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Every Little Helps

Monday, May 26, 2003

On King James and his Version


The KJV-only types -- for those of you not in the know, that means the people who say God's Word is only contained in the Authorized Version, more commonly known as the King James Version of the Bible -- amuse me to no end. They'll go on and on about how it's better because it came from the right original sources, how it's better because it uses the best of archaic English (and shouldn't all people know that "charity" doesn't mean giving material possessions and money to other people, but instead means "caritas"?), how it's better because it's got the right sense of detachment and honor in using "thees and thous"... it's so easy to throw them into a loop and make them sputter. First, start by pointing out that, at the time, and in most current languages with such a distinction, the "thees and thous" -- the second-person pronouns -- which are used universally for God are the most intimate pronouns, used often to convey an insult and always showing familiarity and a marked lack of honorific respect; if the KJV sounds formal and stilted now, and the KJV at the time was the best way to approach God, then it no longer is, for, at the time, it was anything but formal and stilted. Second, continue by asking what they suggest for speakers of non-English languages. If the KJV is beneficial by means of its exact words, then everyone who does not speak English is lost. If it is beneficial because of stilted and archaic speech, then should Germans go for the now-archaic Luther Bible, although Luther himself pointed out that it was largely a loose paraphrase? Most of the KJV-only crowd are also extreme literalists, so that will never do. And if it is beneficial because of its original sources, can those sources not be translated into modern English as well as they can be translated into other languages?

I've tried these questions over various mailing lists I'm on, but I only hear sputters in response. I usually ask several questions at once, as well, which makes it very easy for the responder to touch on one fragment of one question and ignore the rest.

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