Saturday, September 19, 2015

Brand loyalty?

From time to time, those of us who believe strongly in the authority of the King James Bible are scoffed at, for a number of reasons.  That's okay; we're used to it.  But one of the silliest criticisms of our belief goes something like this: "You only like the King James Bible because you were raised on it. Your family used it.  It's traditional.  It's a matter of brand loyalty, like preferring Coke over Pepsi, or Ford over Chevrolet."
king james bible
Really?  Is it that simple?

It would be foolish, of course, to deny that some people "prefer" the King James Bible because of family or church tradition. For people who haven't carefully considered their presuppositions, tradition is very often a determining factor, not only in religious matters, but in such things as political party affiliation.  But that doesn't simply apply to people who use the King James Bible; it applies to those who grew up in a family or church that used the New International Version, or the Revised Standard Version, or any other.  It certainly applies to most people who don't read any Bible at all: if one's background is devoid of Christian influence and activity, one is likely to remain in that state, unless and until they experience a genuine conversion. That's simply human nature.
King James Bible
But for those of us who have a deep commitment to the unique authority of the King James Bible, it goes far beyond "brand loyalty," or family tradition.  Many of us were raised with Roman Catholic versions, or the Book of Mormon, or the Torah and Talmud.  But at some point after receiving Jesus Christ as our Saviour, according to John 1:12, we learned about the things that distinguish the King James Bible from all other versions, and all other "holy books," and reveals it to be God's final and complete propositional revelation in the English language.
King James Bible
This is, to be sure, a minority position in the contemporary Christian church.  "Liberal Christians" take a very low view of any version of scripture, claiming that the Graf-Wellhausen "documentary hypothesis" and other theories reveal that the Bible was written by men, not God.  Evangelical and most fundamentalist Christians claim that, although the King James has a "glorious heritage," it is outdated and incomprehensible, and that God's words can only be found in "the original autographs," the actual pages penned by the prophets and apostles.  The fact that "the original autographs" have not been available for thousands of years seems to trouble them not at all, and they happily embrace any new version of the inferior and spurious Greek texts that they believe to be faithful to these "autographs" that they've never seen.  No matter how inaccurate, unreliable, or simply silly a "new Bible" is, it will always be embraced by many of today's Christians.  That doesn't make them bad people, but it says something about their lack of discrimination.

Those who, on the other hand, believe in the unique authority of the King James Bible have very specific reasons for their position.  Some of these involve the unreliable Greek manuscripts upon which 99.9% of the "new Bibles" are based (there have been over 200 new English versions of the New Testament, or the complete Bible, since the publication of the English Revised Version of 1881).  The subject of these Greek manuscripts would require a separate post, and is but one of the reasons King James Bible believers hold their views.  In fact, King James Bible believers are quite radical - - - or, in terms of this blog, "renegade."  We even believe .... get ready for it ... that the King James Bible is superior to the "original autographs."
King James Bible
I will pause momentarily to allow for the guffaws and curses of any "Biblical scholars" who have stumbled upon this blog.  Maybe I'll eat a sandwich while they're recovering.

Okay. Now, when I say "superior," I am not saying that the original manuscripts were not God's perfect, propositional revelation: they certainly were.  And when copies of copies of those manuscripts were translated into the Greek Textus Receptus (the manuscript upon which the King James New Testament is based), the Textus Receptus was likewise authentic and reliable.  Later, when Luther translated the New Testament into German, or the words came into such English versions as Wycliffe or the Bishops' Bible or the Geneva Bible, they, too, were reliable and authentically divine in their provenance.  But the King James is "superior" to the original manuscripts (which "scholars" hold up as the only final authority), for several very simple reasons.
King James Bible
For example: the King James Bible is written in the universal language of the 21st century; the "original Greek" is spoken by less than 1% of the world's population.  English is the primary "official language" of the United Nations (for what that's worth); it is also the language spoken by commercial airplane pilots, ships' captains, and harbor masters throughout the world.  When a Lufthansa jet departs Mexico City for Paris, the pilot communicates with the control tower in English.  Chinese schoolchildren begin studying English in kindergarten.  I'm not claiming that "everyone speaks English," of course; but with the advent of instant international communication, particularly via the Internet, it is becoming the true universal language.  When the Greek originals were written by Jews such as Paul and Peter, they were not written in Hebrew or Latin, although Latin was the "official" language of the Roman Empire; they were written in Greek, which was both the scholarly language, and also (in the Koine form) the language of the man on the street. Greek was  the universal language then; today, it's English.
Charlton Heston
In addition, the King James Bible is orthographically arranged in a readable style.  The "original autographs," in Greek, did not have paragraph or even sentence divisions; the letters all ran together. (wouldyoubothertoreadabookprintedinthatmannertoday?ofcourseyouwouldn't.)  Although this is not an "original Biblical manuscript," this is what such texts looked like:

Practically and historically speaking, the King James Bible has, furthermore, been responsible for more conversions to Jesus Christ, and more Christian outreach, than all of the other English versions put together.  Someone will say, "That's because it's been around longer."  But that's only a partial truth: for the 300 years between the publication of the King James, and that of the English Revised Version, preaching and distribution of the Bible was much more limited than it is today.  In the past forty years or so, the combined sales of the "new versions" have far outstripped those of the King James Bible, and these new versions have been preached over the airwaves, and on the Internet.  And yet, the results, or fruits, of these versions have been puny indeed compared to the impact of the King James Bible.
Charlton Heston
There are many other reasons.  One of the simplest is this: we have the King James Bible, but we don't have the original manuscripts.  No scholar on this troubled globe has laid eyes on even a fragment of a genuine "autograph" in nearly two thousand years.  But we can read, study, memorize, and rely on the King James Bible.

Someone, no doubt, will tax me with the following objection: "Everything you're saying applies to any English version, not just the King James!  Even The Message is easier to read than the originals!" But The Message has not had a tithe, not a hundredth, of the impact of the King James; and, anyway, this post is not an exhaustive list of reasons why we owe allegiance to the King James Bible.  This post is simply a response to the charge of "brand loyalty" - - - and the superiority of the King James Bible to the "original autographs" is but one arrow in our quiver.

There are many more, to be discussed in due time.  For the moment, we can thank God that He has graciously provided us with His final, authoritative propositional revelation in our own language - - - whether the majority of Christians realize it or not.

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent post! For me, brand loyalty, tradition, or being raised on it has nothing to do with it: it's a deep, unexplainable knowledge I've always had that the KJV *is* God's word in English. I looked at the KJV as an unsaved child in an unsaved family, and compared it to the New English Version in my mother's drysink and my own NASB and Good News For Modern Man New Testaments, and my grandmother's New Living Translation, and I *knew* from the age of 10 or so that anything other than the King James that called itself a Bible, wasn't really God's word.