*Make sure to read Part 1 here before reading this article 😊*
Language is complex, every Bible translation is imperfect, but how important are the actual words of Scripture? How did we even receive the Biblical text we have today? Answering these questions of the origins of Biblical manuscripts and the different types of interpretation, will provide us with a theological basis to refute the claim that the 1611 King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, is perfect and inspired, but rather that is it yet another imperfect Bible translation.
ORIGINS OF THE BIBLE
So, how were the original manuscripts of Scripture written down? The Biblical authors themselves describe the process they used to give us the holy writings we have today.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 1 Timothy 3:16,17
For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21
God himself ‘inspired’ or ‘breathed’ divine ideas, principles, and thoughts to human agents, who then wrote down these messages in human language, within their historical, socio-political, and religious context, making their writings relevant to their immediate audience. This notion of God meeting humanity at their level of understanding to convey profound, divine concepts, is called ‘Dynamic Inspiration’.
What makes Dynamic Inspiration so integral to the KJV debate, is that inspiration necessitates that God did not give exact words to his messengers to be written down, but rather allowed the Biblical authors to freely express themselves using their creativity and imagination to convey His thoughts. In this way, both God and the human messenger have joint authorship over Scripture.
However, the supremacy of the KJV Translation, is dependent on the claim that it most accurately renders every word of Scripture in English. This claim is thus made redundant, as Scripture itself claims it is not concerned with the words used, but rather the message they convey.
One Biblical commentator writes the following:
‘It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions, but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God,’ Ellen White, Testimonies to the Church 4:17, 18
INFALLIBILITY VS INHERENCY
If we understand inspiration as a dynamic process shared between God and humanity, then we can accept the Bible as being infallible (the belief that Scripture is 100% accurate in conveying divine truths), but not as inherent (the belief that the original manuscripts of Scripture were written without any mistakes).
Many who ascribe to the perfection of the 1611 translation, use the inherency of Scripture as support of their argument, believing that every word of the original manuscripts were perfect in every way, and were again perfectly replicated in the King James Version. The only problem? We don’t have any of the original manuscripts to substantiate this opinion!
Furthermore, the Bible makes no such claims of itself that it would be free of a typo or any grammatical errors. The New Testament is the most well-preserved ancient text in history, and its numerous copies all have slight mistakes, because it is humans copying the manuscripts; humans who make errors. That being said, the word ‘cross’ accidentally being spelt as cruss or kross or cros, doesn’t detract from the divine truth conveyed. What is important is not the words used, but rather the message they convey.
If we emphasise the words of Scripture above the message the words convey, then the Bible shares company with the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was dictated to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel word-for-word. It is for this reason that Muslims claim the Qur’an must be read in its original language in order to be properly understood.
Were we to hold this same standard of ‘word-for-word’ inspiration, all Christians would have to read the Bible in Greek, Hebrew or Latin. But thankfully, Scripture is less concerned with the words used, but rather the message they convey. Thus, the primary goal of a good translation is to make the message of the Bible understandable for someone in their own language, not necessarily to perfectly replicate the text word-for-word (a feat which our first article observed was impossible anyway).
A FINAL ASIDE
As a final consideration, thought not all within the KJV Only Community believe this to be true, some hold that God actually inspired the 1611 translators of the KJV Bible. This claim is problematic, as it would put these translators on the same authority as Isaiah, Daniel or Moses. This claim also depends on word-for-word accuracy which as we have seen, is theologically not supported by the Bible.
Finally, it is a very ethno-centric belief that God inspired these English men to translate an English Bible. What of those in Asia, Africa, South America? Why have these cultures never received a perfect translation in their own language? It hardly seems fair, and implies that anyone not reading the Bible in either its original languages or in English, is reading an imperfect translation, which is a bold and incorrect statement to make.
Scripture is less concerned with the words used, but rather the message they convey.
The Bible is the most unique and incredible book ever written, co-authored by ordinary people and the God of the Universe. It contains the almighty, divine thoughts of the creator of the universe, expressed freely in human language, and it is designed to be accessible to all. God did not give humanity a book that was inherent, but rather one that was infallible.
If we believe the claims of Scripture to be true, then the claim of the KJV Onlyist that the 1611 Version most accurately translates the ancient words into English, is entirely irrelevant. Not only is that lexically impossible, but theologically insignificant. The words are less important than the message they convey.
By Christopher Petersen