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The Gospel of John V - Lesson 3

                             An Uncertain Sound                               Why the New Versions Sound Different                            1 Corinthians 14:6-11

1 Corinthians 14:6 ¶ Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?  7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?  9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.  11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.


  1. God’s word should be understandable to those to whom it speaks.
  2. God’s word should be distinct and give a certain sound.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.

The Bible, in speaking of itself, emphasizes how it sounds, how we hear and the recognition of the voice of the Lord.

John 10:1 ¶ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
  1. The sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd and they follow His voice.
  2. The sheep are protected from following the stranger because they do not know the voice of the stranger.
  3. Therefore, the recognizability of the voice is the protection given to the sheep in order to keep them from following the voice of strangers.  The sheep may be quite ignorant of many things, but they are safe as long as they follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, which voice is clearly familiar to them.

POINT:  The King James Version of the Bible is the only commonly used version of the Bible in English that is clearly distinguishable from the other versions to those that hear it.  Someone familiar with the King James Bible will consistently recognize when another version of the Bible is being read.  However, one who uses one of the so-called conservative versions (like the NIV or the NKJV) will probably not be able to recognize when someone is reading from another modern version, such as the Jehovah’s Witness NWT or the RSV.  The distinct sound found in the King James Bible is a natural protection from false doctrine.  The emphasis on the sound of the Bible is seen in the stress given in the Bible to the hearing of its words over the personal reading of them.

    1. Title Page of the King James Bible:  “Appointed to be read in Churches” – this indicates the importance of public reading in the design and style of the King James Bible; it was written in such a way as to facilitate public reading.
    2. Punctuation:  If you think there is a lot of punctuation in the King James Bible, you are correct.  It is meant to help in public reading.
      1. F. F. Bruce in his History of the Bible in English says, “The heavy punctuation of the A.V. was designed to guide public readers of the Bible in church to enunciate properly and to place the emphasis in the right places.”  (page 108) and “The A.V. was admirably suited for public reading.” (page 109)
      2. John H. Gottcent in A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature says that the Authorized Version of the Bible “was stylistically beautiful, its language still unsurpassed (In part, this is because it was designed for public reading, making the translators acutely conscious of the sound of their language.)”  (page 876)
    3. Key Words
      1. The verb read and other forms (readest, readeth, reading) occur a total of 82 times in scripture.
      2. The verb hear and other forms (heard, heardest, hearest, heareth, hearing) occur a total of 1,305 times in scriptures.  This is 16 times the number of references to reading.
      3. The first Biblical reference to hearing deals with Adam and Eve hearing the voice of the Lord - Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
      4. The first Biblical reference to reading deals with Moses publicly reading the law to Israel - Exodus 24:7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.
    4. Scriptural Teaching
      1. Scriptural commands for the public reading of the word (1 Timothy 4:13; 1Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16)
      2. Scriptural emphasis on hearing the word read (Revelation 1:3)
    5. Conclusions
      1. The word of God is written in such a way as to have an effect on our hearing of it.
      2. As such, it should make a distinct sound that we can recognize when we hear it.
      3. We should have more public readings of the word and those reading it should work harder at reading it well.
    1. Archaic from the Beginning
      1. Much of the language in the King James Bible that seems so ancient to us today, was already old and sometimes dead at the time of its publication.  The King James Bible was archaic when it was new.
      2. Seth Lerer in his taped course on The History of the English Language says, “It is, it seems to me, a conscience decision on the part of the translators and compilers of the King James Bible to produce, not a record of the English language as it was spoken in 1611, but rather to produce a highly crafted, artificial, elevated and, at times, archaic language—a language that will stand, not just the test of time, but will contain within it the time frame of the history of English.” © 1998.
      3. In other words, the King James Bible was not crafted within a time frame of the English language but was designed (we know divinely) to transcend the time limitations of other books.
    2. Thee’s and Thou’s
      1. By 1611, the older forms of the second person pronoun (thee, thou, thy, thine, ye) were not a consistent part of the spoken English of the time.
        1. They were quickly being replace by the modern you.
        2. Even when they were used, they seldom meant what they meant in the King James Bible.
          1. Thee and thou became a familiar you around the 14th century to be used with close friends and those you considered beneath you in position.
          2. Ye and your were used as a formal you and were reserved for those who were above you in position or those you wanted to treat with special honor.
          3. With time, to refer to others as thee or thou came to be a putdown and so everyone began to call each other you to avoid insulting them.
          4. This explains why the Quakers exclusively used thee and thou.  They believed in the leveling of society and refused to give anyone an honorable title.  They were not trying to use Biblical language.
          5. This also explains why the preface to the King James Bible refers throughout to King James with the “plural” You and Your.
      2. The preponderance of the older forms of you in the King James Bible immediately identifies it and distinguishes it from all other versions.
        1. The different forms (thee, thou, thy, thine, ye) occur a total of 18, 825 times in 31,102 verses.
        2. It is almost impossible to read more than 3 or 4 verses in the King James Bible without reading one of these pronouns.
    3. Other Examples
      1. Older verb endings  ( John 11:25-27)
        1. I believe (same as today).
        2. Thou believest (for you believe).
        3. Whosoever believeth (for whosoever believes)
        4. These verb endings are not more accurate; they are simply more identifiable as Biblical language.  They were not the common language of 1611 England but were used to create a special language of the Bible.
      2. Archaic word order (John 21:15) Even if we update the vocabulary and change lovest to love and thou to you, we still do not have modern English.  Would anyone say today, “Love you me”?  The language of the King James Bible was never designed to sound like the everyday English of the day.
    1. Biblical Language
      1. Biblical English is the English of the Bible as found in the King James Bible.  As one scholar (Hallam) has said, it is not the language “of Raleigh, or Bacon” and “it is not the language of the reign of James I.”  It is a style of language all its own based on its dependence on the style of the original languages and on the tradition of translation leading up to the 1611 translation.
        1. Early scholars taught that the Greek of the New Testament was distinct from other uses of the Greek language; they called it Biblical Greek.
        2. Recent scholars have determined that the Hebrew of the Old Testament was distinct in style from the Hebrew spoken in everyday life. (see “Beyond King James” in Commentary Vol.102, Sept., 1996, pages 61-62)
        3. It follows that the English of the Bible should be distinct from the English of everyday life.
      2. Since 1611, translations have departed from this style and, therefore, modern versions are not written in Biblical English
    2. Transparency
      1. “The impact of Jewish sources upon the King James Version is one of its noteworthy features…The impact of the Hebrew upon the revisers was so pronounced that they seem to have made a conscious effort to imitate its rhythm and style in the Old Testament.  The English of the New Testament actually turned out to be superior to its Greek original.”  (Nahum M. Sarna in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol.2, “Biblical Literature,” p.891)
      2. “The vigour and simplicity of OT Hebrew and NT Greek have to a great extent been successfully conveyed in Biblical English.”  (The Oxford Companion to the English Language, “Bible,” p.119)
      3. “As a rule, whenever we encounter a syntactic oddness or aberration in the Authorized Version—the kind of thing the word ‘archaic’ is used unthinkingly to describe—we ought to assume that it reflects an attempt to reproduce the original’s word or phrase order.”  (Gerald Hammond in The Literary Guide to the Bible, 1987, p.648)
    3. Repetition of “And”
      1. One of the key characteristics of the Hebrew Old Testament is its continued repetition of the connective word “and.”  It creates a pattern and cohesiveness to the Biblical narrative that is not found in the modern translations but that is retained in the King James Bible.
      2. EXAMPLE:  1 Kings 17:17-24
        1. King James Bible has 22 and’s.
        2. New International Version has 10 and’s.
        3. Contemporary English Version has 7 and’s.
        4. New International Reader’s Version has 1 and.
      3. This is the way the Bible was originally written; this is the way it is retained in the King James Bible while all other modern versions fall far short.
    4. Repetition of Key Words
      1. The Bible often uses the repetition of key words to bring unity to a story.  Unfortunately, “most modern versions go to the opposite extreme, constantly translating the same word with different English equivalents for the sake of fluency and supposed precision.  Nevertheless, the repetition of key-words is so prominent in many biblical narratives that one can still follow it fairly well in translation, especially if one uses the King James Version.”  (Robert Alter in The Art of Biblical Narrative, p.93)
      2. The story of Joseph being sold into slavery and then cast into prison in Egypt (Genesis 37:18-28; Genesis 39:1-23) uses hand as a key word.
        1. The story unfolded
          1. The hands that enslave him (Genesis 37:21, 22, 27; Geness 39:1)
          2. The prosperity in his hands (Genesis 39:3,4,6,8)
          3. The garment in the hand of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12,13)
          4. The prosperity in his hands (Genesis 39:22,23)
        2. The cross-references are all but destroyed in the modern versions; notice the references to hand or hands in these passages.
          1. King James Bible: 13
          2. New International Version: 5
      3. The use of repent in 1 Samuel 15
        1. King James Bible
          1. God repents that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11).
          2. God is not a man that He should repent (1 Samuel 15:29).
          3. God repents that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:35).
        2. New International Version
          1. God is grieved that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11).
          2. God is not a man that He should change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29).
          3. God is grieved that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:35).
        3. New King James Version
          1. God regrets that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11).
          2. God is not a man that He should relent (1 Samuel 15:29).
          3. God regretted that He made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:35).
    5. Use of Concrete Words
      1. “One salient characteristic of biblical Hebrew is its extraordinary concreteness, anchored particularly in a fondness for images anchored in the human body.  The general predisposition of modern translators, acting in the name of clarity, is to translate these images into abstract terms…”  (Robert Alter in “Beyond King James,” Commentary, vo.102, Sept.,1996, p.58)
      2. One illustration may be found in the use of heart.  For example, Ecclesiastes uses the word so much (40 times) that it becomes part of the character of the book.  In all of these instances, the word is translated from the same Hebrew root.
      3. However, the word is translated heart only 25 times in the NIV (2 of which are translated from different words).  Another word is used in 13 cases (4 times it uses hearts).  The original biblical pattern is destroyed.
        1. “I devoted myself to study…” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)
        2. “…I have experienced much of wisdom…” (Ecclesiastes 1:16)
        3. “…my mind still guiding me with wisdom…” (Ecclesiastes 2:3); mind is used to replace heart several times
        4. “…anxious striving…”  (Ecclesiastes 2:22) to replace “vexation of his heart” in KJB
        5. “I also thought” (Ecclesiastes 3:18) to replace “I said in mine heart” in KJB
        6. “So I reflected on all this” (Ecclesiastes 9:1) to replace “For all this I considered in my heart” in KJB
    6. Long Complex Sentences in the New Testament
      1. The Greek text often has long, complex sentences with clause on top of clause.
      2. EXAMPLE:  Hebrews 1:1-4
        1. Greek New Testament: 1 sentence
        2. King James Bible: 1 sentence
        3. New International Version: 3 sentences
        4. Contemporary English Version: 6 sentences
        5. New International Readers Version: 13 sentences


  1. Going by Feeling
    1. Many people want a Bible that makes them feel good or smart; they want to be able to choose the bible that they like.  It does not matter if it is what God said or not.  They think that the choice should be theirs.
    2. Genesis 27:21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.             22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
  2. Rejecting God’s Voice
    1. Many people do not want the Lord to speak plainly to them; they want a translation that softens the edges of God’s truth so that it does not hurt as much.
    2. Deuteronomy 5:22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. 23 ¶ And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;             24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth.             25 Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.             26 For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?             27 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
  1. Have you accepted God’s word as the truth—whether you understand or not; whether you obey it or not?  Are you determined to let God be true and every man a liar?
  2. Are you willing to listen to God’s voice in the plain sense in which He wrote it?  Are you willing to respond to the harsh truth of God?
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 23:11

For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.