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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

KJV spotting

Its hard to believe this happened today but I ran into the KJV not once but twice at school this morning. First, I was reading a chapter of The Landry News by Andrew Clement with a small group of grade 5 students. They are of a diverse language background - Cree, Bengali, Tagalog, and Chinese.

The main character in this novel is a bright but rather cruel girl named Cara. Her mother sits her down and reads a few verses from Psalm 85 with her,
    10Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

    11Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

I had the children right down what they thought the meaning of mercy was. They mentioned "game," "begging," "down on your knees," "forgiveness," and "kindness." We then checked in a dictionary to verify the meaning. The Landry News was published in 1999 and is one of my favourite books to read with learning disabled kids.

After that class I went to the staffroom for break and sat down beside the librarian who is also the language arts teacher of the top grade 7 students. She is teaching world religions as background to reading literature. Although I lent her a Picture Bible, she decided that she would not want to use anything but the KJV. She remarked that she did not want to see Eve "petting the lions" or anything like that. No watered down nonsense for her.

(I bet some of you are imagining a rather antique librarian, but in fact, although she doesn't know it, this woman has a nickname among the male teachers as "Bond girl" so I am sure you get the picture.)

She was a little worried, mind you, about why God was plural. Why did God say "in our image"? I just looked at her, and thought "You are Jewish, you are supposed to know these things, no?" Anyway, we discussed some of the vagaries of Hebrew grammar over coffee and then the bell rang.

All I can say is that there is a whole world out there, outside of the evangelical church, who seem to think that the KJV belongs to them. Obviously no other Bible has replaced it. I don't necessarily think this is a good thing, it just is. We need to think of why the KJV Bible is so acceptable to others, and why other Bibles are not.


On another topic the answer is The Joy of Cooking and the quote is,

"We may live without friends;
We may live without books;
But civilized man cannot
live without cooks."

~ Meredith Owen


At Thu Apr 03, 04:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The world you are referring to is that of literati, literary snobs, who have been brainwashed to believe that KJV is great literature. I am not suggesting that your librarian or Andrew Clement are personally snobs, but they probably move in those circles, and Clement had to get his book past editors in those circles.

At Thu Apr 03, 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

My sense is that it has nothing to do with snobbery. People just don't want a sectarian Bible. They want a traditional Bible. They want a Bible that matches Handel.

The RSV flunked because nobody wants a Bible that says that the peacemakers are the "sons of God" that is just not going to fly. So the KJV of that verse is a huge banner in a public place in Vancouver. And once people gave up on the RSV, they just didn't bother to meet the NRSV, which might sound acceptable.

Besides, a lot of people associate the KJV with Shakespeare and the Quakers, etc. I'll grant you, these same people are not necessarily concerned with anyone having access to the spiritual message of the Bible.

At Thu Apr 03, 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, you may be right that many people quote KJV simply because it is traditional, or perhaps because the only Bible they have on their shelf is their grandmother's KJV. And I agree that RSV etc failed to replace it partly because of their clumsy wording. But I really find it hard to believe that already back in the 1950s RSV was rejected because of its gender insensitivity.

At Thu Apr 03, 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Steve said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Thu Apr 03, 10:17:00 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Hi, I've been enjoying your blog for about a week now after I discovered it through the "Bible Design and Binding" blog. For what it's worth, I enjoy the language of the KJV. I'm no KJV onlyist and I use many translations for bible study but I do think that the KJV is the most scholarly translation.

At Thu Apr 03, 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

You might want to read God's Secretaries before you make any claims for the scholarliness of the KJV. Nicolson documents how much of a political and theological object it is.

Furthermore, if you read back to earlier posts on this blog you'll see that there are many ways in which the KJV is less true to the original text. Read this and this (pay special attention to the comment thread) and this for starters.

At Thu Apr 03, 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

Your first comment touches on an interesting point. Some approximation of 17th century English usage was the standard of the church into the 20th century, at least in the "official" places, in the liturgy, in the hymnody, in the preaching, and, of course, in the Bible.

The evidence is all over the place, but it is especially obvious in the hymnody. So you find Be Thou my vision translated in 1915's in more than passably good Elizabethan English.

I would argue that there is still a kind of collective memory that some of that language SHOULD be part of the church, and that our discussions of Bible translations are pushing against this cultural inertia.

At Thu Apr 03, 03:06:00 PM, Blogger Trierr said...

I think you should check out Mark Noll's article in the Wall Street Journal from a couple years ago.

The American Biblical Tradition

While not a linguist, he does know his history.


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