Monday, November 13, 2017

Honoring the King James Version

I have a secret. It's really more of an unpopular opinion these days.

I love the King James Version of the Bible.

I grew up on the KJV, but not in a "King James Only" environment. Rather, I was under the teaching of an older, faithful pastor who just happened to use the KJV. He referenced others, and had others on his desk, but he'd preached from the KJV for so many years, he just didn't switch.

My first Bible was a little red Nelson KJV Reference Bible. It was my only Bible for many years, and I still have it.

I have lots of Scripture memory stored away in King James. There are many passages of Scripture I will still quote from the King James without even giving it thought.

Until recently I had not read from the KJV at all in a long time. I had been using the NASB for some time and then I switched ESV and then NKJV several years ago, and had not given the old KJV a second thought. I know it's not the best translation for today. Many of the words are archaic or have changed meanings, and translations such as the NKJV, ESV, NASB, and CSB are all accurate translations which are easier for the modern reader to understand.

This KJV drought ended this past summer when I was given a gift of a nice KJV. I decided to read through the Psalms, and I loved it. Since finishing the Psalms, I've read through several of Paul's letters and the Gospel of John from it.

I'm going to keep reading from it some more for my own personal devotional time—although for the majority of my devotional reading, reading for study and for preaching the NKJV is my favorite. I use several translations regularly though; along with the NKJV, I use the ESV, the CSB, and the NASB often, but I'm going to add the KJV back into the mix.

As many of you know, Church History is a passion for me. The King James Version was the Bible of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon. More recently it was the Bible of spiritual heroes such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Herschel Hobbs, W. A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, and Jerry Vines still uses it today. The KJV has served the English speaking church faithfully for more than 400 years.

The language and style of the KJV is memorable, it is beautiful, it is dignified, and it is elegant. It combines simplicity with majesty. Many familiar phrases entered the English language through the King James Version such as "labor of love," "my brother's keeper," "the powers that be," "like a lamb to the slaughter," and "the salt of the earth" to give some examples.

It could be said that the King James Version is the most influential English language book of all time, and for many years it was the preeminent book in the English language for many spheres of society.

While there are newer translations which are more appropriate for today, I do plan to spend some time with the KJV in my personal devotional time. Maybe it is nostalgia, but I've been very blessed by my recent re-reading of some passages from the King James Version, and I would like to read through the whole thing. (I've read all the way through several translations including the NASB, ESV, and HCSB but never through the entire KJV.)

While I think a King James Only stance is wrong, I also think a Never-KJV stance is also a bad position. This translation of Scripture is a great part of our heritage as English-speaking Christians, and I do think it is worth our time.

So, try adding in a little bit of KJV into your Bible diet and see how you like it. Although the ESV or NKJV will obviously keep its place as the Bible that I reach for first, I plan to read some from the KJV every day and keep myself familiar with this beautiful translation of Scripture.

For further reading on this topic, I commend, The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation, by Leland Ryken.

To summarize something Dr. Ryken says in this book, you will possibly use another translation most of the time, but be sure to use the King James Version some of the time as it is a connection to the past, and a connection to heroes of the faith who have been nourished spiritually by its words for over 400 years now. We shouldn't relegate the King James Bible to the status of relic in the museum of the past, and we can find ways to let it continue having a living presence in our lives.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave comments!
3 John 2: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

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