The Form of Sound Words
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus, 2nd Timothy 1:13.
What form do sound words take? The Apostle Paul did not admonish Timothy to hold fast sound words, he told him to hold fast the form of sound words. When the Lord instructed Israel to work onyx stones into gems, he told them to put them into ouches of gold. The gems by themselves did not please God, he had a form in which he sought to display them. And they wrought onyx stones inclosed in ouches of gold, Exodus 39:6.
We have the words of God. We have them in a specific form. We have them in the 66 books of a King James Bible. We also have them in a unique form of English wrought by the skill of man from Early Modern English. Just this morning I had a new convert ask me to explain the "thees" in 1st King 10:9; Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.
Especially hard for him was the construction of "made he thee king". The King James Bible is like Latin in that words often carry their own markers telling us what part they play in a sentence. "Thee" is a second person indirect object. It doesn't matter whether the speaker says "he made thee king", or "made he thee king". By saying "thee", the speaker is telling us that "thee" receives the action. "Thee" received the action of being made king.
It has pleased God to not only give us sound words, but to place them in a form which requires thought. It is no coincidence that speakers of the English Language who were raised on the words of a King James Bible have made such an impact upon government, science, philosophy, writing, and speaking. Early in their lives they were subjected to a form of language that caused them to pause and think.
When I took Latin in the 9th grade, it fascinated me that word order was not particularly important in conveying meaning. Each word carried its own flag telling the reader what part it played in the sentence. If I wrote "carried the ball the dog, I might get points taken off for style, but because the word "ball" was said in a form that signaled to the reader that ball received the action of the dog, it was just as understandable as if I said, "the dog carried the ball".
Modern English is a heterogenous language. That means that it is composed of many dissimilar parts culled from many lands. In that culling and mixing, the form of our speech broke down into a pattern whereby word order defined the meaning of the sentence. We laugh at the Pennsylvania Dutch construction of speech wherein the speaker says, "throw grandma down the stairs her slippers".
Thankfully, we take the time to break down what the speaker is trying to say and we don't throw grandma down, we throw her slippers down. Modern English demands that we say, "throw grandma's slippers down the stairs. In a recent lecture at Calvary Bible Baptist Church in Rochester, NY, Paul Scott used the word "understandest" to illustrate how the form of our sound words is different than our daily speech.
Understandest thou what thou readest?, Acts 8:30. We would say, "Do you understand what you are reading". It took seven words to say what our King James Bible said concisely in 5 words. The King James reading uses the verb ending "est", understandest. By saying understandest thou, the King James Bible is using a directed pronoun and a word ending to make the reader see to whom it is directed.
Of course this is what the modernest despises. Why would anyone give a new believer a bible that is not written as he speaks? OK, Why would a doctor put a brace on a child's foot if the child had trouble with weak ankles? Why not just put loose socks on him? Isn't that how the child's foot naturally wanted to work? I give new believers a bible that forces them to think. It didn't hurt George Washington to read that way even though he didn't speak King James English. It didn't hurt Winston Churchill.
In fact it didn't hurt the the Philippine Islands when teachers fanned out across them in the early 20th century to teach them English. To this day the Filipino Baptist churches are some of the best Baptist churches on earth and the most likely to use a King James Bible. It didn't hurt the founders of Canada's Dominion, Australia, New Zealand and all of the founders of The United States to learn to read a King James Bible. It is far more demonstrable that it honed their thinking skills.
If you are tempted to fall for the modern bible users' demand that we read a bible written like we speak, listen to them preach. They spend endless time trying to make their listeners understand the construction of Greek and Hebrew. It doesn't occur to them that the King James Bible was written to conform to the construction of Greek and Hebrew. If they had merely taken the time that I took this morning to explain the usage of the word "thee" to a new believer, their listener could begin getting the gist of the words he reads.
The King James Bible is the ouche in which the individual gemstones of the word of God are set. Hold fast that form of sound speech.