Authorized Review – Does Authorized Need to Be Updated?

Introduction

In order to respond to the anecdotes of Mark Ward, I’d like to introduce the reader to a story of my own. Growing up I was what you might call a “bookworm.” I spent much of my free time reading and writing. Similar to Ward’s account of his childhood, I aced every spelling test. I always got the prize for reading the most books over the summer. I started learning how to speed read in AP English Literature in high school, mostly so that I could spend more time with my friends instead of doing homework. Despite my brazen laziness, I loved words, and I loved books – just not the British ones I was forced to read in High School. Despite my lack of motivation, as a self-proclaimed word-lover I forced myself to understand why works like A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, and Frankenstein were such important contributions to the available corpus of English literature.  

The reason I am telling my reader this story is to show that Mark Ward does not have a monopoly on the label “language nerd.” There are tons of us out here, and as a fellow “language nerd,” I find Ward’s writing style and perspective rather offensive to our dwindling guild. In this article, I want to comment on the writing style of Authorized and show my reader why Ward’s book is so offensive to “language nerds” everywhere.

Giving a Bad Name to “Language Nerds” Everywhere

Most “language nerds” are conservatives when it comes to language. We cherish the moments when we can knock the dust off of bygone words and introduce them afresh to a modern audience. We fear the idea that “Twitter Vernacular” could become the lingua franca some day. “Language nerds” are not scared away by learning new words, we love them. In fact, I signed up for an email list that sends me new words every day, like “avuncular.” Being a language nerd is much more than simply loving vocab words, however. It is about appreciating and learning the evolution and etymology of words. It includes studying the differences in syntax and writing style and genre in literature. Being a “language nerd” is not just being able to use a thesaurus, it is about loving the English language – all of it. 

What is frustrating is that Ward’s writing style seems to contradict the claim that he is a “language nerd.” A “language nerd” would never employ the impetus of The Emperor’s New Clothes in a textbook display of a weak analogy to call the English of the KJV “at some point between natty and nude” (24) A “language nerd” would not insult English by using “erganomock” and “snelbanjaloo” as a point of comparison for the comprehensibility of the KJV (65). Every single “language nerd” I know, even the atheists, have a profound respect and appreciation for the KJV as a literary work. It speaks volumes that Chistopher Hitchins has a higher evaluation of the KJV than Ward (14). 

What is most interesting, is that Ward seems to violate his own principles within the pages of Authorized. Strangely enough, he uses words such as “fastidious” while claiming that the word “commendeth” is too difficult to understand. He is fine employing “reverential” (101) while saying that “and it came to pass” is not vernacular English. He uses the phrase “blessed fluorescence” (67) while saying that “apt” is incomprehensible in the phrase “apt to teach”(44). He casually drops the word “blithely” (26) in a section discussing how he didn’t understand words in the KJV. I could make a list of Ward’s use of uncharacteristically difficult words that he apparently understands better than the much simpler vocabulary of the KJV. How often do you use the words “prodigiously” (14), “erudition” (9), “apropos” (69), or “hapless” (9) in your daily speech? If I were to take Ward’s vernacular argument and apply it to his book, there would be many places that I would recommend an update. 

The paradox within the pages of Authorized is that Ward violates many of his own rules. He unnecessarily (and ironically) employs Latin with the knowledge that his reader likely doesn’t know it. He does this while unabashedly comparing the KJV to the Latin Vulgate. Apparently Ward thinks that his reader can understand actual Latin, but not the KJV, which he compares to the comprehensibility of the Latin Vulgate.  In addition to utilizing Latin, he randomly drops flowery words that his reader will have to look up. If Ward’s argument is that we should understand the words we read, why does he repeatedly beat his reader over the head with Latin phrases and advanced vocabulary? This seems to violate the very principle Ward is setting forth in Authorized

Conclusion

After reading Ward’s book twice, I cannot help but point out the inconsistency of his thesis, and the hypocrisy of his writing style. He has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source for the critiques he issues towards the KJV and KJV readers. He imposes an extreme version of the problem that he claims the KJV imposes to his reader. He slaps KJV readers for making equivocations while constantly equivocating the English of the KJV with Shakespeare, the comprehensibility of the KJV with the Latin Vulgate, and KJV English with Old or Middle English. This is one of those cases where it isn’t wise to throw rocks in glass houses. What Ward seems to miss is that being able to understand words is far more important than those words being in “vernacular English.” As a fellow “language nerd,” I expect more from somebody claiming to be in the dwindling population of people who love the English language. 

Perhaps the reason that Ward’s book resonates with so many is because people simply don’t read anymore. He can get away with this kind of rhetoric because people don’t know how insulting he is being when he implies that his reader simply cannot read all that well. In a world where the average person does their daily reading on Twitter, it does not surprise me that people have forgotten that you occasionally have to look up words when you read. The reality is, learning new words is a part of the joy of reading. Expanding your vocabulary is part of the adventure. Discovering a new, or old use of a word is a part of the rush of being a “language nerd.”

Now I’m not Mark Ward, but if I spent so many years learning to read the KJV, I’d be proud of it. I wouldn’t openly brag about my willful ignorance of phrases in the KJV, I’d learn to understand them and teach others how to understand it. In every place Ward gives as an example of a passage he “still cannot understand” in the KJV, many people, including children, can. As a “language nerd,” Ward really missed a big opportunity to get people excited about the English language. Instead, he spent 137 pages talking about how people can’t understand English, and why people shouldn’t read the literary masterpiece that is the KJV. Seems like a pretty big “language nerd” party foul, if you ask me.

Authorized Review – Textual Criticism and the Scholarly Guild

Introduction

This article is the first in a series of articles inspecting several important topics not covered in my Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible review. The first subject I want to cover, that I tried to avoid addressing in my 9 article series is the issue of textual criticism. In Chapter 6 of Ward’s book, he includes a section responding to the claim that modern Bibles are “Based on Inferior Greek and Hebrew Texts.” 

In this article, I will review Ward’s perspective on textual criticism. 

The Confused & Scared Christian

Ward begins this section by painting Christians who encounter variants as confused and scared, and then appealing to a Greek professor known for his sentence diagramming that is not an active scholar working in the field of textual criticism. 

“Nonetheless, these variants confuse and even frighten many Christians, and I understand that fear. So let me offer a few thoughts from someone I trust, thoughts that were edifying to me.”

Ibid., 114

Ward demonstrates either a) that he does not know much about textual criticism or b) that he isn’t willing to give his reader an accurate picture of textual criticism. In the first place, he paints the picture that manuscripts and manuscript families are the driving source for translations. This is simply not true. All modern versions are revisions of previous translations which were made based on printed Greek texts, not manuscripts. The critical printed editions are based on manuscript evidence, but nobody is doing translation work from a literal papyri or uncial. Ward makes the argument that manuscripts must not be all that different from each other, or we would see denominations preferring one over the other.

“If there were massive, theologically significant differences between Greek manuscripts, different parties would claim the texts that advanced their theological viewpoints. But that simply hasn’t happened.”

Ibid., 115

This point is actually irrelevant, and incorrect. Many denominations do prefer specific text platforms. The Catholic Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses for example use translations made from the text platform mostly based on Codex Vaticanus (NA/UBS) or the Latin Vulgate. The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) made its own “translation” loosely based on the NA27. Calvary Chapel uses the NKJV which is based on the Traditional Text with Majority Text footnotes. Independent Fundamentalist Baptists use the KJV, which is based on the Masoretic/TR platform. Many denominations and individual churches care deeply about the translation they read, and the underlying text platform. One of the many reasons people take a stand on translation is specifically due to doctrinal differences between the texts. 

Further, Ward and the professor he references employ what I like to call “The Scholarly Dance” to minimize the importance of textual criticism in this discussion.  

“Leedy observes, “My own weaknesses as a reader expose me to far more significant misunderstanding than the manuscript differences do, so by far the greatest problems that God must overcome in order to talk to me are within me, not within the transmission process.””

Ibid., 115

The Scholarly Dance goes like this: 

  1. Highlight or imply a supposed weakness in yourself 
  2. Implicate God and His desires as a part of your theological understanding 
  3. Make an important theological point based on a display of “humility” and “God’s desires”

According to Leedy and Ward, their “weakness as a reader” is the real problem. This is the problem that “God must overcome.” Therefore, the real problem isn’t with textual criticism, manuscripts, or the transmission process, it is with the Christian. The Scholarly Dance is a great rhetorical tool to say, “If you have a problem with textual criticism, it is a humility problem and a problem with what ‘God has done’, not a problem with the conclusions of textual criticism.” In other words, if you challenge the scholarly narrative, you are in sin, and need to humble yourself. 

Notice another example of the Scholarly Dance:



“I do not believe God is under any obligation to preserve every detail of Scripture for us, even though he granted us good access to the text of the New Testament…I believe God, in his grace, preserved his Word for us but also that there is no apparent external reason to believe that the textus Receptus is in some way special or set apart from the rest of the manuscript tradition…God does not perform a special miracle to protect our collective reading and understanding of his Word from error, and likewise, he has not done so for the transmission of Scripture. There are limits to our knowledge.”

Dirk Jongkind, Introduction to the Greek New Testament, 90…103 (Quotation spliced together from two pages)

And another: 

“We do indeed have ‘access’ to these words, if not with miraculous perfection, then with an extremely high level of accuracy and certainty. And God has done this. What is good enough for the Holy Spirit is good enough for me.”

Brash, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to How God Preserved the Bible, 64

All of this scholarly posturing is to defend the narrative that the Bible has not actually been kept pure, it’s been kept “Quasi-Pure.” The purpose of it is to tell the reader that if they have a problem with an impure Bible, they really have a problem with God, and a pride issue. The scholarly narrative goes like this:


“The Nestle-Aland text, on the other hand, relies on older manuscripts that were discovered after the King James Version was released.”

Ibid., 116

If you have followed this blog, you know that the above statement is misleading, and even incorrect. Codex Vaticanus was discovered prior to the creation of the KJV and parts of it were even referenced in the making of Erasmus’ Greek text. He considered this manuscript to be a failed attempt to join the Greek with the Latin. Vaticanus was published to a modern audience in the 19th century, but it was not first discovered in the 19th century. People knew of the Vatican Codex for a long time.

Further, the NA text is based on the earliest extant manuscripts. There is absolutely no warrant for calling these manuscripts “earliest” overall, just the earliest that have survived 2000 years after the fact. The first Greek New Testament was not made in the 4th century, and there is no way to determine if the manuscripts surviving from the 4th century in any way represent the original text. 

Ward continues by saying that if you are not an expert in Greek or textual criticism, you should not have an opinion of your own. Christians should simply trust the scholars!

“Textual criticism is complicated. I think scholars should continue to debate their viewpoints, but I don’t think it’s wise for non-specialists to have strong opinions about the topic (Prov 18:13). At the very least, Christians who cannot read Greek should humbly acknowledge that their opinions about textual criticism are formed second- or even fifth-hand—that they are based ultimately on authority. It’s impossible to reach resolution in a debate when the participants think it’s about the relative merits of ancient Greek manuscripts but it’s actually about which authorities to trust.”

Ibid., 116

This is called gatekeeping, and Ward and the evangelical textual scholars engage in it all the time. If you are not in the “guild,” you cannot have your own opinion. You are not allowed to survey and study all of the subject matter on your own and form an opinion, because you are not a specialist. This is the same form of argument that is made when people  say, “You’re not a woman, you can’t have an opinion on abortion,” or “You’re not a pharmacist, you cannot have an opinion on medication.” You are not allowed to question the scholarly narrative because you are not a scholar.

Ward presents the case that the reason to abandon the KJV is due to it not being in our “vernacular” English while completely diminishing the very real concerns people have regarding the conclusions of textual scholars. If you disagree, you are in violation of Proverbs 18:13. Again, Ward makes disagreeing with him and his peers a sin issue, while at the same time presenting the information in a misleading and deceptive way. 

Conclusion

The problems of textual criticism as they pertain to Bible translation are much more important than Ward would have his reader believe. His main argument is, “There are no denominational differences between text platforms, therefore there are no doctrinal differences!” Not only is this argument irrelevant, it is simply not true. The IFB is a perfect example of a denomination that has a text platform and translation as a doctrinal distinctive. In fact, Ward and many of his colleagues have in their doctrinal distinctives that a translation (KJV) and the underlying text (MT/TR) should not be used for preaching and memorization. While Ward focuses his attention on this argument, he seems to be utterly oblivious to why people actually have concerns over text platforms and textual criticism, writing them off as “confusion” and “fear.” 

Rather than simply trusting the opinions of haughty scholars, I encourage my reader to take Scripture as the final authority. 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Every Christian has the tools to evaluate spiritual matters, and the Bible is a spiritual matter. When somebody says that the Bible has not been preserved, or that changes in the words of the Bible “do not affect doctrine,” you absolutely have the right to challenge this position. God has given His people His Word, and if Ward actually believed that, he wouldn’t be telling Christians to sit down and be quiet. You do not need a degree from Cambridge to know that this theological statement is not Biblical:

“We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain”

Gurry & Hixson, Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, xii (Dan Wallace)

You do not need to know all of the nuances about the CBGM to know that this statement regarding its effect on the text is not Biblical:

“Clearly, these changes will affect not only modern Bible translations and commentaries but possibly even theology and preaching”

Peter Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6

You do not need to have a thorough understanding of manuscripts or Greek to know that this statement regarding the Bible by a textual scholar is not Biblical:

“Books and the texts they preserve are human products, bound in innumerable ways to the circumstances and communities that produce them. This is also true of the New Testament…Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved.”

Knust & Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone, 15

Christian, you absolutely have the right to question what these scholars are saying, and in fact, you should. 

Edit: I have changed “Scholarly Handshake” to “Scholarly Dance“. The Scholarly Handshake is the introduction ritual that includes praising your opponent prior to doing the Scholarly Dance.

Authorized Review – Chapter 7: Don’t Be a Berean!

Introduction

In Chapter 7 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward ends his book far more clearly than when he started. He finally reveals his solution to the problem of KJV readability – simply read all translations. In fact, he even makes valuing all translations a qualification for being loving the Bible. 

“But I believe the tribalism—the belief that a group’s chosen translation is one of many marks of its superiority over other groups—needs to stop. All Bible-loving-and-reading Christians need to learn to see the value in all good Bible translations.”

Ibid., 124

Not only should the KJV be cast to the side as one’s primary translation, all Bibles should be cast aside for this purpose. According to Ward, Christians should not try to determine which translation is best, because none of them are. He advocates for this, despite pointing out the destruction that has been caused by such a practice back in chapter 1. Apparently the qualification for being a Bible lover is to set aside what makes a Bible good and love them all, despite any inaccuracies or poor translation choices.

“English speakers are looking for the wrong thing when we look for best.”

Ibid., 127

Now Ward is advocating for mediocrity in the Church. I vehemently disagree with Ward here. Christians should desire to give God glory, and enjoy Him forever, which involves doing everything the best we possibly can. In this review, I will examine Ward’s claim that Christian’s shouldn’t take a stand on a translation, and offer commentary. 

Stop Taking the Bible So Seriously!

“We shouldn’t let our preferred translation become a symbol, a rallying cry, or a boundary marker separating us from other groups within the body of Christ.”

Ibid., 128

Here Ward introduces his reader to the modern zeitgeist, that there are no sufficient translations. He gives his reader the impression that there is no translation that is adequate for all aspects of ministry and Christian living. In order to be a “good Christian,” one must spread their time across multiple translations and use them in different ways. Despite having propped himself up as an expert in the topic, Ward continues to demonstrate to the reader that he simply isn’t a great reader, or interpreter, of the Bible. Apparently, neither are the people he hangs out with, if these anecdotal people actually exist. See yet another example of Ward admitting he cannot understand an English passage(Psalm 16:6), despite claiming to read other languages fluently and being a “language nerd”. 

“I can read Hebrew, and I can tell you that none of these translations is “wrong” in any way I can figure. But I read this poetic statement many, many times and never understood it. What are the “lines”? I asked another long-time reader of the KJV, and he guessed that David is talking about lines of genealogy. He was a step ahead of me because at least he had a guess. To my shame, I can’t say I ever even stopped to ask, or noticed that I wasn’t getting it. I think I always assumed that it was just a very obscure way of saying that things were going well for David. (Don’t we all like it when lines are, um, falling just right?)”

Ibid., 129

I apologize for Ward’s inappropriate and irreverent attitude towards the inspired text of Holy Scripture. In a rather funny coincidence, I learned what this passage meant from my 22 year old Young Life leader in high school, who had absolutely zero Bible training. He didn’t even own a commentary.

Ward’s basic argument at the end of his book is essentially that the differences in Bible Translations “are really not that great,” and therefore read them all because “the Bible is awesome!” Yet we could argue the opposite from that very point. If the differences aren’t all that great, wouldn’t one be perfectly fine reading one of the translations? He continues to appeal only to personal experience and anecdotes to support his arguments. 

“In my own personal study of the Bible over the years, using multiple translations and commentaries along the way, I have formed a definite impression: the major evangelical English Bible translations are all essentially conservative—and the tradition they’re conserving is the KJV tradition.”

Ibid., 133

This unfortunate perspective downplays the real concerns people have regarding translation methodology and underlying original text, and parrots the misconception that the ESV stands in the line of Tyndale. The ESV, and other modern critical translations, stand in the line of the Westcott & Hort and the Revised Version, not Tyndale and the KJV. Ward’s line of thinking shuts down the voices of men and women who are actually concerned with what their Bible says. People do care about which texts are in or out of their Bible, and if the Greek word “men” should be translated as “men and women.” Instead of addressing these very real concerns, Ward instead chooses to call those who care about the accuracy of their translation as “tribalistic.” His use of this pejorative and continued implication that those that do see one translation as being “best” a sin demonstrates the massive disconnect between Ward and the average Christian. 

Most people care far more deeply than Ward does about the words that are on the page of their Bible. And if you actually take Ward’s advice and read a slew of translations, you will quickly find out that not only are their translational differences that affect doctrine, there are a healthy number of verses that are completely different between translations at the underlying text level. Not only are there thousands of textual differences between the underlying texts of traditional Bibles and modern Bibles, there are translational choices that completely change the sense of a passage. To say that “no doctrine affected” is a shocking claim.

That being said, there is some value in what Ward has to offer in this chapter, though his crusade against the KJV completely overshadowed it. Referencing other translations and/or the original languages can certainly be a helpful tool, but not in the way Ward has suggested. Instead of his solution, which is to throw out the idea of reading one translation, it is extremely helpful to only read one translation and use others as tools. Reviewing the translation choices of one Bible against another can give valuable insight at the quality of a translation. There is value in a church having a common theological language. There is value in the pastor preaching from the same translation that the people in the pews have. There is value to the unbeliever when Christians are unified in the Scripture they quote. There is value in Christians rallying upon one text. 

Ward openly admits that his perspective is different than the majority of Christians today. 

“I want to change the paradigm we’ve all been assuming. Stop looking for the “best” English Bible. It doesn’t exist. God never said it would. Take up the embarrassment of riches we now have.”

Ibid., 137

In other words, “lower your standards and accept that this is the way it is now.” 

Conclusion

In this concluding chapter of Authorized, Ward offers the most limp-wristed “paradigm shift” to the serious topic of Bible translation – stop being so picky and read them all! Having one preferred translation is actually bad! They are essentially the same! Like the evangelical textual scholars, Ward speaks for God when he says, “Stop looking for the “best” English Bible. It doesn’t exist. God never said it would.” Should this be our mindset towards the Word of God? Should we take such a casual approach to the Holy Scriptures that we do not demand the very best from our Bible translators? Does Ward have the right to tell the average Christian that they cannot have a problem with a translation or decide that one is better than the other? No, no, and no. 

If you’re reading this, be assured that you have every right to care which translation is best. You have every right to have a problem with liberal translation methodology and underlying original texts. You, in fact, have an obligation to care about these things because the Holy Scriptures are the means that God is speaking today (1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-2). To say that translation isn’t really that important is to say that what God has to say isn’t all that important. Ward himself says that the Bible is the “words of God.” If this is truly the case, as Christians believe, Ward’s approach to treating Bible translations like a multi-tool pocket knife is completely inappropriate.

On the final lines of his book, Ward finally tells his reader why he wrote Authorized:

“But it is a misuse of the KJV to ask it to do today what it did in 1611, namely, to serve as a vernacular English translation. For public preaching ministry, for evangelism, for discipleship materials, indeed for most situations outside individual study, using the KJV violates Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14. The value of vernacular translation is so great that we must fight to protect it—even if that means letting that trend line from 100 percent to 55 percent continue. Even if it means helping that trend line along. We need God’s word in our language, not in someone else’s.”

Ibid., 137-138

There you have it, folks.

Authorized Review – Chapter 6: Reading the KJV is Sinful

Introduction

In chapter 6 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Mark Ward responds to 10 common objections to abandoning the KJV. Ward opens by stating that “The major theme of this book” is,

“How changes in English over the last four hundred years make it nobody’s fault that contemporary readers miss more than we realize when all we read is the KJV.”

Ibid., 88

He then claims that his intention in writing this book is “not in a quarrelsome spirit but in a spirit of servanthood.” He takes on the mantle of being the man to “burrow deep inside English” to report “what’s there.” While I can appreciate Ward’s stated intentions, the reader should be wise to what Ward is advocating for, and assess for themselves whether or not his mission is truly as upstanding as he describes. He makes this appeal at the end of the chapter, 

“I appeal directly to the 55 percent: Because you love the Lord, seek all the tools you can to understand his words, including contemporary English Bible translations. And because you love others, don’t stand in their way when they want to use those tools themselves.”

Ibid., 120-21

The reader should note that the above statement is “loaded.” Ward is implying that loving the Lord is connected to seeking “all the tools you can” which includes reading “contemporary English Bible translations.” Further, loving the Lord is connected to not standing in the way of others “when they want to use those tools themselves.” According to Ward, reading the KJV or advocating that others do the same is an issue for those that “love the Lord.”

The discerning reader may do well to ask, “Am I not loving the Lord if I read the KJV and advocate that others read it too?” The evidence for this is strong, considering he compares reading the KJV to a “stumbling block” and that it “adds difficulty” to reading God’s Word. In opposition to how he views himself in the opening words of the chapter, he is being extremely quarrelsome, even divisive. Despite saying, “I’m not doing what 1 Timothy 6:4 is talking about,” that is exactly what he is doing. The whole premise of his book so far is quarreling about words. 

In my review of chapter 6, I will make note of Ward’s primary arguments and respond to them. 

Responding to the Gainsayer

The difficulty with clearly offering a response to Ward is his constant use of anecdotes and conflicted messaging to support his arguments. If you strip out the anecdotes, there is not a whole lot of substance to his case against the KJV. He states that the KJV is deceitful due to the outdated language, and yet continues to emphasize that,


“The KJV is not unintelligible overall. As I said earlier, the fact that 55 percent of today’s Bible readers are reading the KJV suggests that the KJV is not impossibly foreign and ancient.”

Ibid., 118

He continues, 

“First, I say gently that it’s not clear to me that everyone who reads words they don’t understand notices that they’re not understanding. That’s why I told the story of the 10,000 people who memorized “fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” I would suggest that until exclusive readers of the KJV read a contemporary English Bible translation like the ESV all the way through, and until they study in depth some individual passages, they won’t realize how much they’ve been misunderstanding. In my own experience, it took me many years of such reading to realize how much I had been missing.”

Ibid., 118

According to Ward, people believe that the KJV is intelligible because they simply do not know that it is not. He again appeals to his summer camp anecdote to support this point. He then makes an interesting claim when he says that the only people who do know that they cannot understand the KJV, are those that have read a modern version. I have personally seen this point parroted by others. What the reader should take note of is that Ward frequently pads his sentences by inserting, “I say gently” or that he has a “spirit of servanthood” while essentially telling his reader that they are too dense to read the KJV. This is why KJV readers have trouble trusting what Ward says about anything pertaining to the KJV and those that read it. An insult is still an insult even if you claim to be saying it “gently.” 

Even worse, Ward again continues to conflate an English speaker’s ability to read Latin to their ability to read the KJV, and to compare the Vulgate to the KJV. He actually claims that if the goal is a reverent translation, reading Latin “will accomplish the same goal.” In an attempt to employ rhetoric, Ward is actually arguing that English speakers would do better just to learn an entirely new language, Latin. Apparently it is better to learn an entirely new language than to understand the various “False Friends” found in the KJV. It is somewhat humorous that this is exactly what the scholarly types advocate for as it pertains to Greek and Hebrew. In any case, it appears as though Ward is attempting to convince non-KJV readers that the KJV is literally another language. I say “non-KJV readers” because anybody who has actually spent some time reading the KJV knows it is not in a foreign language. Ward appeals to 1 Corinthians 14, regarding speaking in tongues, to make the appeal that reading the KJV is a violation of the Scriptures. In Ward’s words, the KJV is both intelligible and also an “unknown tongue.”  

Ward argues that, 

“And literary peak or no literary peak, at some point English will have changed so much that the KJV will be entirely unintelligible. At what point between now and then should we revise or replace it? Even if our English is inferior (an if I don’t grant), the Bible ought to be brought out of someone else’s English and into ours.”

Ibid., 106-107

I do not agree with Ward, that such terms as “Apropo” and “snelbanjaloo” which he employs in his book are superior to the language found in the KJV. It is true that there will come a time when modern English is as far from the KJV as the KJV is from Middle English. That time is not now, and will not likely happen for some time unless English professors allow the grammatical conventions of Twitter to score A’s. In Ward’s typical manner of presenting two conflicted messages at once, he says initially that what he is advocating for has not been done, “The Bible ought to be brought out of someone else’s English and into ours.” He then goes on to say that, 

“This has, in fact, been done in the New King James Version. It uses precisely the same Greek New Testament text as the KJV, but it uses contemporary English. (The same is true for the KJV 2000, the World English Bible, and the Modern English Version, among others.)”

Ibid., 117

Despite the fact that other translations are available, Ward again makes reading the KJV a sin issue when he says, 

“Third, even if you do understand the KJV just fine, it’s not in vernacular English—and that means something for how you treat others, not just yourself. Don’t stop Cody and Javante and Jiménez (real names of precious teens I served in outreach ministry for many years) from hearing the Bible in words they can immediately understand. Don’t make them memorize “you hath he quickened”—even if you take time to explain quickened, which not all youth workers do—when they could memorize “he made you alive” (Col 2:13 CSB). Don’t step in the way of your own children or grandchildren inheriting what is their birthright as Protestants—no, as Christians: the unadulterated words of God translated into the vernacular. You have liberty to read whatever translation you want and, as far as I can tell, no ecclesiastical authority has the power to stop you. I certainly don’t. But I urge you to set aside your privileges for others’ sake when it comes to Bible teaching and other discipleship work (1 Cor 9:1–12). Children and new converts should not be given copies of the KJV. Paul said no to that option when he tied intelligible words to edification in 1 Corinthians 14.”

Ibid., 119-120

This statement is the rhetorical equivalent of a temper tantrum. After spending several chapters trying to convince people that they cannot read the KJV and that it is literally another language, he effectively says to those that disagree with him, “I don’t care if you say you can understand it, other people cannot, and therefore you are sinning.” This kind of exegesis is the foundation for spiritual abuse. Ward is arguing that the continued use of the KJV is a stumbling block and a violation of Scripture itself, and therefore using the KJV is a direct violation of Scripture. He says this plainly in his own words, 

“You may wish to put a stumbling block in your own path in order to increase your resilience and skill—like linguistic resistance training. But we have a direct biblical command that is relevant here: don’t put stumbling blocks in someone else’s way (Rom 14:13)…I appeal directly to the 55 percent: Because you love the Lord, seek all the tools you can to understand his words, including contemporary English Bible translations. And because you love others, don’t stand in their way when they want to use those tools themselves.”

Ibid., 120

Conclusion

In chapter 6 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward presents one way to use the KJV, and offers what he believes to be “misuses” of the KJV. The only use Ward has offered so far in this work is to be used as a reference to determine the difference between the singular and plural “you.” According to Ward, the misuse of the KJV includes reading it as a primary translation and using it to teach and evangelize.

He has stated that while most Bible readers read the KJV, that the real problem is that these people simply do not know that they cannot understand it. His solution is an updated KJV, which according to his own words, has already been done in the NKJV, KJV 2000, and MEV. This being the case, an updated KJV is not what Ward is arguing for, he is arguing that people who read the KJV must stop. He appeals to Scripture to state that those who do read the KJV are in violation of Scripture’s teaching, and that they are causing themselves, and others, to stumble by reading it. 

It is becoming more and more clear that what I have identified as “conflicted messaging” is really a subtle rhetorical strategy to communicate his actual point – that practically speaking, there are only “misuses” of the KJV. Ward says that the KJV is intelligible, but not actually. He says that he loves the KJV, but those that use it are sinning by doing so. He says that all he wants is an updated KJV, but also that that has already been done. He establishes his primary argument, that people don’t actually know how to read the KJV, based on his own personal difficulty reading it and other anecdotes. He tells his reader that if they do not know Greek, they should “humbly acknowledge that their opinions about textual criticism” essentially do not matter. 

Ward does in this chapter what many Christians are growing weary of – speaking down from the scholarly high tower. He is the expert, not you. If you disagree with Ward, then you are literally sinning. If you, a “non-specialist,” have an opinion on textual criticism that goes against the academic meta, it isn’t wise to comment in the discussion. He then advises those of his readers to subvert the authority of their KJV reading pastors by instructing them to ask their pastor to recommend a Bible “In their own language.” Not only is this divisive, it is misinformed, and offensive, especially to myself, who recognizes the KJV as a beautiful articulation of the English language. This chapter solidifies my thought that Ward’s problem is one only a scholar could have.

Authorized Review – Chapter 5: The KJV as a Second Language

This article is the sixth in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.

Introduction

In chapter 5 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward finally says clearly what has been lurking in between the lines in first four chapters: that the KJV should not be read. The reader would likely be better off if the first four chapters were excluded and the book simply started here. He has contradicted every argument he has presented thus far, and if we take this into consideration, the premise for this chapter has absolutely zero foundation. I would be surprised if the reader wasn’t genuinely confused at the alarming escalation from chapters 1-4 to 5. The only words I can use to describe what takes place in Chapter 5 is “disconnected” or “unraveled.” Ward goes from arguing that the KJV is in some places unintelligible to claiming that the entire thing cannot be understood. See this syllogism he provides on page 79:

    1.      We should read the Scripture in our own language.

    2.      The KJV is not in our language.

    3.      Therefore we should update the KJV to be in our language, or we should read vernacular translations.

Ibid., 79

He concludes with this, 

“I therefore do not think the KJV is sufficiently readable to be relied upon as a person’s only or main translation, or as a church’s or Christian school’s only or main translation.”

Ibid., 85

Ward arrives at this conclusion by building a case that the KJV is “no longer a vernacular translation,” and makes use of Glen G. Scorgie to seemingly say that the KJV is not “really a translation” (85). He, like many opponents of the KJV, makes comparisons between the KJV and the Latin Vulgate (62) and notes that the translators of the KJV “were not KJV-Only” (83). It shouldn’t need to be said, but I want to remind my reader that the difference between Latin and the vernacular tongue of the people during the time of the Vulgate is not even comparable to the difference between KJV English and modern vernacular English. It is also unfortunate that Ward, and many apologists for modern Bible versions, continue to compare their assault on the KJV to what happened during the Reformation. More importantly, Ward’s reader should be noticing the ramped up rhetoric of this chapter. He employs many of the Anti-KJV arguments such as the “KJV translators wouldn’t believe what you do” argument.

This chapter is possibly the most helpful to understanding the goal of Ward’s work thus far. In my opinion, it would have served well as the opening chapter. He reveals most clearly what he has been getting at up to this point, that the KJV as it exists now should not be read any longer. This is persuasive writing, and now the objective has become clear: to convince people not to read the KJV. An important question to ask is this, “Has Ward demonstrated that the KJV is not modern English leading up to chapter 5?” Interestingly enough, the content of Authorized so far has shown that the KJV is actually quite intelligible. Even Ward’s strongest argument of “false friends” are not significant enough to impact doctrine according to him. Many people mistakenly label Ward as a “KJV advocate” or that Ward “loves the KJV,” and this chapter demonstrates clearly why this is simply not true. Ward’s solution to the 55% of the Bible readers is that 1) the KJV should be updated or that they should 2) read a modern translation. He argues that a,

“KJV with tons of footnotes offering contemporary equivalents of archaic words is not enough.”

Ibid., 75

Interestingly, Ward argues in this chapter that the KJV is not written in the same language as contemporary vernacular English. Now, I agree with Ward that the KJV is not written in our colloquial way of speaking, I don’t think anybody would argue that it is. The confusing part of this logic is how you go from the KJV being different from our vernacular English and the KJV being an entirely different language. Typically it is recognized that literary English and vernacular English are different. The argument that the KJV is literally a different language mimics the thought of Dr. Andrew Naselli, who says,

“I was raised on the King James Version, so I’m bilingual: I can speak KJV…the KJV was an outstanding translation for its time, but today – over four hundred years after it first released in 1611 – I think it belongs in a museum.”  

How to Understand and Apply the New Testament, 42

Responding to the Vernacular Argument 

In chapter 5, Ward presents what seems to be the purpose of writing Authorized, and primarily builds his argument upon the claim that the KJV is no longer vernacular English, and therefore should not be read. He provides a definition of “vernacular” from the New Oxford American Dictionary as a starting point for his argument.


“It refers to language ‘spoken as one’s mother tongue; not learned or imposed as a second language’”

Ibid., 68

Is this the argument then, that the KJV is not English? Are KJV readers bilingual? He seems to be leaning on the first part of the definition, which indicates that the language must be “spoken.” Since people do not speak KJV English, then it apparently qualifies as “a second language.” He continues on, hinting that the KJV cannot be understood and that it is Elizabethan English, which is untrue on both accounts. It is demonstrably different than Elizabethan English, and can be understood, as Ward has admitted all throughout his book. Even if the KJV were as complex as Elizabethan English, American middle schoolers are made to read Shakespeare in English class. This is the first time in my life that I have heard the argument that Shakespearian English is not intelligible. The basic argument seems to be that since we do not use the syntax and exact vocabulary of the KJV in our daily speech, that it is no longer acceptable as a translation. 

This is a fundamental flaw in Ward’s argument. Simply because modern English speakers do not speak in the King’s English, does not mean they cannot understand the King’s English. He uses Luke 14 to demonstrate that the KJV is written in a way that we do not speak any longer. Yet I fail to see how this is relevant at all. Let’s take a look at verse 1:


“And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.”

Luke 14:1

It is true that we do not say “and it came to pass” in our daily speech, but does that mean we cannot understand what that means? We don’t use the term “eat bread” to mean “mealtime,” but we do say “break bread” to mean the same thing. The question that needs to be answered is not, “Is the KJV vernacular English,” it is, “Can the English of the KJV be understood?” More importantly, Ward fails to comment on the fact that our daily speech is not typically narrative, it is conversational. Most of what we say is not structured like the genres found in the Bible in any translation. The genre of Luke is not conversational, it is narrative. The phrase “and it came to pass” is found in all sorts of modern literature, including writings by J.R.R Tolkein. 

Ward is actually arguing that if a Bible translation is not written in our conversational English, it must be updated or retired. If this is the case, the ESV does not pass this test either. Take for example Matthew 12:44.

“I will return to my house from which I came”

Nobody talks like that in normal conversation, yet we do not say it is unintelligible. The point is that written English is different from spoken English. 

Ward adds another strange layer to his argument by saying that God didn’t originally speak in KJV English, but he did speak in modern version English.


“God did not say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; he said, “You shall not commit adultery.” He didn’t say, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat”; he said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” The KJV and modern translations are saying precisely the same thing, of course, but they’re speaking to different audiences. And only one of those audiences is still living.”

Ibid., 79

I don’t think this is very controversial to say, but I don’t think God said anything in English to Adam and Eve. In any case, it appears Ward is taking issue with the difference between “Thou” and “You.” Following Ward’s logic about vernacular speech, the example Ward gives fails his own test. Nobody says, “You shall” do this or that in vernacular English (sorry NIV, ESV, and NASB, you need an update). Notice that Ward says, “The KJV and modern translations are saying precisely the same thing”. I want to further emphasize that English did not exist at the time of the writing of the Bible. If the statements both mean the same thing, and God did not speak originally to the people of God in English, what is Ward even trying to say here? This is arguably one of the most confused statements in the entirety of the whole book so far, and borders on absurd.

Ward presents his argument convincingly enough, but it fails the test of common sense. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of phrases in every translation that are written in a way that we do not speak in our daily vernacular. We do not say, “You shall not,” or “To you it has been given.” The simple response to Ward’s entire argument is this – does anybody actually expect the Bible to sound exactly like our vernacular speech? Does anybody want the Bible to sound exactly like their daily speech? Is any form of written English syntactically the same as spoken English? Ward’s argument that the KJV is an entirely different language is nothing but rhetoric, and it should even be apparent to the reader that Ward has disproved that in the pages of his own book. 

Conclusion

One of the most challenging parts of reviewing this chapter of Authorized is the slew of disconnected thoughts and arguments. His reader has been told so far that the KJV is readable, that the “False Friends” don’t affect doctrine, and that statistically speaking, most people read the KJV. Now, we are finally presented with Ward’s actual argument, that because we don’t talk in KJV English, it is not a suitable translation. An important reality that Ward seems to miss here is that written language and spoken language evolve separately, and are used differently. In writing, there are genres that employ different syntax and vocabulary than the syntax and vocabulary of our spoken language. In fact, Vernacular English is often categorized into its own genre distinct from literary English. In other words, we talk differently than we write. 

While Ward’s demand for Bibles to be written in our daily vernacular is strange and misguided, he also uses this chapter to take quick jabs at the KJV by referencing non-related issues such as textual criticism and modern translation methodology. He even takes some time to address the “KJV Only” crowd. He ends the chapter with conflicted messaging once again. 

“In countless places, the KJV does not fail to communicate God’s words to modern readers; I’m eager to acknowledge this fact, because I grew up on the KJV and it was God’s tool to bring me new life. But in countless places, it does fail—through no fault of the KJV translators or of us. It’s somewhere between Beowulf and the English of today. I therefore do not think the KJV is sufficiently readable to be relied upon as a person’s only or main translation, or as a church’s or Christian school’s only or main translation.Thankfully, we don’t have to give up everything we valued in the KJV in order to gain the readability benefits of newer translations. The best way to honor the translation and revision work of the KJV translators is to allow it to continue.”

Ibid., 85-86

The messaging in this chapter ranges from “The KJV is not in our language” to “The KJV does not fail to communicate God’s words.” These two thoughts are absolutely contradictory. This speaks to the credibility of his argument in a foundational way. Is the KJV a different language, or can it be understood in countless places? Ward seems to view himself as a modern day Martin Luther who is saving the church from captivity to the KJV, even saying himself “I can want no other.” Ward presents the case to his reader that it is a massive problem that people are reading the KJV. Even though Ward has all of the other modern options, he makes his reader believe that he has no other option for him and his kids, when no such problem exists. At the end of the chapter, Ward hints that the KJV simply needs an update, which Ward “graciously” offered his services to TBS a while back. At this point, Ward’s reader should be skeptical. Why is Ward so motivated to retire the KJV? Up to this point, all he has offered is contradiction after contradiction, as I have catalogued in my review.

Authorized Review – Chapter 4: Learning Words is Difficult

This article is the fifth in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.

Introduction

Thus far in Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, the reader is being introduced to the idea that the King James Bible is more difficult to read than people may think. The problem with the KJV, according to Ward, is the “False Friends,” which give the illusion to the reader that they understand what they are reading while in reality, they do not. Though he admits that these “False Friends” do not occur that often in comparison to the whole of the KJV, the reader is presented with the reality that they are seriously problematic, despite not affecting doctrine. My reader should get the impression so far that much of Ward’s messaging is conflicting and paradoxical. In Chapter 4, Ward addresses the topic of the comprehensibility of the KJV is as a whole by responding to the claim that many KJV readers make regarding its reading comprehension level. 

This of course needs to be addressed by Ward, because if the Flesch-Kincaid tool is used to assess the KJV’s readability against the ESV’s readability, the KJV apparently wins. Ward argues that the tool is not suited for the English of the KJV, and therefore this line of reasoning is null. I tend to agree with Ward here, though it is fair to point out that the computer tool that assigns reading comprehension level presents the KJV as far more intelligible than Ward has tried to argue. What the reader might take away from this is that Ward has presented another piece of evidence in favor the KJV. Since I agree that computer tools are not an absolute rule for determining readability, I instead want to use this space to again comment on Ward’s rhetorical strategy. 

Rhetoric 

After four chapters, Ward reveals what seems to be a key motivation for writing this book. 

“I do not believe that competent speakers of contemporary English should be required to look up English words in a Bible translation when commonly known equivalents are available.”

Ibid., 55

The problem does not seem to be the KJV, the problem is that Ward takes issue with people needing to look up words while reading their Bible. He goes on to say that computer models should not be used to gauge readability, people should.

“So how can we determine the reading level of the KJV? I suggest that av1611.org passed right over the best measure: people. If reading difficulty is the number one reason people set aside the KJV in favor of modern translations, then perhaps they know better than their computers. In fact, it’s a little odd that some would presume to tell numerous Bible readers, “No, you can read the KJV just fine. My computer says so.””

Ibid., 59

So now the foundational premise of Ward’s argument is again presented as something that must be established upon anecdote and personal experience. Further, he seems to have misunderstood the entire purpose of KJV readers producing a computer based model for the readability of the KJV. It is not to tell KJV readers that it is readable, it is to demonstrate to KJV critics that it is readable. KJV readers already know it is comprehensible because they read it daily. This being the case, Ward relies heavily on anecdotes to support his point, since the data he could appeal to does not work in his favor. The reader is introduced to Ward’s friend who is doing mission work in South America. 

“And yet a KJV-Only acquaintance of mine who is a missionary in the lone English-speaking country in South America told me, “I have found that people living in the jungles of Guyana are having no problem reading and memorizing passages of the King James Version.” I know my friend is not a liar, but I also have a hard time accepting that what he’s saying is true—not because a computer told me the KJV was harder to read than the NIV, but because I’m a flesh-and-blood reader. I know when something is easy or hard to read, and so do you. I have regular trouble following the KJV. I think you and the jungle dwellers of Guyana do too.”

Ibid., 59-60

At this point the reader has to ask, “Okay Mark Ward, you say that ‘people’ are the best gauge for determining readability, but when a person tells you that people living in jungles can understand it, you don’t believe him?” Ward continues to prop himself up as a “language nerd” and a “flesh-and-blood reader,” but I am beginning to question the reliability of Ward’s self-praise. Even if we place the KJV at a college reading level, which is an exceedingly high evaluation, Ward has a doctorate. How is it that a textbook author, doctor, and self-proclaimed “language nerd” have “regular trouble following” a book that is commonly accepted as being between a 5th and 12th grade reading level? My common refrain holds true, that Ward’s messaging is very confused, and at this point, difficult to believe.

Ward continues his argument by saying that,

“In my judgment, the KJV isn’t at any recognized “reading level.” Not fifth grade, not twelfth grade, not grad school, not age eighty-six. The whole concept of “reading level” assumes that we’re talking about more or less contemporary language.”

Ibid., 60

This is where the chapter utterly unravels. Ward insists that the KJV simply cannot be classified into a reading level because apparently it’s not a contemporary language. If this is the case, what language is Ward proposing that it is? Are those that enjoy the KJV bilingual? I really do not think so. There are pre-existing categories for English which fall into Old, Middle, and Modern. Ward admits in a previous chapter that the KJV is early modern English. If the argument is that the KJV cannot even be classified into a reading level, I’m afraid we’ve ventured into the realm of absurdity. The timeline of this chapter is truly a wild ride. Ward, when faced with computer analysis that disagrees with his assessment, advocates against the tool that disagrees with him by simply saying it’s irrelevant, and then proceeds to argue that the KJV cannot even be assigned a reading comprehension level. It reminds me of somebody who loses a board game, and instead of admitting defeat, flips the table and scatters the pieces all over the floor.

Conclusion

Ward ends the chapter by offering a solution that already exists in many KJV text blocks. 

“I could imagine that footnotes (“halt here means limp”; “commendeth here means showcases”) would allow us to have our KJV and read it too.”

Ibid., 60

There is an important point to note here. Ward indicates in this chapter that the KJV cannot be assigned a reading level because apparently it’s not a “contemporary language.” I have argued that the KJV will need an update when today’s written literature is as far from the KJV as the KJV is from middle English. A quick search of a section of Chaucer will give my reader insight as to just how far that gap must be. The discerning reader should see past the rhetoric of Ward’s argument and recognize how absurd it is to suggest that the KJV is so archaic that it cannot even be assigned a reading level.

The most interesting observation I have about Authorized thus far is that every single one of Ward’s arguments is contradicted by his own words. He says that the KJV is difficult to read, while most people who read a Bible read it. He says that the KJV has “False Friends,” but not very many in comparison to the whole book. He says that “False Friends” deceive the reader, and at the same time do not affect doctrine. He says that the readability of the KJV should be established by what people say, but if they do say it’s readable we shouldn’t believe them. The amount of confused messaging in this book is staggering. 

If it is true that Ward’s issue with the KJV is that people shouldn’t have to look up difficult words when an easier one exists, it should be noted that this problem is solved in many KJV text blocks, most notably the Westminster Reference Bible sold by Trinitarian Bible Society. If this is our approach to the Bible, it is also important to ask the question, “How colloquial do we want our Bible to be?” Even more importantly, I have yet to determine why this book was even written. So far, Ward introduces problems, explains how the problems aren’t actually problems, and then offers a solution which already exists.

Authorized Review – Chapter 3: Not so Difficult to Read

This article is the fourth in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.

Introduction

So far in this review series of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward has communicated to his reader that the King James, while being mostly intelligible, has many places that will trip the reader up, often times without the reader knowing they have been confused about the meaning of a passage. In this review, I have tried to highlight the central premise of the book and the audience, namely that a) the KJV is difficult to read and b) that Ward seems to be primarily trying to convince people who do not read the KJV. I have also pointed out that Ward’s arguments are often contradictory and he tends to undermine his own arguments. The reason I have chosen to also bring attention to the rhetorical elements of Ward’s writing is an attempt to draw out what seems to be the intended purpose of the work. 

Prior to reviewing chapter 3 on “False Friends,” I want to show my reader why I have chosen to focus on the rhetoric so much in my review. Take for example these three quotes:

“So if the KJV is indeed too difficult to understand for modern readers, we’ve got a significant problem—the most significant problem a translation can have: What’s the point in using a translation in old English that people can’t understand anymore?”

Ibid., 18-19

“I thought I knew what the KJV was saying, but over the years I’ve discovered that, far too often and through no fault of anyone I can think of, I did not.”

Ibid., 28


“The KJV is not unintelligible overall. As I said earlier, the fact that 55 percent of today’s Bible readers are reading the KJV suggests that the KJV is *not* impossibly foreign and ancient.”

Ibid., 118

The reader should take notice of the conflicted messaging in Ward’s book exemplified by the quotations above, which is why I’ve decided to highlight the rhetoric so heavily. Early on in the book we are introduced with a problem – that the KJV is too difficult to read, and that Ward discovered he had difficulty reading it. Yet all throughout the book the reader is told that the KJV is intelligible, and that most people can allegedly read it. One of the goals of this review series is to comment on this conundrum. Does Ward believe that the KJV is readable, or does he not? Is Ward arguing that while most people read the KJV, they cannot understand it? More importantly, does Ward offer any solutions to this problem other than “get rid of it”? 

In chapter 3, Ward introduces his reader to what I consider his pinnacle argument – dead words and false friends. He continues to develop his narrative, which is that his reader, and the readers of the KJV, are seemingly unaware of the difficulties of reading the KJV.



“There are two major ways language change affects individual words in the KJV. One we all know; the other, I’m convinced, most of us don’t recognize—through no fault of our own.”

Ibid., 29

Ward’s point is that there are many places in the KJV that seem intelligible, but are actually not, due to the change in language over time. So the reader of the KJV may believe that they understand the text, but actually do not.

Dead Words and False Friends

It is true that there are words in the KJV that are no longer used today. It is also true that there are words which have evolved in meaning since the 17th century. Ward argues that this is the “biggest problem in understanding the KJV.” He spends the chapter analyzing six examples of what he considers to be “False Friends.” This builds on the narrative that the KJV, while seemingly intelligible, is actually not.


“And each one of them will mislead you through no fault of your own—unless ignorance of the subtleties of an English no one speaks anymore is a fault. And I don’t think it is.”

Ibid., 32

According to Ward, the readers of the KJV are unsuspecting victims. I want to take a moment to highlight that this is a strange rhetorical strategy as it seems to indicate that an entire subset of Christians are being fooled by the translation they read. That perhaps they are not intelligent enough to know when they are reading an archaic word. One thing I will point out, is that even in the case where a “false friend” is misunderstood, reading a text in its context resolves almost all of these issues. This is how English, and most languages work. Let me demonstrate by commenting on an example in Authorized. Ward begins by using the word “halt” to demonstrate that this word is employed to mean “limp” rather than “stop.” His point is that if you interpret “halt” as “stop,” you are being tricked by the KJV. Yet, the sense of the passage is not lost, even if the reader takes the modern definition of halt. “How long will you pause between two opinions?” The reader does not miss the point of the passage, even if they read it incorrectly. More importantly, this highlights the flaw in the approach of using “False Friends” to demonstrate that the KJV is unintelligible in places. Context is just as important as vocabulary in reading comprehension, and even when a reader doesn’t know a word, the context supplies the meaning. American children learn this as early as grade school.

The average reader is not taught to read by atomizing every word in a sentence, defining each word, and putting the whole sentence together after defining each word. A sentence is not a puzzle, it is a thought. We read by first reading the whole sentence and surrounding sentences, and use context clues to understand words that we didn’t understand, or words that were employed in a way that is not typical in colloquial English. This is largely how children learn new words growing up, by reading above their skill level. The problem of false friends disappears if the reader simply reads the KJV like they would any other book. Ward uses “Filthiness is not convenient” as another example of a false friend. The context helps supply the meaning. And if the reader is even a little bit ambitious, a simple internet search of the word “Convenient” yields the very definition that is apparently unintelligible – suitable, appropriate, or fitting as adjectives. If we consider context as an important part of understanding a language, the average reader will easily catch this.

Ward argues that the KJV reader simply won’t know this unless they have an Oxford English dictionary on hand. This sort of sounds like the “You’ll never have a calculator in your pocket everywhere you go” argument that your grade school math teacher said in school. Assuming the reader doesn’t have a cell phone, in our example above, context tells the reader that Paul doesn’t mean “Favorable to one’s comfort,” and even the list of modern adjectives include the definition that was originally intended by the KJV translators. The only reason false friends would trip somebody up so badly is if they read the Bible word by word, rather than in complete sentences. Perhaps this is the fruit of New Testament exegesis classes in seminary, which train pastors to do exactly that. The “experts” in Greek and Hebrew are trained to read in a way that nobody has ever read. They are taught to make elaborate diagrams and to split each word out into its own organism. To demonstrate this point, Dan Wallace did his PhD work on the word “The”. The average reader knows that this is not how English, or any language, works. At this point I might invite my reader to consider the possibility that Ward’s entire thesis is aimed at addressing a problem that only an academic could have.

Conclusion

Ward uses “False Friends” to tell his reader that “you are not expected to keep track of all the changes English has undergone in its long lifetime” (43). That of course is not the expectation put on the KJV reader, and it is not even required to read the KJV. The KJV is written in early modern English, and anybody who speaks and reads modern English will be able to understand it. They will also be able to identify when they do not understand it, if they read the Bible normally. Ward even notes that,

“To be clear, I don’t think any Christian doctrines are affected by the undetectable (or the detectable) shifts in English that have occurred in the last four hundred years.”

Ibid., 43

This quote is imperative to understanding Ward’s argument from a theological perspective. If our doctrine of Scripture generally states that one of the purposes of Scripture is to be “profitable for doctrine” (2 Tim. 3:16), and none of these so called “false friends” and archaisms impact doctrine, Ward’s thesis has no theological basis at all. Again, I will highlight that Ward dismantles his own argument in the very chapter he introduces it. The reader is presented with a problem, the problem is described and supported, and then Ward seemingly details how the problem isn’t really a problem. The KJV is too difficult to read, but most Christians can read it. The KJV has deceptive “False Friends,” but these do not affect doctrine. The KJV has false friends, “but not very many given how large the Bible is” (49).

The largest problem for Ward seems to be that he believes the average reader simply will not know when they encounter a “False Friend.” Perhaps if they read the Bible word by word, this is true. Yet the average person does not read anything this way, they read sentence by sentence. Ward readily admits that “Many Christians simply disagree over whether archaisms in the KJV are truly a big deal.” Time and time again, the reader is presented with problems that Ward cannot demonstrate to be actual problems, except for him and the friends from his anecdotes.  

As a KJV reader, from the first page of Authorized, I have noted the conflicted messaging, and the fact that the whole picture has not been presented to the reader. If the KJV is intelligible, and false friends are not as prolific or problematic as people think, what exactly is the problem with the KJV? The reader should be asking themselves if there is more to this story than difficult words. Why is a self-professed “language nerd” seemingly advocating against the most beautiful expression of the modern English language? As I read this book the first and second and third time, I had to ask myself, “What is Ward trying to say here?”

Authorized Review – Chapter 2: Jokes & Anecdotes

This article is the third in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible. 

Introduction

In the last article, I addressed Ward’s evaluation of what is lost if the King James Bible is retired. In this article, I will review Chapter 2 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, where Ward readies his audience for the pinnacle of his argument – false friends. If you follow Ward online, you know that the thrust of his work is identifying false friends and making the case that this is a primary reason to put down the KJV. He begins chapter 2 by proposing that the NIV is the probable successor to the KJV based on sales figures for the popular translation. The reader should note that sales figures are not a reason to adopt a translation. Christians should be concerned with whether or not the translation accurately translates the providentially preserved text from the original into a target language. Ward begins to develop his case for retiring the KJV in this chapter further by saying, “we’d better have very good reasons for giving it [KJV] up” (Ibid., 17). This gives the impression to the reader that Ward is about to present an argument that justifies all of the downsides to retiring the KJV. According to Ward, this reason is that people cannot understand it. It is “foreign and ancient.” As I noted in the introduction of my book review series, Ward’s own research and anecdotal experience seems to contradict this fact, but we will see how he develops this thought as we get further into the review. Throughout the work so far, this continues to be his driving argument. 

“So if the KJV is indeed too difficult to understand for modern readers, we’ve got a significant problem—the most significant problem a translation can have: What’s the point in using a translation in old English that people can’t understand anymore?”  

Ibid., 18-19

Ward introduces his primary argument with a huge “if”. He proposes that if it is the case that the KJV is too difficult to read, then we should retire it. As the reader will see, support for Ward’s argument is entirely dependent personal experience and anecdotes. He even admits that the KJV “falls in the same category, broadly speaking, in which our English belongs.” So far the reader has learned that 55% of English Bible readers use the KJV, Ward grew up reading the KJV, and that the King’s English falls into the same category of English that we speak today. The KJV is not old, middle, or Elizabethan English – it is early modern English written in a syntax and vocabulary that matches closely with the original languages. That is why the Trinitarian Bible Society has labeled it, “Biblical English.” Ward again drives home the point that, “I could not only understand but reproduce the major features of KJV diction as a young child.” Despite writing this multiple times in the book so far, Ward introduces his reader to yet another paradox, which I will highlight below. In this chapter, Ward discusses his transition from advocating for the KJV to advocating against the KJV. I will organize my review of chapter 2 into Ward’s anecdotes, his narrative, and his problem. 

Anecdotes

According to Ward, two major life experiences led to his shift in thinking. The first is that Ward has spent more time than the average Christian studying the Bible in various translations. The second is that he has spent years sharing the Gospel. In his experience, he argues that learning the English of the KJV is not a reasonable expectation to impose on the average Christian. Here’s the plot twist: He then admits that he actually has trouble reading certain passages in the KJV. After repeatedly stating that he understood the KJV growing up, he now says he actually cannot. He recalls an experience at a summer camp, where not one person of 10,000, pastors included, could understand the phrase, “fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” This is a perfect example where Matthew Henry could have helped Ward understand this “cryptic” passage. “Do not envy them their prosperity.” 

Ward attempts to convince his reader, with anecdote, that the passage is impossible to understand in the KJV. Gill, Calvin, and Henry all share the same opinion on the verse, so perhaps that is more of a testimony to the quality of modern scholarship than anything else. I’m more concerned that there were seminary trained pastors and college students at this camp that couldn’t understand this passage. It seems that somebody at that camp should have had access to a commentary, at least. Ward ends by presenting his reader with a strange hypothetical conversation between a child and an adult, where the child is presented as a guru of sorts by saying, “Well why didn’t the KJV translators just use the word I think they should have used?” This all contributes to the narrative that drives the primary argument of Ward’s book – that not only is the KJV too difficult to understand, the KJV translators could have used easier words and syntax. Even a child knows that much! In this chapter the reader begins to see the contradictions in Ward’s anecdotal evidence. This being the case, I encourage my reader to reflect on the value of such evidence as it pertains to Ward’s thesis.

Narrative

The narrative that Ward presents is that while most people can understand the KJV, there are verses that require a second look, and that many readers will not understand certain verses the first time around, if they ever do understand them. This is the entry point to Ward’s primary argument. Upon first glance, this standard could also result in every translation being considered for retirement if applied equally. The reality is, there are verses in every translation that require explanation. The NIV, for example, contains words such as “aloes,” “odious,” “stadia,” “sistrums” and so on. There are difficult concepts and words in the Bible that do not appear in our common vernacular. If we step outside of Ward’s narrative for a moment, it is plainly evident that the Bible isn’t easily understood in every place. 

“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood”  

2 Peter 3:16

The quoted material above is one of the Biblical proofs Ward uses to support his argument. The reader will see later that Ward will call upon Scripture to make the claim that if something can’t be understood, it cannot be of value to the people of God. It is important to recognize that Ward has relied heavily upon anecdotes to develop his narrative up to this point, and now he is beginning to invoke Scripture to support these anecdotes. In effect, Ward is saying, “These people I knew once didn’t understand this verse.” He is beginning to make the case to his reader, that while most people read the KJV, many of them don’t even know they can’t understand it.

Problem

The problem that Ward presents to his reader is that people that read the KJV cannot understand it, and sometimes don’t even know they cannot understand it. As a KJV reader, this feels extremely condescending. It assumes that the average Bible reader doesn’t try to understand difficult passages, or is too dull to know when they cannot understand a passage. Ward offers his reader some perspective on himself, which may help understand his book in addition to how Ward can make these types of claims about other Christians who read the KJV:

“I was a somewhat intellectually arrogant kid.”

Ibid., 25

This is in effect to say, “The only reason I thought I could understand the KJV was because I was arrogant.” While this is a very strange thing to say, I believe Ward has missed the point entirely. The problem he is presenting as a reason for retiring the KJV is simply a description of learning something new. Every Christian has to learn new words, no matter which translation they read. There are times when you are a child where you will misunderstand words and get them wrong, and not just in the Bible. This happens as easily reading a Goosebumps novel while you are learning to read. Getting words wrong is a part of the learning process.

It seems the argument that Ward is making is that the average Christian must learn more words to read the KJV than they would with modern translations. Yet as Ward loves to say, this seems to be more of a problem of quantity, not kind. The problem of Christians misunderstanding the Bible is not unique to KJV readers. There are many times where Christians believe they understand a passage, but then a pastor or friend comes along and informs them that they do not. If we again step outside of Ward’s narrative, it should be common sense that Christians do not understand the Bible perfectly in a vacuum. 

I will pause my review for a moment to make a point. Every Christian needs to study and be taught. What I have a difficult time understanding is why one would argue that this should be done to a lesser degree. We have seen Ward admit that reading the KJV improves literacy among other things, so why advocate for its retirement on these grounds? It is true that KJV readers must learn more words than modern Bible readers, but that is not a convincing argument for the KJV being put behind glass in a museum. In fact, it seems like a huge positive that our children would be raised with a higher reading comprehension vocabulary. And if this principle were truly adhered to among the academic types, why do these scholars constantly advocate for learning multiple languages to read the Scriptures? The same scholars who claim the KJV is too difficult to read also recommend learning the original Biblical languages to “go back to the Greek and Hebrew.” In any case, Ward’s argument takes the anecdotal experience of the few and projects it to the many. As we have already seen, and will see more later in this review, the case that Ward is building contradicts itself to such a degree that he presents and refutes his own thesis within the cover of his own book.

Conclusion

It is clear that so far in Authorized, Ward relies heavily upon rhetoric, anecdotes, and narrative building to convince his reader that the KJV should not be read. In this chapter, his primary argument is that KJV readers may think they understand what they are reading, but actually do not. The reader is led to believe that Ward’s difficulty must be a problem for everybody. Again I will highlight that the people who are likely to be convinced by these arguments are people that do not actually read the KJV. He uses an anecdote of a summer camp where not a single person, pastors included, could understand Psalm 37:8 to support this point. Ward uses personal experience and anecdotes to establish his premise to build a narrative that the KJV simply cannot be understood. What Ward seems to miss is that the average Bible reader cares deeply about the words in the pages of their Bible. They study the Bible. They try to understand the Bible. It is not prideful to have a sound working knowledge of Scripture. I tested all of Ward’s example passages against some commentaries that are available online for free and all of them provided helpful and thorough explanations of the passages in question.

The most off-putting part of Ward’s book so far is the juvenile tone he takes. He inserts poorly placed and in my opinion, inappropriate jokes and commentary in the middle of a very serious topic. In a piece of persuasive writing, Ward discusses his failed attempts at impressing girls and his “smug satisfaction” of being intellectually superior than his peers in grade school, among other things. His premise for chapter 2 is also incredibly demeaning and insulting to the people who read the KJV. Ward discusses how smart he is, how much he has studied, and his self-proclaimed expertise in linguistics in order to make the concluding point: that God broke him of his pride and showed him that he didn’t actually understand the KJV. Ward seems to be making the point that if he, in all of his learning, cannot understand the KJV, neither can his reader. Thankfully he clarifies that,

“just because I was arrogant and ignorant doesn’t mean all other KJV readers are the same.”  

Ibid., 27

Authorized Review – Chapter 1: A Strange Start

This article is the second in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible. 

Introduction

In the first article of this series, I highlighted several key observations from the introduction of Mark Ward’s book, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible. Notably that most people who read a Bible read the KJV (55%), that Mark Ward can read the KJV, and that the audience for this work seems to be those who do not read the KJV. The goal of this work seems to be to bolster the narrative that the KJV should be retired due to its lack of readability. In chapter 1 of the work, Ward gives the reader five things we lose as “the church stops using the KJV.” 

He opens the chapter by listing some of the English Bibles leading up to the KJV to demonstrate that retiring Bible translations is a normal part of the Bible translation lifecycle. What he does not tell his reader is that these Bibles which were retired leading up to the KJV were extremely similar to the KJV, and presented to the reader the same text form as the KJV. The largest shift from these Bibles to the KJV was spelling and typesetting. In other words, these Bibles really weren’t all that different from each other. What is described as a normal process doesn’t offer the kind of analysis I would have hoped for. The KJV was produced at the end of a technological advancement – the printing press. It would have been nice to see more thoughtful analysis on what technological or scholarly change resulted in the “translation lifecycle” being kicked off the second time. Considering how long the KJV ruled supreme, the sudden advocation for it’s retirement is not what I would consider a normal process.  

The shift from the KJV to modern translations isn’t as simple as updated spelling and syntax. It involves changing and removing verses from the underlying text and applying different translation methodologies. This is a huge gap that is completely ignored in Ward’s analysis. Ward says, “I don’t think many people have carefully considered what will happen if we all decide to let the KJV die and another take its office” (Ibid., 5). This signals that Ward believes he is writing to an audience who has not considered these issues, which points again to the reality that his audience are those who are not familiar with the KJV and its history and impact. Those that have not made such considerations are likely in the camp of people who have already adopted a modern translation. In this article, I will review Ward’s take on the “what we lose” discussion by evaluating his commentary on each of the five things. 

We Lose Intergenerational Ties in the Body of Christ 

Ward begins this section by appealing to an anecdote where his Grandma gifts his children their first Bibles due to, by his own admission, indecisiveness. 

“I spent an inordinate amount of time before marriage considering which Bible translations I would hand to my children (inordinate because I didn’t even have a girlfriend at the time). I dithered so long in this decision, even after marriage and the birth of my three children, that Grandma ended up deciding for me by buying the kids Bibles. And one of the reasons I struggled so hard was that I knew that if I didn’t hand my kids KJVs I would be severing some rich connections between them and their heritage.”  

Ibid., 6

Ward rightly notes that if he rejected this gift, he would be “severing some rich connections between them and their heritage.” Ward makes many powerful points here. The KJV connects Protestant Christians to their heritage, helps them become “skilled readers”, gives them easy access to the theological works of the Puritans and other post-Reformation divines, helps them understand the theological lexicon of English Christianity, helps them understand the hymns and psalms sung in churches today, and even provides a connection to the older generation who grew up on the KJV. 

Despite this powerful argument for retaining the KJV, Ward ends this section by stating that while the strings that connect Protestants to the past are important, “we can’t keep all the strings. Some of them must or even should be cut. But let’s at least be aware of what we’re doing” (Ibid., 8). This section exemplifies the paradoxical nature of Ward’s thesis. In one breath, he gives great reasons for retaining the KJV, and at the same time argues that modern Christians should cut ties with it. This is, as I’ve come to recognize it, is a trademark of Ward’s rhetorical strategy. What the careful reader will notice is that Authorized offers many strong arguments to actually retain the KJV while simultaneously dismissing these reasons as unimportant.

We Lose Scripture Memory By Osmosis 

This section does a great job demonstrating the the damage that has been caused by the inundation of Bible translations into the Christian church. 

“When an entire church, or group of churches, or even an entire nation of Christians, uses basically one Bible translation, genuinely wonderful things happen.”

Ibid., 8

If it is wonderful for the church to share a translation, what word should we use to describe a Christian church that does not have a unified text? Awful? Dreadful? There is tremendous value in a church sharing the same translation, which Ward highlights in this section. In addition to Ward’s point, which is that much of Scripture is memorized in community, I will add that theology can be done more effectively in a community with one Bible. Unlike the Bibles leading up to the KJV, modern Bibles take different textual and translational choices which change the meaning of passages. In the best case scenario, competing translational choices add an additional step of exegesis into the church by forcing members to decide which translation is better, rather than simply being taught by the same text. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat in a Bible study that devolved into debates over which translational choice is the “best.” Here is yet another example of where Ward provides a powerful argument against his own thesis, which we will see later is to read a plethora of translations.

Ward then makes one of the most compelling arguments from God’s providence in favor of the KJV.


“But no other translation seems likely to serve in the role [of a unified translation]. If indeed the King is dying, it is just as sure that none of his sons or cousins have managed to become the heir apparent.”

Ibid., 9, brackets added

In other words, the Christian church had unity under one translation for centuries, now they do not, and it does not appear that this will happen in the age of modern translations. This is a point often presented by KJV advocates – that it will not change, and the church can rally around it. If there is no hope for unification around a single modern translation on the horizon, it seems to make more sense to rally around a translation that most of the church already reads.

We Lose a Cultural Touchstone 

Ward opens this section by again comparing the shift from the KJV to modern versions to the shift from the KJV predecessors by using the Coverdale Bible as an example. The KJV is a polished and refined pinnacle of the translations produced during this time in history, which explains the dominance of the KJV during that time and beyond. The largest difference between the Coverdale and KJV is updated spelling and typesetting, and the modern reader would have a much harder time with the Coverdale for this reason. See John 1:1-2 as an example.


“In the beginning was the worde, and the worde was with God, and God was ye worde. The same was in the beginning wt God.” 

The Coverdale is actually a great example of a Bible that needed an update for standardized spelling, and the KJV was a perfect successor. It was also based in Tyndale’s New Testament, which the KJV retains up to 95%. Comparing the Coverdale to the KJV is like comparing a red delicious apple to a honeycrisp apple, whereas comparing the KJV to the NIV is like comparing an apple to a grapefruit. It is important that the reader understands the rhetorical tool Ward is employing here. 

It is interesting that Ward then employs Dawkins and Hitchins, infamous critics of Christianity, to rebuke himself and the modern Christian church. Here is Hitchins on the importance of the KJV:

“A culture that does not possess [the KJV’s] common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update [the Bible] or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare.”

Ibid., 11

Even the heathen can recognize the importance of the KJV. Ward finishes the section by making a theological blunder. He states that Hitchens is “confusing ‘the Bible’ and translations of the Bible.” Here is a reminder to the reader that an accurate translation of the original languages is the Bible. The Scriptures were immediately inspired in the original languages, and accurate translations of these texts are mediately inspired and are equally the Bible (WCF 1.8, LBCF 1.8). This theological mistake is often used against people who advocate for the use of a single translation. What most people who make this argument don’t realize is that it sets a precedent for an undefined Bible.

We Lose Some of the Implicit Trust Christians Have in the Bibles in Their Laps 

It is difficult to understand at this point why Ward has argued to sever ties with the KJV. Not only has he made several compelling arguments for it’s retention, he has eviscerated any case that can be made for adopting a modern translation. 

“It follows on from the second point: as the KJV fades, so does at least some of the trust Christians have in their Bible translations.”

Ibid., 11

“Bible translations succeed or fail based on Christian trust, because only a vanishingly small percentage of Bible readers can, and even fewer do, go through the laborious process of checking their English translations against the Greek and Hebrew. The vast majority of Bible readers simply take—they have to take—the word of others that the translations in their laps are faithful. When scholarly Christians and ministry-leading Christians go to battle over Bible translations, in dog fights far above the it’s-all-Greek-to-me heads of people in the pew, some of the flak falls on the flock.”

Ibid., 12-13

Not only does Ward point out that ever-evolving translations diminish trust that Christians have in their Bible, but also that the modern method of Bible reading imposes a gate keeping process that pressures Christians to be bound to a lexicon while reading so that they can understand what “it really says in the original.” The layman is encouraged to learn Greek and Hebrew to understand the “true” meaning of their English Bible, rather than simply reading what’s on their lap. I have argued before that this establishes a neo-papacy with the academics as pope. You can’t read your Bible for yourself, the scholars must tell you how to read it, what verses to read, and how those verses ought to be translated.

We Lose Some of the Implicit Trust Non-Christians Have in Scripture 

The title of this section speaks volumes to the damage that has been done in the last 100 years. I recall a recent debate where a belligerent atheist held up a KJV, tried to throw it in the trash, and then held up a blue Nestle-Aland text to his Christian opponents and mocked them for not having a Bible. While I do not think the critiques that Atheists have of Holy Scripture are particularly important, it demonstrates how devastating the current state of the English Bible is to Christian apologetics. Ward takes notice of this as well.

“The more Bible translations we have, and particularly the more Christian fur they see flying over them on the Internet, the less reason non-Christians will have for believing that the Bible speaks with one voice. A rising tide can sink all boats, at least a little.”  

Ibid., 13-14

He again quotes Hitchens:


“Not to over-prize consensus, it does possess certain advantages over randomness and chaos. Since the appearance of the so-called “Good News Bible,” there have been no fewer than 48 English translations published in the United States. And the rate shows no sign of slackening. Indeed, the trend today is toward what the trade calls “niche Bibles.” These include the “Couples’ Bible,” “One Year New Testament for Busy Moms,” “Extreme Teen Study Bible,” “Policeman’s Bible,” and—somehow unavoidably—the “Celebrate Recovery Bible.” (Give them credit for one thing: the biblical sales force knows how to “be fruitful and multiply.”) In this cut-price spiritual cafeteria, interest groups and even individuals can have their own customized version of God’s word.”

Ibid., 14-15

Ward ends this section with a powerful retort to the atheist’s critique when he says,

“As it is written in the prophets: ‘Ouch.’”

Ibid., 15

We often hear that the Modern Critical Text is necessary for apologetics, yet in Ward’s own words we see that this is not the case.

Conclusion

In the first chapter of his book, Ward makes a compelling argument for the benefit of retaining the KJV, and highlights the damage that modern versions have had on unity in the church and Christian apologetics. Ward lightens the mood by presenting his reader with what seems to be a poorly placed joke.



“Should we permit the KJV to slide into disuse, when we lose so many things of value along with it? Okay, maybe the bath water is getting a bit tepid, but the babies—think of the babies!”

Ibid., 16

Yes, after demonstrating the serious problems modern versions have caused and the opinions of prominent atheists on the matter, Ward feels it is appropriate to offer his reader some light-hearted humor. He ends the chapter by asking, “What do we do with the KJV?” I think a more appropriate question is, “What do we do with Mark Ward?” How is the reader of Authorized supposed to reconcile his paradoxical thesis?

Thus far in Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward has shown his reader several important realities: The first is that of the people who read their Bible, most read the King James Version. The second is that there is a tremendous benefit to the unity of the church and to Christian apologetics in retaining a unified translation. The third is that there is no other translation that has taken the spot of the KJV or can take the spot of the KJV. Despite this, it seems that Ward is working towards telling us why we should cut ties with the KJV. As a KJV reader, Ward has done a great job in reassuring me that my decision to put down my ESV was the right call. 

A Review of “Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible”: Introduction

Introduction 

I wrote the first article on the “Young, Textless, and Reformed” blog on September 4, 2019. Since then, I have sought to tackle the theological problems of the Modern Critical Text, the CBGM, the modern doctrine of inspiration, as well as to shine light on many of the positions of the men and women who are actively involved in creating Bibles for the Christian church. I have examined the weaknesses of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and presented the Scriptural and historical theological position of Protestant Christianity. Up until this point, the focus of this blog has been especially to examine the theological implications of the modern critical methods and associated texts. Having said what I have to say regarding that, I want to now turn to reviewing a work by Mark Ward called “Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.” 

My goal in reviewing this work is manifold. I want to use it as an opportunity to examine the power of rhetoric, to clarify places of misrepresentation or perhaps misunderstanding within the pages of Ward’s work, and to present simple counter arguments to the many claims made by Ward. I want to provide an analysis and in some places, refutation, of the content found within Ward’s work. In this introductory article, I will begin reviewing the introduction by taking a look at three notable components of Ward’s work – rhetoric, anecdotes, and a narrative. 

Rhetoric, Anecdotes, and a Narrative

Rhetoric

Beginning with the cover of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, the reader is introduced to the whimsical tone of Mark Ward. Starting with the title, the reader can expect to encounter at least two major themes: How the King James Bible (KJV) can be used, and how it can be misused. The introduction gives the reader a good idea of how the rest of the book will feel. Ward weaves facts and quippy commentary together, following this basic formula throughout the work: providing a 1) statistic or statement, followed by 2) some sort of joke or anecdote, and 3) ending with a concluding thought. This pattern is exemplified in the first three sentences of the book. 

“1) Out of every 100 Americans who pulled a Bible off a shelf today, 55 of them pulled down a King James Version. 2) I feel fairly safe in saying that the King James is the only 1611 release still on any bestseller lists. 3) All the same, 55 percent is only slightly more than half, and the trend line is clear—for it started near 100 percent. The English-speaking Christian church, which was once almost completely unified in using the KJV, is no longer unified around a particular Bible translation. Why? Because people say they can no longer understand it.”

Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Lynnea Fraser, and Danielle Thevenaz (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 1.

The above quote is representative of Ward’s style as an author and exemplifies well-written persuasive writing. To demonstrate this point, note in the quoted passage above. Ward begins with a data point – 55% of Christians who read a Bible read a King James. He inserts a joke, and then provides his opinion that this clearly demonstrates that his interpretation of this number is that King James readership is on the decline. He then offers an explanation for this data point – that people simply cannot understand the KJV any longer. 

This is arguably the most foundational premise of the entire book – that people cannot understand the KJV any longer. Yet this claim is contradicted by the data point he provided in the first sentence of the work, that 55% of Christians who read their Bible, read the King James. That is to say, of the people who read their Bible, most of them can understand the KJV. Further, this explanation leaves the reader wanting for an adequate explanation of this data point. If it is true that people are abandoning the KJV because they can’t understand it, why do most Christians who read a Bible read it? Despite the fact that one of the key textbooks used to train pastors is Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, the KJV captures significant readership. It should also be noted that no other translation even comes close to the 55% readership number that the King James enjoys. 

By presenting part of the whole picture, the reader is introduced to a partial explanation, though it is presented as the whole explanation for why the King James Bible, according to Ward, should be on its way out. In doing this, Ward is able to present the case that the only reason people retain the KJV is due to “habit, conviction, or merely a loyalty and love that we quite naturally attach to things we value.” Ward does not address a fundamental group that retains the KJV – those who do so because the underlying manuscript readings are preserved, and that the translation of those readings is most accurate. So we see how rhetoric is a powerful tool used to funnel the reader down a path that neglects to address a primary reason many people retain the KJV. This is a critical flaw with the premise of the book. If the reason people are abandoning the KJV, assuming they are, is due to its difficult vocabulary and syntax, why is it still the most widely read Bible version in the English speaking world? Is it possible that there is more to this story that the reader is not being told? Abundantly so. 

Anecdotes 

Ward’s anecdotes demonstrate that I may be onto something with my first point. 

“I grew up reading and hearing the KJV, and I don’t recall having any trouble with the verbiage. I don’t remember ever being baffled by, “We had been as Sodoma” (Rom 9:29) or “Let him that glorieth glory in this” (Jer 9:24). Early on I felt a sufficient mastery of Elizabethan diction not only to read it but to speak it. I even remember as a third grader asking my beloved teacher, Mrs. Page, if we could all use King James English for a day. (She said yes, but it never happened.… Little kids remember these things.) Somehow toddlers managed to learn this style of speech, in a time before not just antibiotics but Sesame Street.”

Ibid., 1

So it seems that Ward, who grew up reading the KJV, even as a child, had no issues reading and even speaking it. He was taught to read the KJV growing up, and therefore he could read the KJV growing up. This anecdote is devastating to the narrative presented as the introduction continues. The point of highlighting this is that the premise of the book is that people simply don’t understand KJV English, which Ward has seemingly debunked in the first few pages of his book. If anything, he is telling his reader that he was able to overcome the greatest challenge of reading the KJV as a child. Keep this in mind as Ward develops his thesis throughout the book.

The Narrative 

The reader has seen two vitally important pieces of information thus far: That most Christians who read their Bible can understand the KJV, and that Ward can understand the KJV. These facts are not highlighted by Ward himself, but he has said both plainly. This seems to work against his premise that people are abandoning the KJV because “they can no longer understand it.” Here is where the reader is presented with a narrative, which essentially goes like this: “Many people cannot understand KJV English, and therefore it is on its way out, and we should allow it to retire.” 

“But there are people, many people, who insist that KJV English is too difficult. Many of them, in turn, have already jettisoned the KJV.”

Ibid., 1,2

A major theme of Ward’s book is detailing the difficulty of the Authorized Version, though he constantly works against his own argument. Ward goes on to point out that the New York Times, hardly a bastion of intellectuals, frequently uses phrases which find their origin in the King James Bible. He even employs a word found in the KJV, “Hitherto” to further his point, which seems to work against the thesis of his book.

While it is true that people find the KJV difficult to read, it seems, based on the data Ward presents the reader with, that most Christians who read their Bible (55%) do not find it so difficult to read that they abandon it. It appears then that the audience for this work are those “who insist that KJV English is too difficult.” So the premise of the book as found in the introduction does not seem to be based  on Ward’s personal experience reading the KJV as a child, or with the data that says most Bible reading Christians can read the KJV, but rather on the “people, many people,” who cannot understand it. 

Conclusion

The introduction of Ward’s book is interesting. He introduces the reader to data and anecdotes which point towards the reality that the KJV is readable, while setting up a narrative which says it’s not. Further, Ward explains how he himself came to understand KJV English, by being taught KJV English growing up. At the end of the introduction, Ward leaves his reader with this interesting thought:

 
“So what do we do with the KJV? Teach people to read it? Revise it? Chuck it? No, no, and no. Read on.” (Ibid., 4.)

Despite being taught KJV English growing up, Ward argues against teaching people to read it. As I finished the introduction, I got the impression that I was missing something. If the KJV is readable, and Ward could read it as a child, what is the dilemma here? What problem is trying to be solved, and what is Ward’s answer?

In the introduction, Ward makes two observations which seem to be far more important than the thesis of his book:

  1. The transition away from the KJV has brought confusion and conflict within the church 
  2. The Christian church, once unified around the KJV, is no longer unified around a Bible translation

These seem to be far more concerning than low reading comprehension in the church, but maybe I’m alone in thinking that. Interestingly enough, Ward’s audience seems to be those that do not read the KJV rather than those that do. Even though his thesis is a persuasive argument advocating for the retirement of the translation, his introduction gives the impression that the KJV can be read, and not only that, is widely enjoyed.