Friday, May 28

A Blogback on KJVonlyism

I stumbled across Nicene Theology today, a blog I don't think I'd ever visited before. Anyway, Darren has started a feature on his blog called Blogback. When he does a substantial post, he puts a set of questions at the end that are possible jumping off points for other bloggers to post on. So far, I can't see that anyone has participated, so I thought I might blog a little on some of the questions relating to one of his posts on KJVOnlyism. This is a subject that I've dealt with a bit on the forums at the Baptist Board. I've met just about every variation of KJVO there, and I've also known some in real life. So here is the first question Darren asks:

Knowing the history of the KJV, why do you think some people refuse to read more contemporary translations?

KJV onlyism (and for the record, I don't mean KJV preferred here, but the belief that all other versions but the KJV are corruptions of God's word) is maintained by preserving a set of double standards by which to judge the different translations. The same standards used to judge the other translations are never used to judge the KJV. So, while any other translation can be judged on the basis of its history, the history of the KJV is irrelevant. The only standard with which one may judge the KJV is "Is it the KJV?" How the KJV came about, what the translators thought they were doing, is of no significance because it is the KJV, God's perfectly preserved work in the English language.

So why do some people hold so firmly to this belief, even when most, if push comes to shove, will admit that there is no scripture that tells us that the KJV is God's perfectly preserved word in the English language? It seems to me that they have a need to believe that every single word they are reading in their English Bible is exactly the word God intended--that we have an English translation that is inspired in exactly the same way that the original was. The idea that even one word might not be exactly the best translation, or that some of the words in the copied text might have been added (or subtracted) by a copyist, would shake their faith. They have already made up their minds about the way they think God ought to have preserved his word, and it would be difficult for them to keep trusting in a God who may have done things differently than the way they think would be the best way.

Next question:

If, as Christians, we believe that the Bible was inspired in the original writing, and perhaps even in the editing and canonization process, is it reasonable to also believe that one particular translation may be inspired by the Holy Spirit? Why or why not?

Well, first of all, the word inspired is a translation of a word that means "out-breathed by God". Paul tells us that the "writings" are God-breathed-out. How this process works, none of us really knows, but it does seem to be a process that could be applicable to text or speech. I don't know exactly what is meant by the term "editing process", but if the editing that the original writers did to their writings before they finished their product is what is meant by the term, then I do believe this would be part of the "God-breathed-out" process. I don't, however, see how "God-breathed-outness" could apply to the canonization process. I do believe that the Spirit guided the process of canonization so that we can be confident that the final product of canonization contains the "God-breathed" writings, but it would be a different sort of process, and so I don't think we can used the word "inspiration" in the way it is used scripturally to describe that process.

So, is it reasonable to believe that one particular translation may be inspired by the Holy Spirit? I suppose, in a sense, it is reasonable. If God had chosen to do things that way, then He certainly could have. If He did, however, then He did it without ever telling us that this was the way He would work. And He did it against the pattern of multiple translations approved as scripture that we see in the scripture itself, for Jesus himself read from translations of the Hebrew scripture that seem to be translated from a text that is not the same one our own Old Testament is translated from. So someone who believes that any particular translation is inspired by God in the same way the original text was, believes this on the basis of no scriptural evidence, and against what evidence it is that we do have.

Next question:

In what way may we speak of our English Bibles as "inspired?"

Some people use the term "derived inspiration", but I really don't like that term. It is the original writings that were "God-breathed-out." What we have are translations of copies of copies of the inspired original writings.

Some of us may wish that God had preserved His word differently. But He chose to preserve it in a multitude of manuscripts, none exactly the same. That multitude of manuscripts means we can recreate something pretty close to the text of the original writings. And we have a multitude of translations, too, which together help us come to a better understanding of the sense of the original writings in the original languages.