The Evangelical Heretic #1: The AV

Lots of Christians I respect are ‘AV only’. In the British Church Newspaper, the churches that advertise therein pride themselves on entertaining no other translation. In a recent pastor’s obituary, the deceased’s virtuous life was confirmed by his being an AV-only-man. It’s the Bible of the historic reformed faith, the beauty of its language unsurpassed, etc. And let’s be honest, many of the versions released today are nought but money-spinning dross.

Yet many of the puritans rejected the Authorised Version. It was, after all, a government publication, at a time when the government was persecuting God’s people. Imagine the horrors unleashed if today’s government decided to translate the scriptures. The preferred version of John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton et al, was the Geneva Bible. This too is based on the Received Text and the charm and simplicity of its language makes its reading a wholesome experience. It was the first Bible to have verse numbers and was printed in a clear text rather than a heavy gothic script. Furthermore, it contained over 300,000 words of notes and commentary, from such great men as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale and William Keithe. The Authorised Version was published, in part, to displace this wonderful translation. James I was horrified that Calvin would suggest that the midwives of Egypt were right to disobey pharaoh by saving the young Moses, as he saw this as a challenge to kings’ authority in general. 

The next time I’m asked to preach at an AV-only church, I might refuse and say I’m a Geneva-only-man. Of course I’m being facetious. I tend to use the New King James Version. I want all the benefits of the Received Text but without the time spent explaining to a congregation such words as abjects, afore, agone, amerce, artificer, bethink, bewray, bray, caul, coping, cotes, cumbered, durst, emerods, felloe, firkin, froward, holden, holpen, ignominy, lade, lees, minish, mote, paps, paradventure, platted, requite, slow bellies, thitherward, twain, unction and wimples.

I do rather like archaic expressions, and I doubt not people’s abilities to understand their meaning once explained. Indeed, this blog makes frequent use of them. But while preaching, I’d rather the English be as plain as the Greek used by Paul and the Aramaic of Jesus.