3: The lie of the careless KJV translators

By Jim MacIntosh

The translators of the King James Version have come in for significant criticism for what is perceived by some to be inaccuracies and inconsistencies, some even accusing them of being careless in their work. But those men were anything but careless, and they worked diligently and scrupulously to make sure that their work was heavily edited for the presence of any mistakes of any kind.

To get an idea of their work, let us consider a portion of an article called The Authorized Version; What Today's Christian Needs to Know about the Authorized (King James) Version, by G.W. and D.E. Anderson:

Because they were translating the very Word of God, they translated as much as possible word-for-word, producing a literal rendition of the Greek. They based the English Old Testament upon the Hebrew Masoretic Text, using the ancient translations of the Hebrew as aids when the Hebrew was obscure, but remembering that these were translations only, and not the language into which God had given His Word to the people of Israel. The Authorized Version translators continued in the textual tradition which the Church had used and accepted for hundreds of years. In doing so, they continued the solidarity of both original language texts and also of earlier English translations, upon which they based their work. As careful as the Authorized Version translators were to translate word-for-word, there were occasions in which words had to be added in order to give clarity to the English translation. The translators did not just add words indiscriminately; these words were implied by the Greek and Hebrew, although not found in their explicit forms. The translators took care to let the reader of Scripture know that these words were added; they placed the words in italic script rather than in the print of the regular text. Thus the reader could be certain of what was before him in his Bible; he would know that the words in italic script were, perhaps, open to interpretation. This upheld the Reformation doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers"; each believer-priest has the right and privilege - and responsibility - of interpreting the Scriptures for himself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The translators took further care in their rendering of the Word of God into English. The Hebrew and Greek use different pronouns to distinguish between "you" singular and "you" plural. "Thee" and "thou" were not in common usage in the seventeenth century, but found a place in the Authorized Version in order that the English reader of Scripture could know, as the Greek reader did, that Jesus in His conversation with Peter had said that Satan had demanded to sift the disciples (you) like wheat, but that Jesus had prayed specifically for Peter (thee), so that he could strengthen his brethren (Luke 22.31-32). In this day, many Christians are so ego-centric, more interested in themselves as individuals than in their place as part of the body of Christ, that they view the pronoun "you" as always speaking to themselves as individuals. Modern translators condemn the use of "thee" and "thou" as antiquated, but these pronouns more correctly render the Greek and Hebrew texts and help eliminate the individualism so fervently held by modern man - and even modern Christians - in the twentieth century. (Note also in this regard the use of "you" plural in Philippians 2:5.)

The Authorized Version translators were even concerned enough with rendering God's Word faithfully that they left some passages ambiguous. Some grammatical constructions, such as the genitive case, could have two different translations; is Ephesians 3.19 speaking of the Christian's love for Christ, or Christ's for His people? This and other structures the Authorized Version translators in many instances left purposefully ambiguous, because God in the Greek and Hebrew had done so. They left to the expositors the work of interpretation according to sound principles of exposition, as well as to the individual reader of Scripture.

One of the places where the critics accuse the KJV translators of sloppiness is in using the term "Easter" instead of "Passover" in Acts 12:4: And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. In this verse, the Greek word Paska or Pasga is translated as Easter, the only place in the Bible where it is not translated Passover.

One of the errors of the modern translators is to assume that the Greek word Paska always means Passover. It does not. This word is known as a polyseme, a word with multiple meanings. Almost every modern Greek-English dictionary will define the word Paska as either Passover or Easter. And at the time of the KJV translators' work, this multiple meaning for Paska was well known. Remember that there is probably nobody alive today who had the knowledge of New Testament Greek that those translators had. Because they knew of the dual meaning, they had to decide which meaning was appropriate in this case. And they used their knowledge of the context to make that decision.

Actually, to translate Paska as Passover in Acts 12:4 is ridiculous. Why? Look at the previous verse, Acts 12:3: And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) This verse comes after the description in verse 2 of Herod seizing and killing James. Verse 3 relates to Herod's arrest of Peter, making it clear that this occurred during or after the days of unleavened bread.

When is the Feast of Unleavened Bread? The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a seven day festival that begins on the evening of the 15 day of the month Nisan. When is Easter in relation to the days of unleavened bread? Depending on the date of the spring equinox, Easter would usually come two or three weeks after the days of unleavened bread. Now, when is Passover in relation to the days of unleavened bread? Passover is a one day (or one evening) event that is always celebrated on the evening of the 14 day of the month Nisan.

This means that when Herod arrested Peter during or after the days of unleavened bread, the Passover had already occurred for that year. So if Herod was waiting until after Passover to execute Peter, he would have to wait for almost an entire year! For a bloodthirsty fox like Herod, how likely was that? Only by translating Paska as Easter does Acts 12:4 make sense. This shows that rather than proving the KJV translators were careless, it proves they knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it.

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