King James Version

This entry is part 184 of 323 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Joshua Lindsey from Pixabay

How can someone understand what the Bible says if they can’t understand the King James version?

The King James version of the Bible was written in 1611. It is now over 400 years old. It’s not a bad translation at all. But the English language has changed tremendously since the 17th century.

The meanings of words have changed. Elizabethan English is no longer spoken anywhere in the world conversationally. People struggle over the syntax of the sentences. It almost feels like this version of the English language is old enough to deserve two readings of the text. We read in the language of the King James version and then explain it enough to understand it in the modern English language.

One of the best and easiest ways to approach understanding the Bible is to change the version you are reading from. Choose a modern translation that’s been produced in the last 30 or so years. For instance, the New King James Version modernizes the original King James version. It gives you the same feel for the Bible but helps with more modern language.

Since the King James version is a formal equivalency translation (meaning that it is a word for word and sentence structure for sentence structure translation), you can look for other English Bibles that translate with the same principle. Some examples are the NASB, ESV, RSV, etc.

But if you want to switch it up, still having trouble with the word for word translations, you can try a concept for concept translation like the NIV, CEV, NLT, etc. One thing I rarely suggest is trying a paraphrase like The Message or other equivalents.

The only problem with these is that they get farther away from the original text of the Bible. They are very much the interpretation of the translator. The further you get away from a word for word equivalency the more the translator interprets the Bible for you.

In the 400 years since the translation of the King James version, scholars and archaeologists have discovered older, more reliable manuscripts of the Greek New Testament as well. These possibly make newer translations of the Bible more accurate to the original.

It really comes down to what works for you. Whatever version helps you understand the Bible better is the best version for you. There are other options other than the King James version. But it is an oldie and a goodie.

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