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Saturday, June 09, 2007

WLBA 6: The KJV cont

There is a nice little dialogue going on in the comment section at This Lamp between Rick and Iyov on the King James Bible. For once I am not in the middle of it. Rick said, "And I don't know of a worse Bible to give to a child than the KJV."

Rick's is my favourite blog and the closest one in theme to this blog. I count Rick among my friends. But . . . . this comment set off so many memories that I would like to share.

My father read out of the King James Bible every night at the dinner table. My mother provided the commentary and often recounted to us some part of the life of one of the Wesleys, or Whitfield or John Newton. After dinner and some discussion of the chapter I could wander into the living room and carefully open the dictionary to make sure I gleaned the last scrap of information from the story. And so I learned what a concubine was, and what kind of trouble filled Dinah's life and why mandrakes were so important.

From the King James Bible, my sisters and I acted out the book of Esther and read the story of Naaman and the little maid. My sister and I decided that Naaman did not look quite right in the picture of him washing in the river with spots still covering him, so we happily defaced that page. Poor guy. I read about Samuel and Moses' sister and Josiah, all the stories of children in the Bible. We played charades from the stories of the King James Bible, fighting over who would be Rebekah and who the camel.

We talked about David in Sunday school and I remember coming home and opening up the King James Bible with great eagerness to read the whole story of David and Michal. I remember the feeling of horror and misery I had as I scanned ahead to find out how the story ended. I simply could not believe it. She complained once about how he behaved and was evermore a castoff - played as a pawn and never a queen, to secure David's throne - while Bathsheba, the bathing beauty, bore the crown prince. Abigail simply disgusted me. What was she doing chasing a married man?

Do I remember not understanding anything in the stories? No. Do I remember the difficult langauge? No, I don't. The same goes for the gospels and acts.

I will, however, admit that when I read the Good News Bible, it occured to me that Paul's epistles were quite possibly intended to be understood. In fact, they never made much sense to me until I started reading them in Greek - justification and propitiation were as opaque to me as to the next person. However, δικαιοσυνη and ιλασμος were not so improbable. But going back now I can see and appreciate the clear literalism of the King James Bible, the respect for the simple unadorned Greek words and the resistance against interpreting an obscure construction.

What use is it now for me to open up Bibles labeled literal and find that if the verse has a teaching about women in it, more than likely it is translated in an interpretive fashion. The translator had imposed himself between God and the reader. The King James Bible offers the most literal translation of the verses in the epistles which apply to women. The King James Bible offers peacemakers who shall be called the "children of God", and the King James Bible really meant people when it said "men". I never doubted it - I never thought that "men" meant only the males.

As for the language and literary quality of the King James Bible, I simply took it for granted.

I was incredibly fortunate to grow up with the King James Bible and it is a very sad thing that most young girls today won't have that experience - or boys too.


At Sun Jun 10, 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

This is a touching story -- and shows the value of teaching Scripture in an atmosphere suffused with love.

I believe the epistles are simply difficult to follow, and even today, I note that disputes over their interpretation provides fodder for most doctrinal disputes. I am not at all sure that translations are to blame for their difficulty.

At Sun Jun 10, 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

What strikes me most about this is the sweetness of your spirit in telling it. In saying that, I mean "sweetness" in the best sense of the word; you can be sweet and strong and intellectual at the same time.

The KJV has several things going for it: Beauty of language, beauty of imagery, and literalness that avoids putting the interpretation into the translation. I use other translations more often, but like you, I feel sorry for those who know only the translations that paraphrase the most. Of course, I feel even sorrier for the majority who don't know the Lord through any Bible at all.

At Sun Jun 10, 05:32:00 PM, Blogger Iris Godfrey said...

Your story touches my heart. I too grew up in a family that treasured the Word, read the Word, and expected us to read the Word and live the Word. It was, of course, the KJV. However, my Dad always used the AS -- 1901 edition for his own personal reading and his preaching.

It was rich in our Lord. I am blessed as a result. I use the KJV often, but not as my primary. However, the more I study the language (and I am very much a beginner) the more I turn to the KJV -- delighted to find it rich.

Thank you for sharing.

At Mon Jun 11, 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Mike said...

My wife and I were just discussing the other day how as children we tended to avoid Paul and found our reading joy in the stories of the Old Testament...indeed, I agree, I didn't fully begin to understand Paul's writings until learning Greek


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