The Transcendent Word of God [Brochure]

The Transcendent Word of God by John A. Kaiser
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Full Text of This Product

Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name. Psalm 138:2

The KJV Bible commonly known as “The King James Version” or The Authorized Version” is unquestionably providential—has pretty plainly been the primary Bible version used by God for the past 400 years. It might legitimately be called an “ancient landmark” (Proverbs 22:28); and, as such, it should not be discarded or ignored. Rather, we should thank God for it, respect it, and use it.

However, providence is not the same thing as perfection; and the KJV should not be presumed to be—or promoted as—absolutely perfect. The KJV itself says, "But when that which is perfect is come" (1 Corinthians 13:10), showing that there is nothing perfect down here on earth just now. Indeed, there has been nothing perfect here since Jesus ascended.

The KJV says, “Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89. That statement predates every current translation, including the KJV. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when on earth, though perfect in all that He said and did, did not quote the KJV. Neither did the Apostles. Moreover, if we compare in the KJV the passages in the Old Testament quoted by our Lord and the Apostles in the New Testament, we will find that often they do not exactly literally correspond word for word. Yet all of these passages are the Word of God.

In 2 Timothy 2:9, we read “the Word of God is not bound.” In context, that means that God's Word is not restricted by circumstances. It also means that God's Word is not restricted to any single translation. The Word of God is “quick [living] and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). Because of its Divine character, it transcends any and all translations—transcends even the languages in which it was originally written. No translation, indeed no human language, is adequate to fully express it; but some translations are certainly more faithful in expressing it, the KJV being one of the more faithfully written translations. We use the term “written” because we believe that God's Word lived out in a godly life provides, in many ways, the best translation (see 2 Corinthians 3:2 and 4:7, and 1 John 1:1-2); and we believe that there are far too many who are inordinately more concerned with possessing a perfect translation than with being one. It should be added that those who limit or restrict the Word of God to any one translation have a limited appreciation of (and a restricted view of) the Word of God. The same may be said of those who insist on a specific KJV edition, such as the so-called “Cambridge Pure Text Edition.” But this truth does not in any way justify or suggest taking liberties with the "words" of God (Revelation 22:18-19). They who truly most appreciate God's Word most truly appreciate God's words. God is both comprehensive and concise (true in majesty and precision) in all that He says (John 8:25). A fixation on a perfect translation in an imperfect language is incipient idolatry—“Bibliolatry” being a term consequently commonly and legitimately applied.

God's Word transcends any translation. That is why it is “settled in heaven” where alone it is perfectly preserved and is perfectly represented in the One who is “the Word” and who alone was and is able to say, when asked about His identity, "Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning." John 8:25. He was and is the living embodiment of all that He ever said—being perfect in word and deed.

It is noteworthy that in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, the Apostle Paul refers to the Corinthian saints (who certainly had not been exemplary Christians as a whole) as both the apostolic epistle and “the epistle of Christ”—despite the Corinthians' very evident failures. And we know that, in that sense, some Christians are more faithful witnesses for God than others; yet God can speak through the worst. Just as a deeply flawed human being may be recognized as “the image of God” so a deeply flawed translation may still be recognized as “the Word of God.” However, since we know that there are better and worse written translations of God's Word, we are right to prefer to use the best; but we need to remember that none of them are perfect (just as we are not perfect), and yet God can speak through whichever or whomever He may choose to use (John 17:20). God uses everything, and never wastes anything.

 It is human nature to want to manage the Word of God, but it was meant and is meant to manage us. We like to define things—to compartmentalize things to suit our convenience (and conceit); but God’s Word is Divinely dynamic. It is consistent with His character—"the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee." 2 Chronicles 6:18.

The authority of the Bible does not rest in the translation or in the translator, but in the authority of the Author of the Word Himself—just as the authority of an army command rests in the commander himself, not in the subordinate officer or in the latter's interpretation of the command. The commander may give the order "Advance," whereas the subordinate may command the troops "Forward!" The terms are almost synonymous and virtually identical in effect. The authority is unchanged. The responsibility of the subordinate officer is faithful transmission. Hence the authority of the com-mand does not absolutely depend on the exact accuracy of its transmission or entirely on the character of the transmitter. They who insist that only one translation (or one type of translation) is authoritative may be compared to soldiers who are willing to accept the general's orders only if delivered by officers of whom they approve. If one is in doubt regarding the reliability of an officer's order, there are means of double-checking in a good chain of command. Believe it or not, God, because of Who He is, maintains an adequate chain of command. Just as God is a "faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19) He is also a faithful Author. Soldiers who habitually hear their general and keep close enough to him to observe his ways will generally know how to interpret and apply a communication defectively delivered. After all, God never intended for us to use His Word apart from Himself. Having a good translation of the Word of God is no substitute for (nor is it necessarily an indicator of) communion with God. There are many who proudly boast of having the only Word of God, whereas if they really understood what God says in it they would be much more humble. True (attentive, honest, and respectful) interaction with God's truth humbles man. It should; and ultimately it always will.

Because of the linguistic limitations of the KJV, it is often helpful to consult and compare other good translations. We heartily recommend the rather literal Bible translation by J. N. Darby. It is sometimes called “The New Translation” though it is well over 100 years old; but it has amply proven its worth in that time. Another translation which the author has found worth consulting is known as The New King James Version. It is particularly helpful in the Old Testament; and it is often useful in evangelism because it features more current English. Unfortunately, like most modern translations, it fails to distinguish between the second person singular and the second person plural. It uses “you, your, yours” for both singular and plural cases, whereas the KJV uses “thee, thy, thine” for the singular case and “you, your, yours” for the plural case—a small feature which is supported by the original languages and which often very helpfully clarifies a passage. But the NKJV may very well be the best of the modern translations, and we are (and should be) thankful that it is as good as it is, though we might well wish it better or wish for a better.

We recommend familiarity with the KJV, and the frequent use of the KJV, not only because of its heritage and its level of accuracy but also because most of the best Bible commentaries and reference works are based on it. Also a familiarity with the KJV language will give the reader an advantage over the declining level of literacy of the present day. And while recommending the common use of the KJV, we warn against the use of virtually all modern Bible translations. Because they are the product of the same modern scholarship which has so detrimentally infiltrated so much of Christendom, these modern translations are similarly detrimentally affected. The current popular “dumbing down” trend which is so prevalent in education may also be seen in these translations (and in their notes)—to the obscuring of divine truth. The Bible is a book to grow on, and to grow into.

We appreciate the sincerity and the devotion to God and to His Word which characterizes many proponents of the “KJV only” position. We trust that we do not value them, the KJV, or the Word of God any less because we respectfully (and Scripturally) disown some of their claims and/or views.

JAK

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.