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KJV and the rejection of translation


James McGrath has posted an interesting and extreme example of "KJV-Onlyism," which asserts that the King James Bible contains the very words of God, replacing even the Hebrew and Greek text. This view is rooted in a Western imperialism that regards American Fundamentalism as the pinnacle of God's work in the salvation history. God has inspired the English Bible, they say, because its English-speaking caretakers serve as the voice of God in the end times.

This rejection of translation (my term for views that deny the human interpretive element of biblical translation) is a bit different from the hermeneutical naïvety of the "essentially literal" folks. The practical result is the same. Cultural imperialism and theological/ideological domination masquerading as a "high" view of Scripture.

KJV-Onlyism is surely receding. (Though I do not have data to support that claim. I hope that is correct.) But the naïve attitude seen here with respect to the English text of the KJV is also present in conservative confidence in the Hebrew and Greek originals, translated literally, and even in the idea that there are Hebrew and Greek originals. As contemporary text critics have shown, the biblical texts have been in flux from the beginning until now. The Bible is a nomadic text, to use Breed's terminology. This kind of absolute claim about the "very words" of the text cannot be sustained, whether it concerns the Hebrew and Greek canon or any translation or interpretation since.