Monday, April 25, 2011

The KJV and Bible Translations

There's a good piece by Charles McGrath in the "Week in Review" section of yesterday's Times in which he describes the KJV translation as "a political and theological compromise" between the established church and the growing Puritan movement. True, the translators rendered Hebrew and Greek carefully. Yet they also rendered ancient languages into poetry and iambic pentameter. And yet this translation preserves the strangeness of the text even more apparent in the translations of Robert Alter and Everett Fox. And yet because so many of the idioms of the KJV have passed into modern speech, the range of what once seemed strange is considerably diminished today.

All this in contrast to those modern translations moving in the direction of current use of language. However, in USA Today Cathy Lynn Grossman reports that "Bible Readers Prefer the King James Version."

When LifeWay asked about readers’ experience with the language dating back to 1611, many called it “beautiful” (31%) or “easy to remember” (23%). It is, after all, the book that gave English countless idioms such as “salt of the earth,” “an eye for an eye,” “at our wit’s end” and “oh ye of little faith.”
Some called it hard to understand (27%) or outdated (16%).
About two in 10 of those under age 35 reported trouble understanding it, compared with about three in 10 of their elders.

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