The following are six reasons why it is preferable to continue with the reading, study, and public use of the Authorised Version of the Bible, otherwise known as The King James Version.
1. THE VERSION WHICH USED AUTHENTIC MANUSCRIPTS
It is often forgotten that all the translations of the Scriptures made in recent times, (including those of J. N. Darby and W. Kelly), use manuscripts that do not represent the text as it has been passed down through the centuries since the time of the apostles. There were two men that had great influence on the committee which produced the Revised Version in 1880. They were Wescott and Hort, and they advanced a theory which said that the manuscripts of the Authorised Version were corrupt, (they used expressions such as “that vile Textus Receptus”), and advocated we should use as the basis for translation such manuscripts as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These manuscripts not only deviate from the majority text in many ways, but they also deviate from one another.
They are undoubtedly older than many of the manuscripts that are extant on which the Authorised Version is based, which is why many versions have footnotes which use terms such as “The older and better manuscripts read…” It might seem at first that this is a good way of thinking, for after all we want to get back to the original writings as far as possible. Is it not logical to use the oldest? In any other setting this might be the case, but not in this one, for the following reason. Before printing was invented, each copy of the Scriptures had to be written by hand. So when a copy was wearing out, and in danger of being misread, a careful copy would be made, and the old copy destroyed. So the new copy is no longer the oldest copy, but it is the better copy.
So much for those copies which through use began to wear out. What of the copies so favoured by Westcott and Hort? They were old copies that had not been worn out by use. The reason being that they had not been recognised as genuine scripture. At a time when Satan was attacking the Scriptures on several fronts, notably with the theory of evolution, the Westcott and Hort theory was tailor-made to pander to the liberal tendencies of Christendom. Sadly, there were many believers who were prepared to go along with this tendency, including Thomas Newberry in his study Bible footnotes.
The truth is that the theory of Westcott and Hort is now thoroughly discredited, but it does not seem to have occurred to believers that since that is the case, they should retrace their steps, and revert back to the Authorised Version.
No-one denies that words change their meaning over time, and there are those who appeal to this as support for the need of a new translation from time to time. But that is a totally different question to the matter of which manuscripts should be used, and the two issues should not be confused with one another.
2. THE VERSION PREFERRED BY SPIRITUAL BELIEVERS
Ever since the Revised Version was produced in 1881, mature believers have retained the Authorised Version. By “mature” is meant those who were spiritually minded, and not influenced by trends in the world. Their maturity and spirituality being easily discernible from their separate-from-the-world lifestyle, and their ability to lead the saints in worship. They were not impressed by the high-sounding arguments of those classed as “intellectuals”, because they knew that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”, 1 Corinthians 3:19, and to use the world’s wisdom to build the assembly is to use wood, hay and stubble. They were too busy faithfully serving the Lord to bother their heads about the theories of carnal men like Westcott and Hort. And so it is today, for generally speaking, those who are adherents to the modern versions of the scriptures are too often the progressives and liberals whose doctrines are destroying the Christian testimony. And even those who are orthodox often unwittingly undermine the truth by their constant references to “the margin”. Of course, marginal notes are helpful when a word has changed meaning, or to make clear which particular Greek word is being translated, but too often “the margin” is simply cover for “alternative manuscripts”, and should be recognised as such.
3. THE VERSION WHICH USES LITERAL EQUIVALENCE
There are two main ways in which a translation may be carried out. It may be on the principle of literal equivalence, or the principle of dynamic equivalence. Literal equivalence sets out to faithfully transmit from one language to another the actual words used in the first language. Nothing will be ignored, nothing will be added. The sense of the words used will, as far as possible, be reproduced in the second language. Sometimes, of course, this cannot be done in a literal way, because, for instance, the first language may have a peculiar way of expressing a thought, and the second language does not have that facility. Then careful thought will have to be given to the way in which the thought is expressed.
With dynamic equivalence, it is not so much the words that are translated, but the thoughts. Now this, of course, puts the reader of the resulting translation at the mercy of the translator. His ideas on a passage are now incorporated into the translation. The door is open for any and every evil to intrude. Even if this does not happen, it is still true that the principle is wrong. It is far better to translate literally, (as well as intelligibly), and leave passages slightly obscure, than to impose the ideas of the translator on the text.
Another factor with dynamic equivalence is that the translator does not feel obliged to translate every word, as long as, in his opinion, that word is in some way represented in the translation. The New International Version is well-known for its constant omission of words in this way.
4. THE VERSION THAT EVERYONE RECOGNISES
It is still true that the majority of those who come to assembly gatherings will bring with them the Authorised Version. If all things are going to be done “decently and in order”, then the version read and expounded should be that one that the listeners hold in their hands. How can anything constructive be done when the preacher is using one version and those listening are using another? They might as well be using two different languages. Not only so, but politeness and common sense demand that the version in use by the great majority of those listening should also be used by the one speaking. Anyone who has tried to follow the reading of a modern translation with the aid of the Authorised Version will know how frustrating and pointless the exercise is.
Connected with this is the fact that when a company adopts the policy of “any version you like”, they end up not quoting any one of them. This, of course, is a very lamentable situation. How can a company be called a Christian assembly when it does not quote the words of the God they claim to revere, and who has chosen to make His truth known through written Scriptures?
Furthermore, those led in prayer have the privilege and responsibility of saying Amen at the end of a prayer they agree with. If a translation with which they are unfamiliar has been quoted, how is the company to know whether error has been introduced into the life of the assembly? How can a hearty Amen be said at the end of a prayer like that?
5. THE VERSION THAT PRESERVES REVERENT ADDRESS TO GOD
As we see from Acts 4:24-30, the early believers, when assembled together for prayer, prefaced their petitions with quotation from Scripture, and then proceeded to appeal to God on that basis as well. This is the only recorded assembly prayer in the Scriptures, so establishes important precedents. Now if we are going to copy their good example, we shall quote Scripture too. But what if we wish to preserve in our speech that reverence for God that the use of “Thee” and Thou” represents, and the translation we use and memorise lowers the standard, and descends to the “You and yours” level? There will be a conflict in our minds. Far better to be thought of as old-fashioned, and give God His right and separate place, than to be thought of as modern and up-to-date, yet lower the level at which we speak to our Holy God. Holy and reverend is His name, Psalm 111:9, and our address to Him should reflect that. If there are those who find it difficult to master that way of speaking, the solution is simple. The reading, constantly and regularly, of the Authorised Version will train the mind, so that its way of addressing God becomes our way. We learnt to speak by imitating the speech of our parents; why can we not learn to address God by learning the speech of the Authorised Version?
6. THE VERSION THAT IS BEST FOR PUBLIC READING
It is almost universally acknowledged, even by those who do not use the Authorised Version, that its structure and flow are conducive to the God-honouring public reading of Scripture. It is one of the prime duties of an assembly to publicly read the Scriptures, as Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; and 1 Timothy 4:13 show. It is preferable if every gathering of the Lord’s people, even if simply for prayer, should include the reading of the Scriptures out loud. What better version to use than the one that was translated with this in mind?