How Readable is a King James Bible?
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
A draft of this post was mistakenly emailed yesterday and of course led to nowhere when my subscribers clicked on it. Thank you for your patience with me.
Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it, Deuteronomy 1:39.
The great crime committed by proponents of the new bibles is that they do not teach their children to use the King James Bible. They use the excuse of readability. They feel that they are protecting their children. We all too often shoot back that the King James Bible tests out as the most readable bible. That statement by itself is lacking.
Dr. Mark Ward, Author of the book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible: KJV objects to the standard answer given by King James apologists. Almost every apologist for the King James Bible cites the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of the King James Bible which rates the text as being far easier to read than modern versions. He is correct in this. All the Flesch-Kincaid scale can do is compare the amount of words versus the amount of syllables. That is one measure of readability but it can clearly mask complex thought as being more readable than what it really is.
As an example:
1. I think that you should think the same thoughts in the same way that the thoughts of those who went before us thought.
2. We need to hold fast to the ideas and aspirations of our forefathers.
In that example I said the same thing in two different ways. The first way mostly used simple one syllable words. That disguised how stilted and unreadable it really was. The second sentence used a couple of longer words but was far more understandable and direct. If all we used as a standard of readability was word counts, and then compare how many syllables were used, we would not have a very accurate gauge.
What Dr. Ward misses here is that the readability of the King James Bible goes far beyond its ability to convey thought in mostly monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon words. It is the combining of monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon words with direct and pointed speech aimed at the readers' understanding that distinguishes the King James Bible. 400 years of usage have conclusively proven that children can adapt to the nuances of King James Bible speech and that they can adapt quite easily.
When a child is first sent to school, he is often confused and distressed at the new rules and hubbub. They quickly adjust and forget that it was ever a problem. When we hand children an electronic tablet for the first time, they are often confused over how to make it work. How quickly children adapt! Within a short time they forget that they ever had trouble with it. What child has ever gotten on a two wheeled bike and instantly mastered the balance and then driven off like a pro? No child has. To some extent all children get frustrated with the process and then get the hang of it.
The King James Bible works no differently. When a child begins to read it, he notices that mom and dad don't speak that way. It does take a little effort for him to hear what is being said as he reads. My experience and the experience of 400 years of English speaking people is that within a very short time, any child can read the King James Bible and understand exactly what God wants him to understand. Our good brother Paul Scott has given us a few lessons in punctuation, pronouns and other grammatical tools that illustrate why the King James Bible is not just readable, its readability conveys an accuracy that could not be improved upon if Jesus Christ were to personally come down and speak.
How cruel has been the last few generations that have pampered their spoiled little charges and protected them from that big bad King James Bible! Every succeeding generation that is more and more removed from the King James Bible only proves to be more and more bible illiterate. Easier bikes than two wheelers are tricycles. They are easier to ride but will forever consign the rider to staying close to home. The child who eagerly chases his older siblings riding out of the yard on their two wheelers while he himself pedals furiously on his tricycle, will end up on the edge of the property crying while the older children ride off for true adventure.
Give your children the ride of their lives. Take that small amount of time that it takes to familiarize themselves with reading King James English. You have opened for them the keys to eternity, the understanding of God himself and a heritage that has graced 400 years of English speaking people.