What about the King James Version?
Dr. Reagan and I on our ministry’s television show Christ in Prophecy had the pleasure of asking this question of Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n’ roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become a great defender of Christianity in America. He joined us to talk about the validity of the Bible as the foundation of our Christian faith.
Eric Barger: I preach from the King James Version. I use it in my writings. But, I read other versions and say that no matter what version you are reading, if there is something there that you don’t understand and there is something that doesn’t make sense to you, everybody use a Strong’s Concordance. You can get one on your iPhone or your computer, or the paper book, and everybody should have access to one. It’s not rocket science since everybody should be able to access it. With Strong’s Concordance we all ought to be able to look at the original words that the English Bible translations are taken from. You can’t literally translate from every Greek word into English. Sometimes it takes a sentence to make one Greek word make sense and vice versa with the two languages. So, rather than argue about which version Paul preached from, and I’ve heard that one before, remember which version Jesus had to preach from.
Again, I use the King James and I love the King James. I love the poetry of it and so on. But, if I ever run into a problem or something I don’t quite understand, I think it’s healthy to always look at the original words. You are going to learn more that way when you dig into it. I go back to the Greek and Hebrew and look at them because they are the original language that the Bible was written in. If you really want to argue what the best Bible is, it’s the Greek and Hebrew versions.
Nathan Jones: Did you then recommend any modern translation, because there a lot of camps who say that King James is the only version that we can use. Then there are others who will say it’s okay to use the NIV or the NAS. And then, of course, we’ve got all the people who don’t even speak English. What about them?
Eric Barger: Sure, and there is no Japanese King James Version, for example. There is no King James Version in a lot of these other languages in the world. I don’t necessarily recommend or not recommend any of those. I’m not trying to be a fence sitter, mind you. I personally will use the King James Bible, but I will read the others and I have them and I am glad that they are there so that I can find out from more modern English just what some of these ideas mean or what some of the sentences are saying. But, I’ll always take it back to the Greek and Hebrew as I think they are the key.
Dr. Reagan: I personally have a great admiration for the King James Version. It’s had a great impact upon Western society. I enjoy the beauty of its language. Many, many of the terms that we use in English today come from its pages. It’s as beautiful as anything that Shakespeare ever wrote, and so I really have a lot of respect for it.
What most people don’t realize is that the King James is only 400 years old, and prior to that for over a 1,000 years the only Bible that the Western world really had was the Latin Vulgate that Jerome put together. It served the Western world a lot longer than the King James has.
When I run into people who call themselves “King James Version Only” claiming that version is the only one you can use or otherwise you are apostate, I wonder what did they think was going on for 1,200 years when people didn’t have their favorite version? And yet, they came to know the Lord and they gave their lives to Him.
When I was growing up as a kid the only version we had was King James, and I found it very difficult to read. To me it was like reading Shakespeare and I really had difficulty with it, so therefore I didn’t read the Bible very much. When I became a freshman in college my mother and dad sent me a Christmas present. I opened it up and it was the J.B. Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament. I had never heard of a paraphrase and didn’t know what a paraphrase was, but I opened it and started reading it and I literally could not put it down. I read it day and night through again and again, and it got me interested in reading the Bible.
Later, I went to a more literal translation and began to use them. I now use the New American Standard in my preaching today. I think there are some really good modern translations, even including the New King James.
What people also don’t realize about the King James often is that it has been revised many times over the years. The King James Version we have today is not the King James produced in 1611. It has been revised many times to correct errors and punctuation. Also, thousands of new Greek manuscripts were discovered that don’t even have to do with the Bible, but by reading those Greek manuscripts we come to a better understanding of Greek words that have an impact on how we translate.
Eric Barger: There are people who will go to the wall over the King James Version. They break fellowship and they even don’t want to talk to you.
I don’t want to shake the confidence that anybody might have in me, but when I got saved I was reading the Living Bible. It’s a paraphrase. It was the same for me, a kind of a night and day reading bing. I went from reading the Living Bible to the King James with no time in between.
Dr. Reagan: I counsel new believers all the time who tell me they are having great difficulty understanding the Old Testament to get a paraphrase and start reading it. It will help them better understand the Bible’s message. But, always remember, you need to get back to a really good translation that is more literal in nature.
Eric Barger: Use study helps. You don’t have to be a seminarian to use good study helps like a Bible dictionary or Strong’s Concordance.
In the last part of this series on the validity of the Bible, we’ll ask Eric what are some fundamental keys to understanding the Bible.