The KJV Code Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged on the way that KJV onlyists seek to bind their followers to exclusive trust and use of the King James Version of the Bible, just as the Roman Catholic Church for centuries enforced exclusive use of the Latin Vulgate.
In this effort, one of the goals of KJV onlyism has always been to bind everyone’s conscience to a static KJV text, making any revision unnecessary at best and wrong at worst. In Gail Riplinger’s recent attempt to do so, In Awe of Thy Word, she resorts to the use of computers, namely, the modern discipline of computational linguistics, in order to convince us that the KJV text must remain static on the basis of the results of computer analysis. This is why I associate it with fads like the Bible Code.
The modus operandi of both efforts is to put computers to work on Scripture on a sort of “microscopic” or mathematical/linguistic level in order to persuade the contemporay, technologically sophisticated generation of the validity of their respective points of view. In the case of the Bible Code, there are better ways to explain the inspiration of the Bible, so this fad is only embarrasing and counterproductive; in the case of the “KJV Code,” it’s an attempt to sow seeds of doubt in conventional textual criticism and translation practice in order to motivate contentment with the KJV status quo, and counteract any desire or demand for revision.
What precedent is there in Scripture, history or the disciplines of textual criticism or translation theory/practice for demanding a static translated text? There is none. There are anecdotal cases to which KJV onlyists could appeal, like the superstitious exaltation of the Septuagint, but these are erroneous and would prove utterly ineffective to persuade the bulk of orthodox scholarship to adapt everything to this invalid line of reasoning. Besides, radical KJV onlyists deny the validity of the Septuagint, and wouldn’t want to go there. This leaves them all alone with their novel theory.
The fact is, there is no basis in textual criticism or translation for arguing for the absolute authority of particular textual readings on the basis of the findings of computational linguistics, which examines the connotations of the sum total of the individual translation choices of the KJV committee. This point is irrelevant to the accuracy of the translation. It is nothing more than an invalid argument rushing into an academic void.
The end game of radical KJV onlyism remains the same: bind the conscience to the current text of the KJV for the mere sake of maintaining needless tradition.This is where fundamentalism fails to learn the lesson of history and repeats the mistake of medieval Roman Catholicism in adding unwarranted tradition into church practic and creates a communcation gap between the Word of God and the people of God.
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2 responses

  1. Fundamentally Reformed | Reply

    John,

    Interesting article. Your last paragraph is true of some KJVOs but probably not all.

    But I like the comparison of the Bible Code with a KJV Code. For many KJVOs like Riplinger, the shoe would definitely fit.

    Not sure if you’ve seen the recent discussion both on my blog and at jackhammr.org on this issue. They are devoting the whole month to it. They are actually getting questions from both sides. But I am pretty much the only one speaking for my side.

    I’ve been busy the last few weeks and haven’t been able to follow all the latest misadventures. Hope to catch up soon.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Bob

  2. I realize that my comments do not apply equally to all KJV onlyists, I’m addressing the Ruckman, Riplinger wing from which I was delivered. That’s what I mean by my category label, “KJVOx”. I probably got it from you or some other bloggers.

    I commented on your posting of the “manifesto” but have not been following the discussion at jackhammer. But if my brother is in it on his own, I guess I need to sign up to keep your back covered.

    I’ve certainly been missing your comments around here, but it’s good to know you’re taking care of things in your real life.

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