Saturday, May 26, 2007

Authorized Version - Why not?

Authorized Version - Why not?

This post is a challenge and a commentary.

Why not use the Authorized Version of the Bible, i.e. the King James Version?

Is the Language too hard?
The usual response that the language is too difficult is bogus. Thousands of children read and understand KJV Bibles, and virtually all Christian children in America for the first 200 years of its settlement by Chrstians. The entire 18th century of English-speaking children grew up on the King James Version, as did most of the 19th century. Only in the 20th and 21st centuries did alternative versions provide any serious encroachment on the Authorized Version.

Is the Greek source weak?
Another response is that the KJV relies on the Textus Receptus, and that the Textus Receptus is inferior to modern critical texts, because the Textus Receptus did not take into account a handful of earlier manuscripts that have been discovered subsequent to the finalization of the Textus Receptus.

Nevertheless, while there are differences between the Textus Receptus and earlier manuscripts, it is an open question about whether the earlier manuscripts are more reliable. Indeed, it is well known that they differ as much among themselves as between themselves and the Textus Receptus.

Is the translation quality suboptimal?
Perhaps the most interesting critique is the one that asserts that there are translation inaccuraces or suboptimalities in the KJV. The KJV was an improvement on earlier English translations, and the presently accepted version reflects about 250 years of Greek and Hebrew scholarship. Nevertheless, there may be room for improvement.

Here's the challenge: Identify categories of translation inaccuracies in the KJV.

I'll start: I think the biggest areas where the KJV may contain inaccuracies are:

  1. The use of the article. Article usage is very difficult to tranfer between languages: Greek does not use articles the same way English does. A number of critics, particularly Granville Sharp have asserted that they have identified either unnecessary ambiguity in the A.V., or inaccuracies in the A.V. when it comes to the translation of the article. This issue will be dealt with in a separate post or posts. Suffice to say that there are at least some reasons to disagree with Sharp in at least some instances, but there may be other instances where Sharp was as clever as his family name suggests.
  2. The use of prepositions. Like articles, prepositions can be difficult to translate between languages. One of the particularly difficult prepositions in Greek to translate into English may be the Greek preposition en, which is often rendered "in" in the KJV. In the 20th century, and perhaps earlier, questions have been raised about whether "by" would be a better translation of many of those instances.
  3. Italicization. In certain places, words are placed in italics. The choices of which words to italicize and the sense conveyed by italicization, in some cases could be improved.
  4. Specific examples. There are certain words for which the KJV translators seem to have made a mistake. These include, most notably, the translation of Pascha in Acts 12:4 as "Easter." The translation appears to be based on showing deference to the Bishop's Bible translation.

I challenge the readers of this blog to identify other errors and alleged errors in the A.V. Let's review them and see what can be improved.

-Turretinfan

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Romans 4:25 is a verse that is not clear to me. Was He raised "for" [in order to]our justification? or "on account of our having been justified"? The NKJV is closer to the latter, which is, from my doctrinal understanding, what actually occurred. Christ's death, not his resurrection, saves us, though we must believe in the resurrection. The KJV is not so much mistranslated, as it is open to question.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Anonymous,
This would appear to fall into the second enumerated category, prepositions. Here the relevant preposition is dia.

The verse contains an internal parallel. Two verb phrases have the same subject. The sense of the parallel is as follows:

Who

1) was delivered because we sinned, and
2) was raised to make us righteous.

In this sense, the verse seems to be reflected in the more detailed discussion in chapter 6 of Romans.

Furthermore, this parallel sense can be seen from the preceding verse of Romans 4.

Romans 4:20-24
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Notice how the resurrection from the dead is loosely connected with our justification (i.e. the imputation of righteousness to us) in verse 24?

The context is explaining that the imputation of righteousness was not just for Abraham. And perhaps the A.V. could actually be strengthened in verse 24. To wit:

But also (alla kai) for (di) us (hemas) for-whom (hois) it-shall-be-imputed (mellei logizesthai) for-the-believing (pisteuousin) upon (epi) the-one-who-raised (ton egeiranta) Jesus (Iesuon) the Lord (ton kurion) of-ours (hemon) from (ek) the-state-of-dead (necron).

Or, more fluidly:

But also for us, for whom it shall be imputed: for those who [shall] believe on Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

(with the shall being implied from the first half of the verse, though not repeated in the second half)

The reason for taking this slightly different view is that mello plus an infinitive appears to be a periphrastic construction to convey the future sense with greater strength than the ordinary future tense, a point that has been raised against the Universalists.

This may add another category to the list above, namely the translation of some periphrastic constructions.

But, in any event, when you couple verses 24 and 25, you see that Christ died for "our" sins and that Christ was raised for "our" justification, where "us" refers to those for whom the promise of imputation was written, i.e. to those who will believe on Christ, the elect.

The problem I have with the A.V.'s translation is the completely unnecessary "if" in verse 24.

But, getting back to your comment, I'm not quite sure why you would think that Christ was raised because we had been justified, instead of being raised so that we would be justified. Perhaps you'd like to explain?

-Turretinfan

Anonymous said...

"The resurrection was the visible pledge of the justification already accomplished." Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness (Trinity Foundation,1994, p. 64)Bonar originally published it in 1874 before there was a NKJV obviously!

Turretinfan said...

Dear Anonymous,

Bonar's comments, particular in the third chapter of his work are quite persuasive.

He views "for" in the sense of "because of." Thus, the sense would be:

He
1) was delivered BECAUSE OF our sins; and
2) was raised BECAUSE OF our justification.

Bonar's argument relates to the completion of our justification in the cross, quoting numerous verses that show that it is his suffering and death that take away our sins.

Nevertheless, the resurrection is powerful as well, as the 6th chapter of Romans (noted above) points out, and so also concurs:
1 Peter 3:21-22
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

Thus, while we the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by the suffering and death of Christ, nevertheless, that imputed righteousness is brought to us by the risen Christ.

Nevertheless, if someone will claim that Romans 4:25 means that Jesus was raised because he had finished his work of substitution, I guess I can only mildly (not dogmatically) disagree, for it is surely the case that Christ's resurrection is the proof of our resurrection.

-Turretinfan

Anonymous said...

I use the KJV, and don't trust any other translation, but on the point of distinguishing between gehenna and haides, the KJV certainly has room for improvement. Rendering them both as "hell" is especially problematic in Acts 2:37 and verse 31 "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." Too many people place their faith in the wrong object, in Christ barbqued rather than Christ rather than crucified. And too many preachers (who know better I'm sure) set Christ before the people as broiled in hell for their sins rather than crucified for their sins. To consistently distinguish between gehenna and haides not only eradicates this false doctrine, but strengthens the fearful image of hell, because we are made to understand that the one-flame place of torment that rich man was consigned to in the parable (in which so far from being in outer darkness, he could see across into paradise) is not gehenna itself but a precursor to it. That cushy image of hell is then corrected and we are made to know how horrible hell truly is.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Anonymous commenter (Josh?),

Thanks for your remarks. Perhaps you could direct me to a more detailed explanation of the difference that you believe exists between hades and gahenna?

I was (and so far still am) under the impression that "hades" is simply the Greek word for the place of the dead in the afterlife, and that "gahenna" was simply a Judaic metaphor for the place of eternal punishment (with reference to the ever-burning refuse heap to one side of Jerusalem).

I would not necessarily conclude that the different language roots would indicate different concepts.

In Psalm 16:10 (the quoted prophecy) the LXX (of Alexandrian, not Judaic, translation) translates the Hebrew word sheole to the Greek word Hades, whereas Jerome translated it to the Latin word inferno. The KJV uses "hell."

The same goes for Acts 2.

Jesus and James sometimes refer to hell (i.e. the place of eternal punishment) by the term Gehenna, and maybe it would be preferable to maintain their figure of speech, in fact Jerome seems to have done just that in the Vulgate.

If you had complained about the KJV's translation of those passages I would grant that perhaps a transliteration would be preferable to "hell," though the latter does convey the sense.

Likewise, in 2 Peter 2:4, the transliteration Tartaros might be preferable to "hell," though the latter does convey the sense.

In any event, neither Hades (the place in Greek mythology) nor Tartaros (the lowest place in Hades) nor Gahenna (the smoking valley near Jerusalem) should be understood as fully literal, but as figurative of the torment to be experienced in the afterlife.

One point I can find to agree fully with you: the focus should be on the power of the work of Christ who was crucified, died, and was buried, and who afterwards rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, from whence he will come to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

-Turretinfan

Josh said...

Haides like Sheol does not always refer to the place of the damned but to the realm of the dead generally. However, gehenna always refers to the place of the damned. Also haides is the place where souls go between death and the resurrection, whereas gehenna is the eternal destination of the damned after the resurrection, and is equivalent to the lake of fire in Revelation. Beza maintains the distinction better than Jerome, not only transliterating gehenna but also rendering haides as inferos rather than inferno, which is helpful in Acts 2 where haides is clearly referring to the paradise that Jesus' promised the penitent thief and not to the place of torment where the rich man ended up in the parable.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Josh,

I'm not sure I want to buy into a lobby of the dead idea.

Those who die immediately pass into glory or torment. There's no wait. (Cf. the rich man and the thief on the cross)

I agree that Gahenna only pictures the torment of the damned, and that hades may more broadly refer to the state of being dead (in other words, Hades has a broad semantic range).

I'm not really sure about the Beza reference you are making ...

-Turretinfan

Josh said...

I'm not talking about like a lobby where the saved and damned comingle, but haides is a temporary place divided into paradise and torment sides, as in the parable of the rich man. The fact that it is temporary is made clear in Rev 20:13-14, where haides delivers up the dead in it, then haides itself is cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed. It is then that heaven and gehenna take over as it were. This is the distinction I am drawing when saying it is between death and the resurrection only. BTW, I was referring to Beza's Latin translation of the NT.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Josh,

Thanks for the clarification regarding Beza's translation.

As for Revelation 20:13-14, I would simply view this as being a description of the resurrection unto death, at which time the bodies of the nonelect (see verse 15) will be reunited with their souls for eternal punishmment.

Note that those being emptied in verse 13 are: the sea, death, and hell.

Nevertheless, I won't belabour the point. If God has chosen to make a temporary paradise that precedes heaven, may He be praised, and if we enter immediately into the before-prepared heavenly mansions, God is great.

-Turretinfan

Josh said...

"If God has chosen to make a temporary paradise that precedes heaven, may He be praised,..."

I believe that Hebrews 11:39-40 clearly asserts the purpose for having Abraham's Bosom and the resurrection rather than simply every saint going straight to heaven upon death, when it says "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." There is a principle set forth that all the saved arrive at the final reward of heaven at the same time, as is also alluded to in 1 Thess 4 "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (i.e. precede) them which are asleep...the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Turretinfan said...

Dear Josh,

I respectfully disagree. The better thing for us was the Incarnation of the Messiah, of which the author of Hebrews and his generation were witnesses.

Furthermore, I believe that it is reasonably clear that Stephen saw Christ in Heaven, and that John saw many people in Heaven before the judgment day (Revelation 19:1).

But, as I said, if I am mistaken, may God still be praised.
-Turretinfan

Josh said...

This is the last thing I'm going to say on this, because I'm sure you are getting somewhat annoyed, but in context the promise which they died without receiving (verse 39) is the city whose builder and maker God (verse 10), and this theme is continued beyond this chapter to 13:14 "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." Contextually, that is the promise that they died without receiving, of which God determined "that they without us should not be made perfect."

Turretinfan said...

Dear Josh,

I agree with your methodology (let the context determine the sense) but not your conclusion. The more immediate context is verse 2 of chapter 12, which identifies the person of Jesus, who is both the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith.

Furthermore, of course, chapter 13:14 speaks of the difference between the living and the dead, not the dead now and the dead after the resurrection of the body.

-Turretinfan