BCC Papers 6/1: Hardy, The King James Bible

You can read the full paper here.

Grant Hardy, “The King James Bible and the Future of Missionary Work”—Synopsis

The King James Version of the Bible has a long and storied history, but the LDS Church is entering a period when the drawbacks of that 400 year old translation will become more and more apparent, for several reasons:

  • The KJV is not as accurate as many modern translations, which are based on much better Greek and Hebrew manuscripts (including the Dead Sea Scrolls) and several more centuries of linguistic expertise.
  • The archaic language of the KJV, similar to that of Shakespeare, is quite difficult to understand, particularly in the Hebrew prophets and Pauline epistles. It may be beautiful, but Mormons are trading clarity and comprehension for aesthetics and tradition. Even Isaiah is fairly understandable in modern English.
  • The KJV is no longer the common bible of English-speaking Christians, most of whom now use the New Revised Standard Version or the New International Version. Indeed, the LDS use of the KJV is looks increasingly like the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Investigators will wonder why Mormons can’t support their claims with ordinary bibles, and new converts will be reluctant to give up the bibles of their youth.
  • Some of the verses we use to support Mormon doctrine are odd renderings or even mistranslations. As the Church becomes more global, it is awkward to translate talks, manuals, and magazines for Latter-day Saints who use more accurate, foreign language bibles.
  • Because of our exclusive use of the KJV, most Latter-day Saints have little understanding of issues of biblical manuscripts, transmission, translation, or interpretation. This makes it difficult to explain our faith to knowledgeable Christians.
  • Some may feel that Latter-day Saints have not been able to join other Christians (including very conservative Evangelicals) in the move toward more accurate, readable translations because we are not particularly committed to the Bible and its doctrines. I believe it is because our other LDS standard works were revealed to Joseph Smith in the scriptural language of his day—that of the KJV. It would be easy enough to update the grammar of the Book of Mormon (as the Community of Christ has done), but in the process shades of meaning and subtle biblical allusions might be lost.

One solution would be to continue with the KJV as our official Bible, while allowing the supplemental use of careful, respectful, widely-accepted translations like the NRSV. It is often possible to grasp the meaning of the KJV after reading the same verse in a modern translation. This approach would offer opportunities to discover additional truths and witnesses of the Restoration in newer versions, and it would also honor the legacy of Joseph Smith, who not only used other translations (some of which he declared superior to the KJV) but also studied Hebrew himself to better understand God’s word in a form closer to the original.

Comments

  1. I love the NRSV. Excellent translation of the Bible. Here’s a verse that shows how the NRSV is a superior version to the KJV. Hebrews 11:1. In the KJV you get this:

    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    In our LDS bibles, in the footnotes we see this:

    GR assurance, basis, foundation. JST Heb. 11:1 … assurance of things hoped for …

    In the Greek, the word is assurance. Joseph Smith specifically clarifies that the word should be assurance.

    Here’s the NRSV:

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

  2. amen to all but the last paragraph. i think we have to move away from the official KJV or most members will never do that on their own… and we’ll continue to spend most of gospel doctrine trying to understand wording instead of doctrine.

  3. Thanks Kristine, and thank you Grant Hardy.

  4. Licensing issues are a major concern with newer Bibles, though I own and read several. I particularly like the NET Bible.

  5. Awesome. Thanks.

  6. If your have an electronic reading device (iPhone for me) it seems easy enough to have as many bibles translations as you would like.

  7. I have thought a lot about this over the years. I think I agree with just about everything stated in the OP. My in-laws thought I was borderline apostate when I started using a Strong’s concordance, reading out of the NRSV, and learning basic Hebrew and Greek as part of my personal study several years ago. But I think my relatively conservative views on many other things calmed their fears :).

    In the end, until an inspired or revealed revision of the restoration scriptures takes place, I think there will always be a major place for the KJV. The KJV and the Book of Mormon shed so much light on each other that I don’t think you can fully get away with phasing it out unless further inspiration is received.

    I have always felt that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith exact phrases from the KJV to signal that the same principle or teaching was being taught to the Nephites as to, say, the Phillipians. In addition, while I believe that the restoration scriptures are the best key to understanding the Bible (via the KJV), I also believe that the reverse is true: we can better learn what some of the KJVisms in the Book of Mormon mean by studying the meaning of those phrases in the Bible, which I believe quality modern translations such as the NRSV can help with.

    Although it would be difficult and frought with peril and various issues (including the New World Translation phenomenon with potential investigators), I think it would be neat to see an LDS translation of the Bible, using the same quality of scholarship going into the JS Papers (when is the 3rd volume coming out? did I miss something?) that uses restoration light in translating it. I had heard about the development of a BYU New Testament Commentary in which fresh translations were introduced by the authors, but I haven’t heard anything new about it in a couple of years.

  8. “Because of our exclusive use of the KJV, most Latter-day Saints have little understanding of issues of biblical manuscripts, transmission, translation, or interpretation. This makes it difficult to explain our faith to knowledgeable Christians.”

    I have found a couple of introductory texts (intended for college courses) very helpful in gaining a basic understanding of these issues – both published by Oxford:

    -Michael D. Coogan, “The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction” (2010)
    -Bart D. Ehrman, “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings” (2007)

    While I feel that the authors seem rather flippant and irreverant at times, and often assert views I disagree with as a believing Latter-day Saint, the books are an incredible resource for getting a fairly up-to-date view of the basics in biblical scholarship, especially when coupled with a study of the Harper Collins Study Bible or the Oxford Annotated Bible (both NRSV).

    I also recommend reading these along with “Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament” and “Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament,” which cover much of the recent scholarship discussed in the Oxford introductory texts, but do a really good job of putting it in an LDS context. They are real gems – much more valuable than the coffee-table books some may mistake them for from their cover.

  9. “I think it would be neat to see an LDS translation of the Bible, using the same quality of scholarship going into the JS Papers (when is the 3rd volume coming out? did I miss something?) that uses restoration light in translating it.”

    I think this is actually a bad idea. For one, that would a lot of money (i.e., tithing money), time, and resources, and ultimately wouldn’t solve the problem of an “isolated” bible different from the rest of the world (many non-LDS already think that we use a “different” bible–this would only hammer this home). Plus, there will always be the conflict between of scholarship and church authority: who has the final say on what gets published? A recipe for unneeded tension.

    The simplest solution would be if the church came out in support of members expanding their biblical knowledge by drawing on multiple translations. You can encourage the use of different translations while still affirming an official bible that is 1) copyright-free 2) already footnoted and 3) in the language of the BofM/D&C. The problem isn’t an official bible, it’s that we get so flummoxed when other translations come up.

  10. DLewis: See the 1.5 line disclaimer before the sentence you quoted. The things you spelled out are exactly what I had in mind. My comment was basically wishful thinking that took into account only the enjoyment of my own personal study.

  11. Ah, read too quickly. Still, I feel waiting for an LDS stamp of approval on any translation or commentary will perpetuate a tunnel-vision syndrome when it comes to biblical study. Plus, the fact is that a lot of biblical scholarship creates serious dissonance with traditional LDS understandings of the bible (how do you explain Moses 1 when its widely accepted that Moses didn’t actually write Genesis?).

    Personally, I like Robert Alter’s translations of Hebrew scripture.

  12. The King James Version has copyright protection in the UK until 2039, the year after the 31-bit end of time. With any luck, the public-domain World English Bible will be considered complete long before the King James Version completely enters the public domain.

  13. Just so long as I’m not expected to use the NIV, I’m fine. What a tin-eared rendering that is. Sounds awful when read aloud, and misses the sense of poetic language entirely.

    I used to rely on the old RSV inmy pre-LDS days, so I should check out the NRSV too.

  14. I have a recollection of Dallin Oaks using a J.B. Phillips translation for some of his references in a General Conference talk some years ago. Can anyone verify this?

  15. Some of the verses we use to support Mormon doctrine are odd renderings or even mistranslations. As the Church becomes more global, it is awkward to translate talks, manuals, and magazines for Latter-day Saints who use more accurate, foreign language bibles.

    A very important point.

  16. Brad Hawkins says:

    But if you get rid of KJV, where will that render Bruce R’s fabulous footnotes?

  17. Amen. Well put, Brother Hardy.

  18. I see where you’re coming from but I’m not sure. I think you’re talking about explaining facts about our religion. This is a secondary endeavor at best.

    Explaining our faith on the other hand goes like this.

    “Joe, I know you have questions and I, we, believe in modern personal revelation. If you kneel and ask if this is the truth then He will assure you of it.”

    Treating matters of faith empirically is ultimately a sham. So much of the core of all faith cannot be established rationally. To skip over God and His miracles to discuss wording and translation is playing empirical with a faith oriented subject.

  19. Interesting that this posted the same day that David Norton talked about the KJV at BYU? I didn’t hear it, but I heard it was amazing.

    He says this of the KJV:

    “(It)…deserves to be read because it’s a great translation that is especially sensitive to the meaning and expression of the originals,” Norton said. “It’s well to be reminded that what is being read requires earnest engagement and better still to have a version that so richly rewards this engagement.”

    Just thought I’d throw that in the conversation.

  20. In response to JT (#8)

    The Coogan and Ehrman textbooks (both published by Oxford) are quite good. In fact, I used Ehrman to teach a New Testament class at UNC-Asheville and seriously considered using Coogan for a Hebrew Bible course. But I prefer Stephen Harris’s NT and OT Introductions from McGraw Hill, which to my mind are a little more cautious and respectful while still communicating up-to-date scholarship. The two Harris textbooks, written for college freshmen or sophomores, when combined with the New Oxford Annotated Edition of the NRSV, offer an ideal introduction to the Bible. Latter-day Saints may disagree with points here and there, but there is no excuse for them to be entirely ignorant of a well-developed field of knowledge that touches so closely on world history, religion, literature, and even salvation. I find the scholarly study of the Bible (and the Book of Mormon) to be both intellectually and spiritually satisfying. And good sources are readily available to anyone who is interested.

  21. Bro. Jones says:

    Another point which wasn’t in the OP: in the LDS Church, we pray in King James-style English (at least when we pray in English). The Gospel Essentials manual is pretty clear that we’re supposed to use thou/thy when praying, and even though it doesn’t say we need to use archaic verb endings and the like, most non-convert native English speakers I know make some effort to reflect that in their prayers.

    If we were to suddenly start using scriptures in modern language, it would make our prayer language even more divergent from regular speech. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I could see a lot of old-school LDS being upset. I’ve never witnessed it first-hand, but the bloggernaccle has reported instances of leaders reprimanding new converts who don’t pray in KJV-style English–there’s definitely some pressure to retain it.

    (Credit goes to Ben S for this idea, we spoke about it many years ago.)

  22. #14
    I don’t know about Oaks, but Holland did in the Ensign in Dec 1977.

    How about not having an “official” bible? Let people read whatever they want. I think that the benefits outweigh the costs. We don’t give “official” status to the Septuagint just because Paul read it. Why should it be any different with Joseph Smith’s bible. Since we believe in the Holy Ghost, why insist on having doctrinal watchdogs. Let God be God.

  23. the bloggernaccle has reported instances of leaders reprimanding new converts who don’t pray in KJV-style English

    Latest instance of this: My ward is combining with part of another ward next Sunday. Last Sunday, a teacher who is sure we’re going to embarrass him in front of the prominent people he hopes to impress in the new ward gave us a dressing down about how we should act, how we should greet (i.e., not speak to) particularly prominent members of the new ward, and how we should speak (don’t use “stuff” and “you guys” because our new bishop won’t like that and “he’ll be keeping an eagle eye on you”), especially about pronoun use in prayer.

    While I do try to use the right pronouns and verbs in public prayer, I have to take the dressing down with a huge lump of salt, not least because the man delivering it regularly asks for a volunteer “to benedict us” at the end of classes.

  24. This post resonates with me right now, as I am again endeavoring to read through the NT–which I love, but which can be a titch difficult to understand.

    So, if I were to invest in one other translation to supplement my NT study, what would you all suggest? The NRSV?

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    Latest instance of this: My ward is combining with part of another ward next Sunday. Last Sunday, a teacher who is sure we’re going to embarrass him in front of the prominent people he hopes to impress in the new ward gave us a dressing down about how we should act, how we should greet (i.e., not speak to) particularly prominent members of the new ward, and how we should speak (don’t use “stuff” and “you guys” because our new bishop won’t like that and “he’ll be keeping an eagle eye on you”), especially about pronoun use in prayer.

    !!! Credit to you for not going bat-poo bonkers. Seriously, I don’t think I could have held my tongue if someone tried to tell me not to use “stuff” or “you guys” – I assume the teacher though such language was not formal enough for class? In-freaking-credible. Modern Pharisees, alive and well.

    And he asks for a volunteer to “benedict” us? Sounds like this guy is, well, simply just a word that rhymes with that.

  26. Love this. I never realized just how difficult the KJV is until this past year when I had to start reading more than superficially. Turns out, when the language is understandable, the OT and NT both can be downright enjoyable to read.

    WMP: If you’ve got a digital reader of some sort, you can download the NET Bible for free. It’s my favorite, though I prefer to read it online to better take advantage of the 60,000+ footnotes.

    I teach GD, and I’ve been using the NET Bible and bible.org as regular parts of my study. I am constantly referring to issues of translation in class and pointing out that, “A better, more modern translation for this phrase would be . . . ” I didn’t realize I was violating the KJV-only rules. Oh well, I’ll keep on teaching my way, and if someone has a problem with it I’ll find out when I’m hauled into the bishop’s office and relieved of my duties.

  27. Grant Hardy says:

    #24
    Absolutely the NRSV. The number of competing Bible translations can be overwhelming, but there are only a few that really stand out in terms of popularity and scholarship–the New Revised Standard Version, the Revised English Bible (based on the New English Bible) and the New International Bible. The REB can sometimes be a bit creative in its renderings, while the NIV can sound a bit flat and is occasionally biased toward Evangelical interpretations. By contrast the NRSV is an updated and corrected version of the King James Version, so it retains most of the features celebrated by Prof. David Norton in his BYU Forum address yesterday, but it takes into account better manuscripts and linguistic advances that were unknown to scholars in the early 1600s. For LDS readers, the NRSV still uses familiar phrasing and has the dignity and resonance that we love in scripture. It’s just much more accurate and understandable (and the paragraphing, subheadings, and poetic stanzas make a world of difference). The publisher advertises the NRSV as “the most trusted, most accepted, and most accurate English translation of the Bible available today.” That seems about right to me. Get yourself a copy and your understanding of the Bible will increase by an order of magnitude.

  28. Last Lemming says:

    the man delivering it regularly asks for a volunteer “to benedict us” at the end of classes.

    Ardis, is the guy single? If so, it is worse than you imagine.

    benedict. n. a newly married man who has long been a bachelor. (Webster’s New Collegiate, albeit a pretty old one)

    He might be asking you to marry him! (But when he asks you to invocate him, run–don’t walk–for the nearest exit.)

  29. MikeInWeHo says:

    There’s a web site called BibleGateway.com that makes it easy to search just about any English translation you’ve ever heard of, and many other languages as well. It is run by Evangelicals but they don’t really emphasize their perspective much.

  30. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I could see a lot of old-school LDS being upset

    Sounds like a perfect reason to move forward with it, then!

  31. At least according to CBA sales, NIV is the top bible, but KJV is still number 2. NRSV doesn’t even make their top 10. So when you say KJV is in decline, I guess I am wondering where you got that factoid?

  32. WMP,

    I really like the NET bible. I ordered the Reader’s Edition (the one without all the notes) and the First Edition (the one with all the notes). I have been amazed at the things that I find in the bible that I never realized were there.

    Also, I have found Kevin Barney’s Footnotes very helpful for the New Testament. I know they have been mentioned here many times.

  33. I agree with Hemi that we should not have an official bible translation. I think the discussion in GD could be so insightful if we were reading out of several different translations.

  34. To add to Grant’s #27, I’d say the Harper Collins’ NRSV Study Bible is the way to go.

  35. Grant Hardy says:

    Matt (#31),
    You are looking at the sales figures for the approximately 1700 Christian bookstores that belong to the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA, now officially the Association for Christian Retail). They and their customers are overwhelmingly Evangelical, and in that market, the NIV reigns supreme, with some residual interest in the KJV (I suspect more as gift bibles than study bibles). There are, however, other types of Christians, including mainline denominations and Catholics, whose churches have given official approval to the NRSV and whose members generally don’t shop in Evangelical stores.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    Excellent article, Grant. This subject often comes up in the Bloggernacle, but rarely with this much detailed thought and perspective. I especially like your list of possible pragmatic actions that can be taken to grease the skids for such a development.

    My Footnotes to the NT for LDS project, which was mentioned above, is intended to be a sort of stopgap measure, to help Mormons to read the KJV with comprehension. I acknowledge in the preface that the need for this book would largely be obfiated if people would simply read a modern translation, but I knew the obstacles to large numbers of Mormons doing so would be difficult and take time to overcome. Here is the link if anyone is interested:

    http://feastupontheword.org/Site:NTFootnotes

  37. My experience is that using the KJV makes potential converts with biblical reading exp comfortable that we use a recognized bible in our church rather then some crazy to them LDS version. I am not sure its a negative to use the KJV. Lots of folks use the KJV outside the LDS faith. Local evangelicals here in Texas use it all the time. One of my evangelical buddies refers to the NIV as the “Nearly Inspired Version”

    I think the KJV will continue to be important to English speaking Protestants for generations to come.

  38. Kevin Barney says:

    This old blog post of mine can stand as a footnote to Grant’s article. In the comments I react to a number of complaints President Clark had about the RSV:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/04/26/little-less-than-god/

  39. For those wondering, there have been multiple examples of General Authorities citing (and reading!) non-KJV versions in the Ensign, in General Conference, and other published writings.

    This post lists a few. http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2007/02/elder-mcconkie-and-targumim-or-how-to-help-lds-read-non-kjv-versions/

    Good post.

  40. Grant,

    Having read a bit more, I can see that CBA doesn’t carry NRSV or NASB, as those bible types are typically sold by direct distribution to churches. As a former Catholic, I can say we officially used the NIV in my congregation growing up.

    Anyway, I am trying to find other ways to test this measure, and perhaps one simple way is to look at google searches. Here, we can compare a href=”http://www.google.com/trends?q=%22New+Revised+Standard+Version%22|NRSV,%22new+american+standard+bible%22|nasb,+%22king+james+version%22|kjv,+%22new+international+version%22|niv,+%22English+Standard+Version%22|ESV&ctab=0&geo=all&date=ytd&sort=0″>search queries by specific bible type. It looks like NIV is far and away the dominant bible (perhaps due to high Catholic adoption?) with KJV and the newly popular ESV coming in behind it. Interestingly, KJV is actually on the climb and ESV is flat in terms of popular searches.

    If you are interested, my query was: “New Revised Standard Version”|NRSV,”new american standard bible”|nasb, “king james version”|kjv, “new international version”|niv, “English Standard Version”|ESV

    Honestly, I don’t even know why I am being pedantic on this. I enjoy having a variety of Bibles at my disposal. I think it is dangerous to pin point a doctrinal idea on a reading of the KJV, and that the NIV and NRSV are much easier to read.

  41. Ah, my link buested, trying again:

    here

  42. er.. busted.. shutting up now…

  43. I had the opportunity to ask Bart Ehrman (biblical scholar) for a recommendation on a reliable translation that also had good footnotes for areas that were in dispute or at least debated. He said his favorite version for that was the HarperCollins Study Bible. That edition is basically the NRSV but with introductions, footnotes, diagrams, and maps that I always liked about the LDS-produced standard works.

  44. Great post. The 8th Article of Faith says that the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We should, therefore, be embracing more correct translations in order to get more of the word of God!

    Mike #29 – I love Bible Gateway. It’s really useful for comparing across translations.

  45. With our apparent issues with dropping the KJV and the copyright and costs of using newer translations the best solution may be to use our own modified KJV. After all, the new Spanish version is a modified translation.

  46. I finally picked up the Harper Collins NRSV this last year, and it has been very helpful when used with the KJV in my personal study. It provides to me some clarity and additional insights that I haven’t had before. I’ve noted a number of times where the JST and the NRSV often offer some of the same alternate wording. It also, as has been noted, maintains much of the beauty and sentence structure that I have enjoyed in the KJV.

    I had to substitute in GD a couple of months back, and casually mentioned “alternate translations say…” and got no reaction in my ward. However, I remember a former ward member used to always bring his NIV to Sunday School, and a couple of folks called him out for that.

  47. WMP,

    So, if I were to invest in one other translation to supplement my NT study, what would you all suggest? The NRSV?

    I also recommend the NRSV. I can’t speak for the other translations, but in the NRSV, as opposed to the KJV, not only is it a better translation, but it also separates events so you get a better sense when a particular event ends and when another begins. I don’t know if the other newer translations do that, but it’s a nice feature of the NRSV.

  48. #46 When I was teaching Old Testament in GD a few years back, I was called out for quoting from the NSRV and asked to stop. I said, “Fine, but that means I’m going to make sure everyone in class is on the same page in terms of understanding vocabulary.” I wasn’t too miffed.

  49. What about the New King James Version (NKJV)? Surely that is improved enough to resolve many of the objections here, is it not? And yet not so dissimilar to the KJV as to feel like a different book of scripture?

  50. NRSV. My favorite for study and general reading.

  51. Grant Hardy says:

    The New King James Version updates the grammar and vocabulary of the KJV (so it will throw off those who love the archaic LDS prayer language), but it does nothing to remedy the poor manuscripts used by the KJV translators. Actually, the NKJV uses a modern scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible, and then a Greek edition from the 1500s for the New Testament, so it’s an odd hybrid project crafted to satisfy fundamentalist sensibilities. But if you’re going to move to a modern language translation, you might as well get one that is based on the the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available; that is, a Bible that is as close as possible to the writings of the original authors. I would avoid the NKJV.

  52. so it will throw off those who love the archaic LDS prayer language

    Not nearly as much as the (N)RSV, apparently. Here are three versions of 1 Corinthians 13:

    KJV

    NKJV

    RSV

    My general perception from viewing quite a bit of these translations is that the main difference with translations like the NIV and the RSV is not that they clarify very much, but that they both revise some archaic grammar, and they “dumb down” the vocabulary to the junior high school level. Whereas the NKJV generally does the vocabulary dumbing down part to a much lesser degree than the others, and preserves the phrasing of the KJV where possible.

    For example “prophecy” in the (N)KJV is reduced to “prophetic powers” in the RSV. Here is a similar example, from 2 Peter 1:4:

    Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (KJV)

    by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (NKJV)

    by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (RSV)

    “Lust” here is too archaic for the RSV, as is “exceedingly”. Is “passion” really better here than “lust”? The world is corrupted because of “passion”? At least the NIV has “evil desires”. Maybe they fixed that in the NRSV.

    One of the problems is that so many terms like “lust” and “charity” are well known even to LDS junior high school students that switching versions would be confusing even to them. A switch to the NKJV would be much easier for that reason alone.

  53. Chris Gordon says:

    RE: Concerns vis-a-vis missionary work, I’d be interested in hearing anything anecdotal to contrast my own admittedly anecdotal-but-not-insignificant experience with other Christians in which the very least of my concerns was difficulty in harmonizing our doctrine with theirs due to different Bibles.

    Put another way, what investigators are out there saying, “I’d be all in if only the Mormons used the NIV, but these silly missionaries are just all bamboozled by my plain English”?

    As a further question, in what way do issues of biblical manuscripts, transmission, translation, or interpretation make it “more difficult” to explain our beliefs to knowledgeable Christians. Again, the difference in Bible doesn’t help but I find it hard to believe that it would be that much of a deal-breaker.

    Again, anecdotally, our ward has the blessing of having a handful of investigators whose previous form of prayer (without the archaic pronouns) and even love for and use of their old, well-loved, Bibles has survived their baptism and activity. Having worked with them in a ward mission setting, neither was a stumbling block though in all instances it was a conversation topic.

    Also anecdotally, I’ve heard several RM’s comment that they were instructed/encouraged to use the investigator’s Bible in teaching the lessons, regardless of version, in order to show unity of the faith.

  54. Order placed. NRSV on the way.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  55. Does anyone have a comment on why one should prefer the NRSV over the newer ESV? Because the ESV seems like it would be a much better match, among the two – from a relatively conservative perspective, at least.

  56. My comment got eaten.

  57. It is a good question. And much bigger than just Mark’s reference to Vance.

  58. Sorry in advance for a long comment. As a high councilor I once used a NRSE quote from a new testament verse in a talk, making it clear that it was NRSE rather than KJT, and that I thought it shed better meaning on that verse. I raised a lot of eyebrows and a couple of people commented/challenged me on it later, as if I’d done something inappropriate. I believe NRSE is better than the other translations available. It relies on older and better original documents for the translation–that were not available when KJT was done, and the language is clear but not too colloquial. I love it. But here is a problem few have brought up in the thread: Joseph’s translation of BOM was clearly influenced by the language of KJT, which was the common source for scriptural language and discourse at the time. If we as a church adopted NRSE, the BOM would seem more archaic and out of synch with the bible we used. I think our use of KJT is not a big problem now, but over time it will increasingly set us apart from mainstream christianity as other faiths move on from it.

  59. Mark D: In my experience the ESV suffers from too much Of an evangelical

  60. perspective. Reading the NRSV is a breath of fresh air in comparison. (Sorry my last post was posted prematurely)

  61. #53 Chris ~ You said:

    As a further question, in what way do issues of biblical manuscripts, transmission, translation, or interpretation make it “more difficult” to explain our beliefs to knowledgeable Christians. Again, the difference in Bible doesn’t help but I find it hard to believe that it would be that much of a deal-breaker.

    I started learning about the church when I was 16, attending a Presbyterian church (mainline denomination but the local church was strongly evangelical), and I loved my little NIV Study Bible. I was pretty surprised by how hostile my LDS friends were to other translations of the Bible and the NIV in particular. The very first Mormon I began discussing faith with immediately began dissing the NIV when the subject came up. He told me that the NIV was just a modern-day paraphrase of the KJV, not actually translated from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts like the KJV was, and therefore the KJV was the better version. I patiently tried to explain to him that the very introduction to the NIV said otherwise, but he would have none of it.

    I didn’t even own a KJV, so the NIV went with me to Mormon YM/YW activities, where the reaction was similarly chilly. Some people tried to be nice about it, but it was pretty clear that my NIV wasn’t welcome or wanted there. One time the teacher called on me to read a verse, and I began to read from my NIV. She walked over with her KJV open to the appropriate page, stopped me and thrust it into my lap.

    Eventually someone thought to send me J. Reuben Clark’s “Why the King James” arguments. What can I say . . . so bad, even a teenage girl could debunk them.

    I bought a KJV upon getting into BYU, and for a while I took it with me if I visited an LDS church in the spirit of conformity and not being a stumbling block to my LDS friends, but I later decided that this was the wrong approach. I came to the conclusion that if there’s any block worth stumbling over, it’s the existence of better translations of the Bible.

    I still bring a new translation with me when I visit my husband’s ward; now it’s either the TNIV (which I read to my daughter) or the NRSV (which I use for personal study). Once in a while, a Sunday school teacher calls on me to read something, to which I usually reply, “I can read it, but I don’t have a KJV. This is a [TNIV/NRSV].” I’ve been married seven years and I haven’t had a single SS teacher take me up on my offer. They just call on someone else instead.

    I’m not saying that the church’s rigid adherence to the KJV was the reason I never joined (ha ha). But it certainly was a turn-off and an unnecessary distraction at a time when I was seriously considering joining.

    I also think it strikes non-LDS Christians a little hypocritical for Mormons to talk so much about the need for “correct translation” of the Bible, and then cling to the KJV. When my LDS friends parrot the 8th AoF, I tend to stop them and ask, “So, what has the church done to bring the world a better translation of the Bible?” Deer-in-headlights, every time.

    Re: the ESV ~ The ESV doesn’t just suffer from an evangelical bias, it suffers from the bias of a rather narrow subgroup of evangelical Christianity: complementarian Calvinists. Then again, I think that said bias is going to be too subtle for most Mormons to care much, so if the ESV is a translation you really enjoy, don’t let me stop you from reading it. The ESV Study Bible really is the king of study Bibles, biased though it may be.

    Besides, the ESV has winning stuff like this in it.

  62. Chris Gordon says:

    #61 Ms. Jack: Thanks for responding anecdote for anecdote. :) I suspect, however, that the negative aspects of your biblical interactions with LDS folk has more to do with obtuse views of non-LDS Christianity generally than it does to do with specific, KJV v. Other issues. If transitioning to a more mainline Biblical version or in some other way liberalizing the policy were part of a larger movement to remind us Mo’s that there’s more than one way to view the Bible and Christianity out there, than I’m all for it, but I suspect that’s not the way that it’ll happen.

    This deer-in-the-headlights would prefer to point to the JST, but I think we know where that would go. Instead, I’ll only respond that the church is working very hard to provide inexpensive access to whatever version of the Bible used in countries all over the world. The LDS Version of the Reina Valera version used in Spanish-speaking countries and efforts toward the same goal elsewhere come to mind as prime examples. A LDS version of the RV in Spanish runs about 25 pesos last time I checked, while a comparable RV in a bookstore runs three times as much. Also, and I apologize for not having a citation for this, but it’s my understanding that the church is a large donor for organizations seeking to place Bibles in the homes of countries where they’re rare such as China.

  63. Mark,

    Does anyone have a comment on why one should prefer the NRSV over the newer ESV? Because the ESV seems like it would be a much better match, among the two – from a relatively conservative perspective, at least.

    What is a “relatively conservative perspective?” That “comrade” is a communist word? That women ought not to be included as equal individuals to men? heh…it seems the ESV has removed at least one instance of the word “liberal” that appears in the KJV. That is James 1:5

    5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    :)

  64. I use the ESV because it is free on my iPad Bible app. The NSRV is not. At church, I jump back and forth between translations. I usually helps me focus on the scriptures as I consider the differences in translation.

  65. “It usually…”

  66. I really appreciated this article . . . a must read.

    I think our use of the KJV (with associated chapter headings and footnotes) has become a stumbling block to many members – particularly as biblical scholarship has become more accessible. When I began a study of the Bible, I found it disheartening to discover that modern scholars have a far better framework for understanding the Bible then we do. It didn’t help that the Church appears hostile to any insight that doesn’t originate from authorized channels. We seem to cleave to old translations and old interpretations, and I’m afraid some members will lose trust in the Church’s authority to interpret biblical scripture. Although I consider myself a ‘faithful’ member in every regard, I now prefer to entrust my scriptural education to other sources (well, at least with regards to the Bible). and I think its kind of sad that members like me might feel that way.

  67. I can understand for pragmatic reasons the Church’s continuing to prefer the KJV for purposes integrating it with correlated footnotes, topical guide, Bible dictionary and the like.

    As illustrated by Jack’s anecdotes, the pragmatic preference has for many members become a religious disapproval of other translations. Just as using “thee and thou” in prayers has become more a boundary marker of Mormon distinctiveness (or peculiarness) rather than a sign of respect (even the Pope uses you and yours in prayer), so also, over time, clinging to the KJV may well become a boundary marker of Mormon distinctiveness (at least at the folk level– as others have pointed out, alternate translations have been used in conference talks and in correlated Ensign articles).

    The clinging to the KJV is ironic to me. Each time I hear or read in conference talks or in correlated articles the hero-icizing of Tyndale for making available a translation that the common people could understand http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/the-blessing-of-scripture?lang=eng&query=tyndale I wonder, “the KJV is almost as impenetrable to English speakers today as the Latin was in Tyndale’s time.” If we put Tyndale on a pedestal for making the Bible more accessible, why do we frown so much (at least at the folk level) on more accessible English translations today?

    As far as the Reina-Valera translation in Spanish, I would simply note that the Church’s version reverts to the 1909 version, which is less accessible than the the 1960 that was commonly used in our Church before then. The 1909 version, for example, uses “caridad” (charity) rather than “amor” (love) in 1 Cor. 13. Thanksfully, though, the Church did not revert all the way back to the 1569 Reina Valera version.

  68. Kevin Barney says:

    In my first gig teaching GD, I had a student who brought an RSV to class and would read from it when called upon. I loved it, as it never failed to introduce wonderful teaching moments. I wish I had someone in my class today who would read from a different translation.

  69. DavidH,
    ditto on Tyndale

  70. In the weekday evening stake class I teach (linked in my name, above), I use the NRSV frequently and the NET regularly. In lesson #2 of the current New Testament course (the notes are online at the site) I spent most of the class talking about manuscripts and translations, and encouraged everyone to use a modern translation. Several students bring NIV study bibles to class.

    Personally, I like reading from NRSV, and own the New Oxford Annotated Bible (3rd ed.).

  71. #66 – Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is how I feel.

  72. I suspect a big part of the reason the church sticks with the KJV has to do with copyright issues. Whoever holds the copyright for the NRSV would probably be reluctant to allow them to more or less permenantly append the various mormon study helps (such as the Book of Mormon cross-references, maps, bible dictionary) but especially the Joseph Smith Translations of the bible. Now granted, select Joseph Smith translations may not be needed with a better translated bible if it captures the change already, but because of their inspired beginning, I don’t think those will be given up without general authority or apostle approval.

    This discussion has proved fascinating to me of how various groups of mormons react to the newer bible translations. I personally have never run into any dogmatic adherence to the KJV when an investigator brings their newer translation, but also have never found anyone except my father and a few inspired institute teachers who encouraged use of modern versions to assist in study of the bible – in fact, I guess I thought that was the church’s stance, that they are fine as study helps. Having seen some translations that I feel mis-represent the bible verse, I can see why one might stick with the KJV. Haven’t tried the NRSV, can’t speak to that one though.

    Regarding translating from KJV quoted in talks and such, it’s really no more difficult than it would be to translate from another english version of the bible into the foreign langugage, as you will still have the same translation issues. Phrases just don’t always translate straight across. Translators (as far as I understand) don’t translate verse quotations word-for-word, but rather quote from the appropriate foreign langugage reference. (If that makes sense)
    [quote]
    Because of our exclusive use of the KJV, most Latter-day Saints have little understanding of issues of biblical manuscripts, transmission, translation, or interpretation. This makes it difficult to explain our faith to knowledgeable Christians.
    [/quote]
    To be honest, the average christian I run into has about the same (or less) understanding of these issues than the average mormons I know. Knowledgeable Christians who do understand these issues, are easier to have a discussion about why we felt things were lost from the bible in the first place. Many an average Christian has gone up in arms that I am speaking heresy, when it’s really just a matter of “transmission, translation, and interpretation” over hundreds of years.

  73. sorry about the ugly [quote][/quote] tags

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