|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2002|
|The final installment of this series asks the question, is the King James Version more readable than more modern translations? (We’ve included an appendix defining some of the obscure words used in the King James Version.)|
G. A. (Gail) Riplinger and other King James Version Only (KJVO) proponents have claimed that scientific tests have been conducted which prove the readability of the KJV is equal or superior to that of modern translations, something that anyone who has ever read the KJV might find difficult to believe. The truth is that more tests have been performed showing the opposite result. Dr. Arthur Farstad, Executive Editor of The New King James Version New Testament, discussed several of these in his The New King James Version in the Great Tradition (Nelson, 1988, pages 2-4), which concluded, as would be expected, that the KJV was more difficult to understand than modern translations. It simply cannot be denied that there are many, many places where the KJV is anything but clear due to its 400 year old language. Indeed the archaic nature of the KJV was the very impetus for the New King James Version.
Remember that it was the KJV translators themselves who stated in their original preface that the very purpose of their translation was to provide God’s Word in a readable and understandable fashion. They recognized and accepted the translation work that had been done before them. So then how can anyone logically argue that they would object to modern translations being done today for the same purpose?
Now examine this yourself. Here are a few examples of words from the KJV that have passed completely out of use and convey no meaning to readers today: almug, neesing, chode, tabret, habergeon, cieled, purtenance, aceldama, sackbut, blains, wot, trow, churl, ambassage, crookbackt, “collops of fat”, “wimples,” “hole’s mouth,” “ouches of gold,” “naughty figs,” and “fetched a compass” (which does not mean to go find a compass but “to turn around”). These were the words chosen by KJV translators in 1611 to signify the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words. Translators now simply find English words in use today that more accurately convey the meaning.
Riplinger is even critical of the New King James Version (NKJV), claiming that it is just as biased and error ridden as modern versions. But those who worked on the NKJV are appalled at her charges. For example, Dr. James R. Price, the Executive Editor of the NKJV Old Testament, stated the following:
In his letter he cited numerous illustrations of Riplinger’s errors of fact regarding the NKJV. In her first edition, Riplinger wrongly claimed that the NKJV followed the WestcottHort Greek text and a non-traditional Hebrew text rather than the Greek and Hebrew Textus Receptus (p. 105, 475, 494). In fact, the NKJV followed the Greek text of the Textus Receptus throughout the New Testament and “anywhere the NKJV appears to differ from the Greek text used by the KJV translators, it is because it has corrected the KJV departures from the Textus Receptus. Consequently, the NKJV adheres more closely to the Textus Receptus than does its predecessor the KJV”.
Unfortunately, Riplinger’s treatment of the NKJV is characteristic of her treatment of the NIV and NASB as well. To illustrate, on page 455 of Riplinger’s text, New Age Bible Versions, she claims that in Isaiah 26:3 the NASB has deleted “the key words, ‘on Thee.’” But Riplinger’s argument that the NASB has deleted these key words is false. Here is Riplinger’s comparison:
Riplinger has badly distorted what both the NASB and KJV state. All one has to do is compare the verses. Here is what the NASB and KJV actually state:
Clearly, Riplinger has claimed that key words are missing when they are not. Her use of the period after the word “peace” indicates the sentence ends at this word when, in fact, it does not. This kind of mis-citation is evident throughout New Age Bible Versions.
Note another point. Riplinger’s own translation of the KJV does not place the words “on thee” in italics. But every King James Bible has them in italics. The King James translators did this so that the reader would understand that the words “on thee” were not in the original Hebrew, as is also true for the words “him,” “is,” and “whose.” Thus she has claimed
“key words” were deleted that never were in the Bible to begin with. In conclusion, a careful comparison of these verses from the NASB and the KJV indicate that they teach exactly the same thing, and again that Riplinger is wrong.
There is more. James White shows how Riplinger consistently misquotes authoritative sources. For example on page 546 of her text she quotes Westcott and Hort’s Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek. The manner in which she cites them, using ellipses, makes them teach an extremely radical view of the Greek manuscripts Aleph & B. Riplinger cites Westcott and Hort’s Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek as follows, “[R]eadings of Aleph & B should be accepted as the true readings... [They] stand far above all documents... [are] very pure... excellent... and immune from corruption.”
By her use of ellipses, Riplinger has distorted what Westcott and Hort actually said which was “...readings of Aleph/B should be accepted as the true readings until strong evidence is found to the contrary,...” In fact, Westcott and Hort were actually talking about errors in Aleph/B. When Riplinger cites them as stating that these manuscripts are “very pure and excellent” she is again misquoting because the words are not referring to Aleph/B but the parent text of Aleph/B. Also, the words “and immune from corruption” cannot be found in any of Riplinger’s citations in her footnote. In fact, several of the pages cited by Riplinger in her footnote have nothing relevant to her excerpt or argument. Riplinger also misquotes NIV editors, R. Laird Harris and Edwin Palmer, and translators Herbert Wolf and Larry Walker.
Sadly, there is even more, but this should be enough to warn thinking Christians that Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions, is fatally flawed and misleading. Those who have bought a modern translation to understand the Word of God more clearly should not be discouraged by what she has said. In the future, Christians who have trusted Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions, will hopefully realize the need for a more critical approach to such sensational claims.
In conclusion, if you are a Christian who uses the King James Version, if you understand what you read and are comfortable with it, then by all means, continue to use it. The KJV, despite the kinds of minor problems which occur in any translation, is still a fine Bible. What if you are a Christian who uses a modern translation? You also should feel free to continue reading a good modern translation. Don’t be deterred or intimidated by those who would tell you that you do not have the Word of God in your hands.
These words, found in the King James Version, are no longer in use today.
Almug— (Algum) A large leguminous tree native to India and Ceylon.
Neesing— An old word for sneezing, the plural of which appears once in KJ, in the chapter about Leviathan (Job 41:18):
Chode—(past tense of chide) rebuke. In [some] passages, it has the obsolete sense of contend, wrangle, or scold, with loud and angry words.
Tabret—the diminutive of “taber,” thus a small drum, timbrel, or tambourine. KJ uses “tabret” 8 times and “timbrel” 9 times, as translations of the Hebrew toph; RSV uses “tambourine” 5 times and “timbrel” 12 times. (The word “tabret” is probably wrong in Ezekiel 28:13 and is certainly an error in Job 17:6.)
Habergeon— a short, sleeveless hauberk or coat of mail.
Cieled— obsolete spelling of CEIL, CEILING. “Cieled” is used four times in the obsolete sense of having walls lined or paneled with wood.
Purtenance— shortened form of “appurtenance,” and means whatever pertains or belongs to something larger or of more consequence.
Aceldama— field of blood
Sackbut—a bass trumpet, an early form of the slide trombone.
Blains— An old word for a blister or large pustule
Wot— The Old English verb “wit” means to know or to find out. ... present tense, “wot,”... past tense, “wist...
Trow— an archaic word for think, believe, be of the opinion that.
Churl— the translation of a Hebrew adjective which means hard, severe, stubborn, rough, rude.
Ambassage— an old form for “embassy” which appears in Luke 14:32. The same Greek word is used in Luke 19:14, where KJ translates it by “message.”
“Collops of fat” — collops are slices of meat, rashers of bacon, or thick folds of fat upon the body
Wimples — cloak, shawl
“Hole’s mouth” — The sides of the deep gorge.
“Ouches of gold” — ornaments fit to display jewels or precious stones.
“Naughty figs” — “Naughtiness” is really bad in KJ; it means downright wickedness. ...The “naughty figs” that Jeremiah saw in his vision (24:2) were simply “bad figs,” so bad that they could not be eaten.
“Fetched a compass” — to turn, take a roundabout course, make a circuit.