Bible translation preferences

I think this a question with factual answers so putting it here. Mods please shift if required.

I was reading the Wikipedia page on the great songwriter Jimmy Webb. Towards the bottom there was the line:

Webb has stated, “I am a strong believer in God… God is important to me. God is bigger than any one particular denomination. I don’t like it when people try to confine Him. I don’t put any limits on God.” Webb reads the King James Version of the Bible.

I was struck by the desire to make clear mention of a specific version of the Bible. What am I supposed to understand by this? Some guesses I had were:

  • It is code that Webb has a particular flavour of Christian belief [assuming if he was a regular Anglican, Methodist or whatever, they would have just said that, but in the less structured world of the American God its a flag for being somewhere specific on the belief spectrum]

  • Related to the above, but more political in its intent [assuming there is some sort of relationship between which version of the Bible people are likely to follow, the churches they like to belong to and the sort of political stance these little communities adopt. Something of that tone comes through Webb’s quote for me].

  • Maybe as one of the great 20th century song-writers he just likes its particular cadences and, well, biblical language, in which case he could be just as happy with the King James version of the phone book.

  • Something else entirely.

I know less than nothing about religion. Help me out here.

Bibles in modern English are popular. I used the Living Bible for many years. It is a paraphrase of the Old and New Testaments. Any young person can easily read and understand it.

The New American Standard applied recent scholarship in translating the original Hebrew and Latin texts. I have one now. It’s in modern English and more formal than The Living Bible.

The King James Bible is still widely used. It’s what is usually quoted in Church services. More people are familiar with this version. They know and can quote many of the scriptures.

I’ve never felt the need to only use one version. The King James used English commonly used in 1611. The Living Bible uses English from 1971. The desire is to make it accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of educational background.

Yes, in my childhood Southern Baptist church the KJV was concidered the only proper translation. (And was inerrant.) And of course when people prayed, it was in cargo cult King James English, the language Jesus spoke.

I’ve read that King James was criticized for publishing the Bible in modern (at the time) English. Learning to read it in Latin had been a rite of passage for the clergy.

There was also controversy about which religious texts were included. The Catholic Bible includes several texts that the King James commission excluded. It was a difference of opinion among the scholars in 1604.

It can be code for belonging to a particular set of denominations, but that set of denominations is not consistent with the previous part of the quote, because those sorts generally describe themselves as the One True Church and everyone else as wrong.

Alternately, there are those who favor the King James version because they find the language in it particularly beautiful (once you allow for it being slightly archaic). This could go along with any set of theological views at all. I think that this possibility is the more likely one here, especially given that we’re talking about a songwriter.

It certainly could be that Webb simply likes the KJV. I like to read the KJV – I enjoy the old language.

It could also be a sign that he identifies as a American “Evangelical” (quite likely non-denominational, based on the other quote).

My understanding is that the New Revised Standard Version has become the preferred English translation for biblical scholars (it certainly was when I was in school) and it used in most “mainline” Protestant churches as well as been approved by the Roman Catholic Church (but not the Orthodox Church).

There is a continued fixation on the KJV that seems to be associated with Evangelical churches (as evidenced by the King James Only movement). And a specific reference to the version of the Bible used would tend to suggest that it’s a more pointed statement.

That said, apparently 55% of Americans read the KJV and only 7% read the NRSV (19% read the New International Version).

As mentioned, there is a trend for more conservative believers to hold up the King James as the only English way to go. Now, the KJV used the best scholarship they had back in the 1600s, but Biblical scholarship has advanced since then and the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found, so scholars have noted a few errors in translation. Newer translations (and there are many) have accounted for this. Of course one of the issues with the newer translations is a lot of them are concerned with accuracy over how the passage sounds. The KJV just sounds more poetic because that was something the translators were indeed concerned with.

But the KJV only folks aren’t objecting on aesthetic reasons, but rather why change something that people have been using. This has led to strange proclamations by some that the translators of the KJV were inspired by God and thusly any later English translations are not as blessed and are tainted.

Big Lebron fan?

Or none at all (being the kind of CofE atheist that finds it hard to resist shouting “Wrong tune!” at Songs of Praise if I happen to catch it on TV). If you’re brought up on KJV and BCP (as well as other 17th century literature), it becomes ingrained.

For the OP, it may simply have been Jimmy Webb’s personal preference for the KJV translation. It is older language, certainly, with its THEEs, THOUs, and THINEs, and it is known among different translations for its poetic beauty. I have a copy of the KJV as well as other translations because I sometimes like to compare the different translations, to compare and contrast them.

I personally prefer the RSV and NIV translations. And m NIV Bible is ‘my main’ Bible, the one I use for Bible studies and making notes in. I’ve had it for some 30 years now.

But the KJV, I do reference it from time to time. It doth haveth its place. :wink:

To compare, here are some years of publishing for some translations:

1611 — KJV, King James Version
1952 — RSV, Revised Standard Version
1978 — NIV, New International Version

Finally, for the 23rd Psalm, a popular one and one that many here may have heard, I believe it is written best in the KJV, especially the 4th line which I have bolded. Here it is —

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

One other point. is a handy reference where one can select from something like 50(!) different English translations.

It can be a little crazy sometimes when one realizes how many different translations there are. But over time, and depending on what part of the world one is from, the same concept uses different words for different people. It’s like, what would you like with your burger and fries? A pop? A cola? Or a soda?

For comparison, here’s that verse in a few other translations:



Good News Translation:

Chasing down Wikipedia’s reference, I find

(bolding mine)

So that’s what Webb said about it. I’m not sure why the writer of that Wikipedia article felt that it was worth telling us that “Webb reads the KJV” without giving us any reason or context.

Given that we are discussing translations, let’s remember how hard it is to capture the exact nuance that the author was aiming for, and how it is even harder to preserve that nuance for future generations.

Did you ask for French Fries? I’m sorry, we’re proud to serve only genuine home-grown Freedom Fries at this establishment!

My preference is the New Living Translation (NLT) for all around use and The Message (a paraphrased bible) for times when that is appropriate.

The Living Bible is written in good modern language, but is a paraphrased bible and was written by one guy. Paraphrased bibles are great for being able to consume the big picture, but aren’t necessarily appropriate for detailed bible study.

The New Living Translation came about as an effort to update the Living Bible–it’s a proper translation and it was done by a large number of people. In general, I reach for the NLT for most purposes.

If I want the supposed precision of the KJV, I go for the New King James Version–the KJV without the “thees” and “thous”.

I’m not a fan of KJV for tradition–when it was written, ordinary people could understand it without any sense of affectation or weird language. Why should we read the Word through such a cultural filter today? That’s the beauty of newer translations.

Modern translations have advantages of centuries of scholarly study that affects the translation. For example, most modern translations omit John 5:4, which says “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” (NKJV)… This apparently was not seen in earlier transcripts of the Book of John. Bibles like the NIV have a footnote explaining the omission.

I’m wondering if it’s intended to convey “I’m not one of those hippy dippy cafeteria Christians that abide by these modern notions of a religion being something that evolves or is subject to one’s personal likes or dislikes. Such folks are probably all about the CEV. No sir, for me God’s word is final, unchanging, time-tested and true. Just like the KJV. I’m a REAL Christian, in other words.”

Any of us REAL, KJV-thumping Christians, we’ve been around for 410 years (KJV completed in 1611). But for the 1,600 years before that, well hell and tarnation, they ain’t no real Christians. :wink:

I knew a bunch of KJV-only Christians a long time ago. Believe it or not, the typical binding style of their favourite translation was something they cared about - thin pages in a flexible leather cover - good for holding in your hand and waving/wagging at people as you preach to them in public (this was their explicitly stated explanation, not just my inference - a couple of them actually said this).

I generally use the NIV, and sometimes will go to the NASB, though I am recently liking Young’s Literal Translation, as it seems to be the closest to the greek of the NT and I consider it the greek bible when you don’t want to do the greek. I personally dislike the KJV due to it was forced upon me in school and I could not understand it, thus I got in my way into finding God. It made understanding scripture the domain of the teacher and totally out of the hands of the student.

I do believe if God choses to teach someone with a version of the Bible God will select the right one for them. With that said the OP’s question could be that the KJV of the Bible is the one that works for him or perhaps could feel that it is the superior one, but that seems to go against his former statement about not wanting to confine God.