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Poor Translations in the KJV

The following e-mails are commenting on the items listed at Bible Versions Controversy. The e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


I was so pleased to read of your positive critique of the NKJV [New King James Version]. I have been using it since 1982, jumping between it, the NASB [New American Standard Version] and the NIV [New International Version]. I share your opinion of the NIV. Somehow, it 'just don't seem right.'<

Thank you for the kind comments. And we're very much agreed on the NIV : ).

> The NKJV did much more than 'get rid of the thee's and thou's'. It fixed many of the other blatant errors in the King James. For instance, what Greek manuscript contains the expression "God forbid"? I'm no Greek scholar. Shucks, I don't even know the alphabet. But I still use interlinears when I want to see what's really being said. Still looking for "God forbid."<

The Greek phrase you're referring to is me genoito. It is the strongest possible negation in Greek. It is used to expressed the speaker's desire that an idea is absolutely not to be believed or for an event to absolutely not occur. It occurs 15 times in the NT; 14 of them in Paul's writings (e.g. Rom 6:2,4). I know these statistics as I spent time recently studying the phrase to decide how to translate it in the ALT.

I can remember very clearly in Greek class in seminary the teacher saying the KJV's "God forbid" was the worse possible way to translate the phrase. The NKJV's "Certainty not!" is very good. You may have seen on my site I am currently working on my own translation, the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). For the ALT, I decided to translate this phrase as "Absolutely not!" to be a little different and since, as I said, the phrase expresses an absolute negation of an idea or possible event.

> And we mustn't forget the way the KJV translates aeon and cosmos by the same word—world. This can be quite confusing to even seasoned Bible readers.<

You are correct here: the word aeon would be better translated as "age" rather than "world." Moreover, there are many, many other cases in the KJV where different Hebrew and Greek words are translated by the same English word.

In the Introduction to Young's Literal Translation (YLT), Robert Young gives examples of where the KJV translated up to a dozen different original words by the same English word. Conversely, Young gives examples of where the KJV translates the same Hebrew or Greek word by dozens of different English words.

As Young correctly notes, there is no reason for this great of number. It is true that at times a Hebrew or Greek word can have more than one specific meaning, just as in English (think of the word "trunk" for example). However, the number of possible meanings can be reduced greatly from the dozens the KJV used,

Young gives an example of a word the KJV translated with 84 different English words which he reduced to ten different words. He then correctly notes that the number could probably be reduced further without sacrificing accuracy. In the ALT, I am doing my best to translate different original words by different English words and the same original word as consistently as possible.

For instance, the ALT in the NT for its initial stage is an updating of YLT. For some reason Young translated the Greek word doulos as "servant." The more basic meaning of the word is "slave." Also, there is s separate Greek word that more specifically means "servant" (diakonos). So I sent some time last night changing every occurrence of doulos to "slave."

Not only that, with my new BibleWorks program I am able to look for cognate words too (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs with the same root. An English example in English would be: joy, rejoice, and joyfully.).

So I decided to translate the cognate verb as "to serve as a slave" and the adjective as slavery. So in the ALT, Jesus declares a person "cannot serve as a slave to two masters." And Paul writes that we were in slavery to sin. Most of all, being commanded to "be serving as a slave to God" to me, is much more forceful than just the command to "serve God."

In any case, I just posted an edited version of the Introduction to YLT on my site [see Introduction to YLT (Edited)]. You might be interested in it. Also, I just posted stage one for the NT of the ALT. If you're interested, the Bible books are listed at ALT: The New Testament.

> I share some of your blisters from the scathing delivered by the KJV-only advocates. I have been called everything from a lost soul to the anti-Christ! Many just can't be reasoned with.<

Very true; once some has decided the KJV is "perfect" (as one KJV-only person recently said to me), there really is not much to say. The KJV is far from "perfect." For that matter, no translation, including my own, is or ever could be. That is why I recommend comparing more than one Bible version.

> I started my Christian journey with the KJV, but got away from it in short order. It just required too much explanation to clarify what it said. I did appreciate the beauty of its cadence. I memorized a lot of it, and still remember many of those verses, but because of my 'version incursions', I now remember them by their 'modern' interpretations.

Anyway, just thought I'd express my appreciation for your kind approach to a difficult and controversial subject. One thing's for sure; if I'm going to hell, it ain't cause I don't use the KJV. But don't tell Ruckman or Ripplinger that!

God Bless you.
P.S. Manuscripts aside, the updated NASB is quite good. I reads much like the NKJV, and has even changed some of the words to correspond to the latter.

Yes, as I indicate in my NAS95: Review, it is a rather good translation. It is one of several I am comparing as I work on the ALT. And even with the Greek text problem, it is very good for comparison purposes.

> Gary,

My name is Todd and I have enjoyed your web site and all the useful information in it.<

Thank you for the kind comments.

> I have a question...in 1Corinthians 13 the KJV translates the Greek word agape to "charity." Other versions like the NKJV translate the word to "love". I would like to hear your comments on the translation on that word.


The KJV uses "charity" 26 times to translate the noun. But it uses "love" many more times to translate both the noun and the cognate verb agapao. The word "love" is the most accurate translation for both the noun and verb and fits in all contexts. I see no basis for translating it as "charity" on occasion. Such a rendering is less accurate.

I have no idea why "charity" was used by the KJV occasionally. Maybe they were just using it for variety. But I believe it is best to translate Greek words as consistently as possible. So "love" should be used throughout and the KJV is simply less accurate than it could be in this case.

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Bible Versions Controversy: KJV-Onlyism
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