- In each of these periods God's Word will be current and available to His
people. "But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart
that thou mayest do it" (Deut. 30:14).
- In the first two periods God's Word may not have been available from the
same written source. Relatively minor variations existed in the hand copied
manuscripts of the Received Text tradition. The early printed Greek texts of
Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza had some variation, as did the early printed
English versions. Yet, God's promise of guiding into all truth could still
be counted on, and through the comparing of several sources He would put
upon the heart of his people which of the variants was the true reading.
- For example, Wycliffe's Bible was based on the Latin Vulgate and was
therefore flawed. Yet it could be clarified with the Celtic, Waldensian, and
Old Latin translations which had a Received Text tradition.
- This same general principle could hold even today in those remote and
primitive areas where only a preliminary translation is available. The
earnest seeker of truth can know what a true reading is, for God has
promised to "guide into all truth." There is, however, the disadvantage
today that many missionary Bibles are based on the Alexandrian text.
- The Arrival
- If "will guide you" refers to the process or journey; then "into all
truth" must refer to the arrival at a destination. This destination refers
to that point when a given language receives an authoritative standardized
Bible accepted over a considerable period of time by the great mass of
believers. By any criterion the publication of the King James Version in
that language which is most used in international communication is the
single most important event in the transmissional history of Scripture.
- Certainly here we see the biblical principle of 1 Corinthians 13:10 (at
least in a secondary application): "But when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away."
- History has shown this version in its widespread appeal to tower above
the other great standard versions of Europe. Even to this day it is the
measuring rod against which all others are judged.
- The King James Version is the grand culmination of God's promise to
guide His people into all truth. Our conviction that this pinnacle was
reached in 1611 is enforced by the fact that since then textual scholarship
has been rationalistic, has denied the inspiration of Scripture, and has
moved in precisely the opposite direction.
- Ten: Life giving qualities in a translation
- Inspiration in the originals will not only ensure preservation in
certain key translations, but also animation. It is this quality which
enables a translation to convict the sinner and bring manifold grace to the
believer: Heb. 4:12; Acts 2:37; Isa. 55:11; Psa. 119:9,11,130; Rom.10:17. It
is this which ensures that a translation will become an enduring standard
among the humble people of God. The Old Latin, Syriac Peshitta, Ethiopic,
Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Slavonic, Luther, Tyndale, Geneva, and King
James are examples of versions which in a sweetly natural way worked their
way into the hearts of millions of God's people. High pressured promotion
was not needed as in the case of Constantine's Bible, the Latin Vulgate, or
the New International Version.
- Thus when a translation is being prepared in accordance with the will of
God, the life giving breath of God will be felt in that translation. Modern
versions claim to be the "results of the most recent scholarship," but there
is no life in them and they fall flat after a few years.
- God's work of preservation does more than keep the Bible from error in
its transmission and translation, it gives to the Bible an enduring
- Therefore, a translation can be as much the Sword of the Spirit as the
original autographs. When God is active in the work of a translation (and is
there are reason to think that He would not be?), the manifold blessings of
the once delivered work of inspiration are transmitted to that translation.
Our standard translation is not a valley of dry bones, it has breath! To
test this fact, read John 14 in the New International Version and then in
the Authorized Version.
- Eleven: A standard translation should be accepted as the preserved
word of God
- It is only God who can make a translation or version a true Standard.
Such a Standard will endure the test of time, receive universal acceptance,
and result in widespread conversion. Such a Standard will spawn and
encourage the publication of vast amounts of supplemental literature:
commentaries, concordances, theological works, study helps of all kinds. And
such a Standard will evoke the wrath of Satan. Since it's inception, the
King James Version has been called "the paper pope of the Protestants."
- That the Authorized Version is such a Standard and the only Standard in
the English language for nearly 400 years argues convincingly that it is
God's preserved word in that language. In response to God's promises of
preservation and the abundant evidence of the same, the believer may be
fully confident that the AV has no blemishes and is without proven error.
There are places that may need explanation, and it is right for the teacher
within reasonable limits to amplify, elucidate, and expound the English as
well as the underlying text. But this must not be done in such a way as to
imply to the listener that errors exist. For example, "This word means" is
acceptable; but, "A better rendering would be" is not. Certainly also,
before being too concerned about the "force of the Greek or Hebrew," the
reader should be certain that he has a grasp on "the force of the English"!
- I say that the KJV is without "proven error" because I am not aware of
errors having been proven! Given all that can be said in behalf of the King
James Bible, the burden of proof must rest with the one making the charge.
If he feels he has better understanding and spiritual insight at a given
point than did the fifty AV translators--not to mention the translators of
the seven Bibles from Tyndale to the Bishops which prepared the groundwork
of the AV--then he must set forth his evidence.
- That this is not so easy can be seen from the following incident
involving one of the AV translators:
- Dr. Richard Kilby, the translator in the Old Testament group at Oxford,
heard a young parson complain in an earnest sermon that a certain passage
should read in a way he stated. After the sermon Dr. Kilby took the young
man aside and told him that the group had discussed at length not only his
proposed reading but thirteen others; only then had they decided on the
phrasing as it appeared (Gustavis S. Paine, The Men Behind the KJV (Baker
Book House, 1959), pgs. 137,138).
- Great and totally unnecessary harm has been done by "young parsons" (and
old ones too!) who do this. Long go it was said: Nothing can be more
unseemly than for the unskillful to be always correcting with their literal
translations and various readings, distressing simple souls rather than
seeking that which tends to godly edifying.Anyone who approaches a so-called
problem passage in an attitude of honour toward God's Word will find the
solution equally honoring. He will find that God's promise of preservation
has been vindicated.
- Twelve: Will there be another standard Bible?
- It is possible that in the providence of God another universally
accepted standard translation could be produced. However, given the lateness
of the hour, the lack of spiritual scholarship, and the fact that our
language no longer has the depth and vitality it once had, this seems most
unlikely. All indications point to the KJV as the Bible God would have His
people use in these last days before the Second Coming of Christ.
- A final word
- What is it that make the King James Version unique? Does it indeed have
a sense of the supernatural that is lacking in the modern versions? That is
does, is given remarkable confirmation in the following extended quotation
from the research of a secular author:
- Can a committee produce a work of art? Many would say no, yet we have
seen that this large group of the king's translators, almost threescore of
them, together gave the world a work greater not only in scope but in
excellence than any could have done singly. How did this come to be? How
explain that sixty or more men, none a genius, none even as great a writer
as Marlowe or Ben Jonson, together produced writings to be compared with
(and confused with) the words of Shakespeare?
- ... if hard work alone were the secret of success, we would have the
answer, for we know that the learned men worked hard. Many of them labored
like monks in rooms so cold and damp, except close to the fires, that
fingers and joints got stiff even though they swathed themselves in their
thick gowns. They worked at odd hours, early in the mornings and late at
night, as other duties permitted. They endured rigors that we would think
- But hard work alone, singly or in groups, does not insure a great
result. Were the learned men saints, under direct inspiration?
- As we have seen, these men who made the translation for King James were
subject to like passions as we are. Even as they gave themselves to the
great work, they yielded also to petty vanities and ambition and prejudice
zeal for the great undertaking survived their own wrangles over doctrine and
their differences of opinion in personal matters. The quarrels that are
recorded were over such differences rather than the work in hand. There they
must have learned to rise above themselves for the good of the whole, an act
of grace deserving of reward. But does even this account for the result?
- To know that the Bible words were beyond the choosing of the best of
them, we have only to look at their individual writing. And this writing of
theirs in books or sermons or attempted poetry also answers the suggestion
that their work on the Bible was great because they lived in a great age.
- It was an age of great writing, in which poets and dramatists
flourished, yet these men as individuals lacked the skills of those who made
the Mermaid Tavern and the Globe Theater live in literature. In vain do we
look to the eloquent Lancelot Andrewes or even to Miles Smith for the dulcet
temper and torrents of sound in concord that mark the religious prose of Sir
Thomas Browne, or for the dooming ire, like a knell, of Dr. John Donne.
- At the same time their Bible surpassed others in an excellence not to be
attributed wholly to the original writers in the ancient tongues, so that
Lytton Strachey could say of the prophets, "Isaiah and Jeremiah had the
extraordinary good fortune to be translated into English by a committee of
Elizabethan bishops." Badly as some of the committee could write on other
occasions, not only was theirs the best of the English Bibles; there is, in
no modern language a Bible worthy to be compared with it as literature.
- Though such verse as we have of their own lacks value for us, they were
poets who fashioned prose without knowing how expert they were ... Keats,
silent on a peak as he marveled at Chapman's Homer, might have marveled
still more if he had much traveled through the realms of gold in the King
James Bible. Chapman's Homer of those same years no longer has the power to
dazzle us, while the Bible's power has shown increase. At Oxford and
Cambridge the learned men breathed the air of noble language, amid brilliant
buildings and gardens which could excite them to lofty efforts in a domain
that seemed timeless. And they produced a timeless book.
- Are we to say that God walked with them in their gardens? Insofar as
they believed in their own calling and election, they must have believed
that they would have God's help in their task. We marvel that they could
both submerge themselves and assert themselves, could meekly agree yet
firmly declare, and hold to the words they preferred as just and fitting. At
the same time they could write and they could listen, speak clearly, and
hearken to the sounds they tested, as well as to the voice of what they
deemed the divine Author. And that must have been the secret of their grace
and their assurance: they agreed, not with the other men like themselves,
but with God as their guide, and they followed not as thinking themselves
righteous but as led by a righteousness beyond them.
- ... So they put down what they had to put down; their wrting flows with
a sense of must. Some of it they took wholly from former works, yet the must
extends to what the 1611 scholars had the wisdom to adopt and, as it were,
to inlay in the rest.
- ... They knew how to make the Bible scare the wits out of you and then
calm you, all in English as superb as the Hebrew and the Greek. They could
make their phrasing proceed as though caused by the First Cause, without
shadow of turning; they could make the stately language of threat and wrath
or the promises of tender mercy come word for word from God Himself.
- ... Soul and body, the work of the learned men still moves the world
because they wrought inside each sentence a certain balance of letter and
spirit. If other versions have their day and pass, it is because this
balance is somehow marred.
- Miles Smith in his preface bears out this idea that the work carried
them above themselves. "The Scripture ... is not an herb but a tree, or
rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every
month, and the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine ...
And what marvel? The original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the
author being God, not man; the indicter, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the
Apostles or prophets. But how shall men ... understand that which is kept
close in an unknown tongue? As it is written, `Except I know the power of
the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh
shall be a barbarian to me'."
- "Translation it is," Smith continued, "that openeth the window, to
let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel;
that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most holy
place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the
- ..."After the endeavors of them that were before us, we take the
best pains we can in the house of God ... Truly (good Christian reader)
we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new
translation, nor yet to make a bad one a good one ... but to make a good
one better, or out of many good ones, one principal one."
- ..."neither did we disdain," Smith declared, "to revise that which we
had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but
having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for
slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through
the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to the pass that you
- ..."And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own
knowledge, or of their sharpness of it, or deepness of judgment, as it were
in an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of
David, opening and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord" (Gustavus
Paine, The Men Behind The KJV, pgs. 167-76).
- God has preserved in the King James Version His original work of
inspiration. The flower has not faded.