Thursday, July 3, 2008

A famine of hearing the word of the LORD (Pt. 2)

There's so much to say about the Bible famine, it's hard to know where to start.

Maybe here: Last night I was reading in Psalms and thought of comparing the KJV to some other versions just to see what sort of changes I might find there. It was instructive.

I started the comparisons with a couple of the most popular psalms, 23 and 91. Here's 91:

The KJV has:

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Starting at Verse 1, the KJV: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Differences from the KJV are highlighted in the following in a different color:

The NKJV is almost the same except for modernizing the verb: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

The RSV (Revised Standard Version), the original revision, has: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,

The NASB has: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

The NIV has: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Comment: Up to a point the changes in the new versions appear trivial, the mere substitution of a synonym (or near-synonym) for the King James word, not substantially affecting the meaning, so that to object to it might appear merely nitpicking.

But think about this. The very triviality of such changes is an offense to God and His church. The KJV was THE English Bible of all English-speaking peoples at the time of the making of the new versions in the 19th century. The men commissioned to revise it were only to update it to the English of the day, they were not to change anything substantial in it, and wouldn't you expect that such a project would be done with the utmost respect for the word of God, and for the people who used the Bible, keeping as much of it intact as possible? Wouldn't you? And that's what they had contracted to do!

Instead they produced a new Bible, a different Bible. They went back on their agreement. They introduced a completely different set of Greek New Testament texts for starters (which of course does not affect the Psalms which are in Hebrew -- although, as a poster here reminded me, a different Hebrew text also underlies the new versions) and they went about systematically changing the text of the KJV on the basis of those texts, but also changing it apparently simply willynilly, to no rational standard whatever, as the first line of Psalm 91 demonstrates:

What would possess men of any sensitivity to the English language, not to mention spiritual sensitivity, not to mention respect for the Bible trusted by millions, to change "the secret place of the most High" to "shelter of the Most High?"

Is it a small thing? Do I cavil to no purpose? (It will get worse than this). No, this is an enormity (an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act).

Have they even any textual excuse, is there anything in the Hebrew text to demand the change from the secret place to the shelter? The only way to justify it would be if there were a genuine DEMAND for such an alteration, an imperative need, something so clearly indicated in the Hebrew that it would not be right to let the KJV's translation of it stand.

No, they have no such excuse. Strong's Concordance will tell you that in a moment. The predominant rendering of the Hebrew term suggests something secret or hidden. "Shelter" is a very weak option, very weak, and in fact it is not EVER used in the KJV to translate that Hebrew term. That Hebrew term appears 36 times in the text, and was translated into TEN different English words in the KJV, not one of them being "shelter:"

AVsecret 12, secretly 9, covert 5, secret place 3, hiding place 2, backbiting 1, covering 1, disguiseth 1, privily 1, protection 1

1) covering, shelter, hiding place, secrecy
a) covering, cover
b) hiding place, shelter, secret place
c) secrecy
2) secrecy (of tongue being slanderous)

Check the Strong's Concordance at Blue Letter Bible ( for Psalm 91:1 to verify the above.

The RSV also changed the grammar of the sentence from a single statement about the dweller in the secret place of the Most High, with a period at the end, to a clause that combines the dweller with the speaker of verse 2. I don't know Hebrew but surely those who do know whether there are two separate sentences there with different subjects, or one with one subject. Surely the KJV translators, a gathering of enormously qualified men, would have known what the Hebrew actually says. And other new versions have not followed the RSV's lead in this, reverting to the form of the KJV and making two sentences of it. I wonder why?

They all change the KJV's "shall" to "will." WHY? "Shall" is grammatically correct!

Then the NIV, which has a reputation for going farther than many of the revisions in undoing the KJV, changes "abide" to "rest." Do we REALLY have a problem with "abide?" It isn't even an archaic term! "Abide" means basically to stay in one place. If the Hebrew meant "rest," the KJV would have said "rest" (and so, presumably, theoretically, rightly, would the NASB and the NKJV and the RSV). Again, where is the sensitivity one would expect in the handling of the sacred text? Where is there any fear of God among these revisers?

This is all taking a lot of time, so I'm not even going to be able to get to the other verses in this post. I'll save them for the next and following posts.

To end this one, I would ask if other Christians in churches that accept a variety of different translations have been bothered by the same experience I've had. That is, when you read along in your own Bible as the pastor or elders read a passage aloud, have you had the jarring experience I've had of finding your own Bible enough out of synch with the reader's that you are actually forced to do a bit of translation of your own in order to follow along at all? Does it set your nerves on edge? Have you noticed that congregational unison reading of the Bible is no longer possible at all unless you read from a uniform text in, say, the back of the hymnal? If the congregation is assigned a passage to memorize, is it jarring to hear it recited in a variety of different forms? I can tell you that all that is true for me, and for me it is a depressing experience. Maybe I'm hypersensitive.

But it seems to me that it is fair to call this chaos, cacophony, confusion, even a confusion of tongues as at Babel.

Oh but we've adjusted. Except for the depressive effect -- on some of us anyway. No big deal, right? Well, it would be no big deal if it were worth it, if there really were a good reason to put us through it, but there isn't. There is no need for this babel of tongues in the churches. The modern versions are usurpers, inferior by almost all standards, serving only to disrupt and confuse and dumb down and divide the body of Christ.


ct said...

The modern versions also use a different Hebrew manuscript than the one underlying the AV Old Testament. It's very similar to the inferior - corrupt - manuscript(s) they switched for the Traditional Text (Received Text) in the New Testament.

I've got to warn you, because you are writing about this in a naive way (and I don't mean that negatively at all, I understand your position) the Critical Text types will be seeing red meat. They're sophists (aside from being rather blind and deaf in the 1 Cor. 2:14 sense) and they love to take on King James advocates who are not up on the more 'scholarly' issues regarding it all. You don't have to be, I know, but I'm just saying.

A born again Christian can discern abomination with or without letters after their name. Regenerated believers know the voice of the Shepherd.

Faith said...

OK, I've only been vaguely aware of the different Hebrew text issue, and it occurred to me while I was writing. Maybe I should reword something then.

Yes, my approach here IS naive and I'm happy to keep it that way. There's no way I will be able to learn enough to do it any other way.

But I hope at least to be truthful and not misrepresent facts.

ct said...

I don't want to put you off anything you were going to write, I find your approach not only interesting but valuable in the entire mix of approaches on these issues.