Thursday, September 15, 2011

Practical Reflections Regarding the KJV (6)

Beeke’s seventh reason for retaining the KJV is that it is laid out in a verse-by-verse format, which is the easiest for preaching. In other words, as any minister who preaches from the text can tell you, it is easier to find a verse if the verses are laid out verse-by-verse rather than in paragraph format. It is also easier to find the verse if it is printed in single-column, rather than double-column format. Currently, the KJV, the NKJV, the NASB, and the ESV are available in verse-by-verse, single-column format. That is, the KJV is not distinctive on this point.

Beeke next states that the KJV is the most beautiful translation. While I tend to agree with Beeke, the beauty of a translation is, to some extent, a matter of opinion. Certainly in well-known passages, such as the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, Psalms 23 and 100, and other like passages, the KJV has a resonance that most modern versions lack. The question is whether this is a matter of it being inherently more beautiful, or simply being more familiar. It may well be that the early 17th century was simply a period when English was at its highest aesthetic level. The KJV resonates, at least with the sophisticated reader. The modern formal-equivalence translations (that is, those most likely to be used by people who would otherwise use the KJV) simply don’t seem to have the same beauty. An example might help here. In 1Kgs 19:12, Elijah is at Mt. Horeb, and after the wind, earthquake and, fire, there is “a still small voice” (KJV). According to the NASB, there is “a sound of a gentle blowing.” The first certainly sounds better, and is probably no less accurate than the second.

Beeke’s ninth point is that the KJV serves as an ecumenical text for Reformed Christians. He says, “this version is used by preference in many conservative Reformed congregations.” I suppose it depends on what you mean by conservative Reformed congregations. I’ve preached in a number of conservative Reformed congregations over the last twenty years, and not one of them has used the KJV as the pew or the pulpit Bible. The days when one translation served all conservative congregations are long gone. One might wish it were otherwise, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Tenth, Beeke considers the KJV a practical choice in that it “is available in many editions; with a full range of helps and reference materials, not to mention computer software; in large-type, clear-print editions; and often priced well below modern translations.” That’s true to an extent, in that finding an exhaustive concordance for the NKJV or the NASB or the ESV is not easy. Apart from that, most of the rest of Beeke’s statements applies at least as well to modern versions, especially the formal-equivalence translations. All one has to do is go to the Bible page at to find out that all of those translations are available in about as wide a range of editions as is the KJV. It is true that the KJV is sometimes less expensive than one of the modern versions for a similar edition, but that is not universally the case. Particularly with modern Bible study software, the modern versions are generally as well-served as the KJV.

Beeke’s last three reasons will require greater discussion, so I will stop here for this post.

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