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“The KJV Endureth”

May 24, 2011

Please enjoy another interesting article on the lasting influence of the King James Version of the Holy Bible, celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.

As you read it, notice how many times the author refers to the “cherished” “haunting” “majesty” of the KJV, which has a “unique capacity to speak to us” – even as he points out all of the passages which sound odd, mis-communicate, or simply don’t communicate at all.

All of which raises the question: “How should we translate the Bible?” Do we want a “functional” Bible that uses direct, straightforward modern English, as if Jesus were sitting across from us at a table at Starbucks (as one devotional writer encourages)? Or do we want a “formal” Bible whose very diction and cadence reminds us that we are dealing with things above, rather than earthly things?

My personal opinion is that the answer can, and possibly should, be “yes” to both of the above questions. Just today I was in a bookstore and saw a parallel Bible – two versions side-by-side on the page. The two versions were the KJV and the New Living Translation. Two more different versions could scarcely be imagined, and thus the effectiveness of juxtaposing them.

We are blessed in English to have a huge variety of Bible translations, each with a different philosophy, target audience, and editorial style. We don’t need to hyper-analyze each version, trump the one we “choose,” and vilify the rest. All translations are flawed, and yet all are also God’s Word. Assuming a basic adherence to fundamental Christian teachings about Scripture itself, we can celebrate the diversity of styles and enrich ourselves by enjoying them all (on their own terms), letting God speak to us at different times in various ways.

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