Accuracy of the KJV

Discussion in 'Translations and Manuscripts' started by BibleCyst, May 12, 2011.

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  1. BibleCyst

    BibleCyst Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear Brethren,

    It's seems to be a commonly held assumption that the King James, after 400 years, still ranks among the most accurate translations of God's Holy Word into English. I'm seeking clarification on this. Google is not helping; too many KJV-Only results.

    Putting aside differences in manuscripts, how accurate is the KJV compared to a translation such as the NASB? Was the KJV translated "word for word," when possible, or does it have characteristics of dynamic equivalence? There's no doubt our knowledge and understanding of Hebrew and Greek has improved since the days of the KJV. If the KJV was translated "word for word" when possible, how does this affect the accuracy of the KJV today?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Rufus

    Rufus Puritan Board Junior

    Some words in the KJV are archaic (i.e. the meanings changed).
     
  3. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    The KJV was done with a very careful sense of accuracy. It still is one of the most accurate versions around when compared to its underlying text; amazingly so when one considers the idiomatic shifts that take place in translation. Ryken makes a very good argument that it is the grand-daddy of all Essentially Literal translations.
     
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    An example of a "dynamic equivalence" in the KJV would be in Romans 6:2a. The KJV has the translation "God forbid," even though the words "God" and "forbid" are nowhere in the text. The NASB, on the other hand, translates me genoito more literally as "may it never be."
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2011
  5. BibleCyst

    BibleCyst Puritan Board Freshman

    I can see already that this thread is going to be fascinating! Thanks!
     
  6. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Just finished Ryken's book the other day. He seems to think highly of the AV and gives some examples where the AV outshines modern translations.
     
  7. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Two distinctive features of the Authorised Version lend particular credibility to claims of superior accuracy in translation. First, the Authorised Version makes use of italics to distinguish words in the English translation which are not present in the original language but are used to contribute to understanding and proper English. Secondly, the Authorised Version utilizes the old English forms of the second person singular and plural (e.g., thou, thee, ye) to communicate these crucial distinctions in English translation.

    For a good essay on the use of italics, see "Why is that writing slanted?" by D.E. Anderson.
     
  8. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know about it these days. It has some problems. One Hebrew scholar on the board pointed out Proverbs 29:18 as a glaring error in the KJV. The use of "God forbid" as the poster above pointed out is pretty bad. The word Unicorn is used.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f63/proverbs-29-18-kjv-vs-every-other-translation-67246/

    My honest assesment is that there are far superior translations out there these days that are more accurate and mor true to teh original manuscripts than the KJV. It's pretty but more of a novelty item as compared with scholarly translations.

    I've never been a KJV onlyist but I did claim to be a KJV supremacist before because that was the bible I was raised with and it had been used for so many years, but that is just a sentimental feeling. I think that as far as what is available to us now the KJV is towards the end of the list. I prefer the modern translations.

    I like ESV, NASB, NIV, and now even the HCSB. I received each one with criticism but each has grown on me in one way or another. I think they are all superior to the KJV. The NKJV is good but I wonder if it is sound to use the received text as opposed to the critical text. I'm really starting to lean toward the critical text. It's very hard to defend the received text.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2011
  9. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    For every improvement over the KJV in the NASB or ESV, there are a hundred dynamic watering-downs of a more literal translation present in the KJV.
     
  10. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Don't be too quick to dismiss this rendering, especially considering the interesting correspondence from the Septuagint.
     
  11. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    David, one thing I'd be careful about is lightly dismissing the KJV as a novelty item or less scholarly than modern ones. It comes across as impuning some extremely fine scholars of the era, for one thing.

    The other thing is a personal observation: The more skilled I become at reading Hebrew and Greek, the more impressed I am with the 1611 translators.
     
  12. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I think those scholars were great. That's not the problem. The actual issue is that they just didn't have the manuscripts we have today, nor did they have the resources for translation that we have today. So, the KJV is just dated. It was great for it's time but it's time is over. It's hardly ever used anymore from pulpits unless one is in a fundamentalist church. So, for us who are blessed with a great amount of resources the KJV really falls inot a sentimental historical category. It has a purpose but just not the kind of purpose it had in it's day.
     
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    If "me genoito" is an idiomatic expression designed to reflect abhorrence it is accurate to make this phrase serve the same function in any target language into which it is translated. It takes in an understanding of the "dynamics" of language but it is not technically correct to call this dynamic equivalence. Semantics is a function of a language's dynamics. Translating the same word in different ways reflects a knowledge of semantics. Dynamic equivalence, however, does not aim to recreate the dynamics of language, but to convert "thought-forms" into the thought forms of the target language.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2011
  14. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    :scratch:
     
  15. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I'm sorry, but the notion that the KJV is not used anywhere but fundamentalist churches simply isn't true. I've heard it used in lots of audio sermons at Presbyterian churches. Several Presbyterian denominations around the world have the KJV as their official denominational translation. And whether we have better manuscripts now is a debated issue, not a settled one.
     
  16. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I was in my KJV supremacist phase when I was a member of a PCA church. I was virtually the only one there with a KJV. I was involved in a Thursday morning bible study with the pastor and some elders and other men and they tolerated me using the KJV but always threw out little nuggets that stuck in my mind as to why they didn't use it and why the other versions were better. When it was my turn to read I read from my KJV and the pastor would often correct the rendering when I was finished. I am actually thankful to them for teaching me and bringing me out of that phase. They were patient with me. I went back later when everythign had sunk in and showed them that I was using an NIV Thompson Chain Reference. They were pleased.

    In the Baptist church I am a member of now virtually no one uses the KJV. The pastor preaches out of the NIV. I have learned to use many different translations. However right now I trust the ESV most.
     
  17. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    But the complaints you raise have nothing to do with the manuscripts. All of the major translations, as far as I can tell, rely on the same Masoretic Text language as the KJV for the passage from Proverbs you cited. I'm pretty sure that they all rely primarily on the Masoretic text for OT translation in general, just like the KJV. Sure, there may be a footnote referencing the Dead Sea Scrolls occasionally, but I don't think the manuscript issue is an argument for the OT passages.

    And for the passages with "God forbid," there is no difference in the underlying Greek manuscripts. It is a translator's choice, not a manuscript issue.
     
  18. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    1. The PCA isn't the only Presbyterian denomination. As I mentioned, there are several that have the KJV as their official denomination-wide translation. That alone makes it untrue that it is only used in "fundamentalist" churches. I'm just trying to make sure we're fair.

    2. My experience is sort of the opposite of yours. When I bring a KJV to the sermon and my pastor preaches from the ESV, consistently, repeatedly, numerous times, he has corrected his own translation, saying "The Hebrew here actually says..." and consistently he then states what I read in my Bible that was different while he was reading.
     
  19. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I agree that the manuscripts the the OT are virtually the same the major differences are in the NT. However, we have more linguistic resources and ease of communication in the modern age. That makes the difference in the translation of the OT, communication and education. The KJV scholars just didn't have the resources our scholars have.
     
  20. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    We also need to consider translation methodology. Superior resources, okay, sure. You'd think, then, that the ESV would be a more accurate translation, but consistently it is less so. Why? Because translation methodology makes a difference too. The ESV is a good translation, but it's simply not true to state categorically that it is more accurate than the KJV across the board. Many scholars feel the opposite.
     
  21. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    You can find an advocate for virtually anything, especially the KJV. From what I have seen, however, the NASB and the ESV are respected as the most accurate english translations these days. I'm sure there will be another better version soon.
     
  22. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You cannot take an experience with one church and conclude that it is the denominational stance.
     
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I suppose the relevant questions are, Were the resources which they possessed adequate, and, Did they utilise these resources to produce an accurate translation?

    For what it's worth, scholars will sometimes prefer an older translation of a classic because its standards of "literacy" are far more conducive to a more accurate translation.
     
  24. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Moderator Staff Member

    A few years ago, full of myself and confident of the dismissive attitude of my Greek and NT profs almost 40 years ago (man I must be old!), my only translation was the NIV.

    My shift came in the early part of the last decade when the ESV came out and I fell helpless before the mesmerizing powers of Crossway's advertising machine.

    However, after making the KJV a bit of a hobby this 400th anniversary year (last week), reading several of the better books (e.g., Ryken, McGrath, Nicolson, etc.) and viewing the two new DVD's (KJB - the book that Changed the World and The Making of the King James Bible), I have gained a whole new respect for the KJV.

    Most people class the NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV and some (including me) would add the HCSB in the essentially literal, word-for-word, formal correspondence, etc. category. It seems like every translator has their own cute term for trying to formally correspond to the original.

    It is pretty unhelpful, however, to ask what is the MOST literal translation. The "MOST" literal translation would be no translation at all, merely an interlinear. The NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, and HCSB all attempt to render the Bible into understandable English. In doing so, they all make judgment calls on the "right" translation of countless words, grammatical constructions, and literary devices.

    Beyond this, a serious case can be made that relying so heavily upon three texts buried in the Egyptian desert near hotbeds of Christological heretics does not mean that we are using "better" (let alone the "best") texts. When you consider that all of our modern English translations (except for the KJV, and NKJV among the major translations) depend upon manuscripts representing less than 10% of the extant Greek manuscripts, I would not be so quick to dismiss the KJV folks as a bunch of ignorant fundamentalists.

    I'm essentially an ESV man (like Ryken), but WOW do I admire, respect, appreciate, stand in awe of, and honor the memory of the KJV translators. They done good. Real good.
     
  25. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I certainly don't. I'm just sharing my personal experience. There just aren't near as many KJV churches as compared with modern translation churches these days. I predict in 30 years time there will be virtually no KJV churches outside of the fundameltalist catagory or the catagory of churches who's goal is to continue the exact practices of a past generation. It's just inevitable that the new translations will become more and more standard as the old generations pass away.
     
  26. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Moderator Staff Member

    Afterthought:

    The KJV is probably the only work of art ever completed by a committee.

    6 teams in three places with diverse theological points of view (e.g., puritan vs. high church) consisting of almost 50 (at least 47) men just do NOT produce this level of excellence!

    Ryken is quite correct in opining that the KJV translators sought to render the poetry (1/3 by most counts) of the Bible in a way that did more than inform the mind and appeal to the will. Like any good poetry, they believed that the divine author intended to touch the affections as well. When you compare the KJV to the insipid pedestrian pedantry of some modern translations, it is enough to make one want to cry.
     
  27. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I share this view. Even the part about the HCSB ;) it's growing on me as I read it. I'm realy enjoying it and certainly didn't think I would. But I am one tha has to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new translation.
     
  28. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Dennis! Four months ago I searched all over the internet trying to find the actual publication date of the KJV. My wife and I wanted to celebrate it. But I came up with nothing. Now you tell me, after the fact.

    I guess I was just too much occupied by the things of the world to notice May 2. Now I have to wait another 100 years for that cake we were going to have. . . .
     
  29. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I was attempting to point out that it seems you used your personal experience to make the blanket statement that the KJV is used seldom outside of fundamentalist churches, and that your experience is not sufficient to make such a claim.
     
  30. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    I believe the scholars did an outstanding job with what they had. And given the manuscripts they had they made a pretty accurate and literal translation. However, as we know now their New Testament manuscripts leave a lot to be desired and have since been corrected broadly by the modern translations that use the best available manuscripts and resources available to ensure we have the most accurate english renderings possible for what we have now. So indeed our bible (mostly the NT) is very different from the bible of the KJV scholars. There is on average 24 fewer entire NT verses in the older manscripts than there are in the ones used by the KJV which leads us to believe that scribes and copiests added text of their own into the text. That's why we have the newer translations based on the better and older manuscripts to clear up this problem. But there is no possible way the KJV scholars could have known that so they aren't at fault. It is indeed sad though, that some of those copy errors and insertions were influential and responsible for divisions in the body of Christ.
     
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