Byline: Jeff Brumley
If nothing else, the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible this year is proving that passions run deep about the translation known for its Shakespearean sound.
Commissioned by England's King James I in 1604 and published seven years later, this version of the Bible injected phrases like "pearls before swine" into wider usage and is credited with providing Protestantism with a unified sacred text.
The American Bible Society recently released a survey showing that 45 percent of regular Bible readers use the King James Version.
But there's also a wide gulf between Christians who use the text as part of their daily spiritual walk and those who see its thees and thous as a bit archaic.
"There is beauty in hearing it read," said the Rev. James Black, a Presbyterian minister from Jacksonville who has studied biblical translations. "It's wound its way into the hearts of people over the generations."
However, its weakness is that its 17th century translators based their work in part on two earlier English translations as well as Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that have not stood the test of time, Black said. Older manuscripts that many scholars believe to be "closer to the original writers" have been discovered since the 1600s, Black said.
But Chris War doesn't buy that argument. He is part of a long-standing movement that holds the King James Version as the only theologically accurate translation an English-speaking Christian should use.
"If you're going to use the Bible, use the right one," said War, pastor of Freedom Independent Baptist Church in Atlantic Beach.
Later translations, like the New King James and the New International versions, add interpretations and often even omit key passages of Scripture that are included in the King James Version, he said.
"I want to know what God says, not what he doesn't say," said War, who teaches King James-only lessons at his church.
Jeff Brumley: (904) 359-4310
WHAT READERS THINK
The Times-Union recently sought reader opinions on the subject, and a majority of those responding shared Pastor Chris War's KJV-only attitude or were very close to it. Here's a sampling of what readers had to say.
SHARON GALANT, 64, NEPTUNE BEACH
I, for one, prefer the KJV over any other Bible. This is what I read in the past and read now. Years ago there was no other version, so when the Word was read and taught you understood what was being said. Even with all the thees and thous you understood that the words were being directed to you ... Some of the versions that are taught and preached today make it sound like you can go out and do whatever you want to and the Lord will be pleased. I do not agree with this theory. ... It is not just for the senior citizens who grew up with no other version but for the young children. …