Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on Finishing Up the King James Version (For the First Time).

Last September, I wrote about beginning my venture into the King James Bible for the first time in my 37 years of life (now 38). As I mentioned in that article, I was embarrassed to admit that having been a Christian for nearly 25 years, I had never poured much time into the Authorized Version before. And this for a pastor!

Embarrassing indeed.

Mind you, I'm no slacker. I've read the Bible nearly every day since my conversion. Just never the KJV. From ages 12 to 28, my translation of choice was the NIV84. I almost never use it now. Political correctness and the gender neutral controversy has damaged it for me, and the NIV11 is just not same book to me anymore.

From the ages of 28 to 38 I have used the ESV almost exclusively. My friend Pete Garbacki and I joke about being ESVO (English Standard Version Only).

But this past year, I threw myself into the KJV hardcore. I was motivated by both a desire to engage myself with the same Bible of Spurgeon, Edwards, Hodge and others as well as to increase my knowledge of one of the most timeless treasures of the Christian faith. (At least in the Western World).

Beginning in September and finishing sometime this month (I have a few short books in the latter half of the NT still to complete), I read the KJV with reckless abandon. At times (especially on my vacation) I read for hours. Morning, noon, and night, I had an Authorized text with me.

Some vital stats about my journey: I will have completed the KJV Bible in about 24 weeks, assuming I stay on course for the next 7 days or so. This averages about 7 chapters a day. That's a pretty good clip for most folks, and probably faster than I would recommend for others. I used three different physical copies of the Bible (see below). This completes the third translation in which I have read Scripture in its entirety. 

Moreover, here are a few of my gleanings from this venture:

1. Regret. If I could live my life over, I would not have waited this long to throw myself into the King James. This should have been done long ago. For those who have never tried this, do it now. The AV is a treasure that has been passed down to us from many stalwart Christians and we owe ourselves the favor of reading the English-speaking world's only truly dominant translation.

2. Beauty. I was often struck by the sheer majesty of the text. Many complain about the ubiquitous "Thee's and Thou's." Get over it. It's not that hard. Reading the text with these ancient pronouns does seem to have a positive affect on the reader's awareness of the divine, especially as he reads the Psalms and prayers of Scripture. Calling God by a pronoun that is no longer in common use (such as Thou) does seem to me to have the affect of setting Him apart, in the same way as capitalizing "Him" or "His" does when I refer to God in writing.

3. Challenge. I started off reading the KJV like a ball shot out of a canon. Much of my 7 chapters per day average came in the beginning as a I read eagerly and voraciously. I did begin to struggle mightily in some of the places that you might expect: kings, name lists, sacrifices, and temple descriptions. I feel that I glossed over too quickly on quite a bit, in the minor prophets especially, that I should try again to recover sometime.

By the time I got to the latter stages of the OT, I literally couldn't wait to get to the New Testament.   I was frustrated that the King James Version made many passages obscure to me, and made them seem as if I had not read them before. Not in a "fresh" way, but in a disappointed-in-myself way. I should have slowed down and focused more on comprehension.

At the same time, I was so excited to meet Jesus again in the words of the KJV! So yeah, getting through the whole OT was a challenge.

4. Joy.  By the time that I finally got to the New Testament, I was again reinvigorated for the project. In fact, when I got to the NT, it slowly became less and less obvious that I was reading a translation that was "foreign" to my experience. It did not seem foreign to me at all anymore. I often completely forgot that I was even reading the KJV, as it all felt very comfortable, familiar, and enjoyable to me. The Gospel narratives were particularly familiar and the story line of redemption history carried me right to the cross.

As I finish out the KJV in the coming days with the prison epistles and writings of Peter and John, I can't help but thank God that He commended such a translation into the hands of the English speaking world. The KJV is timeless, beautiful, and accurate. If you would like to take this journey too, I urge you to begin on your own time and do so on your own pace.

Tangibles - A Good Bible. 

I think a good Bible is a necessity, and I have written on this topic before.

For this project, I actually acquired three new KJV's for usage. (I didn't even own a good copy before. *Blushing*). I kept these three Bibles in various places (office, home, travel) so that I always had one about me within arm's length. I can recommend a couple of good ones that are well made and durable.

  1. Local Church Bible Publishers makes some of the best leather, sewn AV's you can find. They are a KJVO company, so don't expect to get an ESV there! I ordered the Cowhide #355 and loved it. It was only $35. This is an incredible KJV for the price.
  2. Cambridge too makes many good editions. The should! They are the oldest continuous Bible publisher in the world. I used their Split Calf Concord reference model which was given to me free for the "price" of simply doing a review of their books. Being a blogger and product reviewer doesn't hurt!
  3. Finally, I kept a Trinitarian Bible Society Windsor in my office and read it at least twice a day during my office hours. That too was around $35 and paid for itself in devotional sweetness.


-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

4 comments:

  1. Nice! I am still ESV Only, but I appreciate what you wrote. If I was half the man you are I would probably take this challenge, but since I am only about 1/25 the man you are (on my best and your worst day), I will stick with the ESV. (There was a time I only read the KJV, but that was before I was enlightened.) :P

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  2. My goal this year is to read through the entire ESV Study Bible. Notes, articles and all. I'm currently in 2 Kings 7. I was going to go through the MacArthur Study Bible (NAS) next, but I think you've convinced me to read through the KJV. I've always enjoyed it but I've never read it cover to cover. I started years ago with an NIV, then went to NKJV, now I use the ESV. I would encourage anyone to mix the KJV into their Worship Service for the Scripture reading. It's majesty and beauty makes it good for public readings. People will enjoy it more than you'd think.

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  3. Of course the public scripture reading can be done well or poorly. It would be good to write something on how to do public scripture reading correctly.

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