In this third article examining Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, I want to take a look at Ward’s handling of Pastor Joel Beeke. It is common for opponents to address Pastor Beeke in their attacks on the King James Bible, because he is one of its most stalwart defenders. Fortunately for us, Ward’s arguments will provide us with some good, clean entertainment.
Let’s take a look at some of these high caliber counter arguments. You’ll have to let me know in the comments what you think.
Ward begins his response by describing Pastor Beeke’s statement in this way:.
“King James defender Joel Beeke, a scholar who has done valuable work for the church retrieving the works of the English Puritan writers, argues that the KJV’s elevated language was present originally”
Let’s examine exactly what Pastor Beeke said:
“More than any other version, the KJV sounds like the Word of God, even to unbelievers. The KJV translators aimed at this very thing. Even in 1611 the KJV sounded old-fashioned, ancient, a voice from the past. This was to command a reverent hearing, and to suggest the timeless and eternal character of God’s Word. The modern unbeliever, if he has any spiritual concern at all, is well aware that the contemporary scene really offers him no hope. He expects the church to speak in a way that is timeless and otherworldly.”94
I’m not sure I would describe what Beeke said in the same way as Mark Ward, but I’ll let my reader decide. Ward continues by offering three “counter arguments.”
Super Convincing Counter Argument #1
Ward’s first counter argument is that
“Those who desire other-worldly timelessness in church can do little better than to grab a Vulgate and a Roman missal. This will accomplish the same goal…It’s straight Bible. But freeing straight Bible from a dead language is one huge reason we had a Reformation five hundred years ago, and why the Puritans fought to keep ‘Romish’ practices out of the English church.”94
In other words, “You want to read the KJV because it’s reverent? Might as well just learn Latin and go back to Rome!” I’m not sure if that is a serious suggestion, but that’s all Ward has to offer in his first point. On a side note, it’s definitely a good thing Ward is here to school Pastor Beeke on the Puritans.
Super-Mega Convincing Counter Argument #2
Ward’s second argument is that the Book of Mormon and Qur’an “both nonetheless adopted the archaic syntactical and grammatical forms used in the KJV. Why? Because the very language sounds dignified, divine, Bible-y.” (96). In other words, “Other books copy the KJV, so we need to stop propping it up!” He says, “I’d like to stop using the Bible to prop up this style of language” (96). We wouldn’t want our Bible to sound, you know, too “Bible-y”! Thankfully, Ward says that we can retain such “Bible-y” language in our poetry, hymns, and “solemn civil ceremony” (96). After all this is said and done, I’m really grateful that while we won’t be able to preach from the KJV, we can certainly perform a wedding ceremony or a funeral in the King’s English.
Super-Mega-Ultra Convincing Counter Argument #3
Ward brings up a good point in his third argument, that we can’t be so emotional about our Bible.
“Some people are pushed away from God by the KJV, some are drawn by it. We can’t make our decision about the KJV based on a statistical survey of how people respond emotionally to Elizabethan verbiage.”
Apparently that 55% statistic Ward cites at the beginning of his book is actually a survey of “how people respond emotionally” to the KJV. Clearly, this is the only reason those people read the KJV.
More Super-Mega-Ultra-Uber Covincing Counter Arguments
(4) Ward continues by intimating that Pastor Beeke is misinformed as to why the KJV translators left some of the older vernacular in the text. Pastor Beeke states that the KJV 1611 “sounded old fashioned” when it was written. Ward goes on to say, “The KJV translators specifically contradict the idea that choosing old-fashioned language was their goal.” Ward’s response is that the reason the KJV maintained the “archaic” language because “it may not have felt worth the effort to update every last syllable of it.” (98). According to Ward, the KJV translators were as bad at following their own rules as the team that put the Revised Version together.
Ward provides his own theory as to why the 1611 KJV was not written in the exact vernacular of the day – that the KJV translators just didn’t want to deal with all of the work it would have taken. Yes, apparently 54 premier scholars working over 7 years simply didn’t want to do the work.
(5) Finally, Ward responds to Beeke’s statement that KJV English is translated in such a way that represents the original languages more closely. Ward responds, “But there are multiple ways in which this form of English diverges too far from contemporary speech and writing that I have to question whether this occasional – but undeniable gain is worthwhile” (101). He then goes on to say that the punctuation of the KJV makes it difficult to read as an example.
“And the absence of quotation marks is only one of many unnecessary reading difficulties caused by four hundred years of language change. We must think about all of the factors that contribute to readability.” (101)
I wonder if Ward has trouble with audio Bibles too.
Ward’s response to Pastor Beeke doesn’t seem to be a joke, but I found it amusing. I especially enjoyed the part where Ward gave Pastor Beeke a lesson on the Puritans. Perhaps it’s possible that the premier Puritan scholar may know what he’s talking about when it comes to the Puritans and their Bible. This may come to a shock to Ward’s audience, but there are sound reasons to read the KJV other than being bound to tradition and emotions. Believe it or not, those that read the King James Bible typically have no affinity for Rome or their Vulgate. The reader should seriously consider the possibility that Ward could be wrong here. That may come as a shock to Ward, but all of those people from his anecdotes who say they can read the KJV may be onto something here.
In summary, Ward provides several arguments against Pastor Beeke:
1. If you want a reverent Bible, just read the Vulgate!
2. The reverent language was copied by Joseph Smith (quite literally actually) and the translator of the Qur’an, therefore we need to stop propping it up!
3. We can’t let emotions get in the way of deciding which Bible to read!
4. The “archaisms” are only in the KJV because it would have taken too much time to remove them!
5. The punctuation of the KJV makes it impossible to read!