental simplicity. Their wisdom hereexceeds that of their successors. Nothingseems more ridiculous than an outdated“modern” translation. Let us examine William Mace, 1729, as he rendered James 3:5-6:
The tongue is but a small part of the body, yet how grand are its pretensions! A spark of re! What quantities of timber will it blowinto ame? The tongue is a brand that sets the world into a combustion; it is but one of the numerous organs of the body, yet it can blast whole assemblies. Tipped with infernal sulphur it sets the whole train of life in a blaze.
In 1768, Dr. Edward Harwood’s
Liberal Translation of the New Testament,i.e.,
a paraphrase, rendered Luke 15:11, “A certain man had two sons,” as “A gentleman of splendid family opulentfortune had two sons.” This is clearly an extreme instance, but it does illus-trate a point: if we consider our age andits requirements as
, we caninvolve ourselves in absurdities. Andsuch absurdities are not missing fromthe various versions. The critic DwightMacdonald has called attention to someof these in the Revised Standard Versionin a
article, “The Bible inModern Undress.”
Macdonald com-ments on the RSV by way of a conclu-sion, “Whether it will be any more suc-cessful in replacing the K.J.V. than the1885 version was remains to be seen. If it is, what is now simply a blunder — aclerical error, so to speak — will becomea catastrophe. Bland, favorless medioc-rity will have replaced the pungency of genius.”
The issue is not that the Bibleshould speak our everyday language,for this involves debasement, but that