In many cases, the KJV
of the Bible is a very elegantly phrased and worded. I, myself, still think "Our father, who art in heaven
" rather than whatever the more modern translation
is. This said, it is often a confusing text to read that is many times mired in language at the time.
There are certainly some mistranslations in the KJV that are more than a bit odd, and cause some problems when discussing passages with biblical literalists. One quick sample of this is the mention of such beasts as the unicorn in the Old Testament. Now, today we all know that the unicorn does not exist - and yet, it is mentioned in the Bible. Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8 Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9-10, Psalms 22:21, Psalms 29:6, Psalms 92:10, and Isaiah 34:7. For any students of Hebrew, the word is often transcribed to the Latin character set as r@'em, r@'eym, reym, and rem. Scholars believe this would be better translated today as auroch or wild bull.
For those Biblical literalists, I would not be surprised if at least one of them has come to doubt the Bible and thus the entire Christian faith based upon flaws that are perceived (and the non-existance of unicorns). This would be considered as leading someone away from eternal life in the Christian belief structure.
Other poor translations exist and one in particular has been discussed rather in depth in Do all soldiers go to hell? and the translation of Exodus 20:13 and "Thou shall not kill" as opposed to "do not murder".
Consider also how many people still speak the English of 1600? Consider
the word 'succor' rather than 'aid' or 'help'. While the KJV may not be doctranicaly poor and have many of the important messages found in the Bible, it is important that people be able to read them and understand them. Consider the passage Job 21:3: "Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on." What does "suffer" mean? It means "to permit", or "allow". Consider these other translations and consider how easy or difficult they are to read.
- KJV: Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
- NKJV: Bear with me that I may speak, And after I have spoken, keep mocking.
- NLT: Bear with me, and let me speak. After I have spoken, you may mock me.
- NASB: "Bear with me that I may speak; Then after I have spoken, you may mock.
- RSV: Bear with me, and I will speak, and after I have spoken, mock on.
- Webster's: Suffer me that I may speak; and after I have spoken, mock on.
- Young's: Bear with me, and I speak, And after my speaking -- ye may deride.
- Darby's: Suffer me and I will speak; and after I have spoken, mock on!
- ASV: Suffer me, and I also will speak; And after that I have spoken, mock on.
- HNV: Allow me, and I also will speak; After I have spoken, mock on.
Some of those translations are easier than others to read for those of us here than other translations are. However, one should consider that those who cannot read and understand this will likely be lost (both lingustic
ialy and religious
ly) - or possibly worse, misunderstand
a passage that encourages a person to sprint when reading "the quick and the dead" or "gay clothing". One theologian has identified 827 words and phrases that have changed their meaning significantly (or lost all together) since the 1600s.
So far, I have pointed out only minor glitches - consider the different
translations of the passage Acts 16:17 and the article:
- KJV: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are
the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us
the way of salvation.
- NKJV: This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These
men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us
the way of salvation."
- Young's: she having followed Paul and us, was crying, saying,
`These men are servants of the Most High God, who declare to us
a way of salvation;'
scholars, the noun in question is hodos
which may be
translated as "way", "way side", "journey", or "highway". There is
no indication that this is the only
All this is not to say that a single translation will make it more difficult to "pervert the truth". For those who claim that the Jehovah's Witnesses are a heresy, consider that there are passages that support the belief that there is no trinity - the passage in question is Romans 8:16 (using "itself" rather than "himself" to with respect to the Holy Spirit because pneuma is a neuter noun). Likewise, the Curch of Latter Day Saints regards the contradiction within the KJV between Acts 9:7 ("And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. ")
and Acts 22:9 ("And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.")
to promote the Book of Mormon.
Aside from mistranslations, there are several instances of insertion of
words or phrases that do not exist in the Greek text. One example of
this is in 1 John 5:7 where the trinity is mentioned has no basis
in the original Greek:
- KJV: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the
Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
- NLT: So we have these three witnesses
- NASB: For there are three that testify:
- RSV: And the Sprit is the witness, because the Sprit is the truth
- Webster's: For there are three that bear testimony in heaven, the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.
- Young's: because three are who are testifying [in the heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit,] and these -- the three
-- are one;
- Darby's: For they that bear witness are three:
- ASV: And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit
is the truth.
- HNV: For there are three who testify:
Why was this included? At the time Erasmus
(a monk who helped translate the King James Version) was under pressure from the Roman Catholic church to added them from the Latin Vulgate
at the time. It should be noted that the Vulgate
now reads: quia tres sunt qui testimonium dant