Arminian Today

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“Essentially Literal” and the KJV

Many KJV only supporters attack dynamic equivalent translations such as the NIV or NLT.  They also attack the ESV or the NASB despite the fact that these translations are essentially literal texts.  The argument is that the KJV is the perfect word of God.  The KJV translators were perfect men it seems when it comes to the KJV only material I have read or listened to.  In every way, the KJV only believers suppose that the KJV is the most superior Bible translation in English and some hold that it, and not the Hebrew or Greek texts, is the Word of God for us today.

However, even the KJV is an essentially literal text.  The ESV is famous for this slogan, “Essentially literal” because the ESV seeks to be a balance between a strict literal text and a dynamic equivalent.  The ESV translators recognized that it is impossible to translate every text literally.  We have 2000 years of differences between the Hebrew or Greek languages into English.  Obviously to translate the text the translator should do their best to translate the text but it is impossible to translate a text always literally since the hearer would not understand the literal translation.

That the KJV was not a literal translation can be proved.  Compare Matthew 27:44 with the Greek text.  The ESV correctly translates the Greek word as “reviled him” but the KJV says, “Cast the same in his teeth.”  The word “teeth” is not found in the Greek NT.  2 Samuel 8:18 in the KJV substitutes the Hebrew word for “priests” with “rulers.”  The same Hebrew word is translated correctly by the KJV in Exodus 19:6 but different here in 2 Samuel 8:18.  Obviously, the KJV translators allowed some freedom here.  The KJV even takes a cultural saying and adds it to the Bible in 1 Samuel 10:24 with the words, “God save the king” (which is a British expression) when in fact the Hebrew is simply an expression of “long live the king” as seen in the ESV.

Dr. James White points out further that the KJV’s worst example of taking liberty with the Greek text is the expression “God forbid” in the KJV such as in Romans 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11.  The Greek text nowhere has the word “God” in any of these passages.  Instead the ESV correctly translates the word “by no means.”

There are many more examples but one more will do.  The KJV’s translation of Easter at Acts 12:4.  The ESV translates the word correctly as “Passover.”  Many attempts have been made by KJV only supporters to show why Easter should be the correct translation.  Both the context (Acts 12:1-5) and the Greek itself show that the correct word is Passover.

My point in all this is simply to show that the KJV is a translation.  It is not, as KJV only supporters say, a perfect, preserved translation (and which edition is the preserved KJV?).  The KJV contains errors as do all translations.  The duty of the faithful Bible student is to work through the texts and seek to have the essential literal reading.  This requires work.  This is why the Bible teacher should labor in exegesis using Bible commentaries and the original languages.  Praise God that we have many of these tools available for us today online.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/30/2013 at 10:48 AM

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