KJV & wcf i:8

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Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
A fellow pastor and respected friend visiting this past Lord’s Day challenged my use of the KJV for reading in public worship as possibly a violation of WCF I:8:

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.​

I told him I’d think about it. Does the KJV qualify as the “vulgar language” (as intended by the WCF) of our time and nation?
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The KJV fits the definition of "Vulgar Language". Anyone can and does understand KJV English, just as much as they understand NASB or ESV English.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
The KJV fits the definition of "Vulgar Language". Anyone can and does understand KJV English, just as much as they understand NASB or ESV English.

I disagree. I had the privilege of teaching Bible in a public school in North Carolina. The community was made up mostly of KJ Only churches. As a result, the kids really struggled to make sense out of the text. Two obvious examples are "wist" (from wissen "to know") as in "Wist ye not..." and "prevent" in Ps. 119:148 which someone on this board mentioned recently.

Language changes. The Bible wasn't written in some special revelatory language that people were expected to adapt to. And it would really be a stretch to call KJV English "the vulgar tongue" (In my humble opinion).
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Realistically, KJV does not use language that is too far removed from our English. If you were to change the plural of verbs to end in s rather than th and change the pronouns to our modern usage (at the risk of losing some specificity, but we lack that in our modern language), then you are left with something that is understandable most of the time, minus some awkwardness and a few unknown words (but you're bound to run into that, right?). This is what is done with the American King James Version for example.

My point, however, is that if people can grow used to these few differences, you are essentially speaking in what is "generally used, applied, or accepted" as the dictionary defines vulgar. If you get to the point where the language and vocabulary of the translation itself requires explanation, then you need a new translation. This may be the case with some congregations, but it depends on their education level and environment.
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
It can be the considered the vulgar language. Some people say they "don't understand" the KJV. There are some who really do have a hard time understanding it, but if one really wants to, he or she can come to understand the language of the KJV.

Somethings are better left in a certain way. For example Shakespeare's works would not be the same if they were translated into a more modern way. Similarly, when we read Spurgeon, his way of speaking is different from ours today, yet we can still understand him. Our language has evolved, but I don't think it has evolved enough to be to the point where it is non-understandable. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a KJV-only person, but the way the KJV reads is beautiful, in my opinion. It has its own style, some prefer the KJV because of the way its written. However, if people are not understanding the Word of God because the stumbling block is the language then I would suggest a translation that works for them. We have other excellent translations out there that one should be able to use to be able to understand the Bible.

So, in the end, I think it depends on the people. If they can understand the KJV, then go for it. But if someone does not understand the KJV, then it would be better if they read (or listen) to a translation they can understand
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
My children have been raised on it, they do sometimes struggle especially in the OT, but seem to understand it fairly well. We have a dozen or so translations but use the AV for family reading and worship time. Our Pastor preaches from it as well.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
A fellow pastor and respected friend visiting this past Lord’s Day challenged my use of the KJV for reading in public worship as possibly a violation of WCF I:8:

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.​

I told him I’d think about it. Does the KJV qualify as the “vulgar language” (as intended by the WCF) of our time and nation?


We need to understand the word vulgar in the sense used by the Westminster Divines in the middle of the 17th century.

Vulgar, adj. 1391, common, ordinary, in Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe, borrowed from the Latin vulgaris of or pertaining to the common people … The meaning of course, low, ill-bred, is first recorded in English in 1643. The sense of common or customarily used, vernacular … is first recorded in English in 1483 … The meaning of make vulgar, coarsen, is first recorded in English in 1756
CHAMBERS DICTIONARY OF ETYMOLOGY

As we may see, the WCF very likely still used the word to refer to the language commonly understood by the congregation who was hearing it read to them.

Obviously, as the word has been changing, it increasingly connoted to the hearer the idea of low, undignified, coarse and improper.

Thus added pressure is upon the Church to retranslate the original to achieve the goal of perspicuity, and yet not fall into the trap of being trendy.
 

Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
I regularly use a distinct form for the 2nd person plural pronoun.

"We give thanks to God always for you all..." [1 Thess 1:2a]

I am 60 years old and grew up in southern Appalachia, where our speech was not far removed from 1611. "Fetch those victuals in that tow sack, and mete out a mess for that sottish and churlish chapman."
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
I find the irony of defending the language of the KJV as "vulgar" by posting in non-KJV-English quite hilarious.
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
My children have been raised on it, they do sometimes struggle especially in the OT, but seem to understand it fairly well. We have a dozen or so translations but use the AV for family reading and worship time. Our Pastor preaches from it as well.

Just another example that it can be done.
I think there was a study out there that showed that the KJV was at an easier level to read than most modern translations (I don't remember where I had seen/heard it and the truthfulness of it).

-----Added 7/7/2009 at 12:55:42 EST-----

I find the irony of defending the language of the KJV as "vulgar" by posting in non-KJV-English quite hilarious.

Your wai of postin can b consered nonvulgar, the new wai of internet speach is tha way 2 talk now. This way of talk iz way cooler. n every1 iz doin it theez dayz

.....more people are writing/speaking like that now-a-days, but does that mean we have to?

People can read a college textbook and consider it too hard to understand and not in their language.

Some people talk in a high style...others in a middle, or low.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
I find the irony of defending the language of the KJV as "vulgar" by posting in non-KJV-English quite hilarious.

Your wai of postin can b consered nonvulgar, the new wai of internet speach is tha way 2 talk now. This way of talk iz way cooler. n every1 iz doin it theez dayz

.....more people are writing/speaking like that now-a-days, but does that mean we have to?

People can read a college textbook and consider it too hard to understand and not in their language.

Some people talk in a high style...others in a middle, or low.


Fair enough. But NO ONE speaks King James English today. And yet we are to consider it "vulgar"?
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I get the impression "vulgar" is being redefined in order to accommodate the KJV. For purposes of clarity, "vulgar" doesn't mean "capable of being understood." It means common or ordinary. As Seth pointed out so brilliantly above, unless you plan to conduct this discussion in KJV English, you can't very well say KJ English is the vulgar language. You might say it is capable of being understood with sufficient practice and/or education. But that's hardly what vulgar means.
 

rpavich

Puritan Board Freshman
I guess my observation was that the question is not:

Can a person figure out what the KJV is saying?

But actually is:

What does vulgar mean when it comes to language?


Vulgar is "understandable by those who are listening" so while we can "suss out" what the KJV is saying, it's not even close to the way we speak or write, and that disqualifies it as "vulgar" right?

If you want an illustration just do a search on Google for "KJV language changes" There are 860 words that have so changed meaning that there is a "software KJV dictionary" to make sense of them. Here is the text of the ad:

"Is the King James Bible full of hard to understand, archaic, obsolete words? Do you know the meanings of "avouch", "bruit", "collop", "durst", and "emerods"?
The King James Bible can be difficult to understand for many people who are not accustomed to its vocabulary. Using the King James Dictionary you can now learn the meaning of all those obsolete, extinct Bible words, like "concupiscence," "greaves" and "wist"...

The King James Dictionary is a software program that will increase your knowledge of the King James Bible.

Have you ever been puzzled by a word in the King James Bible and tried to look it up using a regular dictionary like Websters or the American Heritage Dictionary? Don't despair... Go directly to our handy dictionary containing over 860 words deemed archaic and find its definition quickly..."


Wouldn't this qualify the KJV as NOT our common language? :think:
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Rev Winzer made this excellent point in this thread: http://www.puritanboard.com/f63/KJV-bible-how-overcome-language-barrier-40664/index2.html

The problem with making lists of archaic words is the fact that while there is a Bible which contains them they are obviously not redundant but have a continuing linguistic context in which they are employed. One only needs to notice how a newspaper column can use the phrase "love thy neighbour" for literary effect in order to show how shallow is this idea that the AV uses outdated English.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I thanked a post and it disappeared!!!???
Claudiu, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to destroy your post. I only wanted to thank you.
:D
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
I get the impression "vulgar" is being redefined in order to accommodate the KJV. For purposes of clarity, "vulgar" doesn't mean "capable of being understood." It means common or ordinary. As Seth pointed out so brilliantly above, unless you plan to conduct this discussion in KJV English, you can't very well say KJ English is the vulgar language. You might say it is capable of being understood with sufficient practice and/or education. But that's hardly what vulgar means.



There must be a consensus upon the definition of what vulgar is.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
My children have been raised on it, they do sometimes struggle especially in the OT, but seem to understand it fairly well. We have a dozen or so translations but use the AV for family reading and worship time. Our Pastor preaches from it as well.

Just another example that it can be done.
I think there was a study out there that showed that the KJV was at an easier level to read than most modern translations (I don't remember where I had seen/heard it and the truthfulness of it).

I believe it is lower level than some on the Flesch-Kincaid because of use of many smaller (less syllables) words. However, just because a word is smaller doesn't mean it is more understandable. KJV also has many words that are more dynamic than modern translations, which may make it easier to understand, but less accurate. For example, penny instead of denarius. There is a list here of some words in NIV vs. those supposedly easier in KJV: Archaic Words in the NIV by Dr. Laurence Vance

But, there are some modern translations that are at a higher reading level. New American Standard Bible is generally considered to be at a high school level and as such has many words that are harder to understand. There are modern translations that are simpler to understand while retaining accurarcy. ESV is at a lower reading level than KJV and the vocabulary is probably understood by most people, but it is not much more dynamic. Then there are translations like New Century Version/International Children's Bible and New International Reader's Version which simplify the text down for children while still being somewhat accurate. You can find a modern translation for many reading levels.

However, I do not think that overall the average American can dive into the KJV with as good of understanding as a more modern translation, but they can still figure it out.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Rev Winzer made this excellent point in this thread: http://www.puritanboard.com/f63/KJV-bible-how-overcome-language-barrier-40664/index2.html

The problem with making lists of archaic words is the fact that while there is a Bible which contains them they are obviously not redundant but have a continuing linguistic context in which they are employed. One only needs to notice how a newspaper column can use the phrase "love thy neighbour" for literary effect in order to show how shallow is this idea that the AV uses outdated English.

Yes, but the reason the paper can use that phrase is that "love thy neighbor" is a justly famous biblical verse and is a part of the cultural air that even the pagan among us breathes. But we must not make the mistake of saying that, since something can, with some effort, be understood, then it fulfills the requirement of WCF 1.8. As the list of obsolete words demonstrates, let alone the endings that have passed out of use, KJ English cannot be considered the vulgar language. And that's the question of the OP. That's the requirement of the confession. The fact that you like the KJV has nothing whatsoever to do with the matter. The fact that you are capable of understanding it doesn't either. The question is . . . is it written in the language of everyday discourse? No. It's not.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
A fellow pastor and respected friend visiting this past Lord’s Day challenged my use of the KJV for reading in public worship as possibly a violation of WCF I:8:

The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.​

I told him I’d think about it. Does the KJV qualify as the “vulgar language” (as intended by the WCF) of our time and nation?


We need to understand the word vulgar in the sense used by the Westminster Divines in the middle of the 17th century.

Vulgar, adj. 1391, common, ordinary, in Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe, borrowed from the Latin vulgaris of or pertaining to the common people … The meaning of course, low, ill-bred, is first recorded in English in 1643. The sense of common or customarily used, vernacular … is first recorded in English in 1483 … The meaning of make vulgar, coarsen, is first recorded in English in 1756
CHAMBERS DICTIONARY OF ETYMOLOGY

As we may see, the WCF very likely still used the word to refer to the language commonly understood by the congregation who was hearing it read to them.

Obviously, as the word has been changing, it increasingly connoted to the hearer the idea of low, undignified, coarse and improper.

Thus added pressure is upon the Church to retranslate the original to achieve the goal of perspicuity, and yet not fall into the trap of being trendy.

Some of the later posts may have missed this.
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
I thanked a post and it disappeared!!!???
Claudiu, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to destroy your post. I only wanted to thank you.
:D



Oh ok, I'm not sure what to believe now. Whether KJV is vulgar or not...thats why I deleted the post.

But you are right, we need a clear definition of what vulgar is, otherwise we will think we are talking about the same thing when we really are probably not.

Until then, I guess I will be divided on the issue.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I get the impression "vulgar" is being redefined in order to accommodate the KJV. For purposes of clarity, "vulgar" doesn't mean "capable of being understood." It means common or ordinary. As Seth pointed out so brilliantly above, unless you plan to conduct this discussion in KJV English, you can't very well say KJ English is the vulgar language. You might say it is capable of being understood with sufficient practice and/or education. But that's hardly what vulgar means.

I think the point of the word vulgar was that the language was actually what the people were speaking rather than something that needs translation. The RCC church was using the Latin Vulgate in times past and the ministers had to translate for the common people attending the church. Quite often the ministers themselves didn't have good knowledge of Latin anyway. This meant that the Bible was effectively hidden.

I think that if the Bible can be read and can be understood without translation from someone else, it falls within the WCF for being vulgar. If people understand the KJV without a minister having to translate for them, it's probably okay. Otherwise, a new translation is needed.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
From my Mac: "belonging to the masses"
Miriam-Webster: "of or relating to the common people, plebeian, generally current, public , of the usual, typical, or ordinary kind"

Someone got the OED?
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
I get the impression "vulgar" is being redefined in order to accommodate the KJV. For purposes of clarity, "vulgar" doesn't mean "capable of being understood." It means common or ordinary. As Seth pointed out so brilliantly above, unless you plan to conduct this discussion in KJV English, you can't very well say KJ English is the vulgar language. You might say it is capable of being understood with sufficient practice and/or education. But that's hardly what vulgar means.

I think the point of the word vulgar was that the language was actually what the people were speaking rather than something that needs translation. The RCC church was using the Latin Vulgate in times past and the ministers had to translate for the common people attending the church. Quite often the ministers themselves didn't have good knowledge of Latin anyway. This meant that the Bible was effectively hidden.

I think that if the Bible can be read and can be understood without translation from someone else, it falls within the WCF for being vulgar. If people understand the KJV without a minister having to translate for them, it's probably okay. Otherwise, a new translation is needed.

Thats the way I'm leaning. If a congregation can understand the KJV without any major problems then I would consider it "vulgar" for that congregation.
 

Claudiu

Puritan Board Junior
From my Mac: "belonging to the masses"
Miriam-Webster: "of or relating to the common people, plebeian, generally current, public , of the usual, typical, or ordinary kind"

Someone got the OED?



What could be vulgar in one church may not be vulgar in another...right?
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
What could be vulgar in one church may not be vulgar in another...right?

Exactly. An inner city church of recent converts and people born in raised in families reading the KJV frequently would need different translations.
 
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