To choose a modern language Bible in order to understand the KJV better is not as simple as one might suppose, certainly not if one’s choice is the RSV. For, to read that Bible safely, to know just where you really stand as to the text of Scripture, you will have to go through it very painstakingly, “with a fine-tooth comb.” But it would not be merely just as well, but very much better to work at and in the KJV in that fashion—with a fine-tooth comb. Yet, it is too much to expect, too much of a task to do this with any modem Bible, much less with all of them. So, specialize in the KJV, and you will learn God’s Word as you could not, limited to some other version.
Now back to the OT, RSV. Where Psalm 2:12 has “Kiss, the son,” the RSV has “kiss his feet,” with the notation, “Cn: The Hebrew of 11b and 12a is uncertain.” Cn means “correction,” so that the Hebrew at this point is erroneous in “Kiss the Son” (KJV), so it has been corrected to “kiss his feet”! But if the Hebrew has to be corrected, we wonder, from what language standard? From the Greek LXX? From the Latin? Or from some Martian tongue? But the Hebrew (Bar) is neither incorrect nor uncertain; and it is hard to see why it is adjudged so. This word, as many words in Hebrew has many meanings, but this fact is cause for no uncertainty, nor does it justify this so-called correction. An adjective bar means “chosen,” “pure,” “clear.” Another noun bar means “grain” (cleansed, winnowed), and there is the noun bar, “open field,” all in addition to the noun bar, son. This same word of Psalm 2:12 is also found in Proverbs 31:2. It does not mean “his feet,” nor does it have the suffixial “his” connected with the word. This Psalm already contains one reference (v. 7) to Jesus as the Son of God. But it is plain that the RSV editors had a great deal of prejudice against the Messianic tone of the OT Scriptures.
Another prejudiced translation appears in Isaiah 52:15, where the KJV reads, “So shall he sprinkle many nations.” This was fulfilled by the Messiah in the execution of the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20), and in the Disapora, the elect scattered throughout the countries of Asia Minor, who were saved through the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:1, 2). But the RSV changes sprinkle to startle, with the note, “The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain.” But it definitely is not uncertain. It is the same word as in Isaiah 63:3 and in Leviticus, chaps. 4, 5, 6, 8, 14, 16. The word is never rendered by anything else but sprinkle. RSV editors should not criticize the KJV and its “grave defects”!
To return to the NT, at Matthew 6:13, the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer is omitted with the words, “Other authorities, some ancient, add…” It used to be “many authorities” (ASV), and, indeed, there are many in support of the doxology. But these marginal notes are worded differently as new Bibles are published. Now it is only “other authorities” which sustain the ending to the “Lord’s Prayer.” Matthew 13:51, RSV, has, “They said to him, ‘Yes,’ ” with no note of any kind, when there is plenty of authority for “Yes, O Lord!”
Since this Bible drops the archaic thou, thee, thy, thine, except when referring to God, Peter’s words at Matthew 16:6, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” form a contradiction. For “you” refers to a mere subordinate creature, while “Son” refers to a divine person. Yet, the RSV has God speak from heaven to his Son, “Thou art my beloved Son: with thee I am well pleased (Mk. 1:11). Are these contradictions mere inconsistencies, or are they Origenic heresy—attempts to conciliate advocates of the deity of Christ and, as well, its enemies?
Is the following a “correction”? There is no note to that effect. At Mark 4:19, RSV, we read, “but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches…” The KJV has, “deceitfulness of riches.” We are told in the preface (p. iv) that the copyright is meant “to protect from unauthorized changes.” Yet, this is far from a legitimate authorized change or “precise rendering” of the original text. This, remember, is the Bible which states that “the KJV has grave defects…and… hese defects are so many and so serious as to call for revision…” The RSV should clean up its own house.
It is not only an unauthorized change, but highly dangerous to add even one word to the divine revelation of infallibly inspired Scripture. But this is what we have in, “The Son of man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45, RSV). The word as is not in the original. The meaning is not that his life and the giving of it were like a ransom, or given merely in the manner of a ransom, but actually were a ransom! The RSV rendering destroys the efficacious, saving gospel. “What majesty there is in it! So much majesty, that to seek to mend the Bible is a proof of a blasphemous heart, that to seek to alter one word of Scripture is a proof of alienation from the God of Israel.” (C.H. Spurgeon on Psm. 29:4).
There is another point at which perhaps the RSV should not be so specially criticized, since just about every modern version reads mainly as the RSV does on I Timothy 3:16, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
There is a note on the pronoun He: “Gk. who; other authorities read God; others, which.” On the retaining of the word God, Calvin said all the Greek copies agree to the reading God. So ‘‘I do not hesitate to adopt the Greek reading.” Of course, it is true that even if the reading is He, who or which, and not God, still the entire confession here refers exclusively and only to God; otherwise the declaration would make absolutely no sense. The ASV note at this point reads, “The word God in place of He who rests on no sufficient ancient evidence. Some ancient authorities read which.” As to some of this so called insufficient evidence, consider: (1) Codex A, of the British Museum, according to all testimony of 300 years, makes it theos (God). (2) Dr. Scrivener, foremost English critic, says it is theos (God). (3) Codex C makes it theos in contracted form. (4) F and G make it theos in the contracted form. (5) All the cursives of Paul’s epistles, 254 MSS, with the exception of two, have theos. These copies were produced in every part of ancient Christendom, and their testimony is significant. (6) Thirty out of thirty-two lexicons make it theos. (7) More than 20 of the Greek fathers testify to theos. Note: One MSS, 5 VSS and 2 late father read ho, “that which,” i.e., 8 read ho. Six MSS, only 1 VS and not one Greek father read hos; i.e., 7 read hos (who). Then 289 MSS, 3 VSS and more than 20 Greek fathers read theos with the Received Text (basis of KJV), i.e., 312 read, theos.
A Reformed minister, a Rev. George S. Bishop, in the 1880’s, studied this passage in the great uncials, C and A. He had Codex C for one week, studied the membraneous MS under sunlight and lenses, compared the theos in dispute with every other theos on the page, and, out of the five, finds it the plainest one there! “All five are written with two letters (in the contracted form—RCH)…Two of the five, only, have the mark of contraction above. One of the two, the plainest, is the one they deny. Three of the five, only, have the hair mark in the theta. One of these three is the one they deny!…is it OC, who, or is it OC with a line over the two letters, and a mark in the O, God? It is beyond question the latter.” To this also agree Hoskier, Ignatius, Barnabas. Hippolytus, Didymus, Gregory (Nyssa) and Chrysostum. So do the Dutch and German Bibles.
A good, honest translation of the Bible must not depart from the original text of Scripture (an unpardonable offence), but must faithfully and competently render the text in harmony with all of Scripture. That is a harmful book which actually frequently departs from the original text, doing so without notice, either in the margin or in a footnote to indicate the change. To be on the safe side, we ought to ask, with respect to any committee of modern translation scholars, what text did they use? For it is getting to the place where modem scholarship no longer uses (in the NT) the text of Westcott and Hort, nor that of Nestle, nor of Van Soden, but eclectically produces one of its own to suit its own bias. For you, who are not trained to check the Hebrew and Greek originals at every point, and even if so trained, would lack time to do it, it would be better to be like those wise enough to secure a KJ Bible with Hebrew and Greek marginal renderings, and so arm yourself with a fortified KJV!
How encouraging, when covenant children of our Protestant Reformed catechism classes express a love for the KJV and who protest any replacement of it, since they certainly do understand it, are learning to understand it more, and, therefore, for study, devotions and worship need no other Bible!