Claude Mariottini Weighs in on Some Aspects of the King James Version

Dr. Mariottini has posted some useful thoughts regarding the KJV in response to an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I love the way he has a balanced approach of not bashing the KJV but objectively and systematically pointing out some of its shortcomings while still respecting its value and importance in Christian history. Have a read. Sounds like he will have more posts on the KJV in an upcoming post. I look forward to reading it.

I thought I would also point out how interesting it is that the King James labels itself a “Version” and yet so many think it is the ONLY one. The term version reflects that attitude of the translators, which can be found in what they wrote in the preface to the 1611 KJV (which, apparantly manyKJV only supporters have never read). This is ironic to me that people would hold their translation as sacrosanct and yet ignore their own views on exactly what they were doing and what it would mean for their to be additional translations after their own. Here is one excerpt they wanted the reader of the KJV to understand prior to reading the text,

“Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the King’s speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere. ” [HT – Tim Archer]

In other words, translation is tough and arduous. This is not the only viable translation that exists or will exist but this is our best go at it. God’s grace will suffice for our shortcomings.


Church Plans Bible Burning

Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, NC plans a book burning for Halloween [HT: Brian Nicklaus]. They are burning books they believe are Satanic. On the list…just about any version of the Bible other than the Authorized Version (KJV). They are even burning the NKJV! I guess that leaves me asking which KJV do they believe is the true KJV? According to their website it is the 1611 KJV. If that is the case, I wonder how they would answer the following:

  1. If the 1611 is the ONLY real Bible, what about the Apocrypha it contained? Do they read from that or did the translators in 1611 think it was less inspired as they translated and included it?
  2. Which 1611 KJV? There were two versions produced in 1611. What about all the revisions in 1612, 1613, 1616, 1629, 1638, 1701? Do those count? All of those improved upon the 1611 and did away with numerous errors in the text.
  3. What about those thousands of typographical, and spelling errors in the original 1611? Were those inspired translational and typographical errors or would they admit to the 1611 having limitations? For instance, in the original 1611 KJV, Matthew 26:36 read, “Then cometh Judas” rather than “Then cometh Jesus”? I have gone online to the 1611 online and they have all corrected this but it was in the original 1611. Not sure how they can call it the 1611 if they edit and revise it like that. If the congregation reads from a KJV that has “Then comes Jesus” correct as it is, but not the “official 1611” does that mean they are in error for having an update!?!

I guess this brings a whole new meaning to letting your “light shine.” If the 1611 had thousands of errors, shouldn’t it be burned as well? Of course not! Just like many of the other legitimate translations of God’s word that they are burning…they all hold a place in the lives of Christians. Wouldn’t the world be better off for these Bibles to be given to people who need the Gospel? Don’t people have better things to do with their time? Why not take that same time and effort and hand out all the 1611 KJV’s you want into the neighborhood if that is your thing?

The NIV Does Not Call Jesus Satan – Isaiah 14:12 & Revelation 22:16

I have heard this accusation for the third time this week and I want the truth to be put out there clearly and concisely so that if people google this subject hopefully they don’t find all the misinformation out there but get the truth. Here is how this argument against the NIV usually goes. The claim is laid that the NIV is corrupt and deliberately misleads people into believing that the Savior is actually Satan. They attempt to work that out with two verses (Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 22:16). Here are the verses:

“How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!”
– Isaiah 14:12

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” – Revelation 22:16

No appearance of a problem until you look at Isaiah 14:12 in the King James Version – “12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

That is the basis of the charge…that the NIV deliberately replaced Lucifer with “morning star” the same word used for Jesus in Revelation 22. That appears to be problematic on the surface but let’s dig a little deeper.

The word translated Lucifer by the KJV and “Morning Star” by the NIV is the word הֵילֵל (heilel). That word literally means “shining one” as the verb form means “to shine.” It is not a word that means Satan or the devil in Hebrew as a proper name. So two questions arise:

  1. Why does the KJV use “Lucifer” and not “shining one”?
  2. Why does the NIV use “morning star” and not “shining one”?

1 – Why does the KJV use “Lucifer” and not “shining one”? Lucifer is how the Latin Vulgate translated this word, which the KJV adopted. Lucifer in Latin is a combination of two words Lux = light and ferous = “to bear” or “to carry” which would make Lucifer = bearer of light in Latin. That was a valid translation in the Vulgate. The problem is the KJV didn’t translate it into English. They kept the Latin Lucifer instead. The problem is 99.9% of people don’t know that any more and only think of it as a proper name referring to the Devil or Satan.

So the first point to make is that the verse is not about Lucifer but is about a “light bearer.” Who is that light bearer? Let’s have a look at Isaiah 14 in context…that is always a good idea right? When we do this, we see exactly who Isaiah 14:12 is referring to and it is not Jesus or the Devil. Look back at Isa 13:1 – “An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw.” (NIV). Isaiah 13 speaks of the destruction of Babylon (see especially 13:19). Chapter 14 continues this message. 14:1-3 is about the return from exile back to Israel. Then notice 14:4 (just 8 verses before the verse in question) – “You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:” The taunt seems to go from 14:4b-8. Then 14:9 talks about the grave meeting them at their coming. Meeting who? The same people the taunt was against – Babylon. It is a curse referring back to the object of their taunt…not Jesus or Satan but the King of Babylon. Then 14:11-23 is more about Babylon – “your pomp has been brought down, maggots are spread out beneath you, worms cover you….how you have fallen from heaven shining one, son of the dawn.” Also, notice verse 16-17 – ”

Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,

17 the man who made the world a desert,
who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?”

In context you see this is about a man and not Satan. It is about what the rest of the chapter is about – the king of Babylon.

2 – Why does the NIV use “morning star” instead of “shining one”?
This is best understood by the rest of the verse Isaiah calls him “son of the dawn.” It is a parallel to a star that rises high and bright in the sky at morning but then disappears quickly (like the planet Venus). There was an ancient myth in the Babylonian literature that Heylel the morning star Venus scaled to great heights to make himself like a king in the heavens but was quickly driven back down. That is what the king of Babylon will be like…one who rises to great heights and then is toppled from his high position. In other words, the NIV makes the connection that would have been made by Isaiah’s hearers and people in Babylon…those who knew the myth about now its new found application by God toward the king of Babylon. The NIV translators recognized this parallel and made us of it as in the Babylonian mind the “shining one” was the “morning star Venus.” Was that the best move? Probably not if you are going for a literal translation. But if you are trying to read and hear the Bible as they heard it, it is actually a pretty good take on this verse. It is a little too much interpretation in the text for me.

Bottom line, I wish the KJV had actually translated this rather than borrowed from the Latin. I wish the NIV had left interpretation for the footnotes and not taken so much liberty with the text. But at the end of the day it can hardly be said that the NIV was propogating a view that Jesus and Satan are the same based on this text. Instead, when you look at the evidence it appears to be more the case that the NIV was taking history, cultural context, linguistics and much else into consideration to give their best shot at this verse to end up with “morning star” and not some grand conspiracy by wicked and careless translators.

For more information on this as well as more details and a thoughtful analysis, see this link as well.

Communication and the Bible

Communication is not just what is said, it is also what is heard. What is heard is dependent on all kinds of factors. In face-to-face interactions that might include non-verbals like posture, eye contact, expression, and gesticulations. It can also include tone, volume, and very last…words. You know how Americans go overseas and talk really loud to everyone like it will help them understand what is being said better? Well, when language breaks down volume is just one part of the rest of our communications arsenal that we have at our disposal (although I would wouldn’t recommend that approach!). We tend to think that we say what we mean but often everything around our words can cloud the very meaning we are trying to convey with the words we choose to use.

Now add in to that mix talking to someone who has a different culture than you. They use different expressions, different non-verbals to communicate meaning, and even a different pace of speaking. Now lets say that person speaks a language you don’t know…things get tricky. Let’s add one more…let’s say they are from a different culture than you are and that culture is from 2000 years ago half way around the world. You realize there is a lot of explaining to do. They don’t know ipods and Segways (So lucky. don’t we all wish we didn’t know Segways too?). We would have a hard time understanding life from their more distant and somewhat primitive perspective.

You will probably need an interpreter to help you converse with the other person at which point many of the nonverbals and other cues we typically use to communicate with another person are diminished and we have to rely on the translator to bridge the conversation and, what is more, the meaning from one person to the other. I heard Mikhail Gorbachev speak when I was at Harding University. His speech was passionate and vibrant. It was full of energy and zeal. His tone was fused with energy and enthusiasm. He was moving even though I couldn’t understand him. Then his translator would speak in a slow, monotone and draggy voice. Even though he was translating his words so we could understand what Gorbachev was saying, 90% of the passion, feeling and even meaning was lost.

Now think about how this applies to scripture. The nonverbals that you benefit from when someone is standing right in front of you talking to you have been removed. You can’t read anything into the tone, because it is text on a page rather than hearing the spoken word. We don’t have the advantage of watching the gesticulations of the person who is trying to communicate to us the truth about himself and the universe and about us as human beings and our need for Him. Then you realize that we are even using a different language than the original text of the scriptures. Add into that them being from a different time and a different culture than we are familiar with. Things get tricky.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by a number of interpreter scholars. When you open a decent English translation of the Bible, that is what you are getting. That is what a modern Bible translation is. It is like having a group of interpreters who have studied the language, the culture, and the text that we are trying to understand in order to better converse with the one who ultimately communicated those words (God). Just like when using an interpreter in another country today, no interpreter gets all the words right all the time. No interpreter can perfectly communicate from one culture and language to the next first of all because even translations as old as the KJV are still 1600 years removed from the language and the culture that is being translated and, as mentioned above, 90% of the communication process has been stripped away (nonverbals, tone, gesticulations, volume, etc) due to the fact that we are dealing with words on a page rather than speaking with Moses or Paul or Jesus or Peter face to face.

So what we are left with is our best attempt to try to reconstruct the original meaning of the text into something roughly comparable in the English language. That is not an easy thing to do and that is why it is important, especially if you are not familiar with Greek (which at least removes a part of the awkward process of using an interpreter and instead makes us rely on lexicons and books on grammar that even still keep us a step removed from actually walking in the shoes of the biblical writers) to refer to at least two translations when studying a passage of scripture.

The Case of the Missing Verse – John 5:4

I always thought the fact that the NIV has 49 blank verses just made it easier to win a memory verse competition by saying, “Matthew 23:14” then pausing, “Mark 7:16” then pausing, until you have quoted 49 memory verses without having to say a word. Go figure. On a serious note, there have been accusations that the NIV has deleted verses in the New Testament. The insinuation is that the NIV committee did not have a proper respect for the text and that earlier versions of the English Bible are more accurate and faithful to God’s word because they contain these verses. The first thing that we have to understand when coming to this issue is that translation is a difficult job. There are over 3000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament of varying age. Each one was hand copied, which leaves room for mistakes and even practical decisions of what to do with what the previous copyist has done. John 5:4 is one of the verses in contention. Here it is in the NIV and KJV.

John 5:3-5 (NIV)
“3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.”

John 5:3-5 (KJV)
“In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.” (italics mine).

What happened to verse 4? The KJV decided to include it because it was in the manuscripts they had at their disposal. The NIV decided to omit it because in the 400 years since the KJV was translated much older manuscripts had surfaced that did not have that verse. Remember, the KJV was translated largely from the Textus Receptus which was a compilation of manuscripts that did not even date prior to 1100 AD. The NIV translation committee had access to manuscripts dating back within 150 years of the original documents of the New Testament.

What happened in the 800 years between the texts the NIV is based on and the texts the KJV is based on? Copying, copying, and more copying. Often a copyist would write an explanation in the margin and some times that explanation would end up in the text. Bruce Metzger (Text of the New Testament, 194) thinks that is exactly what happened in the case of John 5:4. Why? For several reasons (listed in Metzger’s textual commentary 3rd ed, 209):

1 – Because the earliest manuscripts don’t contain it. Why not? Did they omit this verse just like the NIV? Of course not. They don’t contain the verse because the manuscripts they were copied from didn’t have it and the ones before them didn’t have it because the original didn’t have it. It doesn’t start appearing in manuscripts for at least 500 years When no manuscript before 500 AD has a verse you can be fairly certain that it was added in from a marginal note, from a copying error, or due to the copyist remembering that verse in another gospel and accidentally harmonizing them in his head and copying it wrong (such is the case of a few other “missing verses”). But once it is added it then gets copied over and over and from that point on may appear original to the next copyist
2 – Multiple Greek manuscripts copied after 900 AD have a mark showing that they thought the verse was questionable but they included it because it was in the manuscript they were copying from.
3 – This verse has multiple words that John doesn’t use anywhere else = out of character
4 – This verse has a larger number of textual variants = there are many versions of this text in many different Greek manuscripts which points to it being very questionable as to what was original if it even was original.

With all that weight against it the NIV decided not to include that verse in its translation. Did the NIV delete the verse from the inspired word of God? They didn’t delete it if it wasn’t there to begin with. It may seem like a verse was removed because previous English versions like the KJV included it because it was in the manuscripts they used to translate from. People read it for 400 years in English and became accustomed to it. So when they spot it missing from the NIV eyebrows go up and accusations begin to fly. So it probably wasn’t so much that the NIV deleted something or that the KJV added something. The problem was the texts the KJV was translated from were simply not ideal.

Jack from Lost Preaches on “Him That Pisseth Against the Wall”

No this is not Matthew Shepherd “Jack” from Lost but he sure looks and sounds like him. Thinking of that while I watch this video makes me laugh even more. Apparently this is Stephen L. Anderson preaching on the phrase, “Him that pisseth against the wall.”

Thanks to Andrew for pointing this one out from this blog.