Updated: May 30, 2022
They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith, John 16:18.
There were many people who heard Jesus Christ address them in their own speech, but they could not understand what he said. Why? It wasn't a linguistic problem such as using arcane speech. Jesus Christ himself explained their inability to understand him; Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word, John 8:43.
Not every person who complains about the language of the King James Bible does so out of frustration with the vocabulary or phraseology. They may use that as an excuse, and indeed there are some who balk upon first encountering its unique language structure and use of older vocabulary. By far, most of the critics of the King James Bible that I have encountered are fairly intelligent and well educated. There is something going on deeper than an intellectual inability to understand.
Some object to the language out of a profit motive. They are hawking new bibles or like silly Mark Ward they work for an entity like Logos Software, (Here) (Here) (Here). Some have just heard all of their lives that the King James Bible is too hard or outdated and that they need a new version which is easier to read. Some of such people can be reached if they are approached by someone who can gently persuade with reason and love. All too often, the real problem is spiritual. As Jesus Christ said, ye cannot hear my word.
New versions have been attempted for the entire 400 year history of the King James Bible. As we saw in the last post, the Catholic Church introduced a couple of new versions in the 17th century. In the 18th century things really began to take off. In 1706 a man by the name of Philip Bedingfield produced a translation of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in which he proclaimed that he was using "Modern English". Apparently he thought that the King James Bible was outdated. Has anyone ever found any indication that the people of Queen Anne's reign found the King James Bible too hard to read?
The Quakers printed their own version in 1764. Its author spent 30 years in its preparation but it has gone into oblivion. John Wesley published his own New Testament in 1755. Despite the overwhelming acceptance of Methodism in the English-Speaking world, it never caught on. It is to the work of Edward Harwood that we shall turn to get an idea of just how goofy it is trying to update the language which God has so effectively used for over 400 years.
In 1768 Harwood published a bible called A Literal Translation of the New Testament: being An Attempt to translate the Sacred Writings with the same Freedom, Spirit, and Elegance, With which other English Translations from the Greek Classics have lately been executed. Here is an excerpt wherein the parable of the prodigal son is updated:
"A Gentleman of a splendid family and opulent fortune had two sons. One day the younger approached his father, and begged him in the most importunate and soothing terms to make a partition of his effects betwixt himself and his brother- the indulgent father, overcome by his blandishments, immediately divided all his fortunes betwixt them."
This is comedy. 170 years after the King James Bible was translated, a man thought that the language needed upgrading. This was during the time of French and Indian War. Pitt the Elder guided England. He was to raise his truly great son, William Pitt the younger on the words of a King James Bible as we know them today. The founding fathers of the American Revolution both poor and rich, were nourished on its words.
They did not speak using the English of the King James Bible but by every evidence of their deeds and writings, they understood it perfectly. Why? They understood it because in their day even the most brief of educations taught men how to read it. This is what is being denied to young people today. There is a supposition made by well educated people that the "little people" can't get it.
That is a false supposition. My experience is that most King James Bible teaching churches are full of men and women with relatively little education when compared to the churches that use the new versions. Can anyone tell me of a time when the bible colleges and top scholars were on the cutting edge of the work of the Holy Ghost in any given age? Almost every refreshing work of God that has ever come along breathing holy life into the churches and awakening the lost in any given population has run into stiff resistance from the scholars and bible colleges.
A.W. Tozer noted that whenever a truly great man of God comes along, such men seek to teach young men by starting a bible college. He further noted that if you study the products of that bible college, none ever attain to the stature or effectiveness of its founder. God never instituted bible colleges. He instituted the local church. The Apostle Paul called it, the pillar and ground of the truth, 1st Timothy 3:15.
Having zillions of new versions with more and more relevant language has not transformed our societies into bastions of the knowledge of God. They don't work as advertised. There has never been a greater dearth in the understanding of scripture among the English-Speaking nations of the world than there is today. Among those English-speaking churches extant today, those still using the King James Bible have a better grip on the basics of the bible and an understanding of Jesus Christ.
Please take some time and read the three posts to which links were provided in the third paragraph.