The King James Version (1611-2011) Happy 400th Birthday!

                            A special post for Sunday, September 4, 2011
                            (a day designated to preach from the King James Version)

Psalm 68:1
      The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Very well, my friends, let me say a word for the old book, the old Authorized [King James] Version. It was translated by fifty-four men, every one of them a great scholar, and published in 1611.

 The KJV TRANSLATORS (1611): Truly―good Christian Reader―we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one…but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark. To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men’s eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise…The very Historical truth is, that upon the importunate petitions of the Puritans, at his Majesty’s coming to this Crown, the Conference at Hampton Court having been appointed for hearing their complaints―hereupon did his Majesty begin to bethink himself of the good that might ensue by a new translation, and presently after gave order for this Translation which is now presented unto thee.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): [But] we are told today that we must realize that we are living in a ‘post-Christian’ era and that this is the greatest obstacle to preaching today, that people do not understand our terms. They sound archaic to them, they are not modern, they are not up-to-date. The result is this great modern craze for new translations of the Scriptures in familiar, ordinary everyday language, and the fashion of no longer addressing God as “Thee” and “Thou,” but “You.” This, we are told, is all-important, that when the modern man hears “Thee” and “Thou” it is almost impossible for him to listen to the gospel, leave alone to believe it. So we have to change our language, and we do this in our new translations of the Scriptures, and in our prayers…Let us be careful my friends with these modern translations.

 The KJV TRANSLATORS: To whomever was it imputed for a fault―by such as were wise―to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause? If we be sons of the Truth, we must consider what it speaketh, and trample upon our own credit, yea, and upon other men’s too, if either be any way an hindrance to it.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Let me say at once that I agree entirely that we should always seek the best translations possible. We must not be obscurantist in these matters. Let us have the best that the translators can give us. But that is not the real point behind the idea that you must now address God as “You” rather than “Thee” or “Thou” if you are to communicate the Gospel to modern man. The basic assumption behind that thinking is that the reason these people do not believe in God, and do not pray to Him and accept the Gospel, is the archaic language of the Authorized [King James] Version and if only that is put right the whole situation will be changed, and the modern man will be able to believe these things…[Some say] “these technical terms, this Elizabethan language, justification, sanctification: this means nothing to the modern man. What he wants, you see, is a Bible in modern language, in modern slang, in the modern idiom, and then men will read it. Then they will say, ‘This is Christianity,’ and then they will embrace it.” And so we are having fresh translations, one after another. Everybody buys them because all we need is the Bible in modern up-to-date language. Is this not tragic?

 J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Who does not know that many of the enemies of Christianity in this land have made the alleged defects of our Authorized [King James] Version the chief ground of their attacks on the Gospel? “Give us a new translation,” they have often cried, “and you will see what will become of your favourite dogmas.”

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The answer to the argument that people in this post-Christian age do not understand terms like Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification is simply to ask another question. When did people understand them? When did the unbeliever understand this language? The answer is: Never! These terms are peculiar and special to the gospel―Our business is to teach people the meaning of these terms…
       Yet we are told, “It must be put in such simple terms and language that anybody taking it up and reading it is going to understand all about it.” My friends, this is nothing but sheer nonsense! What we must do is educate the masses of the people up to the Bible, not bring the Bible down to their level. One of the greatest troubles in life today is that everything is being brought down to the same level; everything is cheapened. The common man is made the standard of authority…You are getting it on television and in your newspapers; everywhere standards are coming down and down. Are we going to do that with the Word of God? I say, No!

 C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): At first, Calvinism was too harsh, then evangelical doctrines became too antiquated, and now the Scriptures themselves must bow to man’s alteration and improvement.

 LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): I see that the revision of the Scriptures is to impoverish our language…All is in keeping. These fellows are enfeebling our doctrine; and it is quite in harmony to enfeeble the language in which it is expressed.

 WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): New terms imperceptibly make way for new doctrines; nor has any subtlety of the enemy of souls succeeded better in corrupting the mind from the simplicity there is in Christ, than modernizing the language of divinity.

 C. H. SPURGEON: How much mischief may arise out of an accidental alteration of the Word!

 LORD SHAFTESBURY: We ought, instead of driving out words by the substitution of modern ones, to force the older ones into more common use.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Consider the colliers to whom John Wesley and George Whitefield used to preach in the eighteenth century.  Did they understand them?  They had not even been to a day school, an elementary school.  They could not read, they could not write.  Yet these were the terms which they heard, and the Authorized Version was the version used.  The common people have never understood these terms…
       What has happened in the past has been this: an ignorant, an illiterate people in this country and in foreign countries, coming into salvation, have been educated up to the Book and have begun to understand it, to glory in it, and to praise God for it. I am here to say that we need to do the same at this present time. What we need is, therefore, not to replace the Authorized [King James] Version with what, I am tempted at times to call, the ITV edition of the Bible. We need rather to reach and train people up to the standard and the language, the dignity and the glory of the old Authorized Version.

  A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Words are used in Scripture with the most exact precision and discrimination.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The very nature and character of the truth which the Bible presents to us is such that it is extremely difficult to put into words at all…Human wisdom is of no value here; it is a spiritual truth; it is something that is altogether different.

 C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): How deeply important is all this, in this day of human tampering with the Word of God!

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): No greater mischief can happen to a Christian people, than to have God’s Word taken from them, or falsified, so that they no longer have it pure and clear.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: O how important it is that we should keep our eye on these various translations and versions!
       …The moment you begin to think in terms of worldly wisdom and knowledge, and intellectual understanding and scholarship, you will not be quite as careful as you should be in the translation of Scripture. You will be more interested in the fact that scholars have done it, and that is new and up-to-date, than in its accuracy and its spirituality. Are these not living issues among us? What is our acid test of a translation? Is it that it is new? Must it be right because it is new, and because it is the result of the latest scholarship? Is that the guarantee?

 C. H. SPURGEON: We shall gradually be so bedoubted and becriticized, that only a few of the most profound will know what is Bible, and what is not, and they will dictate to all the rest of us. I have no more faith in their mercy than in their accuracy: they will rob us of all that we hold most dear, and glory in the cruel deed. This same reign of terror we shall not endure, for we still believe that God revealeth himself rather to babes than to the wise and prudent, and we are fully assured that our own old English version of the Scriptures is sufficiently plain for all purposes of life, salvation, and godliness. We do not despise learning, but we will never say of culture or criticism, “These be thy gods, O Israel.”

 JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): The great value of our English version, which I believe, in point of simplicity, strength, and fidelity, is not likely to be excelled by a new translation of the whole Scripture. But there are, undoubtedly, particular passages, where a small change in the expression might render the sense clearer, and be equally answerable to the original Hebrew and Greek.

 JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625): That translation is most exact, which agrees best with the original, word for word, so far as the idiom, or propriety of the language will bear.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Strict accuracy in language is not everything—a bias can come in, and a bias does come in. And it’s very interesting to note how men who may be strictly accurate as regards words, when one of two or three words can be used, they may choose a word that’s perfectly accurate, but it hasn’t the fullness of meaning that another has. So it’s rather important that you observe the theological position of your scholars, who may be perfectly accurate, yes, but, their theological bias comes in, and if they can choose the lesser word, they do, and thereby detract from the truth…We know the theological position of the men who translated the [King James] Version, and we know the theological position of most of those on the panel who translated the Revised Standard Version, and the difference is often significant.

 C. H. SPURGEON: Concerning the fact of difference between the Revised and Authorised Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text, and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner…Nevertheless, we know that the Holy Spirit did not use words at random, and we shall never consent to that liberalism which, in destroying the shell of the language, really kills the life-germ of the meaning.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: These [KJV] translators were all men who were orthodox in the faith. They believed that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and they submitted to it as the final authority, as against the spurious claims of Rome, as against appeals to the church fathers and everything else. Here, I say, were fifty-four men, scholars and saintly, who were utterly submitted to the Book. You have never had that in any other version. Here, and here alone, you have a body of men who were absolutely committed to it, who gave themselves to it, and who did not want to correct or sit in judgment on it―whose only concern and desire was to translate and interpret it for the masses of the people.

 The KJV TRANSLATORS: [Our] work hath not been huddled up in 72 days, but hath cost the workmen, as light as it seemeth, the pains of twice 7 times 72 days and more: matters of such weight and consequence are to be speeded with maturity…Neither did we think [it too] much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek or Latin, no, nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for [speed], we have at length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see.

 C. H. SPURGEON: Do not needlessly amend our Authorized [King James] Version. It is faulty in many places, but still it is a grand work taking it for all in all.

 MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Very well then. I say, let us beware, lest we be slaves of fashion, and because a thing is new [think] it must be the best.

 J. C. RYLE: Let us be content at present to use the old version, which, with all its defects, has done such good service.


Editor’s Note: The quotations designated The KJV Translators are taken from the original preface to that Bible version when it was first published in 1611, entitled The Translators to the Reader.  For a well written and persuasive article on this subject by Joel Beeke, see Practical Reasons for Retaining the KJV.


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