King James Version as Literature


Published on Heritage Christian University is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Dr. Larry Adams, adjunct instructor of literature, spoke in chapel on September 13, 2011, about the richness of the KJV's use of the English language. This is Dr. Adams' presentation.

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King James Version as Literature

  1. 1. KJV (the Authorized Version) as Literature<br />
  2. 2. DR. cleland Boyd mcaffeed.d.<br />Born in Missouri. For 20 years, he served as professor, chaplain and choir director at Park College. He also served churches in Chicago and Brooklyn, as well as on the faculty of McCormick Theological Seminary (1912 - 1930) and as director of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions (1930 - 1936). He died in 1944. In 1903, he wrote the hymn, Near to the Heart of God.<br />
  3. 3. Shakespeare’s english<br />There is something about the language of William Shakespeare that is elegant and rich, which is an oddity, because it is not the language of the privileged and educated. Many, if not most, of the tickets sold for a Shakespeare performance were the groundlings, people who paid a penny to stand in the area before the stage. <br /> This is the language that many students of the Bible in the 1900s were steeped in. Perhaps unfortunately, it is a foreign language to most members of most churches today. The most well-known biblical text of the last millennium is arguably the King James Version, often called the Authorized Version. There have been brutal and devastating congregational wars over the use or non-use of this particular translation, which is not the first English-language translation. There were at least 8 prior. These conflicts are unfortunate, most especially because there are probably not more than a few thousand out of the countless millions of Christians from about 1814 until this day that have actually seen an original Authorized Version, much less actually read one. <br />
  4. 4. The “ORIGINAL”kjv<br /><ul><li>The first “authorized” (1611)editions had 80 or 81 books, including the Apocrypha, in them. King James had also contributed a preface and the translators’ notes and salutations to King James and their readers were included. One little-known fact, is that for the past 200 years, all King James Bibles published in America are actually the 1769 Baskerville spelling and wording revision of the 1611.</li></li></ul><li>AN all-time bestseller<br />The Bible continues to be the most translated book in the world. The following numbers are approximations. As of 2005, at least one book of the Bible has been translated into 2,400 of the 6,900 languages listed by SIL,including 680 languages in Africa, followed by 590 in Asia, 420 in Oceania, 420 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 210 in Europe, and 75 in North America. The United Bible Societies are presently assisting in over 600 Bible translation projects. The Bible is available in whole or in part to some 98 percent of the world's population in a language in which they are fluent.<br />There have been somewhere between 5 and 6 BILLION Bibles sold.<br />
  5. 5. Let’s put it in perspective<br />Title/AuthorCopies Sold (millions) 1.The Bible  5,000 - 6,000 2. Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong by Mao Zedong 9003.The Qur'an8004.Xinhua Zidian<br />4005. The Book of Mormon by Joseph<br /> Smith, Jr. <br /> 1206.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling 107 7.And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 1008.The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 1009.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling 6510. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown <br />65<br />
  6. 6. SO, why is the kjv “great literature” ?<br /><ul><li>It is first & foremost a religious document – NOT “literature”.
  7. 7. If we judge it as literature, then we have to use the tools of literary critical analysis.
  8. 8. “The Bible is a book of religious significance from first to last. If it utterly broke down by the tests of literature, it might be as great a book as it needs to be. It is a subordinate fact that by the tests of literature it proves also to be great.”</li></ul>“The most customary way to define literature is by the external genres (types or kinds of writing) in which its content is expressed. The two main genres in the Bible are narrative and poetry. Numerous categories cluster under each of these. Narrative subtypes, e.g., include hero story, gospel, epic, tragedy, comedy (a U-shaped plot with a happy ending), and parable. Specific poetic genres keep multiplying as well: lyric, lament psalm, praise psalm, love poem, nature poem, epithalamion (wedding poem), and many others.<br />But those are only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to narrative and poetry, we find prophecy, visionary writing, apocalypse, pastoral, encomium, oratory, drama (the book of Job), satire, and epistle. Then if we add more specific forms like travel story, dramatic monologue, doom song, and Christ hymn, the number of literary genres in the Bible readily exceeds a hundred.”<br /><ul><li></li></li></ul><li>4 reasons<br />It is a book for the common person. Although translated by scholars, it was always meant for the masses and not for scholars. In fact, they were slow to accept it for their common use.<br />The scholars were faithful to past English rendentions/translations.<br />The language of the time was, and still is, very plastic. The forms and vocabulary have never really “hardened”.<br />The translators were faithful to the available Hebrew and Greek texts.<br /> a. Hebrew & Greek are generally held to be very translatable into English.<br /> b. The words have a tendency to be short & there are not very many extended paragraphs (the notable exception is some of the Pauline epistles).<br />
  9. 9. FEWER is better<br />Shakespeare = about 15k-20k<br />Milton = 13k or so<br />OT in Hebrew/Chaldee = 5642<br />NT in Greek = 4800<br />ALL of the KJV = around 6k<br />Yet, there are very few repetitions, that is using the same word over and over to say the same thing. “The English version shows constantly the marks of the Hebrew influence in the simplicity of its phrasing. Renan says that the Hebrew ‘knows how to make propositions, but not how to link them into paragraphs.’ So the earlier Bible stories are like a child's way of talking. They let one sentence follow another, and their unity is found in the overflowing use of the word "and"--one fact hung to another to make a story, but not to make an argument.” <br /><br />
  10. 10. Short is strong<br /><ul><li>The average word, including proper names, in the Bible is barely 4 letters.
  11. 11. “another way of saying that is that the words are generally Anglo-Saxon, and, while in the original spelling they were much longer, yet in their sound they were as brief as they are in our present spelling. There is no merit in Anglo- Saxon words except in the fact that they are concrete, definite, non-abstract words. They are words that mean the same to everybody; they are part of common experience”
  12. 12. “a simple one in the Communion service: "This is my body which is given for you." That is all Saxon.”
  13. 13. “When our theologian comes to comment on it he says we are to understand that "the validity of the service does not lie in the quality of external signs and sacramental representation, but in its essential property and substantial reality." Now there are nine words abstract in their meaning, Latin in their form. It is in that kind of words that the Bible could have been translated, and in our own day might even be translated.”
  14. 14. CONSIDER - "prevarication" or "a disingenuous entanglement of ideas,“ VS “lie”. </li></li></ul><li>BUT, the KJV is so hard to understand<br /><ul><li>Not true!!
  15. 15. Gail Riplinger has a chapter in her best-selling New Age Bible Versions titled "King James for Kids". Mrs. Riplinger provides 23 pages of irrefutable evidence proving the King James Bible is far easier to understand and read. She lists over 350 examples in the New Testament where the King James Bible is much easier and simpler to understand.
  16. 16. In comparing the first chapter of the first and last books of the Old and New Testaments, the Flesch-Kincaid research company’s Grade Level Indicator shows "The KJV ranks easier in 23 out of 26 comparisons" (Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions, 1994, p. 195)
  17. 17. Mrs. Riplinger writes:</li></ul> "Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases." (Ibid, p. 196) She lists over 270 examples in the New Testament. Mrs. Riplinger also attributes the King James’s ease of understanding to "Simple sentence structure. . .." (Ibid, p. 204<br />
  18. 18.
  19. 19. So, tell me again why the kjv is great literature<br /><ul><li>“It is not possible to make literature without ideas. Abiding literature demands large ideas worthily expressed.”
  20. 20. “ An idea is large or small according to its breadth of interest to the race and its length of interest to the race. If there is an idea which is of value to all the members of the human race to-day, and which does not lose its value as the generations come and go, that is the largest possible idea within human thought. “</li>