Reviewing an Odd Book Part I
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge, Proverbs 19:27.
A book was recently brought to my attention. It's title, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible: KJV; made me wonder just how someone was misusing a King James Bible. In raising 8 children we had instances of them hitting each other over the head with their bibles, but I wasn't sure that was much of a subject matter for a book. As you might suspect, it is an appeal to relegate the King James Bible to historical honor, but to get people to move on to the new versions.
Dr. Mark Ward its author stayed relatively civil as he sought to pry people's hands off of the single most important document ever produced in the English-Speaking world and I shall reciprocate. I began my involvement in christian circles through the Neo-Evangelical movement or whatever it is that they call themselves today.
My first bible was the New Jerusalem Bible and the first bible that I actually read from cover to cover (four times) was the Good News For Modern Man. The next bible that I ever read from cover to cover was the New American Standard Bible (1 1/2 times). I grew up Roman Catholic and we just didn't use bibles. By no means do I have some historical affinity for the King James bible. The first verses that I ever memorized were from the New American Standard, it is just impossible to accuse me of some sentiment when it comes to my defense of the King James Bible.
One of Dr. Ward's biggest bugaboos to the King James Bible is what he calls false friends. By that he means words that lead us in a wrong direction because of their modern meaning. We will look into those false friends in more detail in a later post. Oddly enough, his first crack at criticizing a word comes from Psalm 37:8, Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. From page 21 through page 24, he explains that as a sophomore in college he didn't know what fret meant and maintained that the 10,000 people who also attended the same christian camp as he attended, didn't know either.
I found this somewhat amazing. In his book, Dr. Ward explains that one of the reasons that he advocates for modern translations is that he ministers to many undereducated down and outers. He thinks that giving them a King James Bible is wrong. I myself grew up in a poor Appalachian community and didn't graduate high school until I was 19 years old and only after a frustrated school cobbled together 15 local credits to be able to give me a diploma.
I minister in Allegany County, New York which is rural, poor, destitute of industry and jobs. It is rife with drug addiction, incest and generational poverty. It sits hard against the Western Pennsylvania border and is geographically and culturally closer to West Virginia or Western Pennsylvania. Our state legislators don't understand that so they just keep sending us more social workers as the high taxes and regulations meant for the metropolises 6 hours east of here continually destroy the last vestiges of industry that are left.
In other words, Dr. Ward has nothing on me when it comes to down and outers with poor education. I minister to just such a people and I do it with a King James Bible. I started my preparation for this book review by calling the Smiths (not their real name). The Smiths both have high school diplomas but Mr. Smith managed to do so without learning how to read. He is intelligent and hard working, but the written word is a vexation to him.
Both of them grew up surrounded by physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as witnessing much substance abuse. Their first child has down syndrome and their second child was diagnosed with the typical learning disabilities that abound in such families. They were told that he would never be able to achieve any proficiency in reading. Their third child was hyper active and actually got Head Start workers fired in their frustration of how they handled him.
They have been under my ministry for almost seven years and after some battles with social workers and then switching doctors, they were able to stop administering behavioral drugs to their children. They began home schooling. The boy diagnosed as learning disabled now reads far above his age level and is active in the Civil Air Patrol. The children ransack my library for reading books when they are church. ( I raised 8 children without a television. We have books.)
I turned to the Smiths to get a definition for fret. I told them not to use a dictionary, but as a family look up the seven times the word is used in a King James Bible, and the 5 other times that a form of the word is used such as fretting. Dr. Ward appears to be a graduate of Bob Jones University and I'm assuming that the camp that he attended in the Blue Ridge Mountains abounded with similarly educated people. I thought that maybe the Smiths could help out these poor 10,000 people who couldn't understand the word.
The Smiths got ahold of me this morning and told me that it looked like to fret meant to worry. That was a pretty good diagnosis of the word. In actuality, to fret is to have worry that kind of eats into you. Basically, David is telling us in Psalm 37:8 that we are stop getting angry, don't be wrathful and don't let worrying about things make you do evil. My precious little Smith family in their generations old mobile home at the end of a long muddy driveway in the middle of no where figured out what Dr. Ward maintains he still can't get.
This goes along with one of my pet theories. The more educated a person is, the more likely they are to complain at how difficult a King James Bible is. Is there really anyone reading this blog that didn't get the impression reading the verses on fret, that to fret something was to worry it like a dog worrying an old bone by gnawing on it?
What was even more astounding is that when I cross checked the big three modern versions with which I am familiar, they all used the word fret in Psalms 37. It is the perfect word. The ESV, the NIV and the New American Standard Bibles that I have on my shelf all use a word that Dr. Ward maintains that 10,000 presumably educated people couldn't grasp. The rest of the book is just as trite, but we'll look at that in further posts.