Updated: Oct 12, 2021
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air, 1st Corinthians 14:49.
It sounds counter intuitive to recommend the King James Bible by advocating that it is easy to understand. Nevertheless, that is exactly what I intend to do. Before I begin to make that case, I want to settle a few things.
1. I am a Baptist. I believe that you have the right to call anything the word of God that you want to call the word of God. I have people dear to me who are Muslim. I do not get divisive with them over their belief in the Koran. I disagree with them, but they are welcome in my home, in my church and in my heart. If what I carry and call the word of God is superior to what they carry, railing on them or abusing the book they hold will not change their minds.
Likewise, there are people who attend my church and with whom I fellowship who are by no means convinced that the King James Bible is infallible or even to be desired. It is for that reason that I have not allowed a King James Only stance to be placed in our church constitution or to be written on our pulpit as some churches do. I can't imagine anything worse than having some man become a pastor at our church who had to feign his allegiance to the King James Bible. If it takes a line in a constitution to keep the King James Bible, the battle is lost anyway.
How do you convert people to your position if you repel people with whom you disagree? I have pastor friends who make a huge point of displaying their King James Only position, as a result, they only attract likeminded people. If a woman is pretty, does she need to hang a sign around her neck telling people that she is pretty? If the King James Bible is infallible as I personally believe, it can prove itself. It just needs to be preached.
A lady who attended here once privately told her friends that she would never stop using her NIV. After a few weeks of a bible study in the Book of Acts, she threw her NIV on the floor with disgust. Unbeknownst to me, the passage from which I was teaching became so obscure, and in fact so hid the key detail and cross reference to the Book of Exodus, that she despised the book she held.
I believe that the King James Bible is the word of God and that the new versions are wrong. Over the years I have converted many people to that position. I have never converted one person with whom I became ugly or divisive. Instead, I preach the King James Bible and when in the process of that preaching I come across a passage that I find to be obscured or missing in another version, I point that out. That is the exact same procedure used by advocates of the new bibles. Where they think that their new versions are more correct, they state so in their writings and preaching. I don't call them divisive, I just think that they are wrong.
You can pound your chest, rail on those who carry the other versions and post notices everywhere that you are King James Only, but you will only attract likeminded people. I want to convert people to what I believe, not build a little clique of likeminded people.
2. The King James Bible is easy to understand. Like anything else that is different from day to day experience, it appears foreign to a person newly exposed to it. Keep in mind, no generation of English speaking People ever spoke King James English. Shakespeare may have used thees and thous occasionally, but only one third of his verb endings match King James Bible verb endings.
King James English is a fabricated language fabricated by expert linguists to reflect the inflections of pronouns and to make verbs correspond with the words with which they are paired. Marvel not that I said unto thee [singular], Ye [plural] must be born again, John 3:7. I can spend the rest of my career explaining to my people when a "you" is plural or singular in the original languages, or I can from time to time, teach new people how to read inflected English pronouns so that they know when a passage is intended for one person, or for many. If the new versions are so much easier to read, why do preachers need to keep explaining what the originals say?
"Thou sayest", or "I say"; did it hurt anyone to have the verb correspond to the pronoun? Abraham Lincoln did not speak that way in his normal speech and yet his keen analytical mind only seems to have been strengthened by having grown up on a bible which used such precision. In fact, until the late 1800s, all of our founding fathers, politicians, school teachers, ministers, Sunday school teachers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers freely read such English even though it was not their dialect or manner of speaking. By every bit of historical evidence, they understood their bibles far better than today's equivalent person understands.
My church is chock full of people who resented literacy. They grew up using cell phones, computers and gaming systems. They were not apt to read the back of cereal boxes and even comic books were a drudgery to them. Advertisers have learned that in order to keep such people focused on an ad, the ad must do something every 10 seconds to keep them focused. Just thirty years ago the number used by advertisers was every seventeen seconds. Believe me, there is no bible written that can hold their attention unless something changes them. A King James Bible changes them.
If a doctor or a physical therapist had a patient with a weak ankle, should he give them loose shoes and socks or put that ankle in a brace? Why would I take people who have been betrayed by the educational system with easier and easier and dumber and dumber lessons trying to push them through school, and give them bibles ratcheted down to that level?
What I am about to describe is not something that has only worked once. This is the same technique that I use over and over. I give them a King James Bible. They quickly complain that they cannot get all those thees and thous. I explain that I was trained in South Carolina in the early 1980s when one quarter of adults could not read. Mush mouthed whites and blacks were able to understand the thees and thous. I have lived in the Philippines where English is often the third or fourth language of simple farmers. They were able to read and comprehend a King James Bible quite well.
I explain to them that they are not stupid. They are undereducated. I explain that for much of our nation's history, the King James Bible was the only book owned by frontiersmen and simple farmers who had meager educations and who spoke quite differently, but they could read it and understand it well. I encourage them to push on and not worry about what they don't get, react to what they do get. They do get much. It changes their lives in more ways than just picking up christian habits.
Within a month or two, their speech patterns change. Their sentences and spoken ideas become far more precise. That is one of the great beauties to the King James Bible. It is written in a precise English mirrored after Greek and Hebrew in its wording and inflections. It requires more thought to see what it is saying, but I have never yet found a person not capable of doing that thinking. In fact, they begin to enjoy it.
Give a Sudoku puzzle to someone who was pushed through school with easy math, easy science and easy English classes. He will stare at it and walk away. Give a Sudoku puzzle to a person who was challenged in school and was forced to think in order to pass math or science, they can enjoy the challenge. Giving a person a bible that does not require precision in thought is a disservice to that person.
3. The English of the King James Bible is important. English has become the preeminent language on earth. It has many dialects. As an example, there are words and phrases in Australian English that quite pass by the understanding of most Americans. Even on the North American Continent, dialects differ. It is estimated that there are 380 million native English speakers who speak English as a first tongue. It is also estimated that there are another 700 million people who speak it as a second tongue.
The King James Bible can and should act as the standard to which all English speaking people look. Is there anyone so foolish as to think that the various Jewish communities scattered throughout Europe and Asia from the time of Nebuchadnezzar through the Book of Acts all spoke the same dialect? Even when the Hebrew Scriptures were hundreds of years old, God did not change the wording of the bible to suit the language of the times. In Ezra's and Nehemiah's time the people were chastised because their children could not speak the Jews' language. I take the same stand. Teach them the gold standard. Give them that historical link to all English speakers around the globe and with the past.
Jakob Grimm was more than a collector and writer of fairy tales. He was a distinguished linguist and philologist in his day. He saw English as a superior language. In 1851, he wrote this:
Of All Modern Languages, not one has acquired such great strength and vigour as the English. It has accomplished this by simply freeing itself from the ancient phonetic laws and casting off almost all inflections; whilst from its avoidance of intermediate sounds, tones not even to be taught but only learned, it has derived a characteristic power of expression such as perhaps was never yet the property of any other human tongue. Its highly spiritual genius and wonderfully happy development, have proceeded from a surprisingly intimate alliance of the two oldest languages of Europe - the Germanic and the Romanesque...none of the living languages can be compared to it as to richness, rationality and close construction...
(My thanks for that gem goes to to Melvyn Bragg's excellent book The Adventure of English.)
In conclusion, I choose not to assume that my people cannot easily learn to read a King James Bible. I am proven right in this over and over. I have a friend whose daughter has an IQ of 50. I was startled to see her reading an autobiography of James Madison. Her father explained that they taught her to read from a King James Bible and as a result, she can read anything. Teaching people the highest and most successful form of their own language does not bind or restrict them. It liberates them.
I am not teaching theories here. Neither am I insisting that you do what I do. I am merely stating that if you want to see lives changed and if you want to see the broken people of today's society find hope in Jesus Christ and live lives that bring honor to God, you may want to consider what I am doing here.