thee, thou, thy
A sermon reference to monkeys, banana, ladder, and water hose, illustrating the force of tradition, reminded me of the case of the whales. Sperm whales will only breach on the windward side of ships even though whalers haven't used sails for quite some time. The tradition lives on among whales if not men.
On the other hand there are some traditions that benefit the animals. I recall a story of a farmer whose fields were infested with crows, so he would go out and shoot them. It got so that the crows would take off when they saw him coming. Oh, his wife could come out and that wouldn't bother them, but let a man who meant business show up and they were gone!
Well, he developed a plan. He got a couple cousins to come over, & the three of them would walk across the field to a copse of trees. He would hide in the trees while the two cousins would walk back. Then the crows would return, and the farmer would jump out and blast them. He could do this once or twice a week.
See, crows can't count, to say nothing of addition and subtraction. To them a group of men walked out and a group of men walked back. The equation: 3-2=1 was beyond their ken.
Now I'm thinking, suppose there were an Einstein crow, or one inspired, and he figured out because the farmer did it too often that it's best not to go back the same afternoon the men return, and the other crows follow suit, and it becomes tradition. It would be advantageous for the rest of the crows to carry on that behavior long after Einstein crow and all his generation are gone. That's even if none of their research shows why they carry on the tradition; a group of men comes out, a group of men goes back; where's the problem?
Let's suppose that the crows have established their tradition not to return to the field that afternoon even though the group of men has gone back to the house. Generations (of crows) have now passed since the tradition got established, and some of the newer crows think it's all a bunch of hooey. There is a big crow debate going on over protocols.
On the traditional side is the Crow Einstein Version, based on the theory of relative pronouns. "They come out of the house. Some of them return. And he is left hiding with a shotgun. Caw, caw, caw.
The newcomers from other fields don't like all those pronouns: they, them, he. These modern crows like to use the single pronoun they. There's is the New International Version. No more thee's and thou's. They come out, they return, end of story. Caw, caw, caw.
And the newcomers have their research to back them up. The men do come out, they do return, and that's that. Meanwhile one of the smarty birds is advising caution. Our enemy, he points out, is more intelligent than the average crow, and he lives through many generations of crows. What if he's just laying low to wait until several generations of crows have passed, and nobody remembers the Crow Einstein Version any more. Then he'll have a heyday picking off crows left and right while none of them has a tradition to protect them. Smarty crow advises to keep the tradition, and if they feel they must update it to the New International Version in the modern fields, they at least keep the Crow Einstein Version in the field of that old farmer.
The screecher hearing all the chatter, tells the crows to follow the example of their nobler brethren, to receive the screeches with all readiness of mind and search the fields keenly whether these things be so.
My booklet on Bible Versions283 contains an exhortation relevant to our Acts 17:11 sermon.
The King James Version
At any rate I've been writing about three facets of modern English Bibles: whether they really use simpler English, better Greek, or safer formulas; and one issue of intra-body submission. I'd like to continue on these four topics and use an illustration from a fictional account of a dinner conversation in Oxford, England in 1663. I've picked this illustration as it can do quadruple duty on the four topics above, so I don't unnecessarily lengthen my writing.
A Multi-Topical Story284
First, note that the day-to-day speech of the 1600's was not the same as that used in the Authorized Version of 1611. The only place where we see thee, thou, and thy used is when they are quoted in (Isaiah 45:9), "What makest thou?" and (Isaiah 47:10), "Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee." Otherwise, ordinary conversation employs the pronoun you:
"Now, sir," he said, "you must defend yourself. ... If you are intimate with Lower, I suppose you must be so."
Compare that to the: NIV Preface: "As for the traditional pronouns 'thou,' 'thee' and 'thine' in reference to the Deity, the translators judged that to use these archaisms (along with the old verb forms such as 'doest,' 'wouldest,' and 'hadst') would violate accuracy in translation. Neither Hebrew, Aramaic nor Greek uses special pronouns for the persons of the Godhead. A present-day translation is not enhanced by forms that in the time of the King James Version were used in everyday speech, whether referring to God or man." These forms were not "used in everyday speech, whether referring to God or man" in the 1600's. It was the RSV that decided to employ them "in reference to the Deity."
As a side note, "it was the Quakers, not the Puritans, who wore plain, unadorned clothing; and their use of thee and thou instead of you, which today seems merely quaint, served the same purpose as simple dress—to minimize rank and social status. According to Margaret Bacon, common people in the seventeenth century were expected to address their betters as you, whereas thee and thou were more intimate forms, and the Quakers refused to comply with the linguistic forms of ranking."285
King John by William Shakespeare Act Four, Scene II KING JOHN Here we sit, once again crown'd, And look'd upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes. PEMBROKE This once again, but that your Highness pleas'd, Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before,
Just as the first person plural "we" was used as a "royal we" for a king to refer to himself, so was the second person plural "you" used to refer to him: "Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before," and eventually it was applied to both single and plural in informal speech—except for the nonclassist Quakers who retained thee and thou. The smart translators of the KJV used an earlier form of English—from Tyndale and Wycliffe—which retained thee and thou for second person singlular, you and ye for second person plural.
I'm taking some time to explain this partly because it is not commonly understood—witness the objections to the KJV on account of all those thee's and thou's—and partly because a well-known radio preacher has been floundering along with "you all." He's seen where the number is important in places, where it's critical to know whether "you" is referring to one person or to more than one. Where it refers to more than one, he has taken to saying "you all" which he has borrowed from a Southern dialect, explaining to us that a designated plural you is not found in the English Bible. Not only has he missed it in the King James Version, but he doesn't understand the Southern dialect either. In the South "y'all" can refer to one person, so if they want to make sure a group is included, they'll say, "y'all y'all."
The New International Version Preface also mentioned: "archaisms ... with the old verb forms such as 'doest,' 'wouldest,' and 'hadst,'" but in the dinner conversation quoted above, those endings were not in use in the 1600's except in Bible quotations: "... him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?" "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." "... it hath perverted thee." In the dinner conversation proper, it's: "Now, sir, do you defend a long tradition when ...;" "What do you mean?" instead of, "dost thou defend ...?" and "What dost thou mean?" It's: "... a mineral would have seemed absurd to the ancients," instead of "wouldest have seemed absurd." And try, "... the young man who had shown me the way;" and "Grove had interrupted and carried on .." instead of, "who hath shown me the way;" and "Grove hadst interrupted."
The ordinary English speech of the 1600's wasn't that of the King James Version. And today we sometimes hear such archaic verb endings, as well as thee, thou, thy.
"Hi, this is Fudge," the answering machine whirred. "I'm not here right now, unless, of course you're a telemarketer, in which case, I am here and I'm screening you, because, quite honestly, your friendship means nothing to me. I have no time for hangers-on. Leave a message at the sound of the beep."
According to the NIV Preface, "the Committee on Bible Translation held certain goals for the New International Version: ... that it would have clarity." And yet our comparison shows:
Number of words monosyllable words Grade Level KJV 238 174 7.76 NIV 239 176 7.01 at dinner 1188 837 5.99Dinner patter in the 1600's would be at a sixth grade reading level, while the NIV translation (Acts 17:1-10a), is at seventh grade, no better than the King James Version once we allow that a series of and's in verse five would not have actually increased the difficulty as the formula indicates.
Our King James Bible is not a more difficult read than the more modern versions. I believe the objections given are not on account of its (the KJV's) difficulty per se, but for another reason.
4. Effective readers engage in a great deal of prediction while they read.295
When I hear the radio preachers quoting long passages from the KJV, they will often substitute a more familiar sounding word for the KJV one, and if it works go on. I think that as we predict what we will be reading, an effective reader who is not familiar with the KJV dialect will be struggling to overcome his predicting and wanting to use words that are more in reach. Putting the Bible into contemporary English saves him some effort, but he could have understood the KJV by making the effort, and once familiar with it, it would seem more natural. The reader (like me) who is familiar by now with the KJV terminology will be thrown for a loop to hear a Bible quoted in a modern version.
Influence of Wycliffe's and Tyndale's versions upon the English language.297
So to look at the translation of the KJV means looking also at Tyndale and Wycliffe.
In a lecture on the principles of translation I laid down the rule that a translator ought to adopt a dialect belonging to that period in the history of his own language when its vocabulary and its grammar were in the condition most nearly corresponding to those of his original. Now, when the version of Wycliffe appeared, English was in a state of growth and formation, and the same observation applies, though with less force, to the period of Tyndale. The Greek of the New Testament, on the other hand, was in a state of resolution. It had become less artificial in structure than the classical dialect, more approximated to modern syntactical construction, and the two languages, by development on the one hand, decay on the other, had been brought in the sixteenth century to a certain similarity of condition. Besides, the New Testament Greek was under the same necessity as Early English, of borrowing or inventing a considerable number of new terms and phrases to express the new ideas which Christianity had ingrafted on the Jewish theology; of creating, in fact, a special sacred phraseology; and hence there is very naturally a closer resemblance between the religious dialect of English, as framed by the Reformers, and that of the New Testament, than between the common literary style of England and the Greek of the classic ages. It will generally be found that the passages of the received version whose diction is most purely Saxon are not only most forcible in expression, but also the most faithful transcripts of the text, and that a Latinized style is seldom employed without loss of beauty of language, and at the same time of exactness in correspondence. Whatever questions may be raised respecting the accuracy with which particular passages are rendered, there seems to be no difference of opinion among scholars really learned in the English tongue as to the exceeding appropriateness of the style of the authorized version; and the attempt to bring down that style to the standard of to-day is as great an absurdity, and implies as mistaken views of the true character and office of human language, and especially of our maternal speech, as would be displayed by translating the comedies of Shakespeare into the dialect of the popular farces of the season.300
In other words, "If it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it's good enough for me." Our King James Version is the closest English we've got to the language and its condition that God chose to reveal his holy word in. That's because of how it came about:
In the first place, then, the dialect of this translation was not, at the time of the revision, or, indeed, at any other period, the actual current book-language nor the colloquial speech of the English people. This is a point of much importance, because the contrary opinion has been almost universally taken for granted; and hence very mistaken views have been, and still are, entertained. respecting the true relations of the diction of that version to the national tongue. It was an assemblage of the best forms of expression applicable to the communication of religious truth that then existed, or had existed in any and all the successive stages through which English had passed in its entire history.301
I was reading an autobiography of a woman who'd married a Mormon. Part of the condition of her divorce was she was to write to their bishops detailing her sexual experiences both before her marriage and after her divorce. She finally wrote and told them she was a virgin when she married, faithful during her marriage, and abstinent afterwards. I have a real question in my mind why those bishops needed to know the details of a divorcee's sexual experiences.
I think that as an authority our Bibles (esp. KJV) do well to tell the widow wishing to remarry that she may do so "only in the Lord." Evidently some widows were remarrying for wanton reasons, but the Bible leaves it up to us to figure out the details of "only in the Lord," which I think we're quite capable of.
J.B. Phillips expands on the concept to say, "let her be guided by the Lord." I've nothing in particular against the Lord's guidance, but I think that "only in the Lord" has other dimensions. One James Dobson bulletin insert gave us a warning example of a precipitous marriage based on an intuitive leading, a leading such as might be overly encouraged by Phillips. I wouldn't use Phillips for a general teaching in this area, but if I knew a couple open to modern versions about to marry blissfully unaware of the requirements, I might use Phillips to get them to seek guidance through counsel. It would be a judgment call. However, I think marriages have been made in the Lord without either party feeling a particular inspiration from God to select each other.
There is one place where the NIV tags itself for being inhospitable. Among the KJV, RSV, ASV, NIV only the NIV in 1st Corinthians 7 tells a widow that she must remarry only to someone belonging to the Lord; the others just say she must do it in the Lord. It seems to me that it would be inhospitable for any group one joins up with to force a woman to break up with her fiancé of nine years. That's how I once saw the NIV used.
I don't think one has the authority of Paul to do so. I mean, he clearly tells us that mixed marriages are sanctified, and then if he makes some general statement that a widow is to remarry only in the Lord, well, he expected the people he wrote to to understand it, perhaps from their earlier letter to him (which we don't have) or perhaps by their own circumstance, which we might at most apply to ours. When he told them in II Corinthians not to be unequally yoked, again, he expected them to understand it from their familiarity with yoked oxen working together. If some later Christians take those two letters and put them together into a Bible and then use the second letter as a context for the first—which is what the NIV translators evidently did in their interpretive rendering—then that does not come from apostolic authority and it's inhospitable.
That's actually my main concern, and when I see the NIV being used to support sermons, it looks like the fox guarding the chickens.
I was in a Bible study of First Corinthians where everyone but I had a modern version, the NIV, and so insistent were they on modern translation, that I went and brought my old J.B. Phillips which I hadn't read since high school. Well, that was the modern English one at the time, and the one I am familiar with in modern speech. When we got to the requirement of a widow to remarry only in the Lord, mine said that she must be guided by the Lord, and theirs said she had to marry only a believer. Such confusion brought to mind the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, and since I am of the belief that God undertakes to preserve his word through translation, my conclusion was that he confused it here to communicate to us that we were supposed to maintain the separate Bible dialect, just as in the days of the Tower of Babel he showed them they were supposed to maintain their separate languages too, not unite into one.
This particular verse has wider implications, because of the qualifications for high office that a man must first be able to rule his own house. If the Bible version does not first get right the man-woman thing, how can we trust it to guide us on our relationship to God? In chapter seven of First Corinthians, Paul is laying down some principles as a spiritual man would grasp them. If the translators cannot even relay these straight, how can we trust them to relay what is the revelation that comes from God himself?
The only way I find to reconcile the abysmal state of the modern translations and their contradictions with each other is to conclude that God is telling us he wants us to keep the Bible dialect handed down, that we are not supposed to unify our Bibles with our standard English dialects, just as at the Tower of Babel they had their tongues confused by God to show them they had to maintain their separate tongues. And just as the Spanish speaking woman had to extend her courtesy to her husband by telling her friends to speak only Inglés in their house, so I feel I should express courtesy to God by telling the brethren with whom I come into contact, with their modern versions, that God wants us speaking the KJV dialect in the church. I believe the elders in my church allow others the liberty to paraphrase, like, say, the husband allowing the girls to use a Spanish word if it suits the occasion better, but the way I hear the KJV used is like the girls were speaking Spanish a mile a minute and occasionally used an English word, the rare smattering of the KJV.
It's like that passage in Malachi. "And ye say, Wherein have
we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and
ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee?" "Why, then, should
theology, the highest of knowledges, alone be required to file her
tongue to the vulgar utterance, when every other human interest has
its own appropriate expression, which no man thinks of conforming
to a standard that, because it is too common, can hardly be other
It's bad enough our own use of modern English translations, but we go to an extreme even the world can figure out. I mean, read an account like:
Another worker went to sleep on the job, ground for termination in most organizations. He was leaning on his machine, his head resting on his arm so nobody could see he was dozing. After a while, he opened his eyes, still looking down, and saw his boss' feet. A fast thinker, he raised one hand and said, "In Jesus name I pray, Amen."
You don't have to be a Christian to understand that Christians are supposed to be merciful, the old soft glove. Take another example: "Ballard wore a drab tie with a small, tight knot as hard as a Calvanist's mercy, and a nondescript blue suit five years out of date."304 The world understands that the hard knot of a Calvinist's mercy was not what Christ had in mind.
The world understands what's traditional too. Like:
When not working, he was the most traditional-looking of Gypsies: a day's beard, twirling mustachios, a red bandanna around his thick neck. When working, he shaved and wore suits and bought electronic appliances with checks that bounced, then sold them with phony service warranties at cutthroat prices out of storefronts rented by the week in big-city low-income areas. The government never saw the sales tax he collected.305
The world knows what traditional Gypsy getup is, and it sure ain't suit and tie. If a red bandanna, facial hair, and mustache is perceived as traditional Gypsy garb, then a traditional Bible quotation uses thee and thou and verbs that end in -eth. Unfortunately, the traditional service I attend does not have many Bible readings like that.
This can create a wrong impression in a variety of ways. A new convert has only heard the King James Version since his youth, and it's the only version he can understand. He lives right up the street from church, and I've been by to visit him and encourage him to read his Bible. Until this writing he's only had the New Testament in the King James Version, although people kept giving him Bibles. Our preacher gave him a New King James Version, somebody gave him a Contemporary English Version, and someone else gave him a New International Version. Poor guy; he doesn't want all those books he can't understand, so he gave them to me one by one to get rid of for him. It's a long walk home so I tossed them into the nearest dumpster which was the one behind church. I was just ridding the world of confusion. Now his mother has given him a King James Version Bible.
If the preacher were to give him another modern Bible, he'd only hand it to me to get rid of again. Now, I am a big fan of recycling, so I'd toss it into the city Mission's newspaper box. The men who bundle the papers would see a new Bible in the trash, and our bulletin stating we are a family of Bible believing Christians, and conclude we were hypocrites. The preacher may want to stop doing stuff like indiscriminately passing out modern versions.
(Ecclesiasticus XXXVII:8-16) "Every counsellor extolleth counsel; but there is some that counseleth for himself. Beware of a counsellor, and know before what need he hath; for he will counsel for himself; lest he cast the lot with thee, and say unto thee, Thy way is good: and afterward he stand on the other side, to see what shall befall thee. Consult not with one that suspecteth thee: and hide thy counsel from such as envy thee. Neither consult with a woman touching her of whom she is jealous; neither with a coward in matters of war; nor with a merchant concerning exchange; nor with a buyer of selling; nor with an envious man of thankfulness; nor with an unmerciful man touching kindness; nor with the slothful for any work; nor with an hireling for a year of finishing work; nor with an idle servant of much business; hearken not unto these in any matter of counsel. But be continually with a godly man, whom thou knowest to keep the commandments of the Lord, whose mind is according to thy mind, and will sorrow with thee, if thou shalt miscarry. And let the counsel of thine own heart stand: for there is no man more faithful unto thee than it; for a man's mind is sometime wont to tell him more than seven watchmen, that sit above in an high tower. And above all this pray to the most High, that he will direct thy way in truth. Let reason go before every enterprise, and counsel before every action."
One probably wouldn't want to "consult with an unmerciful man touching kindness," say, ask a Calvinist how to show mercy. Are you all that confident about consulting "with a merchant concerning exchange; or with a buyer of selling"? How much confidence should we place in the literature the publishers put out themselves about the virtues of their modernized translations? I know that's a lot of material I've given the reader, but I needed to make a point, that the spiritual force guiding the translation of the NIV (and other new versions) is evidently trying to cover its tracks, as it is getting us to question what God has fashioned—the KJV with its sacred dialect—but not question what rebellious man has made, a unified tongue where our Bible is spoken in the same dialect of every day profane matters. We are not supposed to look at the KJV Bible passed down from God, and say, "Yikes! What's with all the thee's and thou's?" but to read it reverently. If we want to question something, we should question rebellious man, à la tower of babel, who wants no separate sacred dialect, but have even God's word use the same phraseology as the rest of his worldly business, just as the builders of the tower of Babel wanted a unified tongue to keep God at a distance.
The next formula in the dinner conversation is: Job, 28:18, "The price of wisdom is above rubies." The NIV puts it, "The price of wisdom is beyond rubies." My dictionary306 defines "above, prep. 4. more than: the weight is above a ton;" and "beyond, prep. 5. more than; exceeding: a price beyond what I can pay." At first blush it appears that both versions give the same definition, a price more than rubies. However, we should consider:
Perfect synonyms are extremely rare.307
Aside from one reference: "Above is primarily used as a preposition (above the clouds) ...,"309 my personal reference books don't give any help in selecting between the two words, so I'll have to actually quote them in sentences—bold emphasis added.
Okay, the car was stranded two hundred feet beyond the road, but the boy had to draw some water from above the saucepan before they could push the car back. That's similar to certain passages: (Psalm 67:1-2) "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." (Eph. 2:6, 10) "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: ... For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." God shines his face upon us from above, and then he is recognized beyond us, upon earth, among all nations. We are raised us up, sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and then we walk in good works, which God hath ordained. First the vertical, above, then the horizontal, beyond. So the NIV has done it again, put the secondary in the place of the primary from our traditional (KJV) Bible. Let's read a little further, looking at a usage of "more than."
Just as in the desert we'd need to carry more than we'd like to in H2O, so in translating a Bible we'd need more than we'd like to be satisfied with scholarship. Let's see how the translators of the King James Version fare in this regard.
Around the time that the last three of these early Bibles, the Bishop's Bible of 1568, was published, a certain John Bois—whose mature years were dedicated to translating the Authorized Version—was just starting his education, learning Hebrew and Ancient Greek. Bois was born in 1560, just four years before William Shakespeare, and it is said that under his father's eye he had read the entire Bible in Hebrew by the time he was six years old. At fourteen he became a classics scholar at St John's College, Cambridge, passed through his examinations at record speed, and soon became a Fellow at the College.
These were the men of best scholarship, and with the providence of God to boot. Compare that to the scholarship used for the new translations, of men without faith putting together a corrupt montage of Greek from minority manuscripts. There's no comparison.
Let's take another instance of "more than" to further our understanding.
The translators who need wisdom worth more than rubies to write a trustworthy Bible version are, from my investigations, much like Wyatt Earp who supposedly was making more than $400 a month, but in reality it was only about $75. There's a lot of material the NIV leaves out, and a lot of stuff it gets wrong, just like Earp. And yet the NIV is quite popular but then so is Earp.
I'll tell you a story a real true life story, a tale of the Western frontier. The West, it was lawless, but one man was flawless, and his is the story you'll hear. Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold. Long live his fame and long live his glory, and long may his story be told. Well he cleaned up the country, the old wild west country. He made law and order prevail. And none can deny it, The legend of Wyatt forever will live on the trail. --chorus--
According to popular belief, novels and song, Wyatt Earp cleaned up the wild west, just as the NIV cleared up the obscure wording in our Bibles. Unfortunately, they cleaned or cleared up a lot less than they get credit for, and in a good many instances they are or were the problem themselves.
The next formula: (Ecclesiastes 1:18) "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." Or the NIV: "the more knowledge, the more grief." In the KJV it is the person increasing his sorrow in getting knowledge. In the NIV it sounds like the knowledge itself is of sorrows. In fact, a corollary of the NIV formula is, "no news is good news." That's especially unfortunate as the good news, the gospel, is exactly what we want there to be a lot of preached.
(Proverbs 1:22) "Scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge." Or by our New International Version, "mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge." The only difference is between the words scorn and mock. But of course, true synonyms are so rare (see references 1 & 2).
Let's look at our dictionary:322
"scorn, v. 1. look down upon; think of as mean or low;
despise: scorn a traitor;"
The other curiosity about him was that, although he treated everybody with scorn, he gave tirelessly of his time and effort once his curiosity was engaged. Human beings he could not deal with, but set him a problem and he would work to exhaustion. Although he should have aroused little but disgust, I nonetheless developed a cautious regard for the man.323
It is of note that a scorner might have some redeeming virtue in curiosity, but a mocker tends to carelessness. Wisdom is addressing a higher class individual in the KJV than in the NIV.
Let's look at a single author who uses both words/concepts:
KING EDWARD These were her words, utt'red with mild disdain: ["scorn, v. 1. look down upon; think of as mean or low; despise] Tell him, in hope he'll prove a widower shortly, I'll wear the willow-garland for his sake,'MENENIUS You know neither me, yourselves, nor any thing. You are ambitious for poor knaves' caps and legs; you wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a cause between an orange-wife and a fosset-seller, and then rejourn the controversy of threepence to a second day of audience. When you are hearing a matter between party and party, if you chance to be pinch'd with the colic, you make faces like mummers, set up the bloody flag against all patience, and, in roaring for a chamber-pot, dismiss the controversy bleeding, the more entangled by your hearing. All the peace you make in their cause is calling both the parties knaves. You are a pair of strange ones. BRUTUS Come, come, you are well understood to be a perfecter giber for the table than a necessary bencher in the Capitol. MENENIUS Our very priests must become mockers, if they shall encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When you speak best unto the purpose, it is not worth the wagging of your beards; and your beards deserve not so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher's cushion or to be entomb'd as an ass's packsaddle. ...
In the introductions to these new Bible versions, the translators scorn the KJV inasmuch as they do treat it "with mild disdain"—NIV PREFACE: "A present-day translation is not enhanced by ... the King James Version—see above—Yet they do not mock the KJV saying "Our very priests must" take the pages of the KJV to "stuff a botcher's cushion or to be entomb'd as an ass's packsaddle." They seem to be trying to avoid the ridicule of Wisdom directed against scorners such as themselves by retranslating the ridicule to be against the lower grade mockers.
The last formula quoted at the dinner conversation was: (Isaiah 47:10) "Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee." Sounds just like what happened to the NIV with its modicum of wisdom and knowledge. Somehow our preachers, some of them, have become mesmerized by this version. And now its use has been perverted. It has itself made no claim to be a traditional text (except perhaps to follow some of the punctuation and spelling of proper names.) But it's the version of choice in the particular traditional service I attend. That's a perverted use. Caused by the modicum of wisdom and knowledge of that version. "Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee."
Finally, there's the issue of intra-body submission. (I Peter 5:5) "Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
I had noticed that he had tried to take part in the conversation on several occasions, but each time he opened his mouth, Grove had interrupted and carried on as if he wasn't there.
It is naturally to be expected that the younger defer to the elder, but perhaps the younger should be allowed a part in the conversation at some point. When it comes to memorized scripture, the elder Christian will normally have more under his belt than the new convert. But switching to some new version upsets that balance, turns it on its head, because now in the new version the new convert will be picking up scripture that is only confusing the older Christian who has memorized his in the KJV.
Have I committed some offense in flaunting my knowledge of scripture so that now in the traditional service a new version is customarily read, so that in recalling it the new convert will know more than the one older in the Lord?
"Aha. Was Dr. Grove killed by Spirits or by spirits? That's the problem, is it? Is their wine the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps?"
Taking the advice of the NIV can at times be damaging. Let me illustrate thus:
There are two sets of women mentioned in the story above. One set is sanctified, and the other is not. Likewise in the Bible there is the New Testament and the Old Testament. In the New Testament marriage to an unbeliever is sanctified, although not every unbeliever will abide marriage to a Christian—"... fell off like flies." In the Old Testament there were seven nations the Israelites were not allowed to marry into. These are two distinct sets of people.
The New International Version confuses the two by paraphrasing whom the widow is permitted to marry: anybody she chooses, "only in the Lord"—meaning within the Lord's design for her life, to now read: "only he must belong to the Lord," [emphasis added] words and ideas that are not in the Greek at all. I've seen people get quite distressed by well meaning Christians trashing a mixed engagement, which biblical authority they do not have unless we regard the NIV as authoritative in this matter.
Had Cola been more mindful of the Bible, he would have realized that the proof lay in those notebooks he carried to jot down the words of others. He reports that at the dinner in New College, Grove had a dispute with Thomas Ken, who stormed out, muttering the words "Romans, 8:13." Cola remembered the reference, wrote it down and entirely missed its significance; indeed, he missed the significance of the whole occasion, failing even to understand why he was invited in the first place. For what is this passage? Unlike him, I took the trouble to find out, and it confirmed the belief I have held all these years: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." My friend Thomas was convinced Grove did indeed live for fleshly pleasure, and a few hours later he died.330
The NIV has "according to the sinful nature," instead of "after the flesh," which is not a simpler expression. It is all too easy to miss the significance in the NIV. In the KJV it's understood as: "live for fleshly pleasure," which course results in death. From the NIV it's "sinful nature" with a footnote from verse 3 that says "Or the flesh; also in verses 4, 5, 8, 9, 12 and 13." It just seems to me that this diverts the thoughts all over the place, so instead of a simple explanation of what the course of fleshly pleasure is, we have to again ask ourselves what is sinful about our nature, which is what is supposed to be explained in the first place.
The wide-eyed naïveté, the youthful enthusiasm, the openness he presents in his narration are nothing but the most monstrous of frauds. Satan is a master of deception, who has taught his servants his tricks. "Ye are of your father the devil ... for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44).331
I am wondering of the NIV if, "The wide-eyed naïveté, the youthful enthusiasm, the openness he presents in his narration are nothing but the most monstrous of frauds. Satan is a master of deception, who has taught his servants his tricks." I mean, the Preface is all gaga over improving upon the speech of the 1600's when that isn't what the KJV was even written in.
"I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree." (Psalms 37:35). Were people who had become used to authority and riches simply going to renounce these baubles?332
Yep, the NIV is spreading out in its influence and bringing in lots of money to the publisher. Some credible people have real problems with this version, (and with other new versions). Is the publisher going to withdraw its version,—and other publishers all theirs,—simply because they have all these problems? No, they are going to leave them on the shelf, and it is up to the consumer to beware.
I replied that all His Majesty's subjects were naturally delighted at his safe return to his rightful throne. Bennet snorted.
A lot of people like their new versions. Yes, but a lot of people don't go for the rule of government, so perhaps they don't like the rule of a truly authoritative Bible either. This is an evil generation.
Let us suppose that this page begins: "So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate," (Esther 4:6) a puzzling text on which I have given an elucidatory sermon334 , shortly to be published.)335
A translation is an intermediary as is a messenger. A messenger is expected to appear at such and such a place with his message, "before the king's gate." Can we not expect a traditional service to include reading from the King James Version?
And so I returned to Oxford, resumed my mathematical enquiry, and began weaving a web in which to catch the king's enemies. Mr. Bennet's perspicacity in choosing me was considerable: not only had I some small skill in the matter already, I sat in the middle of the kingdom and, of course, had a network of contacts throughout Europe which could readily be exploited. The Republic of Learning knows no boundaries and few things were more natural than to write colleagues in all countries to seek their views on mathematics, philosophy—and anything else. Piece by piece, and at very moderate expense, I began to have a better picture than anyone of what was going on. I did not, of course, rise to the level of Mr. Thurloe, but largely succeeded in heaping mischief upon them, and spending mine arrows among them. (Deuteronomy 32:23.)336
Tell me if reading the above quote, you cannot discern where the natural dialect used to write to one's colleagues in the 1600's ends and the sacred biblical dialect begins? The author didn't include quotation marks, and the Bible passage is quoted seamlessly in the discourse, but we can tell when one ends and the other begins. So how can translators who want to retranslate the Bible say that the King James Version is out of date because it used the natural dialect of the time which has since changed? They don't understand what they are doing at all!
If somebody wants to make more English Bible translations with the
objective of "ascertaining exactly what God has spoken,"
more power to him, but "the King James Version remains the crown
of all English versions" which should not be superseded in a
traditional service, especially not by an inferior effort
like the NIV,
not in my opinion at least.
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Copyright © 2004, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper-- with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.
I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.
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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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