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A Study on the KJV (Part 2) - Preserved

Last Wednesday at our home church I taught the second of a four-part series on the King James Version (KJV). Below is a general overview of what we covered in this lesson.

What Makes the King James Version So Special?

1. God promised to preserve His words to all generations

“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” – Psalm 12:6,7

Are God’s pure words only to be found in the original autographs (the manuscripts the apostles held and put ink to)? They turned to dust nearly 2,000 years ago. Are God’s pure words to be found only in the original languages? Koine Greek (the written language of the New Testament) died out around 500 AD. Is the word of God locked up in a dead language that no one uses and that only a select few scholars have access to? Would God not make His preserved words available to the common man in this generation? Where are the words of God that we are to read, study, memorize, live by, and take soul winning?

I do not gather my family around a Greek lexicon for devotions nor do I take it with me in evangelistic outreach. Through an honest study of manuscript evidence I believe the inspired words of God are preserved and available for me in the English language of the King James Version.

2. The King James Version exalts the Lord Jesus Christ

The true scriptures should testify of Jesus Christ (Jn. 5:39). New versions attack the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the blood atonement, the resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, and the second coming of Christ. These attacks occur in many of the most clear and salient passages.

For instance, the New International Version omits “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “God” or similar terms 162 times in the New Testament and slanders the Lord further in Daniel 3:25, Micah 5:2, Matthew 20:20, Luke 2:33, 23:42, John 1:3, 3:13,16, 9:35, Acts 3:13, 4:27,30, Romans 14:10, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:8, and 1 John 5:7. We will review these attacks on the deity of Christ as well as many other significant changes made in modern versions in our final lesson of this series.

3. The King James Version has no copyright

A copyright is the exclusive right given by law for terms of years to an author, designer (etc.), to print publish, or sell, copies of his (the author’s) original work. By taking out a copyright on a so-called bible, the copyright owner admits that it is their words, not God’s words. All modern versions are copyrighted by their respective publishing companies.

The “crown copyright” that King James granted to printer Robert Barker was so the Authorized Version (KJV) could be printed – a modern copyright expresses authorship and ownership. The study notes, cross references, maps, etc. may be copyrighted in your KJV but not the text itself.

4. The time of the King James Version’s publication is important

The King James Version was translated when the English language was at its peak. The English of this time was perfectly suited to expressing the thought and concepts of Hebrew and Greek. English words were “simple, broad, and generic” and were capable of containing in themselves not only their central thoughts but also all the different shades of meaning which were attached to that central thought. For example, Peter says that born-again believers are a “peculiar” people (1 Pet. 2:9). The word “peculiar” has meant private property, marks distinctive of a person, people that are odd in a strange way. All those words are descriptive of a Christian: he is God’s private property, a believer’s life should be marked by characteristics that demonstrate he is a Christian, and to the world a Christian who is living for Jesus Christ will always be considered odd.

It was published before the advent of French atheism, German rationalism, English deism, and Darwinism. God could work through men whose minds had not been infected by modern philosophy and “the oppositions of science falsely so called”.

Finally, it was translated during the Philadelphia period (Rev. 3:7-13) of church history. The messages to the seven churches of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 go beyond the particular churches of the first century and present a prophetic look at the course of church history from the apostolic age (represented by the church of Ephesus) to the Rapture of the Body of Christ (represented by the church of the Laodiceans). Philadelphia represents the period of church history from around 1500 to 1900 AD – the approximate dates for each church period can be found by various textual indicators that correspond with historical events. The Philadelphia church period is the greatest in church history; this is the only church of the seven churches that is not told to repent. This church period saw the rise of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation as well as the Great Awakening in America centuries later. This church period has “an open door” because it kept the word of God (Rev. 3:8); this is the church period that publishes the Authorized Version in 1611 (KJV) – the next church period of Laodicea (around 1900 to the Rapture) has seen the publication of over 120 versions of the Bible and it should be noted that this period has a shut door (Rev. 3:20) with Christ on the outside knocking.

5. The King James Version has a long history of producing good fruit

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – Matthew 7:20

The Authorized Version (KJV) has been the Bible behind every major revival in the English speaking world since its publication. None of the “bibles” published in the last 100 years can approach the results God has obtained through the KJV. The great missionaries, evangelists, and pastors of the past used it for all or most of their public ministries. John Wesley preached nearly 42,000 sermons and led tens of thousands to Christ in England with a King James Version. His friend George Whitefield led many thousadns more to the Lord in America with the same Book. God used these two men to start the famed Great Awakening of the 18th century. God used Jonathan Edwards as he preached from the King James Bible to melt the hardest of hearts in New England. George Mueller used the King James Version as he built orphanages and saw countless children saved. D.L. Moody preached the KJV to over 50 million people. Charles Spurgeon preached it to millions more. We could also mention how the Lord used the King James Version in the ministries of Hudson Taylor, William Carey, David Livingston, and many more, but space prevents us from dwelling further on this point.

God has used the King James Version not only to bring the lost to Christ but also to civilize and educate entire nations which were ignorant of Him and His ways. The expansion of British economic and military influence in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centures was preceded and accompanied by missionary work based on the King James Version. Material prosperity, political stability, humanitarian effort, progress in art, literature, music, science and technology, and the emergence of a stable, productive, law abiding, morally upright, educated ‘middle class’ follow the dissemination of the King James Version and translations into other languages based upon its underlying Hebrew and Greek texts.

6. The character and ability of the King James Version translators

The final editor of the Authorized Version, John Bois, learned to read Hebrew at age 5. At age 15 he corresponded with his superiors in Greek. He became one of the most popular Greek professors at Cambridge with students attending voluntary lectures at 4 am. It is said that he was so familiar with the Greek testament that he could, at any time, turn to any word that it contained.

Other translators include Lancelot Andrews who was conversant in 15 languages. Miles Smith was said to be a “walking library,” he had Hebrew at his fingers’ end and he was so conversant in Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, that he made them as familiar to him as his native tongue. Andrew Downes was described as the “chief of learned men in England”. John Reynolds was known as a “living library,” “a third university,” and his memory and reading were said to be “near to a miracle”. Among their company were men who… took a month’s vacation and used the time to learn and master an entirely foreign language, wrote a Persian dictionary, invented a specialized mathematical ruler, one was an architect, mastered oriental languages, publicly debated in Greek, and tutored Queen Elizabeth in Greek and mathematics.

They were not just a bunch of dry theologians but accomplished preachers and balanced Christians as well. Richard Brett, although proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Arabic and several Ethiopic tongues, it was said of him that, “He was a most vigilant pastor, a diligent preacher of God’s word, a liberal benefactor to the poor, a faithful friend, and a good neighbor.”

Translator Richard Kilbye once heard a young preacher give three reasons why a particular word in the KJV should have been translated differently. He explained to the young preacher how he and others considered all three reasons and found 13 more considerable reasons why it was translated as now printed.

I find it interesting given the above examples that there are so many Bible college and seminary graduates today that think a few semesters of Greek qualify them to correct the King James Version.

Not only were the translators of great ability and character but many of them knew what it mean to suffer for Christ; they endured persecution, hardships, and mistreatment by the hands of the enemies of the Gospel. It is also worth noting that in 1611 there were none of the “modern conveniences” such as radio, television, internet, to steal the translators time not to mention corrupt their minds; they were able to meditate and study upon the word of God without many of the distractions believers endure today.

Though the translators were from varied backgrounds and differed on church order and administration and some other matters, each one had the highest regard for the scriptures and believed them to be the very words of the living God.

In terms of the translation process, the translators were divided into six companies (or groups) and assigned to three principal locations: two companies at Westminster, two at Cambridge, and two at Oxford. Each company was given a selected portion of Scripture to translate. Each scholar made his own translation of a book and then passed it on to be reviewed by each member of his group. The whole group then went over the book together. Once a group had completed a book of the Bible they sent it to be reviewed by the other five groups. All objectionable and questionable translating was marked and noted, and then it was returned to the original group for consideration. A special committee was formed by selecting one leader from each group. This committee worked out all of the remaining differences and presented a finished copy for the printers of 1611. This means the Authorized Version (KJV) had to pass at least 14 examinations before going to press.

7. The King James translators were honest in their work by the use of italics

Anyone who has ever translated from one language to another knows that words must be added to the finished work to complete the sentence structure in the new language. All translators do this when translating the Bible. The King James translators had a simple goal: to communicate God’s words in the English language. They were quite honest. When the English word they needed to communicate the Greek or Hebrew sentence into English was missing, they wrote the English word, but in italics.

When the translators had to supply a word (or words) in the KJV to make the verse make sense in English, they put it in italics; they were honest in showing the words they added to the text (see Psalm 32:1 for an example).This is something the translators of nearly all the modern versions failed to do; modern versions have translated words and the words the translators added in the same type; there is no way a reader can tell which is which.

The translators also put words in italics where the words were in the original language, but they didn’t have enough evidence at the time. For example, 1 John 2:23 reads, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” The word [but] is not in any manuscript, period. It is needed, however to show the contrast to English readers. That is like the regular italics in the rest of the KJV. However, in this case a full 1/2 of the verse is in italics. How could this be? It’s simple: the King James translators were very honest. They found some Greek manuscripts at the time that had the verse and others that didn’t. But they had enough evidence from other languages that did, and a very good reason why the verse might have been mistakenly removed by a copyist was something known as homoeoteleuton (ho-moy-oh-tell-you-tahn). That Greek word simply means, “having the same ending.” The phrase “hath the Father” is at the end of both parts of the verse. In Greek it looks like this: τον πατερα εχει. As the copyist looked back and forth between the original and his copy, his eye could have skipped to that same phrase at the end of the verse. Thinking he had already written it, he would have moved on, thus leaving out the last part of this verse. In order to be truthful, the King James translators included the 2nd 1/2 of the verse, because it belongs there. But to be fair with what they had in front of them, they put that 1/2 verse in italics. But the best part is that history has shown the King James translators correct! As many more minuscule manuscripts (Greek scriptures with all lower-case letters) were found, many more contained the verse.

By omitting the italicized words “the brother of” in 2 Samuel 21:19 we would have the Bible saying that Elhanan killed Goliath; to remove these italicized words would cause this verse to contradict 1 Samuel 17:50 which states David killed Goliath. What source did the KJV translators have to insert “the brother of”? It is found in 1 Chronicles 20:5 not in italics.

There is evidence of God’s hand concerning the italics in the English text itself – there are words in italics in the Old Testament showing they were not in the Hebrew but when the text is quoted in the New Testament, which was written in Greek, they do not appear in italics showing Paul quotes the Hebrew as if the words are there. For instance, in Romans 10:20 Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1. The words “them that” are in italics in Isaiah (they are not in the Hebrew), however the words are NOT in italics in Romans 10:20 because the Greek words for them exist in the text – Paul quotes the Hebrew as if the words are there but they are not in any Hebrew text; they are only found in the King James Bible text of Isaiah. For other instances, compare Psalm 16:8 with Acts 2:25 (“he is”); Psalm 94:11 with 1 Corinthians 3:20 (“are”); Deuteronomy 25:4 with 1 Corinthians 9:9 (“the corn”). Also of note, while quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4 Jesus quotes the entire verse including the King James italicized word – again, God must want the italicized words in His Book.

8. The King James Version is supported by far more evidence

Historically, the true text of the New Testament emanates from Antioch of Syria and has been preserved not only in the vast majority, 95%, of extant (still in existence) Greek manuscripts but also in various faithful early translations, such as the Old Latin, the Old Syriac, and Gothic. These translations, together with the Syrian manuscripts, constitute the scriptures of the true believers during the Dark Ages and on into the Reformation.

When Constantinople fell to the Ottomon Turks (1453 AD) refugees brought thousands of Greek manuscripts into Europe. With the dawning of the Reformation, God used a number of distinguished scholars to produce editions of the New Testament in Greek from these faithfully preserved manuscripts of Antioch. The task of the editor was the immense undertaking of compiling the sometimes variant testimony of thousands of witnesses and carefully comparing their readings in order to establish which ones possessed a reliable text. The editor could examine other witnesses to the text aside from the Greek manuscripts, e.g. Old Latin, Syrian, lectionaries, writings of the church fathers, etc., to help shed light on the true text.

It was through a slow, painstaking process that the editor reviewed the extant witnesses and then establishes what the original text said. He had to go through piles of manuscript fragments, plus unroll scrolls, and examine folio books – all without chapter and verse references. He then reduced his findings to one single text. When finished, the editor compiled his entire New Testament text and publishes it for the world to use in translating scripture.

With the dawning of the Reformation, God used a number of distinguished scholars such as Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza, to produce editions of the New Testament in Greek from the faithfully preserved manuscripts of Antioch, later called the “Received Text” or “Textus Receptus”. These Greek editions were to culminate in the publication of the King James Version a century later.

In terms of the translation material, not only did the King James translators have before them the printed Greek texts of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza, as well as the Old Latin, Gallic and Celtic Versions, but they also had all preceding printed English and foreign language Bibles, the Complutensian Polyglot with the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Antwerp Polyglot, several important uncials and great mass of cursive manuscripts, and even Jerome’s Vulgate and the Jesuit Rheims version for comparison. The older renderings of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were very much before the scholars as represented in the Latin Vulgate and the Douay Rheims.

9. The pride and inconsistency of the King James Version critics

We will consider this point in more detail in the third lesson. Ultimately, the final authority of the critics is their own opinion rather than a pure, inerrant, tangible Book inspired and preserved by God.

10. No one has proven a mistake in the King James Version

We will discuss this point further in the third lesson as well.

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