“It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
John 1: 1-6
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
KJV. Gotta love it. Those few exerpts illustrate why we should love the King James Bible translation. For many Protestants, it is the ONLY version they will use, and there are good reasons to argue in that direction. Despite the modern proliferation of versions, the King James Bible was solid enough that it survived alone for four hundred years before anyone thought to update translations. Let’s start out by saying simply that the King James Bible is beautiful language. Its alliteration is built to be kind to the ear, and the nuances of its arcane wording is worth the deep-dive, just like studying Shakespeare is profitable for those who love the kind of rich language which carries with it equally rich meanings.
On the note of language, Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” is one of the latest translations to become popular. Peterson came up with his own more colloquial Bible translation based solely on the fact that he thought the archaic language was boring.
“While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realise that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament...”
And so he went home and wrote “The Message”. Sorry Eugene, but to me it is not an improvement. It also makes me wonder, if “being bored” gives you carte blanche to rewrite Scripture. It kind of flies in the face of what we are told in 2 Peter 1:21 regarding Holy Scripture, that is it dually authored through the agency of the Holy Spirit, transcribed by mere human beings. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
How about this bleak version of the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13? If you grew up reciting the Lord’s prayer as part of your morning school ritual like I did, your stomach will ache at this point and you may start to question the need to rewrite translations to suit the hearer.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best--
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
It’s not just language (speaking of boring), it’s the permissions that language assumes. For anyone plugged into New Age beliefs, the phrase “as above, so below” should ring out as loaded language from New Age sources. “As above, so below” is an invocation associated with the Tarot, and derives from an esoteric text on the occult called the Emerald Tablet. It follows then that you will find many more “New Age-isms” plugged into Peterson’s translation. Foremost perhaps, Peterson dropping the use of “Lord Jesus”. His substitution is “Master Jesus”, and this pulls very much in the direction of New Age thinking where someone is a spiritual master but nothing special beyond that.
Let’s get into issues of translation, how and why the King James Bible came about. It was predated of course, by Luther’s German Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Wycliffe version, the William Tyndale translation… these are men who did not decide one night to arbitrarily rewrite Scripture… they spent their time on earth in danger and on the run from the institutional church who did not want words of Holy Scripture made accessible to the laity. For heroes of the faith like Wycliffe and Tyndale, a lot of care went into translation so as to nuance exactly the right meaning with no error.
The preface that begins the King James Bible informs us just how revered the Scripture is to the translators, and how much cross-referencing between experts in language was required to get it just right. It’s a long, but worthwhile read. It will make you respect the final English Bible translation given to us by such men.
There is much to be said in praise of Bible reading. A great way to start any day. A stress reliever, and a reset for priorities. Perhaps best expressed in the poetic words of David in Psalm 19, verses 7-11.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”
If you want to be enriched and yet can only own one book… It happened frequently enough throughout history that the Family Bible served as primer, historical text, poetry, and wisdom literature all rolled into one. Like we sang in Sunday School, “the B-I-B-L-E now that’s the book for me”…. especially if it is the King James Version affectionately know as KJV.