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The King James Bible and Bible Illiteracy in the United States
Between 1604-1611, fifty-seven of the most educated men in England translated the Bible so that not only could people have a personal copy, but so that it could easily be read and understood. The King ordered a new translation made that would satisfy the two religious’ sects- the Bishops and the Puritans. So, the King James Bible’s language was translated as the indisputable translation to appease the two sects’ religious ideas while being true to the earliest known Hebrew and Greek sources at the time.
The King James was also translated to be read easily and flow smoothly as it is read. When read out loud, the words sound majestic and ornate. Today, after 400 years, the words sound extremely different from today’s English speech – in England, the United States, and other English-speaking countries.
Even after 400 years many people love this translation so much, they believe it is the only Bible that should be read. This is the idea of the “King James Onlyists” who believe many false ideas about it and its superiority to all other translations. But up to 1769, the KJV was being printed so many times because it contained many spelling and punctuation problems, although it was the main Bible English-speaking people read.
Among most American Christians, the KJV is one of the most popular English Bibles. Unfortunately, due to its antiquated language, it has contributed to illiteracy. Since so many buy it, that doesn’t mean they read it. It’s surprising Christians haven’t given it up due to many shaky meanings through its words, expressions and grammatical structure. Gail Riplinger, advocate of the King James Version Onlyist movement, states that the youngest age a person can read and understand it is a 5th grader. (“Evangelical Outreach” website). If a parent wants to teach their child to read the Bible in say, 3rd or 4th grade, they would not use the King James Bible. But many doubt Riplinger’s theory. Many call her a “fraud” due to hundreds of “incomprehensible” words, and many sentences throughout the KJV that no longer exist. (“Evangelical Outreach”, “kjvterms”).
In general, today’s Protestant and Evangelical Christians do not read their Bibles because most churches have become “apostate”, meaning they are deviating from God’s Word in the holy Bible. This is a spiritual problem which has been seriously evolving, especially over the last two decades. Most pastors and their congregation resort to the King James Version because it’s well established and cannot be disputed since it is the oldest Bible widely in use. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem in perspective in an article written in 2004 on the “Christian Headlines” website: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”(“The Scandal of Bible Illiteracy,” June 24, 2004).
Most churches use entertainment to draw in “parishioners”. Instead of learning the Gospel from the Bible, encompassed by the New Testament, people would rather engage themselves in some secular activity, because to them, church is boring. So, these “churches” are no longer welcoming God. Church apostacy is one facet of our dumbed down society. Fewer people read God’s Word in the Bible.
The wider problem of Biblical Illiteracy growing in the United States, is not just spiritual but illiteracy itself. Actually it has been going up for quite a while. Most people graduate from high school, but the highest rates for people with college diplomas is between 35-48%. (The Worldatlas website). For those earning a higher degree, the most is from 14-28% (Worldatlas). But since 1990, fewer children have been learning as much as they did before and more teenagers have been dropping out of high school. College tuition has increased in cost so much, many people don’t even attend. So, people know less; fewer know how to read. How are they supposed to read the KJV or any other Bible for that matter?
Many people affiliated with churches are missionaries who live in foreign countries to preach the Gospel of Christianity. How do natives who may know little English supposed to read the Bible in its 400-year old English? They would have to be highly educated, fluent in English.
Although many love the King James for appreciation of its older form of English, but I believe it’s one of the worst Biblical translations. Christians should probably read a more recently translated version such as the ESV, NIV, ASV, or even the New King James Version. One of the best modern translations of the New Testament is the “Good News for Modern Man”. All of these are faithful translations. The KJV has long been around and all who read it will make sure it will forever be in print.
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